The Houston home four way
New York's envy: What will half a million dollars buy you in Houston?
Consider yourself lucky.
In comparing the four largest cities in the US, we are awakened to a happy comparative reality: Houston is a great deal. Anecdotally, most Houstonians accept this as fact. Although I am not brave enough to compare cost of living analysis to bargain shopping, there is something very satisfying in knowing you are getting more, for less.
I am quite aware that I am sounding like a commodity product commercial, but I dare challenge anyone asked what they like about Houston not too mention affordability.
Can the difference be quantified?
Open up your wallets
According to CNN Money, an $80,000 income in Houston means $194,580 in Manhattan to have a similar lifestyle with housing costs increasing by 424 percent, groceries by 72 percent, utilities by 58 percent, transportation by 35 percent and healthcare by 36 percent. In Chicago, a comparable salary would be $101,410 with a housing increase of 73 percent, while a $126,853 income and a 201 percent housing cost would correspond in Los Angeles.
The National Association of Realtors lists the median sales price of existing single-family homes for Houston at $150,000, New York at $436,900, Chicago at $176,400 and Los Angeles at $331,400. Yes, our real estate taxes are higher, but not having state income tax lessens the overall burden.
Location, location, location has been the main real estate mantra as it is the main determinant in pricing, appreciation and sales velocity. Common variables include school districts, proximity to amenities, access, economic stability and growth stage. In addition, people tend to gravitate towards communities with which they share similar values. The phenomenon of the real estate market is, as a result, quite local.
Within the Greater Houston Area, we experience a similar diversity. One thriving area could border another struggling neighborhood, and home characteristics and values can fluctuate greatly due to both concrete and intangible elements. Throw in the spirit of no zoning and Houston becomes a real estate melting pot.
Seeking the help of top realty experts, we explore different areas of Houston to see what $500,000 buys, which is much more than New York, Chicago, and L.A.
Houston growing up
Originally planned as a streetcar suburb, the Montrose area was established in 1911 prior to River Oaks in the 1920s. Bohemian, culturally diverse and considered one of the most pedestrian friendly communities, Montrose was named as one of the 10 “great neighborhoods” in 2009.
“Montrose is enriched with diverse cultures, academics, and is a foodie paradise,” Bo Mekmorakod of Keller Williams Metropolitan notes. “I can always count on Montrose to take me back to Houston’s roots, throw me off course, yet satisfy me completely. Living in Montrose mean having everything is at your convenience. Unlike the new mega centers popping up, Montrose is original. It retained its charm and will continue to be one of Houston’s hot spots.”
Mekmorakod describes 1631 Hazel, bordering the Montrose/Hyde Park neighborhood, as unique in that it features both a private drive and a backyard combined.
“Usually, a townhome has one or the other,” she says.
With skylines views at a premium, this home also features modern conveniences like an open floor plan, Bosch kitchen appliances, and a custom wrought iron stair pattern. Offered at $498,000 for 2,316 squre feet on a 2,093 square foot lot, this home averages $215 per square foot.
The sweet “Land of Sugar”
Sugar Land, better known nationally as the home of Tom DeLay, has experienced “exponential growth through many first class master planned communities,” explains Michele Sergie of Weichert, Realtors, Wayne Murray Properties. “It is a diverse and plural society with outstanding schools, sound infrastructure, and excellent quality of life.”
Forbes named Sugar Lands its Top Suburb to Live Well in 2008 and in 2009 it was named the 11th safest city in the US.
Sergie suggests 5206 Briarwick Meadow, located in the planned community of Riverstone by Johnson Development, as an example of suburban new construction.
“Although new urban style communities are starting to emerge in Sugar Land like Lake Pointe, most follow a single-family home format with amenities to satisfy a diverse buyer profile, including young and multi-generational families,” Sergie says.
Built in 2010 by David Weekley Homes, this 4,248 square foot home features typical new construction upgrades like granite countertops and a media room. In addition, having two bedrooms on the first floor is an in-demand option that can serve as a nursery, guest room, or mother-in-law quarters. Listed at $536,885 and built on an 11,000 square foot lot, the home averages $126 per square foot.
The sprawling Northeast
Kingwood by Friendswood Development was created in 1970 and boasts beautifully forested natural surroundings. Golf lovers enjoy private golf courses including the Deerwood Club with an 18-hole championship course and the Oakhurst at Kingwood Country Club, home to four 18-hole high-caliber courses.
Oakhurst At Kingwood is the type of community “where neighbors bring me fresh baked muffins with the recipe to my model home,” tells Hostess Beverly Rose at Frontier Custom Builders.
Designed with a Tuscan influence, 20629 Eaglewood Trace is a 3,726 square foot stucco and stone custom home that sits in a large 13,281 square foot lot.
Notable appointments include exotic granite countertops, a stoned wet bar/wine grotto, exquisite custom built-ins in the library as well as stained molding in key rooms and an oversize veranda with an outdoor kitchen. At $524,900, this home values at $140 per square foot.
A hidden gem beyond the Wild West
Growth in Fulshear exploded in 2000 with the general expansion to the West. With development in master planned communities like Cinco Ranch and Grand Lakes bursting, families ventured further in search for larger properties and wooded country surroundings.
Established in the 1980s but incorporated as a city in 2008, Weston Lakes “has an old-fashioned country style atmosphere, like the way things used to be” explains Houston Classic Homes Sales Consultant Linda Wise. “Huge pecan trees line the river beds. It is a relaxed community where people can fish, boat, play tennis and play golf. The 24-hour guarded gate also provides peace of mind for those that travel frequently.”
4319 Oxbow Circle West is located on Oxbow Island with mature trees and exquisite waterfront views. Built to maximize the enjoyment of its natural surroundings, the open style design has smart plan features like a bathroom for every bedroom, two bedrooms on the first floor, a full cabana bathroom, and a balcony overlooking the water.
Listed at $524,888 at 4,089 square feet on an unusually large 25,128 square foot lot, we value this custom home at $128 per square foot.