A Sterling Example in Avondale Historic District

The asking price of a property in the Avondale (West) Historic District has been dropping $500 per day since its latest relisting on Thanksgiving Day. A pre-holiday hiatus had capped a 2-year sales effort at several price points by various agents and agencies. The 1910 home and grounds are described as part of the estate of Ross Sterling, a former governor of Texas (1931-32) and founder of Humble Oil, which later became the far humbler ExxonMobil.


The Craftsman-style estate includes a 3-story home on pier-and-beam foundation and 2-story carriage house off a 10-ft. service alley running between cross streets Stanford and Whitney. Currently a rental property at $3,475 per month, the 4,000-sq.-ft. home’s interior is camera-shy but for a few photos (below) of the Mission-style stained glass windows, large tray ceilings in high relief, and unusually narrow (1 1/2-in. across) hardwood flooring. Other features include 11-ft. ceilings, a pair of 4-ft. wide doors, 2 sun rooms, and a few remaining original chandeliers.

In the living room, there’s a tiled-up corner fireplace and French doors leading to an enclosed sun porch.

A service staircase off the kitchen leads to the upper floors where there are 5 bedrooms, each 15 ft. by 15 ft. No peek in the kitchen is available, but the butler’s pantry makes an appearance in the listing:

Above the front porch, there’s a 250-sq.-ft. sleeping porch shaded by large trees as well as a roof overhang with trim embellishments of the period.

The rear of the 9,750-sq.-ft. lot includes a large raised deck accessed through French doors off a sun porch (above). The patio, meanwhile, leads to the guest quarters above the 2-bay garage (below), which also contains the utility room:

Avondale was developed a century ago by the Greater Houston Land and Improvement Co. as an upscale neighborhood — a decade before Broadacres and River Oaks. The neighborhood’s namesake street is extra-wide. It’s located a block north of Westheimer Rd. and east of Montrose Blvd., near eateries like Indika, Sorrento’s, Michaelangelo’s, Dolce Vita, Cafe Bello, and Osaka Sushi.

Today’s price for the home, $560,000, is quite a few daily ticks down from its Turkey Day kickoff at $565,000. The property began its sales effort back in November 2010, looking for $650,000. Subsequent relistings and reductions had reached a low of $539,000 by March 2012. A summer blitz at $595,000 had dropped to $575K by late October’s break.

18 Comment

  • I wondered how this place managed to show up day in and day out on my HAR new listing update email. This has to be the worst sale strategy ever. The place looks like it needs quite a lot of work so they probably need to get it around or under $500k before they’ll find any takers.

  • so does the historic district designation for this area mean that you can’t tear it down? It’s getting fairly close to lot value assuming you can build town homes on it (still needs to drop some).

  • Wow, a grand old house with negative curbside appeal. Let me guess, it will be torn down.

  • @GlenW

    Of course it will. I’m sure the old “demolition by neglect” argument will be trotted out, as usual.

  • ‘Craftsmen’ style in this case means it needs a lot of craftsmen to make it salable. Needs a total gut. I see no cool details other than a bit of stained glass. The interior looks dark and gloomy, as befitting a pre-A/C construction. To paraphrase the Great Communicator, ‘Tear down this house!”

  • Wow, used to live there back about 23 years ago, back then the house was divided into 2 or 3 apartments. We lived downstairs. I can tell you the house is or was fairly sturdy, hope someone buys it and finishes the restoration. The lot is very small but for the Montrose, not bad. Trees need trimming BAD.

  • humble oil was acquired by exxon, not the other way around.

  • Wow I can imagine that exterior was a GEM 3 or 4 coats of paint ago.
    I love all of it’s gloomy self.
    Dear Historic Home Fairy Godmother: Bed and Breakfast.

  • Charlie, if it managed to show up in your listing report that often, then its not the worst sales strategy ever.
    Remember: It’s a lot different marketing an occupied performing multifmaily or other income property than it is your personal single family home.
    I assume the seller isn’t put out that much if it doesn’t sell today or tomorrow — this month or next. It’s an income property that’ll continue to provide a good return until someone else buys it. Where as with your personal home, there is often quite a motivation to sell as otherwise you’re eating a payment each month.
    I’ve listed a few income properties (only one is up at the moment, and its not this one) in Montrose before a bit higher than I thought they were worth mostly because I wasn’t all that motivated to sell them. I figure if they sell — cool. If not, I’m happy to hold for the cash flow.
    This place isn’t a bad deal at all. It’s not far from land value and a new owner could be an income producing property in a great area with a return that far exceeds whatever that same downpayment amount is making while rotting in the bank. And while they’re getting cash flow, the land is appreciating and the debt is being paid off.
    If I were looking to put some cash to work and wanted a smaller property in Montrose that I could hold and let others pay my mortgage on, this would be on my short list. Then, if I ever wanted to fix it up and move in, I’d have the equity in there to refinance and move in.

  • Humble Oil, The Texas Company…..history recently has painted ever early Houston resident an oil heir… The trusts left to museums, hospitals and universities also seem to have various oil roots. My question, how did public education via a public university become expensive? How did Hermann Hospital become private for profit when the family built the hospital for the good of the public? How did the fortunes of so many historic cotton, beef or any agriculture industry survive the Dust Bowl with any profit to leave the next generation, much less fund trusts? Also, where are the Humble Oil fields and how did this product become a money maker at all before the auto? Just saying….

  • Westheimer side of this tract is almost under contract. The buyer needs parking, no thanks to the City ironically. Ultimate fate of the property is a parking lot within 9 months. Historical preservationists can love the property all they want, but if it comes to buying it, they reach in their pockets and pull out some lint and maybe some historical ordinances.

  • Vinyl siding. Back yard backs up on commercial properties on lower Westheimer.

  • Charles,

    Kerosene was more important than gasoline till the 1930s. Standard Oil was broken up in a time when automobiles were an afterthought.

  • The Cody/Dana love is showing again.

  • @MasterRenovator what’s gong in on the westheimer side ?

  • AH! So I know who GoogleMaster is finally ;)

  • I think that strategy of lowering the price by tiny increments every few days, and then boosting the price back up, and then lowering the price by tiny intervals ad nauseum is just announcing
    “My price is just a meaningless number that I pulled out of my butt, therefore only a fool would pay my price”

  • I am with you Harold. Cody can say that it is good strategy if he wants but it hasn’t worked for years so how good is it exactly? The proof is a contract. I’ll add that I only get single family listings emailed so this isn’t being marketed as multifamily.