It’s true that the most important three factors in real estate are location, location, location. But Houston has some specific individual qualities that give you more things to consider. The real estate market in Houston is unique, and many of the same rules that would apply in other markets don’t apply here. Here’s what you need to know to make a well-informed decision when buying a house in Houston.
1. SCHOOL DISTRICT
Schools are a big deal in Houston and so are the school districts where homes are located. Even if you don’t have school-aged children, the school district has a big impact on resale value. There are a lot of gorgeous houses all over the metro Houston area, but the local school district quality can vary. Look at test scores, talk to people who live in those neighborhoods or ask around on message boards about the schools.
But some of the most appealing neighborhoods in metro Houston aren’t known for their schools because residents use private or charter schools instead. In these cases, buying a home in less popular school districts can still be a great decision. Low crime rates, friendly neighbors and well-maintained homes can go a long way.
2. COMMUTE TIMES
You might hear a lot of buzz about areas like The Woodlands. The map says The Woodlands is only 30 miles from downtown Houston, which might put the area on your short list. But locals know that this commute will take close to an hour each way—on a good day.
Although employers are spread out through the metro area, many businesses are concentrated in downtown and along the Energy Corridor. Traffic to and from these areas gets very heavy, even when using the beltways. You may still decide that a house is worth it even if it’s far away. Just don’t underestimate the commute. Real commutes are usually longer than even the estimated drive times on map sites.
3. PROPERTY TAXES
Many people are in for a surprise after buying a house in Houston. Home prices here seem like bargains compared to Southern California or the East Coast. Especially since there’s no state income tax, you may expect to have lots of money left over. Make sure to keep in mind our extra fees, particularly property taxes. Property taxes in Houston tend to be fairly high. Make sure to add them to the cost of your home.
4. HOA FEES
Houston is famous for its lack of zoning laws. In fact, it’s the largest city in the U.S. to be without zoning laws. But the same isn’t true of the suburbs. Individual housing developments have their own rules as well. Homeowner associations or HOAs keep subdivisions looking nice. HOAs improve property values, attract and maintain amenities and foster a sense of community belonging among residents.
However, HOA fees need to be factored into the cost of your home purchase. HOA fees can vary widely by community and each may have unique rules and benefits. Be sure to research any applicable HOAs before purchasing. You want to make sure it’s a group you want to represent you.
5. EXTREME WEATHER INSURANCE
Texas is known for extreme weather. Here in Houston, we face the risk of tornadoes, hurricanes and related flooding. Many people in the Houston metro area choose to get additional insurance to cover damage from extreme weather. Flood insurance is not necessarily required, but it’s a good idea to protect your greatest investment.
Amy and Michael Ifland are full-time realtors with nearly 20 years experience in the Houston Real Estate Market. When you’re looking for your new home in Houston, call one of our realty experts at Cityscape Brokers today at 281.760.7299 or submit a contact form. We’ll be happy to help guide you through the process.