02/27/08 9:26pm

5248 Larkin St. D, Cottage Grove, HoustonA househunter writes in with questions about the townhome at 5248 Larkin St. Unit D, calling it “possibly the strangest property I’ve ever seen.”

When I saw it on HAR.com, I thought I’d better be ready to spring with an offer immediately . . . I’m a first time home-buyer, so honestly, no expert. I’ve looked in Cottage Grove before, but with the exception of 2620 Detering, nothing of this size is that cheap.

On the same lot are three other identical townhouses, all advertised as new and offered at $315,000 by Mike Adams Enterprises. Unit D is listed for $219,000 and is being sold by a division of Sallie Mae.

The price is not weird for the neighborhood — I just think it’s odd that you have this foreclosure that is discounted $100k below the three new properties and they are on the same lot. . . .

The foreclosure sign is still hanging in the hallway, the red code violations are still on the door, and I’m just curious. . . .

Inspections were performed in spring of 2007 . . . but it doesn’t look like the code violations were addressed. If someone lived there, I’d be very surprised. . . .

I mean, it’s weird because they had nails in the wall –lots of nails, including ones in spots you wouldn’t necessarily hang pictures. At some point, someone had hung a television in the master bedroom. But it didn’t look as if the range had ever been used, that the showers, etc, had ever been used. If someone lived there, it was an extremely short period of time and they didn’t do anything but watch television. We were wondering at first if it had been a model home and that would account for the wear on the stairs and the holes in the wall and the nails. . . .

There were way too many red flags for me . . .

After the jump: more photos from the listing . . . and flags!


01/15/08 9:55pm

Four Homes by Legend Homes for Sale in Bear Creek Meadows

The wave of foreclosures sweeping over neighborhoods at the outer edges of town has . . . an upside!

Remember back when these neighborhoods were new — like, four years ago? Well, for buyers it’s just like those good old days all over again . . . only cheaper! That’s right: if you’ve settled on one builder model, you can be pretty picky about which upgrades and finishing touches you really want — even though the builder has moved on.

If you’re shopping for a home in Bear Creek Meadows in Katy, for example, you’ll find the four distinct residences pictured above listed on MLS. That’s right, those are four different houses. But they’re all the same model — The Cairns, Plan 509, by Legend Homes — and they’re all resales!

Which one is right for you? Clockwise from top left, the contenders are: 19411 Billineys Park Dr., 19606 Ballina Meadows Dr., 19906 Brisbane Meadows Dr., and 19510 Buckland Park Dr.

After the jump, a look at the differences between these four newish but back-on-the-market homes!


01/07/08 10:56am

Pool and Lake at 24315 Lanning Dr., Katy, Texas

Honey, stop the car! 2300 square feet, new construction, in-ground pool, spa, game room, on a man-made fake lake. $209k. Bonus: The Relitter actually typed in “HONEY STOP THE CAR!!” as a description.

That’s blogger Lou Minatti’s punchline, after a brief tour of tiny, chain-linked-fenced, or apparently leaning homes available at similar prices in Los Angeles.

Also in the description of the Katy home is this paradox:


After the jump: more pics, plus the sad news about this some-of-a-kind Katy home.


12/03/07 10:58am

Listing from Oodle.com

How important is location? Well, here’s a four-bedroom, three-bath home for sale near Mayor Bill White, and they’re only asking $137,900?! This listing found on Oodle.com sounds too good to be true!

It is.

Below the fold: the awful truth.


11/21/07 10:27am

Map Graphic from HoustonFacts.orgSure, there’s the latest numbers out from the Houston Association of Realtors, showing a continuing decline in home sales in October, an 8 percent upswing in the average number of days homes have sat on the market, and a slight drop in the median home price compared to this time last year.

But the most blatant sign that serious problems in Houston housing have already arrived is the new promotional blitz just unleashed by the Greater Houston Builders Association — telling us all not to panic: Everything’s just rosy in the wonderful world of Houston residential real estate. Hey, everybody back in the water!

The PR push, which includes a blanketing of radio and TV spots in local markets, is designed to reassure nervous would-be buyers that now’s the perfect time to buy a home way out on the latest subdivision frontier, even though lots of scary signs have been suggesting otherwise for quite a few months now. The heart of the homebuilders’ campaign is the ominous-sounding HoustonFacts.org website, which fills Houston homebuyers’ ears with fact-filled, sage advice like this:

If you try to wait and time the market until it hits rock bottom, you are likely to lose out. Just as no one can accurately predict the peaks and valleys of the stock market (name one person who sold their tech portfolio in April of 2000), the same holds true for housing. If you sit on the fence and wait for the absolute best deal, you could end up literally waiting for years. And most likely, your guess on market timing would be wrong. But if you choose to buy now, you will not only be in the driver’s seat during the buying process, you will also reap the gains of price appreciation once you become a home owner. Remember, those who purchased homes in the early 1990s during the last big economic and housing downturn came out as big winners.

There’s lots more of this kind of wisdom available on the site, but here’s a special challenge to eagle-eyed Swamplot readers: See if you can find the comparison of a home investment to a stock-market investment on the site that simplifies all those messy calculations by leaving out the cost of monthly mortgage payments and expenses!

Keep reading for a HoustonFacts.org tip on home foundations for the Houston climate!


10/10/07 11:14am

32124 Skyway, Waller

If you’re looking for something just a little sleeker than the typical country-home-with-hangar featured here earlier this week, you might want to try the house right next door: It’s newly remodeled, sportier, and there’s still plenty of room to park your airplane, just steps from the Living Room. Best of all, though, you can bid for it on Ebay.

A completely remodeled home and new airplane hanger located in the beautiful country side of Waller Texas, just 20 minutes from Houston. Located in the Sky Lakes Subdivision this gorgeous home and hanger that backs up to the taxiway and leads out to the long grass runway allowing you the access to fly your plane at a moments notice.

Great, but 20 minutes from Houston?? Oh, right—by air. The house has three bedrooms and two baths in an open plan: 2330 square feet of living space, plus a 2000-square-foot hangar.

Hurry! There’s only about a week left to place your bids. Or buy it now for $274,900. Our quick fly-by photo tour begins after the jump.


09/05/07 10:26am

2293 E. Bayshore Dr. in San Leon

Does this look like the home of a rock star? Okay, how about a ’70s rock star with a long beard and hearing problems?

Yes, this is the custom-built San Leon enclave of ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill: a 19,560-sf trio of homes on a three-and-a-half-acre lot facing the crystal-clear waters of Galveston Bay.

Features include recreational, media & entertaining areas. 2 story entry w/dbl staircase, gourmet kitchen, mahogany library. Coffered ceilings, travertine marble floors. Circular motor court w/fountain & Crestron lighting. Pool. Exterior lighting, rollac shutter & storm doors. Above ground gas tanks. Two 3-car garages. Designer appointments & much more!

Yours, for just under $7 million. Including the gas tanks. After the jump, the ZZzzzzzzzzzzz interiors!


06/12/07 9:14am

7807 Del Monte Dr.

Five little words slipped into the end of an MLS profile remind us, gently, that updated but low-slung houses on large lots in tony Houston neighborhoods aren’t meant for homebuyers who want to enjoy a simple home in a natural setting. No, an older ranch like this is meant for a family willing to tolerate a “gorgeous” and “spacious” (but also apparently cramped and doomed) home until they can tear it down and build something that’s five times as big and that blankets the 10,665-square-foot lot more definitively. It’s a sacrifice, we know.

See if you can find the magic words in this listing:

GEORGEOUS, UPDATED, WELL MAINTAINED 3/2.5/2 W/LRG ENTERTAINMENT RM & WET BAR OVERLOOK POOL, BRIARBEND SUBD, ZONED NEW BRIARGROVE ELEM. $55K+ IN UPDATES: 2007 Paint/Hardware, 2005 Silestone Kit Counters/ Dbl Ovens, Baths, Entertain Rm Roof, Replaced Ducts/Added 4 Return Vents. UPDATES LAST 6 YRS: Dbl Pane Windows, Refinished Hardwood Floors, Refinished Pool Surface/Robotic Pool Sweep, Garage Doors, Recessed Lights in Kit, LR & Hall. Park @end of blk. Live in now/Build later/2 story allowed.

More photos of the amazing $466K Briarbend house you’ll love so much you won’t be able to wait to tear it down—after the jump.


04/23/07 10:02am

If you’re trying to sell your home without an agent, how do you get your listing onto MLS? Sure, there’s Craigslist and an assortment of FSBO online catalogs you can get on easily, but most Houston homebuyers do their searching exclusively in the difficult-to-navigate MLS listings at HAR.com. If you’re not with an agent, how do you get buyers to find you online?

As of today, a whopping five Houston homesellers have discovered a secret way to sneak into MLS—by using a new free service out of Florida called Iggys House. The five listings show up when you search the Iggys House site for Houston properties. More important, though, they also show up in HAR searches. Pay no attention to the weird Florida broker listing above the property. They’re in.

What’s in it for Iggy? In Texas, nothing yet—but just wait. In five other states, a sister company called BuySide Realty serves as an agent that passes onto the buyer 75 percent of the commissions it receives. Presumably, if a buyer buys a $400,000 house using BuySide, and the seller is paying a six-percent commission (with $12K to each agent), the buyer will end up with a new house and an extra $9,000. It appears to work for 1031 exchanges, too.

The free listings, then, are just a way of trolling for potential BuySide buyers. And it means that BuySide may be operating in Texas soon.

04/16/07 8:22am

Some highlights from the Chronicle‘s annual housing-price survey extravaganza, published Sunday:

As usual, specifics on last year’s neighborhood price trends are hidden in the Chronicle‘s Homefront section.