05/23/17 3:45pm

‘666 GET OUT’ HOUSE DRAWS IN A BUYER ANYWAY The 3-bedroom, 2-bath house up in Longview, TX, listed with spooky pronouncements like “666” and “GET OUT” smeared into the veneer of dirt in its kitchen (as recently seen on Swamplot’s Home Listing Photo of the Day feature) — was sold last week  “to a buyer over the phone who had never seen the property in person, just the online listing,” Heather Leighton of the Chronicle reports. The cryptic messages, which turned out to be pretty killer marketing, were put in place by the previous owners to deter break-ins. Although seller Amy Tabor of H5 Auction and Realty says the writing initially creeped her out, it did not deter her from selling the house to the highest bidder at last Monday’s auction (which started at $2,500). The company’s Facebook note about the home, which made no secret of the property’s decaying, peeling “fixer upper” conditions, simply urged buyers to “channel your inner Joanna Gaines” —- and received 88 percent more action than a normal post for the company. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 642 Sylvan Dr.: HAR

04/28/17 2:30pm

Sure, nervous economists and friends, go ahead and fret about how the coming robot revolution is likely to decimate the availability of middle-class jobs. But the likely wide-ranging effects of technological change are notoriously difficult to predict. For example, after viewing the dramatic promotional video above, which brings to the treed expanse of a 0.78-acre vacant lot in The Woodlands the full power of remote-controlled robot-camera cinematic glory, does another possibility come to mind? With this marriage of drone footage, music-video-intro aesthetics, desktop video software, and soundtrack punch, has a Woodlands-area real estate agent stumbled upon the secret to unleashing desires hidden deep inside us all . . . to feed a new vacant land boom?

As delicate orchestral swells matched to lingering aerial pans and zooms tug at our emotions and the full majesty of 67 N. Glenwild Cir. (conveniently located  between The Woodlands Preparatory School and the entry gate to the Club at Carlton Woods Creekside) comes into view, can we imagine a new — dare we dream? — vacant-lot-buying frenzy, the wider availability of new technologies enabling craftily orchestrated drone footage to surround and tempt us, and transforming this once dowdy sector?

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Flyover Country, The Woodlands
02/07/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON NEEDS A NEW T-SHIRT problem-t-shirt“. . . LA and New York marketers just don’t know enough about Houston or don’t bother to learn more. They just hear ‘Houston’ and queue up the rocket launch. This might have been magnified by the rumor that PR firms in Houston were overlooked to market the Super Bowl. But maybe now that the elites have seen Houston thanks to the Super Bowl that will change. It is like when you tell your great-aunt you like Lord of the Rings when you are 12 and so she buys you LOTR T-Shirts for the next 20 years.” [rex, commenting on Taking on the ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’ Problem]

02/06/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Y’ALL NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT DUCT TAPE SOLUTION HOUSTON CAME UP WITH TO FIX THAT PROBLEM WE HAD Apollo 13 Repair Assembly“‘Problem solved, crisis ended, astronauts saved,’ should be the answer the world should know. ‘Houston’ — actually JSC — solved the problem, saving the astronauts on Apollo 13.” [Blake, commenting on Taking on the ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’ Problem] Photo of device installed in-flight on Apollo 13 using duct tape, maps, and other materials on hand: NASA

02/06/17 10:00am

TAKING ON THE ‘HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM’ PROBLEM Ugh, Houston Twitter feedWhat can a little minor public shaming do in the face of a groundswell of clichéd space-themed Houston references from reporters and observers around the world (and the occasional newscaster from within)? Just in time to chronicle and reflect a seeming barrage of “Gee, no one’s ever repeated this before” references to Houston — as it emerged in the national spotlight in advance of yesterday’s Super Bowl — a Twitter account going by the handle Ugh Houston, created last month, set about to highlight, ridicule, and otherwise express disappointment toward any and all variations on the theme of  “Houston, we have a problem.” (The betting circuits even had 5-to-2 odds on whether the tagline, an alteration of the original quotation popularized by the 1995 movie about the Apollo 13 mission, would make an appearance in the Super Bowl broadcast, though ultimately, it appears, it didn’t. and it did.) Other phrases targeted by the account include references to landing eagles and launching anything without an actual rocket engine. Here’s the big question, then, waged in harrumph-y asides, worldwide: Should or shouldn’t Houston embrace its popular association with extreme difficulty? Image: Ugh Houston Twitter account

01/11/17 10:45am

7374 Brace St., Garden Villas, Houston, 77061

Resident Joseph Virant sends in some ornithological notes on the roving bands of peacocks that wander the Garden Villas neighborhood, catty-corner northwest across Telephone Rd. and Airport Blvd. from Hobby Airport. A few of the birds make a cameo appearance in the active sales listing of 7374 Brace St. (shown above); Virant writes in with more detail on the origins and habits of the animals, which he says have regular routes and a seed-furnishing fanbase:

The story goes that they started as someone’s pets many years ago, were turned loose, and multiplied.  There are 2 groups: one in the eastern half of the neighborhood [near] Ashburn St., Brace St., and Garden Villas Park; and one in the western half (Brace St., Alpine Dr.).  Apparently a group of peacocks is called either an ‘ostentation‘ or a ‘muster‘.  A lot of neighbors have Peacock Crossing signs in their yards; people often stop their cars to snap photos as [the birds] amble across the street . . . My wife buys bird seed to attract them.

These aren’t the only pea fowl wandering free (or at least unattended) around town; they may, however, be the only ones whose home neighborhood is working actively to enshrine the birds’ status as local mascots, as Virant notes Garden Villas is hoping to do:

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Garden Villas Visitors
01/04/17 5:45pm

SWAPPING PERSPECTIVES ON THE HOUSTON STRIP MALL MODEL Strip Mall at 13326 Westheimer, Houston. 77077“They’re neighborhood centers,” not strip malls, developer Ed Wulfe insists to Katharine Shilcutt in this month’s issue of Houstonia. And call them — all 25,000 or so in the region — what you will, they’ve been scratching the relatively-high-density retail itch for Houston’s sprawling residential areas since WWII. Shilcutt admits that “in the Bayou City, defending the ubiquitous strip mall carries the same whiff of insanity as defending giant tree roaches or mosquitoes. . . . Their aesthetic merits are dubious; their environmental impact, baleful.” But is there any more pure distillation of Houston? (Shilcutt goes on to relay her discussion with restaurateur and actual strip mall tenant Kaiser Lashkari, who owns Himalaya restaurant in Olympic Center off Hillcroft and agrees that there are some benefits to the strip mall model. When asked if he would move to a freestanding building given the opportunity, his answer is still an unequivocal yes.) [Houstonia] Photo of strip center at 13326 Westheimer: Swamplot inbox

10/14/16 11:00am

FINDING CHEAP HOMES AT THE 20 MILE COMMUTER SWEET SPOT southwest-freewayData type Scott Davis tells Paul Takahashi this week that the average commute distance among Houstonians with a $265,000 home is 30.5 miles, according to his company’s real-estate database. The middle 2 thirds of that price group makes a slog of anywhere between 15 and 47 miles to get to work; Davis says some folks in that range drive as far as 60 miles. He does note to Takahashi, however, that the homes closer in — say, within 15 or 20 miles of a major employment hub — tend to sell much faster; HAR even rolled out a tool last year to allow searches for housing by commute time. [HBJ] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

08/30/16 11:15am

Allen brothers' Houston sales ad

It’s that time again — Houston’s birthday celebration, observed traditionally on the anniversary of the publication of the Allen brothers’ newspaper ads offering land for sale in the area in 1836. Among the more eyebrow-worthy claims put forward by the founders: that the “beautifully-elevated” area (depicted nestled amid a clutch of towering hills) was already the site of regular steamboat traffic (the Laura wouldn’t make the first steamboat run up the sandy twists of Buffalo Bayou to Allen’s Landing until the following year), and that the area “[enjoys] the sea breeze in all its freshness” and is “well-watered” (that part, at least, is likely undisputed).

The ad text also claims that “Nature appears to have designated this place for the future seat of Government,” though Lisa Gray suggests this morning that a few well-timed gifts to members of the newly-minted Texas Legislature may have been responsible as well. Gray writes that the city hosted the Texas government from 1837 until the legislators, tired of the heat and mosquitoes, voted to move elsewhere in 1839.

Here’s the ad in its entirety, as it appeared 180 years ago today in the Telegraph and Texas Register:

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And Many More
08/12/16 11:30am

2115 Wroxton St., Southampton, Houston, 77005

The double-lot-straddling 2008 Lesem House at 2115 Wroxton is back on the market yet again, this time sporting about a 40 percent discount from the price listed earlier this year (after some gradual price declines since 2013 culminated in a sharp upward jump to $4.5 million last December). Following the increase, the 5-bedroom 2-kitchen home was pulled off the market around the end of May (having crept back down to $3.5 million); the new listing —with its markedly more modest price tag of $2.75 million — showed up last Friday.

This most recent listing seems to have retreated back to some the shots used in older sales attempts, as opposed to the edgier portraits that showed up in December:

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Mod Markdown
08/03/16 4:00pm

HOUSTON’S NEW OFFICIAL MESSAGE TO IMMIGRANTS: WELCOME, Y’ALL! Welcome to Houston sign, ChileLong derided by some illegal-immigration opponents as a “Sanctuary City,” Houston appears now to be rebranding itself to suit. The city’s Office of International Communities, along with 2 area nonprofits, are joining to label Houston an official “Welcoming City” for immigrants and refugees, focused on welcoming and integrating new Americans. In joining the nationwide Welcoming Cities and Counties initiative, Houston is joining such hotbeds of newcomer friendliness as Boise, Idaho; Crete, Nebraska, Salt Lake County, Utah; Dayton, Ohio; and Memphis, Tennessee (not to mention Austin, LA, NYC, Chicago, and other likely suspects). Participating community groups intend to create a plan for Houston to “improve the lives of immigrants moving to Houston” and present it to Mayor Turner in November. [City of Houston; Welcoming America] Photo of sign in Chile: Pipe Loyola M

06/30/16 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FIBERGLASS PEAR TRAIL JUST FOLLOWING IN PEARLAND’S HISTORIC FRUIT FAKEOUT FOOTSTEPS Pearland Commute“The only relationship that pears have to Pearland is that the early developers were trying to entice people to move to the area by claiming that there were pear orchards. (But there is a Figland St. in Pearland.)” [marmer, commenting on Re-Pearing the Pearland BrandIllustration: Lulu

06/24/16 2:00pm

2203 Crocker St., Montrose, Houston, 77006

The agent who put the 16-year-old house at 2203 Crocker St. on the market this week wants to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying. The listing for the property (which describes the home as “Needs work! Never updated. Never remodeled. Located within 241 feet from nuisance bar.”) digs deep into gritty details great and small — from photos focused on the missing caulk between the kitchen tiles, to a 2-page disclosure document listing assaults, intoxication calls, and other incidents ostensibly reported to the police from in and around the property’s catty-corner neighbor, bearaoke hotspot Crocker Bar.

The listing’s photo captions highlight additional details of the property’s physical defects and history — sometimes using the bright red text above, and other times employing fragments of narration that raise questions even as they answer them. Here’s the shot from the listing labeled only as Bird Got Trapped in Wall:

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