Crazy for the Inner Loop

CRAZY FOR THE INNER LOOP “I’m sort of at my wit’s end, I don’t have anyone else I can ask, so here goes: say you have $150K–$200K (closer to $150K would be best/more realistic) to spend on a house anywhere in Houston — where do you buy, now, at this point in 2012? We’d prefer to keep it in the loop, and we’ve got a baby with more possibly on the way. Trying to buy a house in this city is driving me insane.” [Swamplot inbox]

55 Comment

  • Westbury is a good place to buy a nice 3 bed 1 story with a ~7,500 sq ft lot in that price range. Look for areas zoned to Kolter and Parker elementary. Don’t go south of Bellfort and west of the drainage easement between Westbury and Fondren.

  • 3rd ward perhaps? 5th ward? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you have a real estate agent to help you with your needs/wants?

  • Try Oak Forest. Not inside the Loop but very close and there are lots of really nice houses in the $120K – $170K price range if you look on the west side of White Oak Bayou in Section 15 and 16. Really well built ranch houses.

  • Shepherd Forest (just west of Garden Oaks and south of Oak Forest) has props that are still affordable with easy access to TC Jester Park, bike trails, and great schools. Homes are ranch style, brick and on larger lots. Very tight knit community with strong civic club.

  • We just bought in the East End/Eado end of last year. It’s a fantastic value, has some charter schools in the neighborhood and promises a really good return on investment in about 5-7 years.

  • I second Marcy. The lots in Oak Forest are generous for the cost. You should be able to find many options below $200k. Once the construction of 290 and 610 are finished, getting anywhere in town should be pretty quick. Good luck!

  • I second the Westbury suggestion, and add the southern part of Willowbend (right across Post Oak from Westbury) too. We were in the exact same scenario (except w/ a 2 yr old, not a baby) two years ago when we bought in Willowbend. It’s a great area for young families, w/ strong elementary schools, a good middle school, friendly neighbors, great parks, pools, easily accessible shopping, and an easy commute (15 min to Med Center, 20 min to downtown when traffic is light, about 10 min longer at rush hour). SO glad we bought here!

  • You can find some great places in Oak Forest, but it’s technically just on the other side of 610. With kids coming, be sure to look at school zoning. There are tons of new restaurants and such opening in the area. Westbury is also good, but taking a peek at flood maps is a bit disconcerting. As for east/southeast of downtown, you’d be a *very* early settler for the gentrification lifecycle on the upswing. There’s still no decent grocery stores and the schools are pretty meh. Same goes for the areas north of downtown. Moving outside the loop, even if it’s just on the other side of 610 isn’t as painful as it might sound and your wallet, quality of life and peace of mind will thank you 3-10 years from now.

  • Check school zones first!!!

  • Check out:

    A girl I know recently bought a really nice house on a corner lot with a detached garage for a very reasonable price.

  • What is your definition of “in the loop”? I know a lot of people who say in the loop, but it really means west of 288/59, which technically cuts out half the loop.

    Have you seriously not tried HAR’s map search? There are a few properties in your price range. I’ll help you out and toss out a few.

    4710 Glenmont
    3001 Murworth Dr 401
    1510 Robin St

    Also, if you’re looking for really affordable (and older) townhouses, there are plenty south of OST off Cambridge. I know a lot of medical student families (1-2 children) that live in them and they’re happy there.

  • Look into Westbury 1, 2, and 3 as well as Willowbrook and Post Oak Manor.

  • What about Idylwood? I was looking over there a couple of years ago and it’s a very pretty neighborhood with reasonably priced homes that are legit inside-the-loop (sorry Westbury/Willowbend). I think it’s even zoned to a well-ranked elementary school.

  • The Eastwood area has some great places for sale. With two light rail lines being completed and excellent development planning from our area chamber, management district, and civic groups; the qualify of living is good and improving. Home prices are on the rise and it’s a get time to get in. Another just outside the loop area to look at is Glenbrook Valley area. Get in touch with either area’s civic group to find good neighborhoods in their area.

  • Can’t go wrong with Westbury and I agree with the ‘boundaries’ my fellow Westburians suggested. But DO check the schools you’d be zoned to. There are a couple to avoid.

  • Westbury seems to have nice homes, but the schools, not so much. After looking there, I moved to the Braeswood Place/Knollwood, an enclave west of So. Main, most of which is zoned for Bellaire HS (and did NOT flood after Allison, I saw with mine own eyes, while the hoity-toits north of Braeswood were in it up to their nether bits). Area is walkable, and prices are still affordable, but McMansions are slowly creeping in.

  • We were in a similar situation last year and settled on Eastwood. We’ve become friends with many other young families in the neighborhood and enjoy the strong community here. We’re also a sucker for historic homes so that made the decision pretty easy given our budget.

  • Contrarian view here. To start with, yes, your most affordable places will be Westbury, Oak Forest, Garden Oaks, and Eastwood. I’ll agree to that right up front. It’s also quite possible that houses in nice-ish areas that meet your price range will need significant repair, maintenance, or updating. With your budget already a little stretched and a baby on the way, you don’t need that. Move to the suburbs and find a decent school district and a new house you won’t have to spend a ton of money and time on. My sense is that most of the obvious “in-town” kid-friendly things are now so crowded and/or expensive that being close to them isn’t worth it, especially during your child’s infancy and toddlerhood. (MFAH, Children’s Museum, and the Zoo, I am looking RIGHT at you when I say that.) Additionally, your desire for urban amenities like, I dunno, cultural activities, restaurants, and shopping is going to take a big hit (as is your disposable income) when the baby comes.

  • If distance from downtown is the main driver, Eastwood for sure. If you want a near suburban home, westbury or shepherd forest. If you need decent K-12 and not exurbs, briarforest/west oaks or pearland or jersey village might fulfill your needs.

  • I know this is bait on here, but I am seriously thinking good parts of Sharpstown like around St. Francis. The schools suck, but if you’re into private schooling like so many are ITL, then maybe it doesn’t matter. The freeway access beats Westbury’s to downtown. It is close or fast to get to West U and Bellaire and Sugar Land amenities as needed.

  • Eastwood hands down. Good neighborhood. Good civic association. Good elementary school. Light rail coming in on 2 sides of the neighborhood. Historic homes and lots of trees!

  • I bought in the First Ward just north of downtown a couple years back at lower price range than that. I like it and feel that you can’t beat the access to downtown and the new pathways that are going in. I’m not starting a family anytime soon so I can’t speak to the schools, though the new Crockett Elementary is supposed to be nice. Good luck in your search.

  • Smartest decision would be Eado

    1. A lot of development activity just east of George R. Brown/59
    2. Light rail going in
    3. Listings going up on HAR for 77003 area code (150k-500k+)
    4. Everyone I know that has purchased in the area has since 2007 has seen gains of 5-10% annually in appreciation. This will only continue as the area develops.

  • At your price point, I’d stick to Meyerland inside of Bellaire HS zoning. The lot by itself will hold its value and the long-term desirability of the school will be assured.

    But I’d urge you to re-evaluate your housing needs altogether and lease an older and larger apartment zoned to a good elementary school. Try to make it a small complex on not very much land so that it is not at particular risk of getting torn down.

    Figure that a $200k house will generate very nearly the same direct expenses (before utilities, maintenance, repairs…or offsetting income tax benefits or rent increases) as are associated with renting a decent-sized two-bedroom apartment unit in a nice kid-friendly area (think, Museum District). Think about this carefully. Everything you put toward equity in a house becomes an illiquid asset that requires realtors’ fees and closing costs to make liquid again.

    If you were a renter, then you may at some point reconsider your middle or high school options…but that’s over a decade away. For all you know, you won’t even live in Houston by then. Or…your house budget may have increased, and it’ll be time to move on up within the neighborhood. One way or the other, you’ve got flexibility.

  • Shepherd Forest is the last place someone can get a bargain on a home in the city. You can see the loop right outside the neighborhood and the elementary schools (Garden Oaks and Oak Forest) are some of the best in HISD. 2 minutes from the Heights, 10 minutes from Downtown and Montrose, and 5 minutes from the Galleria. Right next to hike and bike.

  • If you are looking inside the loop at places like Eastwood or just outside the loop at places like Oak Ridge and Westbury, be careful that your house is at least 1000 feet from any highways. Living within 1000 feet of a major highway can expose your children to serious air quality issues in addition to what we already have to endure in Houston. Also, make sure that you get the house tested for lead paint and be ready to have some cash on hand to do some work to remediate any lead paint on the interior and any lead paint that is coming off on the exterior. I always thought that I was being overly cautious when I had my house remediated before moving in. But one day I had my then 4 month old baby on the changing table and watched as he scratched the paint on the wall with his finger and then put his finger in his mouth.

    All of the above suggestions are on target. It is just a matter of how much crunchiness you can take in a neighborhood versus commute times. Oak Forest probably has the best potential in terms of appreciation. If the kids cannot get into a good magnet or vanguard after going to elementary school, you should see a return on your investment if you sell and flee to the burbs.

  • What was said about the homes in those areas for that price range needing significant repair is correct. I bought in that price range in April 2010, and I couldn’t afford a place that didn’t need significant money sunk into it in most of the neighborhoods listed above. The prices have only gone up since then. We ended up in Lindale Park. We love the neighborhood and a light rail station is going in a few blocks away, but the neighborhood schools aren’t the best in the city.

  • $150 to $185,000 range realistically puts you in the following, unless you have another $50,000 for immediate repairs:

    North: Oak Forest, Shepherd Forest, Magnum Mannor and Lindale Park with only Lindale Park actually being ITL

    Southwest: Westbury, Parkwest, Maplewood, Braeburn Valley, Robindell, Willowbend, Post Oak Manor none of which are actually ITL.

    East: Eastwood, Idylwood, Glenbrook Valley & Garden Villas. With all but the latter 2 being ITL.

  • Garden Oaks/Oak Forest are good buys. Families with kids/babies moving into area. I grew up in Westbury and second the boundries. Stay east of Hillcroft and north of Bellfort if possible. A little west of hillcroft would be ok except for the school zoning.

  • Several folks have said check what school you are zoned to, but my kids have never gone to their zoned schools (one in college now, other in HS). HISD has a large number of magnet/vanguard options although a few are everyone’s target and are therfore hard to get like ROE/Lanier. If you had a little more money I’d recommend Timbergrove. Also, if you are really tolerant/open-minded, you might look at Riverside becuase you can get an amazing 1920/1930 brick house on a nice lot for a steal. Riverside seems to be making a strong comeback due to the med-center.

  • A second for to Bernard’s comments about Mangum Manor. This neighborhood has a strong civic association with active members. The area has very easy access to 610 North, 290, I-10 West, and 45 North. At the center of the neighborhood is a city park.

  • There’s rail extending north, too. If you can endure a “transitional” neighborhood (1990’s Heights was one), I’d be e of I-45, N of downtown along the rail extension.

  • Nobody has mentioned the parts of Old Spring Branch just north of I-10. The area roughly west of Antoine out to Bunker Hill north of 10 but south of Westview contains some screaming bargains around the $200k price range. You won’t be able to afford Spring Valley, but it’s proximity helps keep those neighborhoods pretty nice. Large lots with trees and ’50s and ’60’s ranchers. I think most of it below Westview gets zoned into Spring Branch ISD, so good chance of a decent school. And though it’s not inside the loop, you’re only a 15 minute drive to downtown, and there’s plenty of easy shopping over at Bunker Hill with a Costco and HEB, things you don’t find in the East End. I’m an inner looper, but I think Spring Branch is going to take off in a few years due to transit and density issues, just as Oak forest is today.

  • I’d pick Northside village over any others listed. You can bike anywhere. The heights is 2 miles west. Downtown is 2 miles south. Lindale is 2 miles north. You can also get to the east end bike path from Mckee. And Bill is right, Northside village is like the heights was 15 years ago. It wasn’t always the sought after place it is now. The rail is going to help the neighborhood immensely!

  • I 2nd Marmer’s post #18. I live in a townhouse in the loop with my wife and baby and I’m looking around for a bigger place – even with a higher price range, I’m having a hard time finding anywhere I’d want to send my kid to without really breaking the bank on the next house. My advice is to do your own research on schools using har,, etc. and form your own opinion on which schools are good. They are certainly a lot easier to find and afford in the ‘burbs. A lot of the suggestions here are already outside the loop, so IMO you might as well go out a bit farther out. Plus if you might have more kids (we are having #2) you can get a lot more sq ft in a newer home. Is it going to have character? Probably not. But that’s a price I might be willing to pay. Haven’t quite decided

  • Long time Houstonian here. Grew up in Knollwood, live in Montrose now, sister & hubby & nieces live in Sharpstown, friends in Oak Forest/Shepherd Park/ Westbury. I would consider all of those “close enough” even if outside the loop. My sister’s old house is for sale 7802 Edgemoor Dr Houston, TX 77036 (she and her hubby divorced but great house, great pocket neighborhood, 10-15 minutes to my house in Montrose because 59 access is so great. Kids go to St. Francis de Sales (lower cost private).

  • Another point to consider
    If you made me live in a suburb here are the 2 places I would consider
    1) very close in Sugarland (near BW 8 and very near 59) – uber fast freeway even at rush hour. access to galleria, med ctr, inner loop stuff with short easy zippy freeway. Like this house

    2)I play golf at Redstone. The new neighborhoods up 59 north just east of 1960 are also super fast access due to close to 59/BW8 north. It is pretty gorgeous in that area & it takes me 25 minutes to get to the course from Montrose max.

  • I would drive through some of the neighborhoods mentioned and see how you like the “feel”. For maintaining value – school zoning and being right on the “edge” of a $$ hood is always good (like Old Spring Branch, parts of Meyerland edges and vicinity, Knollwood (south of Braes bayou). I grew up on Gannett St (knollwood/linkwood)- since 1967 – no flooding on that side – its higher. All those I think are nicer, less “funky”. Those houses go quick so you just have to look at stuff fast and grab it. That is a clue to the goodness of the neighborhood – if stuff goes fast, that’s where you want to buy if you can. (I am a fan of parts of Sharpstown for 59 access but it doesn’t meet those criteria so I would be cautious)Huge fan of the easy access pocket neighborhood my sis moved to – lush gorgeous area of sugarland but a pocket of much cheaper and uber close to 59 off easy to access Willams Trace Blvd

  • I say Eastwood.
    I have buying fixing up houses in the heights for about 11 years. I live in the houses get to know my neighbors and enjoy all the amenities the heights has these days.
    However, as the neighborhood improves it has become boring, but I look at Eastwood and get excited about the next project. The Heights is a great place, and will continue to improve but I miss the drastic changes.
    This is the time to start watching for drastic change in Eastwood. My friend is fixing up a house there, the lot and house is very similar to my current house in the heights but his initial investment for the house and lot was about half of what I had to spend.
    There are still plenty of real craftsman bungalows in Eastwood that need some love.


    Use the link above to figure out which schools you are zoned for any address – do not trust the real estate listings on the school zoning – they are not verified… Any property zoned to Bellaire High School will have a higher value than a house across the street zoned to the next high school – pay careful attention to these boundaries… Good luck!

  • No way, no how, would I consider a fixer-upper with a baby on the way. Especially if more children are a possibility. Do you want to be doing flooring or plumbing with a toddler and a newborn around? Some other family/couple might disagree, and if it works for them, great.

    The last time I was in Eastwood was for the home tour last spring. My take was that Eastwood is one-third Wow, one-third Meh, and one-third Yuck!

  • Lindale Park.

  • @TheNiche: I lived (rented) a home in Meyerland on Indigo St. for 12 years. The reason I bought a home in Westbury is because a home in the $150K – $200K range cannot be found in Meyerland. IF a home priced that low is available, you can bet it needs LOTS of updating and remodeling, which defeats the purpose of buying in that price range. Once I moved, my landlady (a Realtor) demo’d the old house including a 50+ year-old oak in the front yard and built herself a $1.9 million brick McMansion. That house is HUGE and, in my opinion, obnoxiously dominates the street because all the surrounding homes are originals, built 1955. It looks so out of place. I think my 12 years of rent might have paid for a brick or two on that new house.

  • If you have kids and more coming I would head toward Pearland. It is not inside the loop but very close and it is developing more and more with nice homes in your price range. You dont want to be in Oak Forest or certain parts of the Heights with kids. I have had many a client go their just to move away 2 months later because of the area and schools. Spring Branch is pretty close to inner loop and the schools are decent. East end Revitalized isnt a bad area any more. What it was 5 years ago or 2 years is go is no more. Denver Harbor is pretty much downtown. That too is NOW an up and coming area just as midtown was only 11 years ago. Homes there are selling fast and you can get a nice townhome in your price range that is new. FYI big park being put in over there too. Many young professionals and family are living there. I know I have put over 15 over there in the past 4 months.
    Hope this helps!!

  • Living in a teardown is the best way to own a residence homestead. Cracked slab? Let it widen. Brickwork splits open and doors stick? Apply caulk, sand the doors. Roof needs replacement? Paint over the water stains on the ceiling and stick some buckets in the attic to catch the drip. Black mold? Spray a solution of bleach and water on it. Buy some air freshener. Don’t like the off-white color of the walls? Paint it neon pink with glitter, if that’s what suits you. Nobody cares. You live in a teardown!

  • Sure, Vanderbuilt. Ditch the Heights and move to…Denver Harbor? WTF?

  • In what marketing Rainbow Puppy Island universe is Pearland close to the Inner Loop?

  • Spoonman, we Pearlanders have a secret… Mykawa Road. Oops, I gave it away.

  • But my point is that I don’t understand the OP’s requirement for living inside the loop. My experience with children is that a lot of child raising and child care is easier in the suburbs, especially if you don’t have a lot of house issues or private school costs, too. Their price range seems to imply a budget that isn’t going to leave a whole lot of room for the kind of stuff being inside the loop gets you close to: shopping, restaurants, downtown activities, cultural events. And there are worse things than commuting. Major renovations, for example. ;-)

  • You dont want to be in Oak Forest or certain parts of the Heights with kids. I have had many a client go their just to move away 2 months later because of the area and schools.
    I am willing to bet you have not had “many a client” do this.

  • I have heard from two Pearlanders trying to sell their homes that foreclosures are rampant and home values down significantly in the Shadow Creek area. Something to do with the aggressive financing of the developers over the past three years. I don’t have personal experience with this, but in addition to schooling, I would consider foreclosure rates which tend to be higher in any of Houston’s suburban-developed communities.

  • I would also chime in in support of checking the HISD zoning site. The HAR listings aren’t always right and sometimes they can be wrong in the buyer’s favor! High school zoning in particular can greatly influence property price — when we were originally looking in Meyerland, we discovered that just crossing from one side of a street to another that shifted zoning from Bellaire HS changed property values by roughly $100K. We decided that $100K could buy a pretty good private school education when our daughter hits high school in 10+ yrs, should she not be able to transfer out-of-district by then, and opted to go for the more affordable house in Willowbend instead. (Be aware that it is not as easy to transfer out of your zoned district as some imply — I wouldn’t buy somewhere that you aren’t willing to send your child to the zoned elementary school if needs be. This is what kept us out of the Eastside and Lindale, where the options if you don’t like the zoned schools are very limited.)

  • I own in the Shadow Creek area now and will tell you DO NOT MOVE HERE. The commute on 288 is the worst in the city and we hvae been told by 2 realtors that we are going to take a $10-15,000 loss on the house we bought almost 5 years ago due to the builders. We now have a 6 month old and want to move with the same criteria as the original poster. I’d like to be closer in, have mature trees, SAFE, good school, and would like to spend about $200K. So confused with these suggestions on which way to go. I’m thinking Westbury or maybe Fall Creek? I’ve driven through Oak Forest twice now and am not getting a super safe feeling from it.