The Plan To Flip Houston’s LBJ House

Here’s an idea: How about buying that old rundown Houston house where President Lyndon Johnson lived in the early 1930s that nobody seems to want, then trying flip it for more than twice the price? Great idea, but you got beaten to it.

The 1904 farmhouse-style structure on the corner of Hawthorne and Garrott in the Westmoreland Historic District was snatched up for less than $285,000 this past March — about a year after it first went up for sale (for a significantly higher price). As of mid-June the home is back on the MLS, with a few photos of the renovation-in-progress to spur interest. What could the would-be flippers do to the place that would bring in a price around, say . . . $619,900?


Yes, that’s the current asking price. How about putting in some tile?

Okay, how about taking out the paneling and carpet:

and putting in some travertine tile?

Then how about a few new kitchen cabinets, replacing these:

with these:

The listing says work on the 3,191-sq.-ft. 3-bedroom, 2-and-a-half-bath home — where the future president lived with his Uncle George during the Great Depression, while teaching at Sam Houston High School — is in the “final stages of completion.” Also included: a new electrical system, plumbing, air conditioning and heating, exterior paint, and a porch swing.

31 Comment

  • Travertine…old farmhouse…philistines!

  • No off-street parking for $619k? Not sure what the flippers are thinking here but that is a nonstarter for me at this price point. I’ve never liked plane trees, though, so they could go to put in a carport…

  • Make that pecan trees… they looked withered from the drought, thus my mistake…

  • Blerg no! They ruined it, just like how the Clinton welfare reforms ruined LBJ’s War on Poverty.

  • I would rather have the sputnik house in Glenbrook.

  • At least they did some work to it.
    This property on Cleburne was listed for $175,000 as recently as January… it expired… they literally sprayed a coat of paint on the outside and re-listed a couple of months later for $300,000.

  • Im sure LBJ would love the discount aisle at HomeDepot as much as the developer

  • Did they give it central air and heat? But oh man, they’ve ruined it. That new bathroom tile; and kitchen. They could’ve made it look farmhouse and of the era.

  • Worst flippers ever. I think the original house looks better than the Lowes version. Wide plank floors. Painted cabinets in the kitchen. Art deco tiles in the bathrooms. So much potential but these fools only see $$$.

  • I wanted to buy this and fix it up but due to its condition it would have to be bought all cash (or with private loan shark money). Even being sold at land value with a plan to dump $$ into it you couldn’t get even a 50% loan to buy.
    So fustrating.
    The previous owner wouldn’t do any seller financing. Not even short term to fix it up and refinance with conventional lending. So instead they kept lowering the price and lowering the price till it finally sold (taking a $100k+ hit vs what they could have got if they short term financed it)
    I’m not going to comment on the quality of the “flip” but the new owner deserves whatever profit she gets because she was the one to put the all cash on the line to buy and fix and get it into a condition where a traditional buyer with a traditional lender would be able to buy.
    Wish it could have been me. But then again, as a neighbor, I’m just happy someone stepped up and did it. So good luck to the new owner!

  • Jared M: I looked at that Cleburne listing. It mentioned that each unit had a “leaving” area. What the hell is a leaving area? But I agree, the interior looks terrible. Either just sell the place as is or fix it up properly.

  • They must have bought a book on how NOT to restore an historic property. Add $100,000 to redo the redo…

  • Travertine is a stupid decision for that house. It’s all wrong. They should have refinished or replaced the hardwoods instead. I also think the shower tiles are hideous.

  • When the foundation shifts and those tiles crack I will have no sympathy.

  • This is down the street from me and I drive by it at least once a day if not two or three times. When I saw the CoH building permits go up I had a lot of hope, not anymore.

    I’m in the building industry and I really value LBJ and his legacy. Had the Owner engaged a qualified professional, we could have gotten tax credit incentives and national historical designation to get the property to be more reminiscent of its history…

    Oh well, chalk up another loss for historically significant structures.

    Wat to go H-town!

  • Everyone’s got comments but no actions if they knew so much better they didn’t buy it.

  • Robert: Exactly. It was for sale forever. Was priced ridiculously low (I pleaded with them to seller finance it to me rather than give it away as they ended up doing). Got plenty of press on swamplot. Sat empty. No buyers.
    Someone steps up, buys it, does their best to fix it up (it was in BAD shape). Drops a ton of their own cash and/or worked to get loan shark money. At minimum they’ve made it look nicer on the exterior for the neighbors. Then they get piled on by swamplot commenters for not doing what *they* would have done.
    Doing what the buyer did isn’t easy. It takes a LOT of cash. There is a LOT of risk. Dealing with all the contractors (not to mention the city) is NOT easy or fun. Cut the person a bit of slack.
    It’s easy to sit at a desk and rip on the job someone did. Why not try to do what they did and buy a distressed historic home sometime and turn it around? I feared someone would get permission — due to the shape the property was in — to knock it down and build something new. Imagine the outcry if that happened.
    (note: I don’t know the buyer, never met her. Did talk to her once on the phone though. Sorry to come off as defensive to my friends in swamplot land but I sort of feel bad for her knowing the work and risk she put in and the response shes getting)

  • Yeah, how dare people comment about a house on a blog about real estate!

  • Just because someone doesn’t have cashflow to buy and renovate a house doesn’t mean their opinion isn’t valid. Likewise, just because developers have money to tear down cool buildings to put up mass market shit (or simply do cheap-ass renos) doesn’t mean said developers are immune from criticism.

  • They definitely made some odd design decisions but at least the house is still there. With a good roof and a nice coat of paint (never mind the color), the structure is somewhat protected from the elements, hopefully it will be there for a long time. Maybe someday someone with a different vision will restore it to something more period appropriate. On the bright side it still has original windows, wood siding and trim.

  • I’ve driven by this house many, many times. I’ve been in the market to buy something on the Westmoreland/Audubon Place/Avondale side of Montrose for about five years now. (Cody, I walked through your house before you bought it.)

    When the LBJ house went up, there was a story in the Chron, and I looked at the pictures and drove by and realized there was a TON of work involved. I knew it wasn’t for me, but I hoped someone would buy it and lovingly restore it and upgrade it.

    If you don’t recall the story from the Chron, the previous owner and resident was a 90-something-year-old woman who was a cousin of LBJ, and the house had been in her family since she was a girl. Their family was only the second owner.

    So here’s a 100-year-old house that has had very few upgrades — it had electricity and indoor plumbing and somewhere along the line someone added window units. And you could tell that it had been owned and lived in by a little old lady who had little or no maintenance done on it. The foundation looked like it belonged on a circus funhouse.

    The asking price started at something ridiculous for the condition, and eventually made its way down to lot value, and the sale went through for less than lot value.

    I had high hopes for the redo when I researched the permitting and saw that the current flipper had tried to do things by the book and got permits for foundation work, electrical, A/C, plumbing, etc…. lots of permits.

    But then I saw the new pictures for the redo, and drove/walked by several times. Cheap materials, inappropriate interiors for the period, and omg what a sloppy exterior paint job! I’m saddened and disgusted. It could have been a jewel, and still could be, but no one is going to pay $619K for a property that basically needs to be totally redone.

  • I wouldn’t be so critical except tiling the living room floor is ridiculous. On a house that old you’ll probably end up with cracks all over the place (as there is no solid slab and there is probably less structural support than most modern houses). Granted, everything she appeared to have done is undoable, but for 620k I think she’ll come to regret her design choices once the house sits again on the market. Maybe she’ll get lucky, but poorly done is poorly done even she was the only one who tried.

  • The owner (and the subsequent buyer) can still claim a City of Houston historic site tax exemption as the front and side facade of the house has not been altered. She simply has to qualify for it. To receive federal tax credits, the project would have to be an income producing property.

    I agree with Cody – everyone talked about doing something with this house for years. Finally someone steps up and actually does something. Interior surfaces and cabinetry can always be changed. The important thing is she did not alter the exterior or the major interior parts of the house. I think she did well in preparing the house for a new owner.

  • I don’t care what it looks like inside, because I don’t live there. I just wish they’d hurry up and finish so the construction trucks can be gone. I’m tired of them obstructing my view of oncoming traffic at the intersection.

  • What’s worthy of comment is not the quality or taste level of the work that was done, but that the flipper is insane if they think they can get $600k+ for this house.

    Overall, I think the flipper mentality has done more harm than good when it comes to properties worth saving.

  • I want the house Clark Gable lived in while fishing for oil heiresses in Houston.

  • Agreed, I think she’ll be hard pressed to get $600,000. It’s not a grand house by any means and the only reason it’s even halfway historic is because a future president lived in it briefly.

  • I’m glad to see it’s still standing, glad the wiring and plumbing have been upgraded so that it won’t burn down or rot in place. The rest is just personal taste, and fleeting. In other words, I’m delighted.

    I just visited San Antonio, where every other building dated back to the 1800s or early 1900s. Alot of them had been reno’d over and over again, at least on the inside. Some had kept alot of period detail; some hadn’t. This made them alive, much in the same way that the English language lives by constantly changeing. One of my tour guides had been born in a hospital building on the riverwalk. The place had long ago been converted to an office building with tchochke shops in front, but the guide was proud that the building was still standing after being the birthplace of a century of San Antonians. If we in Houston make our buildings stay vital, useful, desireable and, most of all, sound, they will live on and make Houston a place we’ll be happy to show to our grandkids.

  • @Cody, did I see you at the open house today?

    I’m torn between “Sweet Jesus!” and “Dear God!”

    Whoever mentioned Home Depot and Lowes hit the nail on the head. Several of the original windows were too far gone and have been replaced with cheap-looking Jeld-Wen.

    She’s still not done with the reno but went ahead with the open house, complete with handwritten sign that essentially said “open house from 1 to 3, no, make that 4” as there was a tentative “3” overwritten with a “4”.

    We arrived at a slow period, so we got the royal personalized tour with her description of what she thought she might do to finish it out. I mean, she’s renovating on the fly here. Stuff like, (in the parlor where the fireplace used to be) “I was going to put travertine here, but a friend told me to put something dark, so what do you think about some of that black gran-ite? [The electric fireplace replacement that is much too small for the space] is so short, maybe I could get some of that tall metal stuff to set it up on. What do you think?”

    She told us several times that she’s taking her time but could be finished in a week and a half (!) if she had a buyer. I’m thinking it would take that long just to clean up all the sloppy paint smears from the windows and cover up the floor and trim stain that got on the walls. Forget about trying to finish the kitchen in that time — she mentioned sort of vent that’s still on order.

    I totally appreciate the amount of work that has to go into bringing a 100-year-old house up to code (wiring, plumbing) and to modern standards of living (central AC), but why would you use cheap finishings, mishmash old and new styles in the same room, and not even have a plan or a vision while doing so?

    At least Cody should be feeling some relief from the Prius Patrol. I think I know where they’ve been.

  • I live in the neighborhood and was interested in buying the house and do a proper, historically accurate restoration. We made an offer that was rejected as too low. However, I had walked through the house with my contractor (who actually restores houses rather than gut them) and we knew how much it would cost to fix it. By doing some basic research, I knew the new owner was not budgeting enough for the restoration. Sure enough they have done a cheap job. Although I like the fact that they will reinstall a fireplace where it belongs, they completely destroyed the formal dining room including tearing down an original built-in. This was done in order to have an “open ” kitchen with travertine floors….. In the process, they covered the original floor in the kitchen and removed an original ornate door that led from the dining room to the downstairs porch. Upstairs, they ruined the original sleeping porch by eliminitaing all the original windows with smaller, commercial quality, historically inaccurate windows. Walking through it during the open house, it was clear the house was not leveled properly — the landing and the upstairs balcony, for instance, still slope. The roof was not replaced, the art deco bathroom completely destroyed. While the upstairs layout was not modified to give it a more logical flow. The front of the house also needed restoration as the current cement porch is not to period. Landscaping is non existent. I wish them luck, but whoever buys the house will have to spend a great deal of money to fix what was done to it and restore it correctly

  • New pictures! I myself wouldn’t have chosen a dark, spooky staircase as the cover photo, but then again I’m not a REALTOR(R).