East of Downtown, and No One’s Biting

EAST OF DOWNTOWN, AND NO ONE’S BITING “I need help,” writes the would-be seller of this townhome just north of the railroad tracks from East Downtown, a day after cutting the asking price down to $254,900. (It originally sold for $236K back in 2008.) “I read Swamplot daily and love seeing what your astute commenters have to say. I’ve lived in the Houston area my entire life but am new to selling a house around here. I’ve had my townhouse on the market for a few weeks now but haven’t had much traffic. I’m wondering if this is normal around here or maybe there’s just not enough buzz for my house. Is the pricing all wrong? Are the pictures awful? Is my agent doing enough (umm… Hi, mom!)? Is my ’hood too early in the gentrification stage? It really is a great house and a pretty cool neighborhood if I do say so myself! I’d love some advice from folks in the know.” [Swamplot inbox]

55 Comment

  • It took me nearly a year to sell my house in Montrose, so don’t give up.

  • That area isn’t as “hot” as others, so you have to be a bit more aggressive on price. If it’s on HAR, and you even HAVE pictures, you’re doing what any other agent would do anyway. Pictures don’t have to be great as people need to view in person, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that fancy pictures bring any more people in.
    While many areas of inner loop have gone up, keep in mind that demand is lower do in LARGE part to the fact that it’s hard to get a loan. Because of that, the pool of buyers are smaller. You bought at the top of the market (lending easy = more buyers = higher price), and you’re asking for more than you paid. I’m not an expert on that area, but you’re likely priced to high.
    For the most part, it’s going to be a price driven market. If you’re not getting a lot of action, that’s the market giving you input on your price. Don’t fire your mom yet :)

  • The photos could use a redo.. all the blinds are shut and they’re all really underexposed. I don’t need 3 shots of the bed in the master bedroom either, they don’t give a good feel for how the home is laid out.
    The real problem I’m guessing is google maps giving away the fact that you’d be living between two sets of tracks in a warehouse district. I’m guessing the lie in the listing about being near the ‘new’ metro rail (which isn’t even close to being finished) is to make people think those tracks are non-commercial. Not a lot of people have that on the top of their list, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

  • With most townhomes in midtown and east downtown, it’s all about the comps, not the buzz. How do you compare with them? The pictures seem fine, no better or worse than any other listing. The amenities are competitive, though the train track is going to hurt you. IMO, this area is WAY too early in the gentrification process to expect to make a dime on resale of a townhome (basically, a commodity in an area where you are competing with new construction and larger townhomes, yours seems a touch small for the price).

  • i live in a small cluster of townhouses in shady acres, just west of the heights. in the last month, three of my neighbors have put them on the market, and two sold within days. we all paid around $200k, and one went for around $230k and the other for around $240k. the other is priced a bit higher because of some custom window treatments, and they haven’t sold it yet, but i don’t think it will be long. i suspect it is because we are in the right area, just outside of the heights, close to the major freeways, downtown, and the heights.

  • I think it’s your price. You are up against stiff competition. You are up against all the new construction in the more desirable area south of Harrisburg. You can get a brand new, possibly bigger, less crowded, easier downtown accessibility, not on the railroad tracks for less than what your are pricing. Your TH is a dime a dozen right now.

    Prices really have not gone up in East Downtown, they have mainly stayed the same. I think this is because of all the new construction. If people don’t like what they see all they have to do is wait 2 months and new set of THs will pop up.

    While I would like to see you get more for your property than what you paid for it I don’t think you will. Not until the rail is finished, commercial moves in and limits the locations that new TH’s can be built.

  • The picture are not great. When marketing a home in a less than desirable area, good pictures are a must. Honestly, I will spend about $250 of my own dough on professional pictures for my listings. Remove your window treatments (drapery), replace with white sheers. We have sold homes in that area quite quickly, and I think the home is overpriced by at least $10k. I know folks like to price homes high in hopes of getting an offer that they can negotiate off of. Totally understandable. There is a huge flaw in that logic, however. It prices the home out of many people’s search when overpriced. By the time most sellers realize that and decide to reduce, the home is already stale.

    Good luck!

  • Have you thought about renting it out. The rental market in the area seems to be doing very well and you may be able to get more than your carrying costs.

  • Too early to be asking that much dinero for that place is my answer. Im familiar with the area moving from Montrose to Harrisburg and Milby St. and growing up in that area I have to say it is still a bit unsafe in that area;also not enough decent grocery stores so you end up driving into montrose to eat and socialize. So, for the money you’re asking, why not live in midtown or montrose? If you want to sell it fast I’d ask for 189,000 – 205,000 if that’s your desire if you are not in a hurry I’d wait 5 more years to try and make a profit. You could lease out this place for 2 grand a month and wait to sell. Good Luck to you and I hope I’m wrong and you sell it tomorrow for asking price.

  • You’re priced too high considering you’re adjacent to railroad tracks and North of Harrisburg. There are newer un-lived in homes on har right now in 77003 that are priced lower than your unit.

    Secondly, do you have any outdoor space at all? A ground floor patio? A roof deck? A back deck? If you do, you need to advertise that space. People tend to be drawn to places that offer at least 1 private outdoor space no matter how small.

    Lastly, open the blinds. Your place comes across as slightly dark and dreary.

  • If you have any meaningful outdoor space (yard or patio), I would add a picture of it. When I looked at homes, having a spot where I could at least put a grill was a requirement. It is amazing to me, with how big grill culture is in Houston, that so many town homes don’t include that.

    From the satellite photos I can see that at least some of the homes in your community appear to have a small yard.

  • I used to sleep with a guy who lived in that neighborhood/complex. Train noise will keep you up all night. Not that we were trying to sleep anyway. You’d need to come down to $170,000 to sell that thing.

  • It’s a stucco monstrosity; and definitely not built to last. Good luck with mold, water damage, and durability.

  • Nice, Joaquin.

    I actually noticed this group of townhomes a few days ago while goofing off on google maps, and thought to myself that living adjacent to train tracks would be a no-go, for reasons of safety, aesthetics, and above all, noise. How did you weigh these factors when you decided to purchase?

  • Also, aren’t we approaching shoulder months when it’s hard to sell almost anything? I don’t know the market over there, but certainly can’t imagine myself paying any amount of money to live where that townhouse is. Good luck!

  • I also live close tho the railroad but 1st Ward. They are building town homes here quickly like matchboxes. I think these town homes are not built well at all. I witnessed the developers tear up the driveway 1x due to plumbing issues. They also dug up the water meters 2x to connect to the main line. Plus I saw the developers cover up the well with dirt. No safety measures to keep town home from having foundation problems in the long run. I agree with corey above about the durability,mold, & water damage of these new town homes being bulit.

  • I would definitely say new photos would be the best place to start before reducing the price- I shoot great interiors for the HAR- and would be happy to shoot some new photos for you or your agent.

  • For starters, letting everyone on a major real estate blog know you are not getting showings is probably not helping you. A little like tilting your hand at poker.

  • I say Joaquin should get Quote of the Day!

    I know from personal experience that 77003 is a hard sell. It’s not in MLS Area 16, so it’s not going to get the same visibility (online or from REALTORS) as others in Midtown, etc. It seems that you may be priced a little high for the east side of downtown. I agree with the photo comments. There are some professional photographers out there that specialize in real estate and can make the home look much more appealing. I don’t want to name them because I’m not sure if that’s even allowed on here. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but have used their services multiple times. Lastly, Waterhill doesn’t have the greatest reputation, so that’s not working in your favor either. Not trying to ruin your day, just keeping it real.

    New pics and a price reduction (and patience) are probably your best bet.

  • Location Location Location…. that’s what sells. Railroad tracks too close do not help, Lots of competition with new town-homes close by where buyers can pick finishes and colors to their liking, and there are no really good schools nearby, etc. As to your pictures, they are all too dark…

  • “It’s a stucco monstrosity; and definitely not built to last. Good luck with mold, water damage, and durability”.

    Cody–that is hardly constructive advice so what is the point? Other than showing your ongoing negativity.

  • I meant Corey not Cody. Cody= rational discourse.

  • I agree with the other posters suggesting that you brighten up the pics, especially since you have dark floors, fixtures and cabinets. At first I didn’t realize there was a window in the bathroom until another comment prompted me to flip through the pics again.
    Ditto outdoor space. That’s a big one. Even it’s a tiny concrete pad just big enough to put burning frying pan outside, that might help differentiate your TH from others in the area.
    Price. When buyers are searching on HAR, they choose what price parameters to set, and they won’t be shown any properties that don’t meet that criteria. I suspect that in your area, $250k is the max selected by a lot of potential buyers. Drop your price to something in the $240s and more people will view the property on HAR.

    Good luck!

  • Since I’m not familar with the area I will talk about what the pictures provided. I agree with the others, pull those blinds up and ditch the curtains, then take new pictures. With your dark floors, cabinetry and all the blinds closed it makes it difficult to see the space. Good luck.

  • In real estate, if the phone doesn’t ring (i.e. you aren’t getting showings) that’s a marketing issue. And that’s typically your agent’s job; but they usually don’t do much aside from listing it on the MLS and putting a sign up… and the occasional Sunday open house.

    Marketing would include things like the quality of the MLS listing itself, the quality of the photos, other forms of advertising (Craigslist, local paper, Facebook, etc)… and to a lesser degree, the quality of the listing price (in terms of market value).

    If you get showings but no offers of any kind–there’s something else going on that you may or may not be able to cure. Could be the specific location (i.e. next to a railroad track or on a busy street or next to a power plant–typically something that could not be determined from the MLS listing alone. Could be your decor. Could be a smell in the house. Could be the design of the structure or the development in general. (Hence the showings but no offers.)

    If you get SOME showings but mostly lower offers–that’s typically a sign that the listing price is too high but everything else is OK. If you get showings and a TON of offers–at, near, or over the listing price–that’s typically a sign that the price is too low.

    So, in your case, I’m gonna say at this point in the game, it is probably a marketing issue.

  • Selling point:
    “Just blocks from the original Ninfa’s on Navigation!”

    Is it the end unit? If so, that’s a plus that should be mentioned, since the buyers would be sharing walls on only one side instead of two.

  • When you re-do the pictures you might also consider removing the baby gates temporarily. They add clutter to the pictures and make the space look smaller. Also take away the rocker in the nursery – a possible subliminal turn-off for some people. The doors leading to the patio, if you must include a picture of them, need to show an inviting outside space. Good luck!

  • This is an up and coming area. Either hold on to it for another year or rent it out until this side comes up. Midtown, Heights, Montrose are all getting to be very high in price for the same home which will force people that want to be close to it all to buy here. Hang on to it for another year or year and half then re-list. You will get more out of it then and it wont sit so long. I see it’s only listed 31 days average in that area is 40 to 90.
    Either take if off the market, rent it out or drop the price to 239 and you will sell it now. I would just hang on to it though so your not out any money. It will be a good area very shortly. Give it another 2 months and see what happens. If nothing then take it off the market if you dont want to give it away in price.

  • I’ll never get another chance to mention something this trivial: I don’t understand why, in so many home listing pictures – not yours particularly, though white towels would be more classic against the sage and khaki; and I appreciate how much work went into making your house beautifully tidy, with a baby no less – no one bothers to fold hand and bath towels properly (in lengthwise thirds – there is no other way – and I prefer to then fold bath towels over double) or see to it that they are one’s best towels fresh from the dryer.

  • EADO townhouses are selling like hot cakes in the 350k+ range so you should have no problems selling this. Even Lovett is getting hits at 500k near the stadium.

  • My EADO place is up 30k in the past 2 years. You may want to hold out a bit longer and then sell.

  • I agree that the photography is too dark, open the curtains and take new pictures highlighting the staircases, and include more photos of the kitchen. Personally, I like it when the photos tell a story, that each photo leads you into the next room of the house. It draws people in, I think.

  • I rented a new 3 story townhouse near this area back in 2007. The area is scary at night and it’s not near any major shopping centers. I bought a house as big as this townhouse in 2007 that has nicer finishes for about 1/2 of the asking price for this townhouse. Also I no longer have to worry about my cramping legs climbing all of those stairs.
    We hear all of these recent reports about the Houston real estate market booming inside the loop, wait about another decade when we start hearing about the large number of people living inside the loop dealing with arthritus pain due to multi-level living. And the real estate agents will try to sell you on the idea of the convienance of living inside the loop. I can travel a few miles to major suburban shopping centers on smooth surface roads in a matter of minutes. Living inside the loop will take you 20 minutes or more just to travel a few blocks on what seems like 4×4 off road travel due to the numerous potholes and this travel experience will be repeated numerous times running simple errands due to needing to traverse all over the the city inside the loop to complete all of your weekly shopping needs.

  • Pictures are too dark. No need for a picture of the toilet and one dim picture of other living areas. Being a side unit is desirable but not reinforced here. Most agents have access to a photographer at their expense even in this price range — better pictures will help. If your agent could not have answered your questions then you have the wrong agent. What you paid is irrelevant to how it prices now. No showings is a price issue. Now ask the swamplot people to take down this story. In the case publicity will not help you sell the property.

  • Take a pic of the city at night – very romantic. Definitely include 1-2 attractive outdoor views so potential buyers feel they wouldn’t be choosing to live inside a box.
    But the photos on the site show a very nice, livable, clean place. The cabinetry and trim is as good as I’ve seen anywhere in new construction. I don’t think it could be better staged.
    Somewhere recently on Swamplot it was stated that one should BUY a home ONLY if staying 10 years or more. I am positive the east side will come up in popularity and property-value. This seller is ahead of the trend and needs to rent, as many have advised.


  • @TWWW46: Like many you’re confusing “you” and “I”. I have none of the problems you describe living inside the loop. Be careful with your sweeping generalizations based on your experiences and preferences.

  • Three words: fire your realtor. It is her job to move your house, not yours. Sure, there are challenges to selling your property. But that is what realtors are there to handle. Your realtor will make $7500-15000 if your property sells. That is more than enough to expect more than an Internet listing. Your realtor should be networking with other realtors and relocation specialists at the downtown companies. For what you are asking, there should be some interest from the piles of young, well paid energy workers downtown. The town home has some nice stuff inside for the price. Kick that realtor to the curb if you need more curb appeal (that was awful, but I couldn’t resist).

  • TWW46, there is a good reason you paid 1/2 out in Suburbia….prices are low where there is less demand…again, it is Location, Location, Location….and inside the loop is a great location, thats why it cost more…I live in Montrose, we have great chain and local restaurants, close to Museums, the Texas Medical Center, the Theater, Galleria (we can get there without using the Freeway), takes me 10 minutes to drive downtown to work, 10 minutes to Greenway, 14 minutes to Galleria, plus none of this bumper to bumper freeway traffic… potholes are not as bad as you indicate, We have one of the nicest HEB’s within walking distance, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Central Market, little boutiques, all in the neighborhood…stairs have nothing to do with arthritis, the stairs are good exercise, if your legs are cramping, you must really be out of shape.. sounds like either sour grapes or you just cannot afford inside the loop….oh and I forgot to mention, I have 4 different bus routes within 6 blocks of my house….what transit system can you walk to in the burbs????

  • Agreed with the above posters- but don’t fire your mom, instead get better pictures, write a better description highlighting the pros detailed above and then ask Swamplot to take this post and these comments down.

  • TWW46, what loop are you talking about?

  • @TWW46 Really?

  • You or your realtor need to contact me for a re-shoot! Better photos will make all the difference.

  • Maybe it’s not selling because it’s god awful ugly and crap like that is destroying our once beautiful city. I hope it doesn’t sell. Sorry.

  • You obviously overpaid for this property, at the time when people were buying without rhyme or reason. But, most importantly, you bought without doing proper research of the area. Location, location, location, is still the most important factor in real estate. It’s the worst of the new and coming neighborhoods, it’s surrounded by crap, and there’s a train going through your living room. It will sell, but well under what you paid for it.

  • As someone who recently moved my office from downtown to the East End (and has lived/worked in Montrose/Heights/midtown for 17 years)…the east end area is light years from being anywhere near as desirable as other inner loop areas. Accessibility is a huge problem that isn’t going away. I can’t wait to move my office back to civilization.

  • It is simple…..the home needs at least five more years due to inventory. Also the townhome tower style is quickly becoming a turn off as buyers who have waited expect more practical design…..Stucco is also a negative in the south when used over a wood frame since it can hold too much moisture which rots the frame from the inside out….if the builder was Tricon I would expect to see hardy sheathing on the exterior walls that face the air shaft which solves the moisture issue since it tends to only be a major thing when the stucco is shaded for the majority of the day…another issue is the wierd way the gate operates at your community, the HOA needs to replace it or remove it and allow the streets to be turned over to the city….gates anywhere but a million dollar estate are silly, criminals jump fences, follow people in….gates are only keeping guests out which buyers hate….plus if you turn over the streets to the city you could get rid of HOA dues, which is a plus downtown…they want deed restrictions, but not the HOA fees since most HOA’s downtown have no pools or perks buyers don’t see the value……$250,000 for your home is beyond what it will fetch since the larger Waterhills with roof terraces that line the block in front of your home have only been hitting that dollar amount……Tricon didn’t even get close to that when they where new, so if you paid in the $240’s, well you were one of the few, sorry, just want to be honest…….the home is a good one to rent and hold if you want to build your personal assests, but selling will require a price drop or a few upgrades like a wooden garage door and interior tweeks……good luck and I hope this helps

  • You might be able to brighten up those pictures using photoshop without having to reshoot. They could also be edited, because they are repetitive, making the place seem smaller somehow – like there’s not enough house to take pictures of, so you’re just posting the same stuff over and over. Why is there a picture of the door, for instance?

    If you can take the window treatments off without messing up your paint job, I would do it and then re-photograph. (But maybe thats because I HATE WINDOW TREATMENTS.) Other than that you don’t have much clutter or anything.

  • Something others have not mentioned it that your Realtor is located in an office on Jones Road in Cy-Fair. I’m guessing she is your Mom? Still, this is bad because I would highly doubt a single person has contacted their office randomly in the last 6 months to say “I’m interested in purchased an East End townhome, can you help me?” It would pay to find an agent that specializes in that area, they have better contacts, and a better feel for the neighborhood with which to sell a buyer on the location.
    Another negative is the relatively high HOA fees, around $100 a month. For that extra $100 a month, a purchaser can fund an extra $10,000 or so in a non-fee townhome. A drop in listing price is what will really drive people towards your property. Or you need to better explain what benefits you get for that HOA fee.

  • You could probably rent it out for about $750/month. Sorry.

  • I’d also point out that in terms of wanting to get out what you paid for it, you need to adjust your expectations and consider that one pays a premium for new construction. You bought a new TH, but now you’re selling a 4 year old TH. New-ish is not the same as New to a buyer.
    As others said, if it’s important for you to recoup your investment, you might have to wait out the market and neighborhood gentrification for a while while renting it out. Or drop the price by a big chunk if you want to get out now.

  • markd, 750/month? Really? What are you basing that on? My dad rented a smaller but otherwise very similar place in that area for $1700/month. It’s also next to the tracks. That’s the going rate right now.

  • @Chris Litherland RE: “Maybe it’s not selling because it’s god awful ugly and crap like that is destroying our once beautiful city. I hope it doesn’t sell. Sorry.”

    Really, Chris? You think the area should revert to ugly metal warehouses and industrial buildings? How about a bunch of circa 1980’s drug shacks? Get real…

  • This is a very old article, but I remember thinking that I needed to check back later and see whether the house sold. Hopped on Sawbuck and see that it did, for much more than many here predicted. Congrats! Hope you didn’t have to fire your mom.

  • CURRENT UPDATE ON THIS COMMUNITY: Not only did this house sell, but prices have gone up tremendously this year in this townhome community. Recently, his next door neighbor, with the exact same amenities, just sold for $282,000.00 on the very first day it was listed with multiple above asking-price offers. Inside the same community, similar townhomes (3-2-2)are NOW listing for over $300,000.00 ($339K, $309K, and $299K as of today.) The SMALLER (by 500 square feet) two story, two bedroom TH’s in the community are SELLING within one week of listing, for over his asking price of $250,00.00. Looks like he was just a year early in going into the market, as the area is MORE than booming NOW. In addition, within the same community, they are building NEW, BUT SMALLER townhomes starting at over $300K. (As far as the RR tracks, it is NOW a “NO-BLOW ZONE,” so there are no train horns and the trains are remarkably quiet, you don’t even hear them).

    Across the street, signs went up this week stating that they are converting the warehouses to commercial and putting in new shops and restaurants, so not only will yo soon be able to just walk across the street for dinner and shopping,you can walk to the Dynamo stadium or the Minute Maid Park without having to pay the $20 parking fees around the stadium. It’s also just 2-3 blocks from Lucky’s Pub, Warehouse Live, Little Woodrow’s and all of the new restaurants around the stadium, Original Ninfa’s, etc. Discovery Green is very, very close as well. The area is GOING OFF!