Houston's cost of living is no doubt one of its most attractive features. Add in the city's energetic vibe, chic sophistication, and global diversity, and it's a place Houstonians are proud to call home.
For Newstonians, or those longtime locals who are looking to make a foray in to home ownership, the Bayou City boasts some of the best value in the nation. From emerging neighborhoods to expanding planned communities, from the suburbs to inside the Loop, opportunities abound.
CultureMap spoke to Harris Benson, a realtor with Douglas Elliman Texas, who works almost exclusively with first-time buyers. Benson shares the inside scoop on some of Houston's hottest neighborhoods for first-timers looking for a home.
Average home price: $253,984
Benson says this neighborhood has a lot of offer. While some of the area's newly constructed homes can hit the $500s, there are several options available in the lower- to mid-$200s range. Stretching from Brays Bayou down to the Beltway, encompassing parts of Fondren and South Gessner roads, it sits snugly against its Westbury neighbor.
"It's a large area," says Benson. "It's vibrant. It's culturally diverse. It's a community of people from all over." That's going to be attractive for anyone who loves Houston's international personality. One thing to note about Brays Oaks homes is that many were built in the 1950s and '60s, and designed in a ranch style with three bedrooms and two baths and typically average just under 2,000 square feet.
"The reason buyers love this are is because you can get a home with a little bit of charm and the yard space you might not be able to get elsewhere inside the city," Benson notes. Those looking for space and a mid-century feel should explore Brays Oaks.
Average home price: $348,327
There's been an explosion of new development in this neighborhood northwest of Houston, straddling 290 above Highway 6. In the coming months alone, the Bridgeland community will add another 7,000 homes, as CultureMap reported. The Town Lake community has added restaurants and boasts beautiful outdoor spaces. Buying in Cypress means "first-time home buyers are able to buy in these large, master-planned communities to where you have all the amenities you ever need, not only within the community, but in the close-out area," says Benson. He points to excellent schools, a variety of restaurants, and necessities such as grocery stores and shopping centers.
East Downtown (EaDo)
Average home price: $291,630
Running along 59 and 45 highways, stretching into Houston's Second Ward, EaDo is "an interesting mixture of an established neighborhood while still being up and coming," Benson notes. He points to the East Village, the breweries and restaurants, and the Dynamo and Dash's home field and the ability to walk over to neighboring Minute Maid Park to catch an Astros game.
Last year, Lovett Commercial announced its Polk District project along Emancipation Avenue, which will bring a Sprouts Market, among other amenities, which Benson thinks will be "a game changer" for the area. Another big selling point for EaDo is that it offers easy access to the city, whether driving or walking. Housing stock is a blend of single-family homes and condo and townhome developments, offering buyers a range of styles to choose from.
Average home price: $394,961
This suburb west of Houston wins big when it comes to all the amenities families are looking for: great schools, lots of activities and outdoor space, excellent restaurants, even terrific health care options. And it continues to grow. "It's wild," says Benson. He cites the Young Ranch and Cane Island communities, among others, as offering first-time buyers new homes that offer a lot of bang for the buck.
"You get a new home and a community that is amenity-filled," he explains. Think three-and four-bedroom homes with huge backyards, lots of natural light, partially open floor plans, an enough room for a growing family. Those who are looking for a suburban lifestyle will find it here.
Average home price: $314,566
"What's cool about Pearland is it's actually easy to get to town," says Benson. "You hope on 288 and it's easy access to the Medical Center. Or head up Almeda Road." He says the area offers great diversity, and a host of parks for outdoor recreation. "But the first thing I think of when I think of Pearland, is Killen's Barbecue," he says. "It's so good." Buyers can expect three- and four-bedroom houses, along with some new construction and communities, all of which offer something for every personality and budget.
Average home price: $329,000
This suburb southwest of Houston off Highway 59 made the top five in a recent list of America's best small cities. Sugar Land combines close access to Houston's job centers, along with the vibrancy of being its own city. Benson points to entertainment and recreation options such as the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball team, concerts and events at the Smart Financial Center, along with the First Colony Mall, Sugar Land Town Square, and a branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
"There's really a ton going on in Sugar Land," he says. "You get a little more bang for your buck" compared to other communities. First-time home buyers can choose from established planned communities or newer construction, and should expect homes designed with families in mind. They city's schools are highly rated, another plus for those looking to start or expand a family.