Comment of the Day: Heights Home Replacement Program

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HEIGHTS HOME REPLACEMENT PROGRAM Demo permits sold in the greater Heights last year – approx 220. (zips 007,008, 009) The Chron’s real estate report showed that 25% of 2008 home sales in the Heights were new construction. And how many were built in the last 10 years? Don’t know, but for anyone who thinks The Heights has NOT been decimated, go to to see how nearly all listings were built since 1999 or are lot value only. Heard a story on the radio not long ago about how people stood in line for hours to see the Bill of Rights, but when an exact replica went on display, nobody bothered. What does that tell us?” [Sheila, commenting on Jack Preston Wood: Making an Impression in the Freeland Historic District]

25 Comment

  • “What does that tell us?” It tells us that people really like the Heights, but that bungalows apparently suck.

  • (I posted this on the original post, too) I’d like to offer a different perspective: I have a number of colleagues who are actively wanting to move into the Heights, but do not want (and cannot afford) the high-six and seven figure new houses. These friends of mine bemoan the fact that while there are hundreds (thousands?) of well-maintained original houses still in the Heights, each time one comes on the market it is snapped up at a premium.

    So, based on this anecdotal evidence, I am not surprised that the offerings on HAR are mainly new construction and lots. The market for those two ‘products’ seems to be stable or over-supplied. The market for well-maintained original homes is under-supplied and those homes do not stay for sale for very long.

    I’d also add that those 3 zip codes are a pretty rough way of measuring the Heights, as much of the original housing stock was not built to the standards found within the original Houston Heights. From driving the area, much of the new construction seems to be happening to the west, north and south (only a small part of zip code 77007 is above I-10 – it covers the entire area along Washington Ave from Memorial Park to Downtown and spreads south of Allen Pkwy).

  • I have to agree with the initial posting. When I was looking in the Heights a few years ago (2006), I looked at several “new” homes built in the 1999-2004 timeframe. I wanted a bungalow, but these new homes were listed for less than the original owner had paid just a few years back and had great amenities — laundry rooms, 3 bathrooms, etc. It was more house than I wanted and not enough yard, so I finally went with a bungalow. At that time, any bungalow that had been updated within the past 10 years, went fast. Glad to read I made a good choice.

  • good riddance i say. areas like the heights will and must be rebuilt for a denser urban population. houston is growing and that is a great thing for the city but it means people will have to accept the growing pains of living in a large city for once. it does suck that most of the new development is for people of higher incomes and does not fit into the existing, albeit outdated, neighborhoods but such is life in a big city.

  • When areas become more desirable, as the Heights has over the last decade, they either densify or get more expensive (usually both).

    The economics of property development mean that, on any given full-size Heights lot (usu. 6600 sf), either one very large (4000 sf) house will be built, or two smaller ones (2000-2200 sf) will. So as long as there are buyers who are either able to pay $800,000+ for a house or willing to pay $400,000 for a house with 25 feet of frontage, that’s what will be built.

    I admire people who buy older bungalows and fix them up, but we can’t expect developers who are out to make a profit to take the same approach. The opportunity costs are too great.

    Also, recall that not all new construction is the result of tearing down an old bungalow. A lot of it is replacing non-residential with residential construction, the Sullivan Brothers development on 23rd being a good example. By my reckoning, about half of the Heights new construction on offer on HAR is north of 20th street, which never really struck me as all that historic to begin with.

  • I take exception to that. I am above 20th street. My house was built in 1920 and was a Sears home. It is original in its footprint and has its original siding, flooring and shiplap. It has withstood Carla, Alicia, Alison and Ike. It is just as charming as many homes in the Woodland Heights, and if my street remains free of new construction the entire street could have that same charm and value.

    Who ever said Heights needs developers? We have been developed! Homebuilders for individuals who want to build here, certainly, developers, NO!

  • In fact, it was the need for a quick buck by predatory developers and lenders that got us into this economic mess. Why can’t a nice steady profit be enough? Why do you guys think you need to make your fortune on one piece of land?

  • I don’t understand the comments about “increasing urban density” in the Heights. The Heights is already pretty densely populated. The existing bungalows aren’t very big (1000-2000 sq foot for an unmodified original). For example, my 0.10 mile long block has 24 homes on it. Of those 24 homes, 3 are duplexes, and 2 have garage apartments. That’s pretty dense.

    What the Heights is not, however, is “tall”. When you get the canyon effect of the 3 story new construction overshadowing the little houses, that’s when people start complaining.

    IMO, “urban density” doesn’t have to equal “gigantic boxes separated by less than 3 feet”.

  • Well, judging from the prices said bungalows fetch and the number that I and my colleages insure, not everyone thinks said dwellings, um….”suck”.

    If the prime commercial real estate areas are in the Westchase and Town & Country/Memorial districts at present, what is the draw of the Heights? Wouldn’t the less expensive 1950’s – 60’s homes within the 610/I-10/I-45 square be more appealing for easy proximity to work destinations, not to mention a short jaunt to 290 and the toll roads? Why pay a fortune for a bungalow for the lot value?

    What? It’s because the Heights looks so picturesque and small-town? Neighbors on their front porches, walking dogs, kids playing in the yards?

    Yep, that’s the “gimmick” of the Heights. And once that’s turned into wall-to-wall 4-story monstrosities, good luck with retaining the reputation as a desirable neighborhood. Lots of people do take those “good place to raise a family” recommendations seriously when shopping for a new home.

  • Hellsing is upset he’s too poor for Heights.

  • Hellsing is quite happy in a big cottage with a huge yard in the derelict slums between Ella and N. Shepherd, thank you, considering the dogs. My ailurophile brother got the Heights bungalow with the adorable manicured landscape. I think things worked out just fine.

  • HA! I had to look up ailurophile.

  • I love ’em too, but really, my yard would be wasted on them. I have to borrow a radar gun someday and see what the dogs get up to on the 3rd or 4th lap. Sounds like Churchill Downs when they cross the deck.

  • My cats get the front yard and the dogs get the back.

  • The sagas of 438 and 440 Heights Blvd. are a good example of what the neighborhood fears. A good friend’s father lived at 440 until his death in the late 90’s. The house was purchased and remodeled into a larger home that fits well with the neighborhood. My friend’s house next door, also in the estate, was sold later and razed to construct a huge stucco pseudo-Tuscan(?)thing that looks absolutely crazy. Both homes needed work. One is lovely in its setting. The other would look great somewhere in the Hollywood hills perhaps. There is so much that can be done with these little structural jewels in the Heights other than calling a bulldozer.

  • Angostura, very well put.

    Hellsing, I’ll gladly pay the homeowner’s premium on new construction any day over the premium required to insure an older bungalow. Of course, the commissions on those older homes’ policies spends rather nicely thank you. The caliber of my neighbors went up significantly when I moved from my 50 yr old house to my 3 story new monstrosity in 77007 where I do have a yard for the 2 shepherds. Plus, I have several families on my block with kids and plenty of people walking their kids or dogs daily. While remodeling over the years as a hobby makes me appreciate the work and care gone into renovating an old bungalow, I’d rather have quality new construction, unless it’s really old…. and yes I’ve lived in a pre-1920 house for years before.

  • Here is the nice thing about Houston, CK. Both can exist. You can have your brand ew neighborhood and there is plenty of stock for anybody else that wants new construction. The thing is that for those of us who wnat to live in the bungalows, they aren’t being built new. So leave us our bungalows, and find yourself a new build neighborhood. A whole neighborhood of new builds. We can co-exist in adjoining neighborhoods.

  • I guess it’s a bit confusing to me as to why people who don’t appreciate older homes would want to live surrounded by them – kind of like hating the sound of children and moving across from an elementary school. And don’t get me started on the ones who moved behind Walter’s on Washington and were SHOCKED to hear loud music from a MUSIC VENUE late at night and promply began campaigning to have it closed.

    Developers are sneaking 3-story homes into our area as well despite deed restrictions. Caveat Emptor. I can only have an 8′ privacy fence. If one goes up next door, it’s not going to curtail my right to use the spa on my own deck without a swimsuit if I choose – they’ll just have to lower the blinds. Or not. I work out – I won’t be blushing!

  • When I was married, we bought a house behind Empire Cafe, which I loved. My (now ex)husband fussed constantly about the noise, the traffic, the parking in front of our house. I loved it that the day he parked in front of the house he got ticketed, HA! He should have been happy it was Empire Cafe. It used to be a nightclub!

    When our plumbing backed up, it was quite convenient to be able to pad over there for the morning constitutional visit.

  • EMME- once again…. filthy comments. Not surprised!!

  • Bagby, you make me laugh. Good for a Friday morning. Thanks.

  • Of the newly constructed homes on my Heights street, most are occupied by 2 – 4 people, as are the unmodified or slightly remodeled bungalows. How is that increasing density?

    After two 3′ diameter oaks crashed through my living room during Ike, our contractor took one look and said we were lucky to be living in an old bungalow. The impact of these 100+ year-old trees would have leveled the matchstick construction of the newer houses on our street, and we would be dead.

    Now that we are trying to find an old commercial building to preserve and turn into a small theater, we are competing with developers who just buying for the value of the dirt.

  • EMME, I stand corrected re: N of 20th. I certainly don’t mean to slag the area (I’m about to move there). But it does tend to get short shrift sometimes.

    Camella, the bad news is, you’re competing for developers to buy property. The good news is that they’re only interested in the dirt, not the value of whatever’s built on top.
    Those that want to buy and restore existing structures have a great advantage over the developers. The land has the same value to both parties, but for one buyer, the building has value as well, which means that the restorer should always be willing to outbid the demolisher.
    Example: The 6600 sf of dirt (at, say $30/sf) under a 1300 sf Heights bungalow is worth $200k to the developer. If a bungalow enthusiast values the existing bungalow at a modest $50/sf, then they should be willing to pay $265k for the property. At this price, the land cost to the developer would be >$40/sf.

  • Welcome to the neighborhood Angostura.

  • Angostura you are correct. It is a common misconception that builders and developers are overpaying for lots and therefore scarfing up all the bungalows. If a builder and a bungalow enthusiast bid on the same property the enthusiast usually wins. This misconception stems from two factors, first many bungalow homeowners call builders directly to get a quick “as is” sale with no Realtor fees, and secondly many of these lots are purchased by homeowners looking to build custom homes. In the second case the builders sign goes up and it is assumed that they purchased the lot when in fact they were contracted to demo and build new by your future neighbor.