Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, we look back at the 10 biggest real estate stories in Houston for 2018 — including the best neighborhoods to buy, a boardwalk empire in Katy, and an even more bustling Sawyer Yards.
1. These are the 5 best Houston neighborhoods to buy right now, according to the experts. CultureMap asked local realtors to select the five most sought-after neighborhoods in Houston. The cozy Crestwood — the small neighborhood just north of Memorial Drive near Memorial Park — was named "Houston's best-kept secret," while the red-hot Heights was listed for its "small-town charm" and feel. The realtors also cited the tony Memorial/Memorial Villages as wildly popular (and costly) destinations. Lastly, Northside/Near Northside and Oak Forest have emerged as the arguably the best deals around the Loop.
2. This under-the-radar Houston neighborhood has it all, real estate experts say. What does it take for a 'hood to "have it all?" According to Redfin, buyers are looking for affordable homes, lots of inventory, good schools, an easy commute, and relatively low crime. Houston's Independence Heights, located near The Heights and Garden Oaks/Oak Forest, topped Redfin's "have it all list," with affordable homes, good schools, and a relatively low crime rate. As a local realtor tells CultureMap, "it's high time people consider Independence Heights."
3. Houston's hottest suburb reveals plans for game-changing boardwalk entertainment district. Move over, Kemah: Developers in Katy are proving that a land-locked suburb can evolve into a boardwalk empire. Planners with the Katy Boardwalk District have unveiled designs for a district that boasts state-of-the-art luxe hotel and conference center, entertainment, and retail. The idea is to energize the area, attract young professionals, and create a lush, walkable oasis.
4. This Houston neighborhood boasted the biggest profits for sellers in 2017. Last year, Houston-area homes sold for a median of $43,374 more than the original purchase price, a gain of 24.7 percent. According to Zillow, homeowners in sought-after Lazybrook/Timbergrove cashed in even more. Homes there sold for a whopping $87,879 more than the purchase price in 2017. (The typical local seller owned the home for 8.3 years prior to selling; Lazybrook sellers sold after only 4.4 years.)
5. Real estate experts reveal Houston's hottest 'hoods for 2018. Real estate website Zillow forecasted the top 10 hottest housing markets for 2018 and which H-Town neighborhoods will see a surge in popularity. The study cited The Greater Third Ward in the top spot, with an anticipated 6.8 percent increase in home value appreciation. It's followed by Spring Branch East, Hidden Valley, Willowbrook, and the Willow Meadows–Willowbend area.
6. This Houston suburb declared the No. 1 place in Texas to retire. A report compiled by SmartAsset found Katy to be the top place to retire in the Lone Star State. The report found Katy’s copious amounts of medical care (namely, doctors’ offices) and recreation centers as ideal for retirees. Ironically, seniors make up less than 12 percent of the population in Katy. But with plans for a new boardwalk, the future looks bright for Katy retirees.
7. $120 million W Hotel & Resort books pivotal spot in downtown Houston. Downtown could see its hipness quotient increase with the announcement of a new W Hotel & Resort, which would be located near the George R. Brown Convention Center at 701 Avenida de las Americas. If approved, the 308-room, $120 million project will potentially create $3.4 billion in direct overall revenue to the City of Houston, the Houston First Corporation, and other local government.
8. Here's the salary needed to afford a home in Houston. It's the age-old question for local renters or homeowners looking to make a move: How much do I need to make in order to buy? Researchers at SmartAsset found that Houston homeowners can get by on a $27,067 salary. The good news is that the average Houston household earns $46,000 a year, meaning that affording a monthly $812 mortgage is well within reach.
9. Hot Heights development seeks restaurant to cultivate 'sunken garden.' An intriguing restaurant space on Yale Street in The Heights could be the home of a raised patio that overlooks a sunken garden — a surefire draw for local diners. It's part of developer Robert Downs new shopping center called Heights Village. Downs says his ideal tenant would be a family-friendly Italian restaurant. Could this be the next Rainbow Lodge?
10. Massive Sawyer Yards expansion plan unveils new brewery, barbecue joint, and more. Houston-based Lovett Commercial has announced the addition of two buildings and an additional 115,000 square feet to the already popular Sawyer Yards entertainment district. Plans include a new barbecue spot, a New Orleans brewery, a local cider maker, and 50,000 square feet of retail and office space with a "verdant courtyard and lively rooftop terraces."