Pearland Makes List of Most Affordable Suburbs in America

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Patrice Shuttlesworth
Live there if for no other reason than this place!
Houston has been and continues to be one of the most affordable cities in which to hang your hat long-term. Though housing prices inside the Loop have been escalating rapidly over the past five years, housing can still be had on the relative cheap as compared to other cities around the country. Add to that plentiful jobs and a generally robust economy, and you have the makings of a pretty good place to live economically.

It is also true that much of our affordability comes at a cost, namely sprawl (we can debate smog, traffic, humidity and hurricanes on another day), with communities spread all over the 600-plus square-mile radius we call home. One of those communities was recently ranked on a list of the most affordable suburbs in America, and would you believe it was Pearland?

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Saving the Astrodome: Demolition Crews to Tear Down the Dome Already?

Not shown: piles of rubble.
According to Swamplot, Reliant already has crews in place to begin demoing parts of the Astrodome as soon as next week. But before you go into a panic, the work is only being done to portions of the facade and the outer structure that is apparently beyond repair and would be removed regardless of the vote on the stadium in November.

The ballot initiative will determine whether or not the Dome will remain standing. Harris County wants to turn it into a new convention center-type-building thing, but if voters say "no," the old gal will be torn down and a beautiful, gleaming parking lot will appear in its place.

For now, the county says this is all part of the process, but some are concerned that if Houstonians drive by and see the Dome surrounded by rubble, they will assume the vote won't matter.

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Suggestions for What to Put in Place of the Downtown Macy's

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Jeff Balke
On September 22, the downtown Macy's (formerly Foley's for you olds) will be imploded. to make way for...well, we just don't know. So far, mum's the word on what will take its place other than a giant hole in the ground, but that should only be temporary. Anyway, given the fact that a giant hole in the ground isn't exactly what you normally find in the middle of a downtown district, unless you live in Detroit, they have to fill it with something. We have some suggestions.

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Houston Market Continues Its Explosion in July

Categories: Surreal Estate

According to a report from the Houston Association of Realtors, the city of Houston had its biggest single month of home sales ever in July. This continues the housing boom of 2013 that has seen dramatic increases in the number of homes sold and the sharp rise in home prices. All of this has been fueled by lower interest rates, which ticked up slightly last week for the second time in as many months, and a substantial increase in the number of jobs added by local employers over the past year.

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Former Houston Pavilions Getting Facelift to Go with Name Change

Categories: Surreal Estate

Courtesy of GreenStreet
When the downtown Houston Pavilions was being built, it was touted as a pass-through from Main Street and the rail line to the other side of town with Discovery Green, Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center. People would be able to leisurely stroll and browse various shops on their way. That never quite worked out and the odd concrete breezeway with very few stores turned into a ghost town.

Now the mixed-use space -- renamed GreenStreet in April -- is preparing for a much-needed facelift that sounds as if it will attempt to live up to the new name and fulfill its original mission of connecting two parts of downtown.

"Our focus is to implement a plan for GreenStreet that creates lasting value both onsite and for the surrounding downtown businesses," Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden said in a release. "Ultimately, the changes we are making to the property will help elevate it into the type of mixed-use district that is needed to support the growth and diversification of downtown Houston."

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Suggestions for Navigating Home Buying During a Housing Boom

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Sarah de la Rosa
Closing is an annoying process, but at least it's the end. Sitting in a conference room with sandwiches, chips and a bowl full of Halloween candy wasn't exactly how I pictured the final moments of my quest for home ownership -- second time around for me, first for my fiancée, Cathy -- but the entire process of buying a home is stressful, confusing and frustrating, so snacking on a Reese's while signing document after document seemed like a miracle.

By the time Cathy was done signing -- her credit score superior to mine, she took on the bulk of the purchase responsibility -- it had been an hour of sitting at that conference table in the offices of a title company we'll likely never visit again with an mortgage broker who will likewise become a stranger and a real estate agent that won't only because he's been my friend for many years. Surreal, yes, but all part of buying a home.

As if the whole buying a home thing wasn't difficult enough, add to it the furious real estate market in Houston and new regulations designed to protect us -- and lenders -- from ourselves and you have, well, a mess.

Our story had a happy ending. We got the house we wanted for less than we expected to pay and there were only minimal complications. But, as any realtor will tell you, transactions of this magnitude can be overwhelming. There are certainly a million good tips for home buying, but here are a few that I found served me and others I know particularly well (or didn't if they were ignored).

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Boom or Bust: How the Exploding Housing Market in Houston is Complicating Matters for Buyers and Sellers

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Sarah de la Rosa
We never expected to find a home as quickly as we did. When my fiancée and I started looking, we assumed we would casually search until after our wedding in October, then get serious. But as we watched interest rates slowly begin to tick upward, we decided to speed up the process. Even then, we assumed it would take weeks or months to find a home. How could we have known it would only take one day?

The Houston housing market is booming. In the last year, home sales have shot up by 28 percent and prices have risen by 11 percent as of May. The combination of low interest rates (they are still historically low despite rising over a point in the last two months) and still relatively low housing costs compared to most of the country -- nevermind a steadily growing economy and a rebound from the housing bubble of 2008 -- are sending prices and sales higher than ever. But, this is fueling concerns over the return of a housing bubble.

Real estate website Trulia recently reported that homes in Houston were as much as 2 percent over-valued in the current market, but cautioned that this is simply a rebound, not another bubble, not yet.

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Growing Pains: Heights Residents Concerned About Second Proposed Apartment Complex

Categories: Surreal Estate

From the Alexan Apartments Web site: how Heights life might look in five years?
For several years, complaints raged around the development of a Walmart near the corner of Yale and I-10. Certainly there was some degree of "Walmart sucks and we don't want it in our neighborhood" frustration, but chief among the legitimate concerns was what would happen to traffic at that intersection and the one immediately adjacent to it, Heights and I-10. If you have driven in that area since Walmart and all the corresponding shops have opened, you know the whole area is a traffic cluster-you-know-what, made worse by the fact that trains still halt traffic, sometimes at rush hour, along Heights Boulevard.

Add to this the exponential growth throughout the historic neighborhood over the past five years and the worries of residents seem justified. Now comes word that developer Trammell Crow is adding to its plans already in place to build a massive apartment complex on Yale just six blocks north of I-10. One complex at Yale and 7th -- right near where the hike-and-bike trail crosses Yale with no signal, it should be noted -- is under way and now they want a second just a block south at Yale and 6th.

As you might imagine, folks in the Heights are not thrilled.

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Move Over, Jeff Bagwell! Brian Cushing's House Is For Sale, Too!

Photo by HAR
USC's "Fight On" is piped in underwater, we bet
Maybe after the tidal wave of a sports week that we all enjoyed/endured last week, we needed a bit of a breather. After Manti Te'o's phony baloney girlfriend, Lance Armstong's phony baloney apologies, the Patriots' and Falcons' phony baloney Super Bowl aspirations, a slow sports week leading up to Super Bowl Hype Week may not be such a bad thing.

How do we know this is a slow sports week?

Well, because for the second time in 24 hours, we are posting about an athlete's house being put on the market for sale.


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Jeff Bagwell Selling House for $15M, Includes Saltwater Pool, Wine Vault, Fitness Center, Putting Green

Holy Toledo!
The only news lately for former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell is that he didn't get selected for the Hall of Fame for the third year in a row. There has been a lot of talk that the reason he wasn't selected was due to rumors of PED use mainly due to his associations with Ken Caminiti and others.

We don't know if this is the result of his losing out on the HOF (we doubt it), but he has put his home in Timberwilde up for sale. If you are looking for a cozy little 16,000-square-foot home (though the Harris County Appraisal District lists it at over 18,000 square feet) on a private 2.4-acre estate, you can grab this bad boy for $15 million, though I bet there is some wiggle room there given that the appraisal district has it pegged at just over $9 million. But, then again, the real estate market in Houston is pretty damn strong.

With it you get a wine cellar, a saltwater pool and spa, a fitness center, a putting green and a loggia. "A loggia?" you ask. Yes, a loggia.

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