Baby Needs a New Pair of Schools

BABY NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SCHOOLS “Inspired by the birth of our first baby” and the idea that there might be some deals out there, a reader writes in to ask for help with a home search: “We started off looking to be zoned Spring Branch – Memorial HS or HISD – Bellaire high school and are looking for a single family home (no townhome or patio homes). Generally speaking range house price expectations $400 – $600k, so we are expecting to end up in a lower to maybe lower mid range value of homes in the applicable neighborhoods. Recently discovered area code 77055 (had been focused on 77024 for Memorial). We are wondering what people’s opinions of Hillshire Village / Spring Valley / Hedwig in terms of long term appreciation / ability to resale / quality of neighborhood? Seems from an outsiders perspective Memorial and Bellaire area have generally hung in there, not sure of the perception of 77055 among Houstonians. Of course, high school for a little one is a long ways off – where would people target in this price range to squeeze into the best neighborhood (qualitatively based on long term appreciation and quality of neighborhood for a family) in the current market?” [Swamplot inbox]

22 Comment

  • When we were moving all over the country, I always checked the schools first. Now you can do a lot on line–how many teachers have master’s degrees, what are average class sizes, etc. Actually visit the school, schedule a time to talk with the principal. Does the building seem clean and well-cared for? Are parents involved?

    You can also look at zip 77079, still Spring Branch Independent School System.

  • Don’t base anything on your first baby if you are planning on having a second one. That’s my advice.

  • I don’t blame this family one bit, but they’re very nicely illustrating a huge problem with our public school system. Those who can afford to move around so that their kids are zoned to good schools achieve a better education for their kids. And those kids thus learn more, perform better, and acquire higher lifetime earnings so that when they have kids, surprise! — they cycle repeats. On the other hand, those families that don’t have a history of education and thus don’t make as much can’t usually afford $400 – $600k for a home. So we get a pretty dramatic example of income stratification in our school system that in turns reinforces that stratification. “Equal opportunity” my arse.

  • For the most part 77055 is a very good area, though some parts are better than others. I grew up in Spring Valley; my mom still lives there, and I live a couple of minutes away in a cute garden apartment complex (not in SV). Spring Valley is awesome. It’s a separate city from the City of Houston and holds it’s own elections, has it’s own police force, water treatment and trash, etc. The police response time is under 30 seconds. It’s never been shabby, though it’s got a lot of neighborhoods in transition – where people are tearing down the old homes and building McMansions. I can’t recommend it enough. Hillshire Village is also outstanding. These areas are more pricey than others, though. If the price of homes here is prohibitive, there are other good areas of 77055, too. My personal advice would be to avoid the rest of the 77055 zip code north of Hammerly, or east of Silber. You might try the area around the new HEB on Bunker Hill – the neighborhoods behind it are mixed, but the homes are being purchased by younger people who are fixing up the houses, starting families, etc. Long answer, but I hope it helps.

  • The Villages are all nice neighborhoods with valuable houses. Unless there is a serious reversal of Houston’s fortunes, I doubt houses there will seriously lose value (in any case, they probably won’t lose any more value on a percentage basis as anywhere else in the city). The Villages are strictly zoned. Hedwig Village has a lot of commercial structures and probably has more traffic to contend with, but nothing serious. Hilshire and Spring Valley are north of I-10 and that area is near some slightly dangerous neighborhoods (there was a fatal shooting in a nightclub on Long Point last night, for example). But the neighborhoods around Spring Valley and Hilshire Village have been gentrifying (even more than they were before). Spring Valley had a huge chunk of itself erased when they widened Katy Freeway. When you look there, you will find some houses pretty close to the noise wall. I don’t know if that affects long term housing prices, but I know I wouldn’t want to live next to a 20 ft high grey concrete wall. It’s not exactly “homey.” That said, those Villages would be, in my opinion, great places to live and would probably hold their value over time.

  • For that price range, you can find lots of homes in the western edge of 77024. That would be either Frostwood, Bunker Hill or Rummel Creek for elementary; Memorial Middle School and Memorial High School. That would give you great schools all the time–all of those are exemplary. Don’t just look at high school–middle school’s important too.

  • Ditto what Susan said. (That’s my neighborhood!) If you live there, you are in the City of Houston, right next to Bunker Hill Village.

  • I’m seeing an opportunity here! This family raises their target by about $50,000, the sellers lower their expectations by about $100,000, and they could be the proud owner of this week’s NGG subject! That awesome brown tile in the master bath is a small price to pay for excellent K-12 public schools!

    Seriously speaking – my wife and I leased a home in Hillshire Village for two years and absolutely loved it- would still be there if we could have afforded to buy there.

  • 11738 Denise is for sale.

  • For anyone who is interested, you too, could have that bathroom. Those tiles (along with the blue & pink versions) are for sale at many of the discount tile places lining I-45 and Hempstead Highway. I think they run about $1/sf.

  • In reference to comment #3 (Ian): “So we get …’Equal opportunity’ my arse.” I find these types of statements both appalling and almost always hyper-hypocritical. The audacity to make cries about ‘equal opportunity’ when government handouts are peaking at an all time high is absolute insanity. The fact of the matter is, people who live in these affluent zip codes have the bleakest future ahead of them: outrageous taxes, a national management/executive workforce reduction and their kids will be overlooked for most of their lives with countless benefits given to either the poor or minorities (which is a joke in Texas).

    To explain my obvious bias, I am fairly young, own a home in one of the aforementioned zip code, came from a broken ‘middle class’ home, paid may way through college and earned all of my success on my own.

    I hate to sound like a martyr, but the “cycle” can be broken… and having lived through a ‘craptastic’ public education system, I would do anything to keep my children from having to endure the same.

    – Can I get a shout-out to the ‘024!

  • Irritated: Are you really suggesting that upper-middle-class and wealthy people are somehow worse off than poor people?

    Because as a fellow 024-er, that just sounds inane.

  • You misunderstand… I’m talking about the current ‘status quo’ versus future adversities. Its a relative statement about the future, rather than an absolute statement about the middle class versus the lower class. The initial statement I had issues with implied a lack of fairness… and as far as fair goes… there are plenty of people in the ‘subject area’ who have done nothing to deserve the forthcoming penalties for being successful (hence, the irritation). Conversely, there a ton of people who done things to explicitly be denied the benefits headed their way, and those same people are still making claims for more ‘Equal Opportunities’…
    …That, Mr. Boyd, is “inane”.

  • @Irritated

    Didn’t you just prove #3s point, “craptastic public education…[that] you would do anything to keep my children from having to endure”

    Which presumably may involve a portion of your earned success?

    Or were you just in dispair that your earned success isn’t going to be enough to help your children fend off all the poor and minority children receiving handouts?

  • Ha Ha… well the ‘success’ is definitely taking a hit living in the Obamanation, but I fail to see how the other statement endorses #3’s point.

    Regardless of how you are intrepretiting either my previous two statement, my point is this: MEDIOCRITY SHOULD NOT BE REWARDED AT THE COST OF SOCIALIZING SUCCESS.

    Beyond this statement, there is not point for further comment… you either agree or don’t agree… best of luck.

  • You could always home school and live wherever you’d like to live.

  • To original poster – sorry this has devolved into a sociology class discussion…but in my personal opinion, Memorial HS, today, is the finest public HS the metro area has to offer. This includes all the Cy, Katy and Woodlands campuses. Just look up the college attendence figures. Bellaire is not close, nor is the sad excuse known as the HISD. This is based on documented facts and stats, not bias, provided by the districts. The truth, however, is that by the time your child hits that age, all this could change. But the area feeding MHS is pretty assured of not undergoing any major demographic changes, unlike say Bellaire or Stratford. We are up to speed on this issue, since our child started in the HISD, but we were forced to purchase a home in Spring Valley to get them out of HISD…he would have been their valedictorian, instead he was one at MHS (their loss).

    But the one thing that really bothers me about your post…if you’re so worried about the “perception of 77055 among Houstonians”, I wouldn’t worry about your children’s schools…I’d worry more about how screwed up they’ll be growing up in another vapid household with your kind of priorities! I hope you don’t move in next to us Buffy.

  • I raised my kid in HISD and both he and I wish he would have taken my offer to move him into MHS right by my office. It’s a great high school and the middle school (even closer to my office) is very good as well. There are some very good elementary schools in the area, but hardly any of them are north of I-10. The areas north of ten that are acceptable are Hillshire and Spring Valley.

    One thing that nobody here has pointed out is the property tax burden one accepts when you buy into Spring Valley or one of the other villages. That little boutique neighborhood with it’s own band of thei….. excuse me, force of workers has nothing in the way of economies of scale. Property taxes in these little hoods needs to be closely considered.

    School vouchers would make most of this conversation moot.

  • Can’t really comment on schools outside of HISD however I can comment on those in HISD including Bellaire High School. Bellaire is still resting on the laurels from decades ago. The truth is that unless your child is all AP, they get lost in the 100s of other students at Bellaire. Then there’s the gang problem that exists at Bellaire that is denied by the administration. For as many high school age kids there are that live in the area around Bellaire High School, I would venture a guess that at least half go to private (Episcopal, etc.) or small alternative high schools in HISD (HSPVA,DeBakey,Challenge,etc.) Even HCAD knows the negative of living close to Bellaire High School: mention it when you protest the value of your home and they knock off $$$. Something to consider for sure.

  • 77055 is definitely on an upward trend. Look at the high school boundary map here: Then find houses that are within the boundaries of Memorial High School. Areas that are within the boundaries of Memorial High School are appreciating rapidly and have done so for the last decade.

    Areas outside the MHS boundaries but still within 77055 are also appreciating rapidly. Although below your price range, check some of the appreciation rates in neighborhoods like Westview Terrace and Pine Terrace. Many houses in these neighborhoods have appreciated well over 200% in the last 15 years.

    Here’s my method to determine medium-term appreciation rates:

    1. Look up a given house in Make note of the current year’s appraised value.
    2. Click the View link for the Harris County Tax Records.
    3. Click the “View 15 year tax/value history” link on the following page.
    4. On the graph on the following page, hover your mouse over the year farthest back (e.g. 1993).
    5. Find the percentage difference between the appraised value from the current year and the appraised value from the year farthest back, and there’s your medium-term appreciation rate.

    It’s a quick and dirty method, but it really opened my eyes to the areas that are the best investments from a financial standpoint.

    As far as long-term stability and/or improvements within schools, look at the TEA testing and demographic data here for schools like Valley Oaks, Spring Branch Middle, and Memorial High School:

    All those schools have been solid as a rock or improving for the past 15 years.

    77055 is an up-and-coming ZIP code, and it will continue to improve into the future. It’s a great area to raise kids, big lot sizes, and it’s close in to town.

  • @77055-ster:
    “sorry this has devolved into a sociology class discussion…I wouldn’t worry about your children’s schools…I’d worry more about how screwed up they’ll be growing up in another vapid household with your kind of priorities! I hope you don’t move in next to us Buffy.”

    I guess it turned into a parenting class discussion led by parent of the year, 77055-ster.


    “Memorial HS, today, is the finest public HS the metro area has to offer” probably neglects Carnegie…But that has admission standards beyond where Mom & Dad live.

  • I live in the Wilchester West Neighborhood just west of the beltway. It is a fantastic neighborhood with lots of children and a wonderful school. The homes are generally in the $400 – $700 range and are typically 2400 – 3500 sq ft in size. It is a fabulous neighborhood for anyone with children. The school has been rated exemplary for many years and is going to be rebuilt in the next few years according the the bond issued by the school district. Wilchester feeds into Memorial Middle and Stratford High School.