Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

This Weeks Agent Profile: Leasing Manager Jena Turner

Posted on: January 31st, 2014 by habitationleasing No Comments

Jena Turner is from the Houston area and her life centers around living in the city! Her exquisite taste and background in home renovations, home repairs, and design gives her the edge to stand out amongst the competition. With a background in flipping and preparing investment properties for sale, Jena’s extensive expertise of all aspects in a home ranging from construction to cosmetics truly benefits her seller and buyer clients. Her outstanding record with going the extra mile while listing properties for sale and lease is what makes her business thrive. Jena is an expert negotiator and goes the extra mile for her clients even if it means making personal sacrifices. Jena has been on the Habitation Realty team for over 3 years and now leads and mentors her office peers as Team leader and Habitation Leasing Sales Manager. She has completed the Luxury Home Specialist Designation and has spent countless hours receiving additional training and is up to date on all current market trends. Jena attended Sam Houston State University and University of Houston Downtown studying Business Communication. She is a volunteer with local dog rescue efforts and Girl Scouts of America. Jena is a newlywed and lives in the Houston Heights with her husband Dominic and dog Bella.

Hey Houston! The apartments are coming!

Posted on: January 31st, 2014 by habitationleasing No Comments

Everywhere you drive inner loop Houston and surrounding, you see them. You know, the apartments! Builders are building in all areas of our city and it isn’t stopping soon. The great news for renters:


As a Houston renter, you have a endless amount of choices in new construction apartment complexes. We have to say…The new properties are Gorgeous and sure don’t feel like that boxy, out of date, overdone, run of the mill apartment complex. So why are all these new shiny complexes offering more specials and lower rents than your current apartment? Because they want you of course! We find the most specials and best pricing for brand new complexes because builders want them Pre-leased before the paint is dry and you need to take advantage of the deals.

Interested in pricing and specials offered at a new complex you’ve seen? Shoot us a email and we will get you a list of all the details right away! or call 713-426-0366 to ask a agent.

Realtor View: Do you know where your mortgage payments go?

Posted on: July 25th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Written by Danny Frank for

Do you know what you’re paying for every month?

When you decide to buy a new home, a good first step is to determine how much mortgage you can afford. After talking to a mortgage broker or using a mortgage calculator, you may find a payment amount that falls well within your monthly budget.

Keep in mind the mortgage payment is only one of the monthly expenses you are responsible for with a new house. So, what else are you paying for?

Your monthly payment typically is made of four components: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance – often referred to as PITI.

Principal. Principal is the amount you originally borrow. Early in your mortgage’s term, your payments will be applied mostly to the loan’s interest. As the loan progresses, you’ll pay off more principal.

Interest. Interest is money the lender charges to take the risk on your loan. The interest rate on your loan has a direct correlation to the size of your payment. That is, a higher interest rate leads to higher monthly payments. For most home buyers, higher interest rates reduce the amount of money they can borrow, and lower interest rates increase it.

Taxes. Property taxes can account for a significant amount of your monthly payment. These taxes for local schools, city and county services, and other local entities are based on the tax rate for each of those taxing authorities and the appraised value of your property. Instead of a large tax bill coming due at the end of the year, many property owners pay their property tax as part of their monthly payment. The annual amount is divided by the total number of payments in a given year. The lender collects these payments and holds them in escrow until they are due, and then the lender uses the money to pay the bill.

Insurance. There are two types of insurance coverage that may be included in your monthly payment. The first type, property insurance, protects your home and possessions from fire, theft, and other events your policy outlines. The second type of insurance is private mortgage insurance (PMI). When a home buyer does not put down at least 20 percent on the home, most lenders require PMI. This insurance offers the lender some protection in the event the borrower is unable to repay the loan. PMI coverage can be dropped once you attain 20 percent equity in the home.

While these four components make up a typical monthly payment, some lenders allow homeowners to pay taxes and insurance on their own. In this scenario, you’ll have a lower monthly payment, but you must make sure you have the money available to pay property taxes and insurance when those bills come due.

An amortization schedule shows how much of your monthly loan payment is being applied toward interest costs and how much to reduce the outstanding balance of your loan. The amortization chart details the month-by-month progression of your mortgage payments from mostly covering interest to mostly covering principal. Many lenders allow you to pay extra each month to pay off principal early and pay less interest over the length of the mortgage.

Your Realtor can be a great resource to help you understand these components plus other costs associated with homeownership.



Dallas, Houston Among Top-Searched Metros

Posted on: June 13th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

DALLAS-Apartment Guide, which shares information about retail properties to potential renters nationwide, has released data about moving patterns and the top searched metropolitan areas. Dallas and Houston ranked among the top 10 list, coming in third and fourth, respectively.

Dallas didn’t fare quite so well when it came to top searched sister metros, however. This ranking determines where people most often move from and where they move to – statistics show that a higher number of individuals move from the Dallas to Houston metro region rather than vice versa.

In explaining this phenomenon, Apartment Guide researchers point out that the metro area is approximately 674 square miles and encompasses an affordable lifestyle given the lower cost of living. Furthermore, “it’s a great place if international trade is a career option, as it accounts for more than one-third of all jobs in the Houston metropolitan area,” the researchers write.

Apartment Guide relied on internal search data from May 2013 to determine the top sister metros, while US Census data was used to identify common reasons for relocation. Job and family related issues are among the reasons why such relocations take place. Read more about the researchhere.

Source: Amy Wolff Sorter for

Houston home sales hit highest point in six years as prices rise; no slowdown in sight

Posted on: May 28th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

April was the best month for home sales in Houston in almost six years as home buyers devoured new listings at a pace that local Realtors have not seen since before the recession.

With inventory exceptionally tight, Houston home prices hit all-time record highs in April, according to theHouston Association of Realtors.

The April surge continues an impressive 23-month real estate winning streak generated by low mortgage rates — with interest rates less than 4 percent — combined with the city’s strong economy — more than 111,000 new jobs were created in Houston over the last 12 months.

“The market is absolutely on fire in all areas,” says Bernstein Realty owner Amy Bernstein, a 30-year veteran of Houston realty. “Everyone asks: ‘How long do think this will last?’ No one knows. But definitely we haven’t seen any slowdown.”

Many homes, even houses that are priced a little too high, will be shown to would-be buyers several times on the very day they are put on the market, Bernstein says. And many sellers receive multiple offers within two days of putting their house up for sale.

The inventory of homes for sale is very low. There’s only a 3.4-month supply of homes for sale, the leanest inventory since 1999. Some people are delaying putting their homes up for sale because they know prices are going up. Meanwhile, a lot of people are moving to Houston for new jobs.

The low supply and high demand mean prices are going up. The median price of a single-family home — the price at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — rose more than 14 percent to $184,900. The average price jumped 14 percent from last April to $253,907. Both represent record high prices for Houston.

The Realtors association reported 6,482 single-family homes were sold in April, the highest monthly sales total since August 2007. The April sales figure represented a 27 percent gain over April of last year.

Sales of condominiums and town homes were up 31 percent over last April.

The number of “pending sales” in the pipeline is also up sharply, indicating that sales will be strong through the summer. Plus many families feel the pressure to buy a home and get moved in before school starts in August.

“The Houston housing market shows absolutely no sign of letting up,” says HAR Chairman Danny Frank with Prudential Anderson Properties.

Source: Ralph Bivens for Houston CultureMap

Three cities see seller’s market for homes

Posted on: May 16th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

For area cities Bellaire, Southside Place and West University Place, housing is in greater demand than ever, area real estate agents say.

These communities offer proximity to downtown Houston, Rice University and the Texas Medical Center along with strong city services and recreational programs, said Realtor Maya Samardzijaof the Bellaire office of Coldwell Banker United Realtors.

“There’s a real community feel,” she said. “Bellaire has a lot of committees, and both West U and Southside Place do, too. You can really get involved.”

The cities in the southwest area are seeing a strong sellers’ market, Samardzija said.

“If someone’s looking to buy, they need to be prepared for multiple offers and a bidding war,” she said. “Buyers need to act very quickly if they find something they like.”

Samardzija attributes the strong sellers’ market in this area and throughout greater Houston to an increase of buyers drawn by low interest rates during a time when homeowners are more reluctant to put their homes on the market.

Some homeowners are trying to wait longer before selling in hopes of getting more money for their home. Others owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

The market also is seeing more investors buying homes and renting them, as opposed to flipping the houses and reselling them.

“And we’re still feeling the effects of the depressed housing market of 2009 through 2011,” Samardzija said. “Fewer new homes are being built to keep up with demand.”


The low home inventory is especially evident in Bellaire, Samardzija said.

Real estate professionals describe home supply in terms of inventory months, which represent the number of months it would take to deplete the existing home inventory if no more houses were to enter the market.

An area with one to four inventory months of homes is considered a sellers’ market.

Five to six inventory months represent a stable market, and seven or more inventory months is a sign of a buyers’ market.

During the first quarter of 2013, Bellaire had 1.9 inventory months of homes, and as of early April, Bellaire had one inventory month of homes.

“For sellers it’s great,” Samardzija said. “They’re getting multiple offers.”

In addition to its location and overall environment, Bellaire benefits from the strength of its schools, Samardzija said.

Those schools include Condit and Horn elementary schools, both rated exemplary by the Texas Education Agency.

Demand is high for Horn’s pre-kindergarten program.

Bellaire also offers larger lots than West U and Southside Place for less money per square foot, Samardzija said.

During the first quarter of 2013, the average cost per square foot for a Bellaire house on the market was $221, compared to $284 for West U and Southside Place.

Samardzija, who lives in Bellaire, said she was attracted to the city’s location and small community feel when she bought there.

“I can drive to all of the important places and be there in 10 minutes – downtown, restaurants in Montrose, the (Texas Medical Center).”

Southside Place

Southside Place, a bedroom community developed in the 1920s, covers about 156 acres.

Like Bellaire, Southside Place has its own city government and police and fire service.

Between April 2012 and April 2013, Southside Place had an average of 2.8 months of inventory, Samardzija said.

Seventeen homes were sold in Southside Place during that time for an average price of $991,591.

West University Place

Like its neighbors, West U has demonstrated a strong sellers’ market as well with an average 1.8 month inventory between April 2012 and April 2013.

It’s normal for West U to have a strong housing market, Samardzija said.

“West University is a little closer to downtown Houston and the Medical Center (than Bellaire). And West University Elementary School is exemplary, too,” she said, referring to the school’s rating by the TEA.

The elementary school serves Southside Place, too, she added.

Linda Swope of Coldwell Banker United, a Realtor since 1988 who specializes in relocation, has lived in West U since 1985.

Today, she said, she would never consider leaving.

“It has the small town atmosphere. People are friendly. You have great city services, good infrastructure. It’s hometown U.S.A.”

Swope said she also enjoys West U’s pool/waterpark and the new community center, which has an Olympic-sized indoor-outdoor pool, squash courts, a gym, exercise rooms and fitness classes.

“Another thing I love about West U and Houston – they’ve become quite international,” Swope said.

“I speak multiple languages, and it’s fun and refreshing to meet people here.”

Swope said Southside Place is comparable to West U and popular among home buyers, too.

“They have the same feel: small town, very closely knit.”



Realtor View: Get the biggest bang for your home-remodeling buck

Posted on: May 14th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Whether you’ve lived in your home for 10 years or 10 days, surely there is something about it you would like to change. Maybe you want to update your master bathroom or perhaps you’ve been sketching a garage addition.

Whatever your remodeling dreams may be, certain projects offer real-life payoffs when you decide to sell your home. Even if you may not think you will be selling any time soon, it doesn’t hurt to keep your home’s resale value in mind for the future. Here are a few things to consider when planning your home improvements.

Remodeling magazine publishes an annual Cost versus Value Report that compares the cost for popular remodeling projects to the amount the projects recoup when the homes are sold. According to their latest report, all remodeling projects in the Texas region offer less than a 100 percent return, although some projects come closer to paying for themselves than others.

According to the survey, the projects that retained the most value in the Texas region were replacing entry doors (83.6 percent) and remodeling a home’s basement (82.6 percent). While those may not fit your idea of an exciting remodel, they are projects that hold their value at resale. Replacing existing siding with fiber-cement siding also scored high (79.6 percent), as did replacing the garage door (74.5 percent).

Don’t go for flashy

The value of home improvements can vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood. One constant, however, is odd or unusual projects may not increase your home’s appeal to the average prospective buyer. If you plan to stay in the same house for years to come, go ahead and turn your living room into a replica of Reliant Stadium. Be aware, however, if you do choose to sell, it may stand out to potential buyers for the wrong reasons.

Generally, low- and mid-range projects hold their value better than upscale remodels. For example, an upscale, major kitchen remodel with an estimated cost of more than $100,000 returned 63.3 percent according to the Cost versus Value Report, while an $18,000 minor kitchen remodel returned 74.9 percent.

There is no single right answer

It’s important to remember every home in every market is different. It’s true the data says you won’t get much return on your investment from adding a sunroom (49.7 percent), but what if you really want a sunroom? Or what if most homes in your subdivision have sunrooms, and you think you’ll be at a disadvantage competing against them when you sell?

The report from “Remodeling” magazine is a good place to start, but for specific advice about how a room addition or other improvement may affect the resale value of your home, ask a Realtor. And if you’re planning a move, a Realtor can help you choose projects that might help your home sell faster

The Heights stands apart in Houston

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

The Houston Heights was founded in 1891 by real estate speculators Oscar Martin Carter and Daniel Denton Cooley. At first, it was developed as its own city set apart from Houston with business district, light industry, railcar link to the bigger city and a variety of mostly mail-order bungalow and Victorian homes, becoming in a sense the first master-planned community in Greater Houston.

Just to the east of the Houston Heights, the Proctor Plaza/Norhill and Woodland Heights neighborhoods were developed in the 1910s by the Hogg family and developer William O. Wilson, respectively, from plots purchased from the Stude family, selling off its dairy farm that previously had covered much of the area. Round the same time, the Sunset Heights was developed just to the north.

The biggest changes to the Heights in the last 10 years has been the bike paths and the preponderance of top-quality restaurants. Heights Boulevard was lined with bike trails, reducing traffic to a single lane, in 2000. The Nicholson SP and MKT rails to trails project was completed in 2009, turning 4.62 miles of former rail beds into committed and paved bike lanes that connect the Heights directly to downtown. Restaurants such as Down House, Shade, Glass Wall, Da Capo’s Bakery, Revival Market and many others have made the neighborhood a destination for foodies.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Greater Heights area is the historic housing stock. In a city where historic preservation is a constant struggle, in the Greater Heights it’s almost a way of life. There are more areas marked as historic districts in the Greater Heights than in the rest of the city combined, not to mention numerous other blocks protected by residents utilizing the prevailing setback and minimum lot size provisions in city ordinance. A drive, bike ride and/or walk through the Heights brings views of historic homes with rear garages, alleys and generous front porches. The majority of bungalow and Victorian-style homes are more than a century old, making the Heights a kind of time capsule of Houston.

Nearby communities include Montrose, downtown and Midtown inside Loop 610.



The entire Greater Heights area is in Houston ISD. John H. Reagan High School is the only area high school. Middle schools are Alexander Hamilton Middle School and Hogg Middle School. Elementary schools are Harvard Elementary (founded in 1898, the oldest continuously open school in Houston), Travis Elementary (founded in 1908), Helms Elementary, William H. Love Elementary, Eugene Field Elementary and Browning Elementary.

Houston Independent School District


203,066 students

279 schools, including six early childhood centers, 160 elementary, 41 middle, 44 high and 28 other

District state rating: academically acceptable (2011)

Campus rating notes: Forty-six elementary schools, two middle schools and 11 high schools were rated exemplary. Nineteen campuses were rated unacceptable. Area high school ratings include Davis High School, acceptable; High School for Visual and Performing Arts, exemplary; Lamar, recognized; and Reagan, acceptable.

Local colleges

Houston Community College, Central Campus, 1300 Holman, 713-718-6000,

University of Houston-Downtown, 1 Main St., 713-221-8000,

University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose Blvd., 713-525-6989,

One of a kind

The name is due to its relative height of 6 feet over downtown, a selling point at a time when Houston was gripped by several yellow fever epidemics due to lack of sanitation around low-lying areas surrounding Buffalo Bayou. Due to the costs of running a city, particularly its nascent school system, the city of Houston Heights sought annexation by the city of Houston, a process that finally was accomplished in 1918.

The list of famous Houstonians from the Heights is a long one. The co-founder, Daniel Denton Cooley, is the grandfather of renowned heart surgeon Denton A. Cooley. Also from the Heights are oilwell firefighter Red Adair, Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt and newsman Dan Rather, all graduates of John H. Reagan High School. When she was Houston mayor, Kathy Whitmire was a resident of the Woodland Heights, still the only Houston mayor to live in the Greater Heights.


Original Source: Martin Hajovsky for the

Familiar Tune: Homeownership falls to 1995 level

Posted on: May 2nd, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Owning a home has fallen in popularity to levels last seen during the heyday of grunge rock.

Homeownership in the United States continued to tick downward, hitting its lowest rate in nearly 18 years, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday, a sign that more families are choosing to rent rather than buy homes as the economy remains weak.

The percentage of housing units sitting vacant, both for-sale homes and rentals, also fell from last year, reflecting the historically low level of both for-sale housing inventory and residential construction, as well as the growing ranks of renters.

In the first quarter of 2013, the U.S. homeownership rate fell to 65%, the lowest rate since the autumn of 1995. It’s down from 65.4% a year ago (it was also at 65.4% in the last quarter of 2012).

The easy mortgage-lending conditions of the last decade caused homeownership to soar to a peak of 69.2% in the middle of 2004, but the collapse of the housing market and subsequent wave of foreclosures erased those gains.

At the same time, rental vacancy fell to 8.6% from 8.8% a year earlier, a sign that rental housing inventory is tightening nationally. The last time rental vacancy was lower than 8.6% was in 2002. The vacancy rate among for-sale homes rose to 2.1% from 1.9% a year earlier, but remains well below the high levels of vacancy reached during the housing bust.

Separately, on Tuesday the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index tracking home prices in 20 U.S. cities posted a yearly gain of 9.3% in February, the highest rate of appreciation in seven years.

Economists expect this cocktail of rising renter demand, falling rental vacancy and low inventory of for-sale homes to result in higher housing costs for most Americans.

“The implication is that there’s still plenty of upward pressure on rents,” wrote Paul Diggle of Capital Economics, in a Tuesday research note. Additionally, “tight supply and strengthening demand—both of which show few signs of abating—are driving house prices higher,” Mr. Diggle wrote.

The government calculates homeownership by comparing the number of properties with people living in them to the total number of owner-occupied properties. It estimates that 74.5 million housing units were owner-occupied in the first quarter, compared with a total of 114.6 million occupied homes.

The rate of homeownership fell sharply in the last year among middle-aged people aged 40 to 44 years old, falling from 65.9% in the first quarter of last year to 64.4% today; among people aged 65 and older, it went from 80.9% to 80.4%. The homeownership rate grew among younger people, from 34.2% to 34.4% for those aged 25 to 29, and from 48.3% to 48.9% among 30-to-34-year-olds.

“The number has gone down for middle-aged people because they’re the ones who lost their homes to foreclosure,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist for Metrostudy, a Houston-based housing research firm. “The uptick among young people is what we can describe as the allure of newly rising prices and low interest rates.”


Original Source: Robbie Whelan for The Wall Street Journal

Best places to live in Houston

Posted on: April 30th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Jackson Hill apartments

320 Jackson Hill St

Jackson Hill is nestled in between the Suburbs of Katy and the Heights. The area is close to the best recreation in the city.

For more great apartments, visit

Homes go quickly in hot Heights market

Posted on: April 25th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Realtor Rich Martin has lived in the Heights area long enough to see some major changes.

“When I moved here 20 years ago, it was a funky little neighborhood with old, eclectic homes,” he said.

At the time, Martin’s friends thought he was crazy to move to the area. Now the Heights-area homes are in more demand than ever, and new construction is thriving here.

“Home sales during the first quarter of the year, compared to last year, are up 20 (percent) to 25 percent,” Martin said.

“Last year, a house for sale was on the market an average of 90 days. Now the average house here is on the market 45 days. Even that’s an average. A lot of those houses are selling within a week.”

The small two-bedroom, one-bath bungalows in the Heights once sold for $250,000 to $300,000, Martin said. Prices now start at $300,000 to $350,000.

As home sizes increase, prices rise to several million dollars.

Martin has been showing many Heights-area homes to people who work in the energy industry.

“Even if they will be in the Energy Corridor or know they’ll be in The Woodlands, they love the central location and the feel of the Heights,” he said.

Kelsey Trom, who has lived in Houston for about a year, bought a Heights home on 13th Street in January.

“I love the variety of things to do in the Heights and the neighborhood feel right in the city,” she said. “You get tree-lined streets, these amazing historic bungalows and great neighbors.”

Now Trom and her family are renovating their 1905 Queen Anne cottage.

“We really want to restore it to the heart and soul of the Heights, these early 1900s homes.”

When Martin moved to the area, it was not at all unusual to find great homes next to unattractive warehouses or dilapidated buildings.

“It was the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said.

With new construction, numerous restorations and the creation of historic districts, the ugly is going away, Martin said, and residents have a better idea of what to expect.

The area also benefits from its central location and a growing variety of bars, restaurants and shops.

“In the past, there was hardly anything to do here. In the last two years, we’ve gotten a dozen new restaurants. It’s turned around. Where people moved to Montrose to live near restaurants, now they can move to the Heights.”

When Martin moved here, most residents did not have families or sent their children to private campuses instead of public schools.

“Now there are more professional people in the area, and they’ve demanded better schools,” he said.

Travis and Harvard elementary schools have received exemplary ratings from the Texas Education Agency, Martin said.

“The schools now are great. It’s just been the last 10 years or so that families have been buying here.”

Martin, who blogs about the Heights at, describes the Heights area as the land between Interstate 10 and the 610 Loop, Durham and I-45.

The area comprises about 15 subdivisions.

Neighborhoods include Houston Heights, which once was the city of Houston Heights. This area between Studewood and Durham is known for strong residential involvement, the work of the Houston Heights Association and its numerous historic buildings.

Sunset Heights, Martin said, straddles North Main Street from East 23rd to the 610 Loop. Martin said this area is seeing quite a bit of new home construction.

Brooke Smith on the northeast side of the Heights is a little rough around the edges.

“There are some wonderful homes here and some junky ones,” Martin writes in his blog. He also describes it as the next “hot” area.

The Woodland Heights, where Martin lives, has seen a number of home renovations and new homes built. The homes here date back to the 1910s and 1920s.

Norhill, east and north of Woodland Heights is one of the area’s historic districts. Because of the growing interest in this area and the overall sellers’ market in Houston, Martin is advising clients looking at Heights-area homes not to hesitate.

“We’ve looked at homes that would come on the market and get offers that first day,” he said. “You have to jump on them quickly. Know the market and know when something great comes on the market. Be approved for a mortgage.”

Martin attributes the sellers’ market in the Heights largely to increasing land value. A few years ago, land was selling for $40 per square foot.

“Now it’s $50 a foot, and there’s nothing to be found. Builders are looking for vacant lots and homes to buy,” Martin said.

The population that buys in the Heights runs the gamut, from first-time buyers to professional couples to mature couples who are leaving the suburbs and downsizing.

For Mike Crowe, the Houston Heights has been home for 16 years. He has owned four or five houses in the area over the years.

“The Heights retains its identity and its small-town feel,” he said.

Crowe also appreciates the easy drive he has to city centers and airports.

He said living in the city does mean crime is a possibility, but no more than in other Houston communities.

“The concern here is mainly burglary and small thefts. People have to be vigilant about locking their doors and being alert,” he said. “I’m not fearful, but I’m aware.”

Another aspect he appreciates about the Heights is its community events, from home tours hosted by theHouston Heights Associations to arts and crafts shows.

“I think a lot of people here enjoy driving through the Heights to see what homes are going up,” he said.

“There’s something here you just can’t duplicate in other places.”


ORIGINAL SOURCE: Flori Meeks for

Billions flow into the hottest new U.S. housing asset — rentals

Posted on: April 23rd, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Donald R. Mullen Jr., who helped Goldman Sachs Group Inc. profit from the U.S. housing crash, is giving the firm and its clients a way to gain from the recovery.

Mullen, 54, has raised almost US$1 billion to buy single- family houses to rent since leaving Goldman Sachs last year as head of global credit and mortgages, five years after overseeing the bank’s bet against the imploding subprime home-loan market. His Fundamental REO LLC has already purchased or is close to acquiring almost 2,500 properties through foreclosure auctions, government agencies and even an Arizona non-profit that promotes affordable-home ownership, property records show.

Mullen plans to spend as much as US $2 billion by 2016, joining private-equity giants including Blackstone Group LP and Colony Capital LLC seeking to take advantage of home prices 29% below the 2006 peak and rising demand for rentals from Americans blocked out of homeownership. Investors, including former bankers and bond traders, are rushing to buy and renovate properties, as well as secure Wall Street funding to turn what’s been a mom and pop business into an institutional asset class.

“This is the biggest trade in the real estate space,” said Justin Berman, a former Goldman Sachs banker who runs Atlanta-based Berman Capital Advisors, a private wealth firm with about US$550 million under management. “They can’t get their hands on enough homes.”

Front Line 

Mullen, a shaven-headed patron of the arts from River Edge, New Jersey, has spent his career at the front line of Wall Street’s most profitable fixed-income businesses. Since graduating from Yale University in 1981, he’s worked in high- yield sales for First Boston, Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. and Salomon Brothers Inc. He rose to be head of credit and a board member at Bear Stearns Cos. and started as a partner when he joined Goldman Sachs in 2001 to bolster its unit financing junk- rated companies.

In his latest endeavor, Mullen and former Bear Stearns colleague Curt Schade are purchasing homes in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Nevada for between US$70,000 and US$190,000, planning to rent them for US$900 to US$1,950 a month, according to a Goldman Sachs presentation obtained by Bloomberg.

Fundamental REO is being backed with as much as US$100 million of capital from Goldman Sachs and its employees, as well as funding from its private clients, according to marketing documents and people familiar with the fundraising, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public.

Mullen and Andrea Raphael, a spokeswoman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.

Surging Demand 

Mullen is building his inventory as investors drive up property prices faster than rents and the supply of low-cost homes from repossessions shrinks. Home sales fell 0.6% in March to an annual pace of 4.92 million while prices jumped 11.8% to a median US$184,300, the biggest gain since November 2005, the National Association of Realtors reported today from Washington. Foreclosure filings fell to 152,500 in March, from a high of 367,000 three years earlier, according to RealtyTrac.

“It’s getting more challenging because there are more competitors every day and there’s fewer distressed homes,” Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for Blackstone, which has spent more than US$4 billion to buy 24,000 rental houses in the last year, said during an interview last week.

To expand quickly, Mullen bought Empire Group LLC, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based investment firm that has purchased more than 1,100 houses in the Phoenix area, and now runs Fundamental REO’s western region.

Affordable Housing 

In Clark County, Nevada, and Maricopa County, Arizona, records show at least three deeds bought by Fundamental REO and Empire, from Affordable Housing Partners LLC, a non profit “dedicated to providing affordable housing to individuals and families, educating homeowners, and expanding homeownership to those in need,” according to its website.

While that may give Mullen’s firm a chance to avoid auctions, it also helps families needing a temporary home, according to Joseph Prestia, a manager at Affordable Housing.

“There are thousands upon thousands of families that have bad credit and can’t qualify to buy a home,” Prestia said in a telephone interview.

Buying sprees by investment firms such as Mullen’s means they are often paying a premium, according to Bruce Norris, president of the Norris Group, a closely-held real estate investment firm in Riverside, California. Norris paid US$131,000 for a nine-year-old five-bedroom house in October that he fixed and resold to Fundamental REO for US$175,000 the same month, according to property records.

Retail Prices 

“If those guys bought from us, we sold at retail,” Norris said in a telephone interview. “They aren’t finding deals. They’re just finding inventory.”

Fundamental REO is also in talks to purchase portfolios of homes in Texas and Florida from Landsmith LP, a San Francisco- based single-family rental company established in 2008 that buys and sells as many as 300 properties a month.

“They’re able to buy significant numbers of houses and are thoughtful about how and where they deploy their capital,” Landsmith Chief Executive Officer James Breitenstein said in a telephone interview.

Mullen is Fundamental REO’s CEO while Schade is president, after working most recently as chief operating officer at hedge fund Pinebank Asset Management. Investors are wagering their Wall Street experience will translate to being a large-scale landlord.

 ‘Big Short’ 

After Mullen joined Goldman Sachs in 2001, the bank rose from 12th in arranging leveraged loans for companies to fourth in 2007, when he was named to oversee Daniel Sparks, the head of Goldman Sachs’s mortgage department.

At the time, the mortgage business had built a position the firm’s then-Chief Financial Officer David Viniar called “the big short,” a US$13.9 billion bet against subprime mortgage- related securities, according to a report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

That year, the business made US$1.2 billion in net revenue for Goldman Sachs by shorting subprime mortgage-backed securities, a position CEO Lloyd Blankfein described as a “hedge” against its holdings of other home-loan securities. Going short helped make Goldman Sachs Wall Street’s most profitable firm, even as many of its clients lost money, according to the Senate report.

In e-mails cited in the investigation, Mullen raised concerns “about the representations we may be making to clients” who are being sold securities that were likely to face markdowns in value. Still, in October 2007, Mullen lauded a trader for shorting collateralized debt obligations that faced steep credit downgrades.

‘Serious Money’ 

“Looks like we’re going to make some serious money,” Mullen wrote, a day before the mortgage department made $110 million on the investment, according to the Senate report.

Mullen served on Goldman Sachs’s management committee, the senior partners who oversee all of the firm’s operations, as well as the risk and principal investment committees. In 2009, three years before leaving the firm, he began making personal investments in distressed real estate, according to the marketing presentation.

The wealth he’s accumulated has allowed him to become a significant donor through the Donald R. Mullen Family Foundation, giving more than US$1.4 million to charitable organizations in 2011. He serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Dia Art Foundation and the Friends of the High Line, which honored him in 2010 for a US$1 million gift.

Art Auction 

His interest in art attracted attention after he engaged in a bidding war with Alec Baldwin in 2011 at a benefit auction in Long Island near his home in the Hamptons. He let the actor walk away with a Clifford Ross painting of crashing waves for US$70,000.

Wearing sunglasses for most of the evening auction, Mullen paid US$100,000 for a print by artist Barbara Kruger. It shows a man with a blindfold and red lettering that says, “He entered shop after shop, priced nothing, spoke no word, and looked at all objects with a wild and vacant stare.”

The fallout from the housing crisis that Goldman Sachs navigated so successfully is now the biggest driver of investments in single-family rentals. Homes lost to foreclosure are bought by investors at discounts and the owners who defaulted on their mortgages are potential renters.

Renters occupy 35% of single-family homes, up from 30% in 2005, before 5.5 million people lost homes to foreclosure, according to an April 17 Goldman Sachs report that estimates the asset class to be about US$2.8 trillion.

Bank Financing 

Banks are increasingly offering financing to investors to buy the homes, with Deutsche Bank AG this month arranging a US$100 million loan facility to Five Ten Capital LLC backed by mortgages on the properties, a structure that may enable bonds to be issued tied to rentals.

Mullen is buying homes in 10 metro markets with his eye on expanding to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Sacramento and Washington, choosing neighborhoods where job growth, quality schools and low crime will attract renters, the marketing materials show.

He’s hunting in the same areas as other large buyers. Institutional investors purchased 30% of foreclosed homes in Miami last year, 23% in Phoenix and 19% in Las Vegas, according to CoreLogic.

Investors should consider buying properties that need “slightly more” capital expenditures for renovations to “reduce competition with retail consumers,” Fundamental REO’s marketing document says.

Case Studies 

Mullen’s pitch book includes two “case study” homes illustrating his expected returns, which are higher than yields forecast by Goldman Sachs analysts. A four-bedroom home built in 2004 in Laveen, Arizona, southwest of Phoenix, generates a net annual income of 9.9% on US$1,675 monthly rent, after costs such as insurance, taxes, management fees, a 5% vacancy rate and 50-percent debt. A five-bedroom home built in 2005 in Snellville, Georgia, east of Atlanta, generates net annual income of 10.5% on US$1,150 rent.

That compares with average estimated single-family rental yields of 4.5% in Atlanta and 4.3% in Phoenix this year, according to an April 17 report by Goldman Sachs analysts led by Charles Himmelberg.

“Even among the ‘cheapest’ metros, rental yields average only about 5%,” Himmelberg’s report said.

While Mullen has built an in-house acquisition team, he’s outsourcing property management. That’s a risky strategy, said Aaron Edelheit, chairman of American Home, an Atlanta-based firm with more than 1,500 single-family rentals in Georgia and North Carolina that started in 2009.

Operational Efficiency 

“This industry hasn’t institutionalized yet and that’s why it’s hard to do at scale,” Edelheit said in a telephone interview. “That’s why you have to do this yourself.”

Some investors are outsourcing management while taking a more targeted approach to buying homes.

“When you are spread out across too big of a geography you lose a lot of efficiency in operations,” said Clayton DeGiacinto, a former Goldman Sachs mortgage trader and chief investment officer of Axonic Capital LLC, a US$1.8 billion investment firm.

Axonic, which started a fund in June to buy foreclosures and rent them out, owns almost 300 units in Florida, said DeGiacinto. “When we focus on similar assets in close neighborhoods we can almost run operations like an apartment building. We can have the same paint in all the houses, we can have the same company doing all the grass cutting at all of the houses. It’s cheaper.”

Strong Handle 

Mullen’s firm will have a strong handle on operations, according to Richard Marin, CEO of Ironwood Global LLC and a former chairman of Bear Stearns Asset Management.

He’s hired some “high-quality guys,” who worked at Ironwood, a fund that received commitments from investors of US$1.5 billion to buy non-performing loans from the Federal Housing Agency, said Marin. He abandoned the plan when the FHA balked at the deal.

“I guarantee you they know what it costs to fix a toilet in every major city in America,” said Marin, who also lectures in management at Cornell University. “And they know the top 10 purveyors in that city and what they charge down to the penny for fixing that toilet.”

Fundamental REO has at least three potential exit strategies, according to its marketing materials: sell homes one by one in six to eight years to capture price appreciation; sell in bulk to institutional investors such as insurance companies seeking cash flow; or go public as a real estate investment trust.

If big funds sell en masse in a few years, it may add downward pressure on house prices at a time when today’s low mortgage rates will be history, said Josh Rosner, an analyst with research firm Graham Fisher & Co, who warned in early 2007 that subprime loan-linked securities posed risks to the economy.

“It’ll be interesting to see if people who are used to buying and selling assets can be committed to holding assets, or efficient in managing and disposing of them,” he said.

Houston is U-Hauls most popular relocation destination

Posted on: April 18th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

People must believe everything is bigger in Texas, because the most popular city to move to in 2012 was Houston, according to new data on relocation trends released by U-Haul. The moving company’s figures were based on one-way truck rentals from January 2012 to December 2012. It’s Houston’s fourth year in a row ranking No. 1 on U-Haul’s annual list.

Of course, other lists of most popular moving destinations have differed from U-Haul’s list. In January, Penske Truck Rental put Atlanta at the top of its list for 2012. Houston was ranked No. 6. U-Haul placed Atlanta all the way down at No. 33 on its list.

Regardless, what can people expect once they arrive in Houston? For one, a booming job market filling up fast with transportation and financial services employment openings. That’ll support the local housing market pretty well. According to Trulia, the average listing price in Houston is $322,473, but the median sale price between January 13 and March 13 was a much more affordable $78,000.

Everyone is moving to Houston: No. 1 relocation spot in U.S. for fourth straight year

Posted on: April 16th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

If it seems like everyone is moving to Houston these days, perhaps that’s because they are. For the fourth year running, U-Haul has ranked Houston No. 1 on its list of “The U-Haul 2012 Top 50 U.S. Destination Cities.

The company bases its annual destination ranking on the number of movers renting a truck one-way — totaling more than 1.6 million transactions — and those stats are consistent with the overall pattern of recent population growth: According to census data, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land added more than 125,000 residents between July 2011 and July 2012, the second highest number in the United States behind only Dallas-Fort Worth.

Orlando, Fla. ranked No. 2 on U-Haul’s list, followed by Chicago, Las Vegas and San Antonio. Austin came in at  No. 5 on the list for the second year in a row; Dallas fell from No. 15 to No. 17; and Plano and Fort Worth landed No. 25 and No. 26, respectively.


Original Source: Culture Map Houston

Varied individual needs drive Houston’s relocation market

Posted on: April 16th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

The greater Houston metropolitan area draws people from around the state, country and the world for many reasons, with the most popular being for work.

Yet, there are many other reasons people are adopting an address in one of the many communities here.

“We are currently seeing a high influx of individuals moving into the Houston area,” said Anne Incorvia, vice president, Martha Turner Properties, Houston.

“We are having a great flurry of activity in both the home buying and the rental market. The majority of those moving into Houston are work-related.

“Yet, other activity is from those coming for other reasons.”

For example, often when families move to Houston for job opportunities, grandparents follow to be close to their grandchildren.

“Grandparents wanting to be closer to their grandchildren are one of the reasons people move to Houston. And they find the weather and activities bonuses, such as being able to play golf 365 days a year, having waterfront homes, and being close to a world-class medical center,” Incorvia said.

Other reasons Houston draws people includes a healthy housing market, a strong economy, a relatively low-cost of living, and again, a climate which affords a more recreational life year round and overall a great quality of life, according to Kirsten Abney, director, Corporate Services, Heritage Texas Properties.

The climate does play an important reason for people moving to Houston, especially the older generations and empty-nesters, tired of the cold and snow, and for health reasons.

“Even in the heat of the summer, Houstonians know just how to ‘cool off.’ Many of the master-planned communities offer spas, waterparks and waterfront communities. We have communities that we sell in where you can drive your boat right from your dock in your backyard, and park at the neighborhood town center with restaurants and shopping,” Incorvia said.

Most folks are looking for a certain lifestyle and that tends to narrow their options in areas to live and homes available in those locations.

However, according to an MLS Press Release, February 2013, month-end pending sales for February totaled 3,877. That is up 12.7 percent from last year and signals the probability of yet further growth in property sales when the March figures are tallied.

Active listings or the number of available properties, at the end of February declined 20.9 percent from February 2012 to 33,361.

“Some people want to be close to downtown, where there is an abundance of restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment,” Abney said. “Others may want more space in a community that offers a variety of amenities such as a community pool, parks and trails, healthcare, and shopping.

“Others may want a full service building where they can lock-up, leave, and not worry about upkeep. The great thing about Houston is we really can accommodate any lifestyle someone may be looking for,” Abney said.

Incorvia agrees. “There are diverse needs of amenities among individuals moving to Houston, from those wanting family-friendly neighborhoods, to senior-living communities, to in-town bungalows, to high-rise living, to master-planned communities,” Incorvia said. “Many people are also looking at the ‘walk score’ for properties, which are the neighborhood amenities within walking distance, such as being able to walk to the local restaurant for dinner.”

There are so many desirable places to live in and around Houston – from The Woodlands to Sugar Land, from the Bay Area to Lake Conroe, from Cy-Fair to Pearland and from the urban inside the Loop, to the suburbs with great schools and activities built around the family.

Each of these communities has its own lifestyle, whether it is a golf course community or a community built on the water.

The greater Houston area is an anomaly in the U.S. – not limited by location or prices. The lifestyles and choices in homes in Houston are so diverse it makes this a great place to be able to accommodate everyone’s style. People are looking all over Houston, according to Incorvia.

Houston also is a great location for those wanting a variety of scenery, resorts, and vacation options close to home, the beach being an hour away, and the Hill County is only a few hours away.

Transportation is another plus, with two convenient airports, plus Metro and Amtrak rail service.


Original Source: Michelle Sandlin for the

Moore Design Group Partners with Prominent Houston Developer on Three Multifamily Projects of Unprecedented Scope

Posted on: April 9th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Notable interior design firm, Moore Design Group, is embarking on an impressive enterprise with Martin Fein Interests, Ltd., one of Houston’s premier multifamily development firms. In an unprecedented effort, three projects will be built simultaneously on 10-acres of prime real estate inside the 610 Loop, merging three types of high-end multifamily products on a single high-density urban site. Vertical construction at the West Alabama and Las Palmas site began last month and is scheduled to be available for occupancy in fall of 2014.

An industry leader in designing multifamily communities, Moore Design Group will create distinct designs for each of the projects, which have different price points and target residents. The projects will all have a Mediterranean and European design style and will overlook the one-acre Willowick Park in the center of the development.

“Stephanie’s inspired creativity makes her a vital member of our design and planning team,” Martin Fein, President of Martin Fein Interests, said. “She manages quite remarkably to surpass herself on each new project’s design. It is always a pleasure to work with her and her team.”

Olympia at Willowick Park will be a189-unit structure situated over a two-story garage and will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans averaging 1,463 square feet. The amenity-rich property evokes a sense of community among residents who appreciate classic modern form and understated, refined beauty. Olympia’s dynamic amenities include a concierge lobby; two executive boardrooms; a comfortable and elegant premium business center; a full catering kitchen; a spa with two treatment rooms and a full-service salon and Beauty Bar. To top it off, an 8th floor wine bar with a relaxed interior lounge, fireplace and rooftop terrace boasts panoramic city views so residents will never lack for cultural experience.

Appealing to what Fein calls “trend setters,” Aria at Willowick Park consists of 325 units averaging 862 square feet over a two-level structured parking garage. Moore Design Group will create the designs for more than 8,000 square feet of amenity space, including a clubroom with a latte lounge, a library, a sport and game lounge and an executive boardroom. A concierge lobby will offer gracious lounge seating and a focal water feature wall. The project also features a spa and fitness studio with pilates, yoga and spin class accommodations.

The Townhomes at Willowick Park is a 38-unit rental townhome development with three-bedroom floor plans averaging 2,350 square feet and offers a unique product. “There is no comparison inside the Loop for Class-A, professionally managed rental townhomes,” Jason Schlanger, Vice President of Development for Martin Fein, said.

Although located among inner-loop developments that are heavily trafficked and have an urban feel, the Willowick projects have a quiet residential character. “We are resetting the residents’ minds as soon as they enter the space,” Stephanie Moore Hager, owner and principle of Moore Design Group said. “We have created the initial event where the resident feels relief and a ‘sense of arrival’ upon entering Willowick.”

In the middle of Houston’s thriving multifamily market, Moore Design Group creates imaginative designs with the sophisticated stylishness expected in a high-end residential property. With more than 20 years of experience in multifamily design, the team’s ability to create aesthetic designs with an elegant balance of energy, drama and comfort contribute to the success of properties like Willowick.

New Museum District apartment complex promises to be condo worthy, touts special dog perks

Posted on: April 4th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments


Construction has officially commenced at 1301 Richmond Ave. on The Muse Museum District, a 270-unit “luxury multifamily community” from Dallas-based developers Behringer Harvard and Trammell Crow Residential.

The developers were required to raze the Andover Richmond Apartments, a large and surprisingly well-updated apartment complex built in the 1960s, to make way for the new development — one that, we must argue, isn’t really part of the Museum District proper.

Four-stories of “condominium-quality” apartments will be built over two levels of parking. Residents should expect units with “eight-foot doors, ceiling heights of more than nine feet, and full-size washers and dryers,” plus top-of-the-line kitchens and “oversize Roman tubs.”

Common area amenities include a cyber cafe, a business center, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a luxury swimming pool and a dog-amenity station.

Original Source: Whitney Radley for Houston CultureMap

Why recent college grads should make Houston their home

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

With graduation season approaching, college students are determining where in the country is the best place for them to live in, taking into consideration job availability, average earning income and cost of living. According to a report from business magazine Forbes, it doesn’t get much better than Houston.

Based on economic and cost of living data from a variety of sources – such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and – Forbes deemed Houston to be among the best cities new college grads to move to or stay in if they’re already in the area. That’s because the mean annual income for Houstonians fresh out of college is about $47,500, which is near to what the national median is for income-earners in the U.S. of all ages.

In addition, it’s relatively inexpensive to rent a unit if that’s what college students prefer, with the median price at $800 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Houston also boasts one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates at 6 percent, almost two full percentage points lower than the national average.

While recent college grads may not have the financial resources to purchase a Houston home right away, they have a better chance of affording one there than in other parts of the country. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University found that based on housing affordability data, Texas has routinely been a part of the country where cost of living is more reasonably priced than the U.S. average.

 Original Source:

High-rise apartments aimed at the young and the urban

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Developers have started work in the southern end of downtown on a high-rise apartment building designed to attract single renters in their 20s and 30s seeking an urban living experience.

The 24-story project, one of several like it around the country, will be called SkyHouse Houston. It will include 336 apartments, most of which will be one-bedrooms and studios. The average unit is expected to have about 800 square feet and rent for around $1,600 per month.

The $67 million development was announced late last year when the group behind the SkyHouse brand said it needed public assistance to build the project. The city awarded the group a tax abatement of $15,000 per unit as part of a program to drive residential development in the city center.

The development team, including Denver-based Simpson Housing, Atlanta-based Novare Group, Atlanta-basedBaston-Cook Development Co. and Peter W. Dienna of Houston, said Monday it had received financing and that it closed on the land where work on the tower has started.

SkyHouse is being built on a full city block bounded by Main, Bell, Leeland and Fannin. The address is 1625 Main.

The companies said the project is expected to create 500 construction jobs and bring more than 400 residents to downtown.

There are other SkyHouse buildings in Atlanta, Orlando and Austin.

JPMorgan Chase is providing construction financing, and Simpson Housing, NGI Investments and Baston-Cook Development Co. are providing the equity.

Robert LaChapelleJonathan Rice and Paul Berry with CBRE arranged financing. David Cook and Jeff Peden of Cushman & Wakefield brokered the land transaction.

Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates designed the building, which will have a club room, fitness center, pool and grilling area on the top floor.

 original source:

On the move: Houston economy, real estate market create hot spot for relocation

Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Houston is HOT, and relocation to the Houston area is even hotter!

The eyes of the world seem to be on the Bayou City as the Houston area continues to prosper, and enjoy a steady influx of new residents. Even during the height of the recession, Houston remained a top destination for relocation.

Houston was the last city to enter the recession, and the first city to come out of the recession.

While other parts of the country suffered severely declining housing markets, Houston’s housing market remained relatively stable.

It is impossible to escape all of the good press that the Houston area has been receiving. It has taken the top spots on some impressive lists, including being ranked Number 1 by Forbes magazine as America’s Coolest City to Live In.

The economic growth of the Houston area doesn’t seem to be losing any steam either.

In fact, Houston was ranked Number 2 on Forbes list of Fastest Growing American Cities. Texas was named 2012′s top state by Business Facilities magazine for having “the most dynamic economy of any state in the nation.”

Houston was also ranked Number 6 for the second consecutive year on the Penske Truck Rental list of Top Moving Destinations based on one-way rentals within the U.S. Houston was also listed Number 6 on the United Van Lines most popular city for U.S. families to move to between May 1 and August 31.

So what is putting Houston at the top of the list for relocation? It’s the thriving economy, which is fueled by the oil and gas industries. Houston enjoys a robust housing market and low unemployment rates.

One of the key factors that protected Houston from the recession was the absence of a housing bubble.

Since Houston didn’t experience over-inflated real estate prices, it didn’t experience the boom and bust cycle that was prevalent in other areas of the country.

The comparatively affordable housing market, combined with improved job availability and business opportunities, a lower cost of living and a warmer climate keep attracting new residents to the Houston area.

It’s no wonder then that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is telling Californians to pack up and move to Texas.

He is running 30-second radio spots in California media markets about why has been named the best state for doing business for eight consecutive years. In the radio ads he states, “Our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas.”

When the governor of Texas is targeting people in other states and encouraging them to relocate to Houston that has to say something.

All of the people relocating to Houston will need to a place to live, so the impact on real estate in the Houston area is significant. Currently, the Houston real estate market is experiencing severely low inventory levels coupled with high demand for properties.

This is true with properties available for sale as well as properties available for lease. This demand is expected to remain high as more people continue to relocate to the Houston area.


Original Source: Michelle Sandlin for the Houston Chronicle.

Echo Boomer heaven? New upscale Midtown apartments court young professionals with perks

Posted on: March 19th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

In the bustling area that is Midtown Houston, it seems like there’s always something happening. One of those current somethings is Pearl Midtown, an upscale 154-unit apartment development going up on the 1.14-acre block bounded by Elgin, Smith, Louisiana and Rosalie.

This is the 12th inner-Loop property from the Morgan Group, a national, Houston-based real estate development, construction and management company, since 1990, and the second of recent “Pearl” projects: Pearl Greenway, slated for completion this month, offers a variety of floor plansand interior finishes that cater to sophisticated, pet-owning urban dwellers.

The one- and two-bedroom units of the five-story Pearl Midtown, on the other hand, are meant to appeal to “Echo Boomers and professionals.” Designed byWallace Garcia Wilson, other offerings include “a Zen like-style swimming pool with grilling stations, state-of-the-art fitness center and Internet lounge.”

Though the development won’t offer any ground-floor retail of its own, it is within walking distance to the Mix at Midtown, METRORail’s Main Street Line and more Vietnamese restaurants than you can shake a stick at.

The Morgan Group broke ground on the property in late 2012 and expects to welcome the first residents in January of 2014.

 Original Source: Whitney Radley for CultureMap Houston

Flash sale craze alters Houston housing market:City among tops in nation in new trend

Posted on: March 19th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

See a “For Sale” sign in front of the house of your dreams? You’d better act fast — a new report says that Houston has one of the fastest housing markets in the United States.

The data comes from Seattle-based real estate firm Redfin, which hascoined the term ”Real Estate Flash Sales” for homes that go under contact within only hours of listing. Houston ranks No. 3 on the nationwide list, counting 188 flash sales within the past five months.

Dallas and Austin weren’t far behind, at Nos. 4 and 5 in the ranking, with 184 and 163 flash sales during the five-month time period.

Houston ranks No. 3 on the nationwide list, counting 188 flash sales within the past five months.

What’s more, although that half-a-million-dollar teardown in the Heights may seem a bit steep, another study has found Houston’s housing prices to be remarkably affordable.

ZipRealty, an online real estate broker, compared median home sale prices to median household income to determine that Texas metro areas are the best places to find a real estate bargain. Dallas-Fort Worth ranks No. 1 on its list of the Most Affordable Housing Markets of 2013, followed by Houston at No. 2 and Austin at No. 7.

In DFW, where the median household income is $47,418 and the median home price is $249,950, the ratio is 5.27; in Houston, it’s 5.43 (considering a $44,761 median income and a $243,000 median home price). Austin’s median household income is $48,950, and a median home price is $300,000, yielding a 6.13 ratio.

Original Source: Whitney Radley for CultureMap Houston


My Perfect Hous(e)ton: The Heights

Posted on: March 12th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Few Houston neighborhoods have as unique a story as Houston Heights, most commonly known as simply “The Heights.” Located just four miles from downtown, The Heights manages to maintain an almost small-town charm with its tree-lined streets and local shops and restaurants.


In the late 1800s, millionaire entrepreneur Oscar Martin Carter envisioned the community as a middle class suburb from which workers could easily commute to nearby downtown. At an elevation 23 feet higher than downtown, the aptly named Houston Heights provided lush vegetation, natural water sources, and reprieve from the flooding and yellow fever that afflicted the bustling city at the time. The Omaha and South Texas Land Company purchased the land and invested over a half million dollars into developing The Heights’ infrastructure, including utilities, roads, electric streetcars, schools, and parks. The iconic, 60-foot-wide Heights Boulevard esplanade was established as the signature grand avenue of the community and is still maintained today by the Houston Heights Association. Originally comprised largely of Victorian cottages, today the tree-canopied streets of The Heights are peppered with an array of bungalows, mansions, restored homes, and new-construction homes that reflect the transformation of the area over the past century.


The Heights is part of the Houston Independent School District, and also includes a number of private education institutions. HISD elementary schools include Crockett, Field, Harvard, Helms, Love, and Sinclair; middle schools include Hamilton and Hogg. Reagan High School is the only HISD high school to service Heights residents. The area also is home to two state charter schools: Houston Heights Learning Academy (a TEA Exemplary School), and Houston Heights High School, which offers the ability to earn college credit through Houston Community College.


The Heights offers some of the best and most varied dining in the city. Here, eateries reflect the area’s tendency to favor locally-owned, locally-supplied food fare and one-of-a-kind dining experiences. Jus’ Mac on Yale Street is jus’ that: an entire menu of that creamy comfort classic, macaroni and cheese. On a hot sunny day, locals flock to the Mam’s House of Ice truck for snowballs in not-your-mamma’s-flavors like king cake, pomegranate, dulce de leche, and – seriously – dill pickle. The area is also home to the Creek restaurants: Cedar Creek, Dry Creek, and Onion Creek, each offering different menus in their famously laid-back establishments. After a night out at one of the casual Heights watering holes, there’s nothing like a pick-me-up breakfast taco from Chiloso’s or a plate of diner classics at Lola. From Antidote Coffee to Zelko Bistro and everything in between, Houstonians know they can count on Heights-area restaurants to pack a unique punch.


In 1973, the Houston Heights Association was established by local residents and business owners to strengthen the community charm of The Heights by preserving its history and improving its outdoor spaces. With its plentiful trees, green spaces, and small-town charm, it should come as no surprise that The Heights is an area that encourages outdoor activity. Donovan Park, The Heights Boulevard Park, Proctor Plaza, Milroy Park, and Love Park are family-friendly recreation destinations. You can find bike trails, tennis and basketball courts, sports fields and playgrounds throughout the area. Local outdoor festivals, like Lights in The Heights during the holiday season or White Linen Night in The Heights in the summer, see hoards of Houstonians flock to the area to enjoy its local flavor. With its community-minded businesses and local flair, The Heights is truly one of Houston’s most unique neighborhoods.


Original Source: The Houston Chronicle

Top 5 Predictions for Houston Real Estate in 2013

Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by habitationleasing No Comments

Houston’s real estate markets – both commercial and residential – have just finished an exceptionally strong year and conditions remain positive as we sail into 2013. The inventory of homes for sale is at a 12-year low and local home builders say there’s a shortage of lots to build on.

No matter who’s doing the leasing, rental rates are way up — in office towers, in apartments, warehouses and even for people who are leasing single-family homes.

Construction cranes are everywhere as new apartment towers and office buildings are erected in the most desirable parts of town. And what makes this construction boom different is that it all seems to be justified. Unlike years past, today’s developers aren’t just building new projects to get a tax write-off or to churn activity at a friendly S&L. What’s being built, is being leased. These are real deals, backed with solid fundamentals.

What makes this construction boom different is that it all seems to be justified. What’s being built, is being leased. These are real deals, backed with solid fundamentals.
Job growth is huge with corporations like Exxon Mobil and Chevron moving tons of people to Houston. Trulia, a major national real estate listing company, just ranked Houston as the healthiest realty market in the country. Investors from around the world are focused on the city, which has forever solidified its nickname of Energy Capital of the World.

Can the good times last forever? No. Nothing does. But how long can the good times roll? One year? As we roll into 2013, here are the top five predictions for real estate in the year ahead.

1. Houston home prices will rise as much as 5 percent in 2013

That’s according to the long-time guru of local home price stats, Evert Crawford of the University of Houston’s Institute for Regional Forecasting. Houston has a tiny four-month supply of homes for sale, the lowest since December 2000, the Houston Association of Realtors says.

It’s basic economics: supply is low and demand is high. Fasten your seat belt, home prices are taking off.

2. Food is foremost

In shopping center realty, grocery stores will dominate local retail construction in 2013, according to retail center developer Ed Wulfe. Aldi, a discount grocer with smaller stores and shelves full of Aldi-branded products, is entering the Houston market with 15 stores, Wulfe & Co. reports.

Other grocery outlets being built in Houston in 2013: two new HEB stores, two Kroger’s, one Whole Foods, one Trader Joe’s, four Fresh Markets and four Sprouts. For hoarder-types and big families, there’s more good news – two new Costcos and two Sam’s Club will be opening in 2013.

3. Mortgage rates will rise, but not much

At year-end, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged a low 3.35 percent, according to Freddie Mac. Mortgage interest rates are forecast to gradually rise and to average 4.0 percent in 2013, and 4.6 percent in 2014, the National Association of Realtors predicts.

Mortgage rates were at record lows in 2012. The 2012 annual average of 3.66 percent was the lowest annual average in at least 65 years, Freddie Mac reports. By comparison, the annual average mortgage rate was 4.45 percent in 2011 and —when inflation was at its worst — the average was 16.63 percent in 1981.

4. Apartments surge

The National Association of Realtors is forecasting a 4.6 percent gain in the nation’s rental rates in 2013 and Houston apartment renters should expect to face even higher rent increases. Construction is robust in the Inner Loop.

The multifamily market is being lifted partly by a fundamental change in the consumer mindset – the recent housing crash showed that home buying is not always a winning investment, says Mark Obrinsky, chief economist of the National Multi Housing Council. But it’s job growth that’s really fueling the apartment market and Houston is leading the nation in job creation.

5. Empty office space will get harder to find

Rental rates are going to go up “fairly dramatically” in 2013, having already surpassed $30 per square foot in the better buildings, according to Stream Realty. Vacancy rates are below 5 percent (all-time lows) in prime buildings in some of the hot areas like the Energy Corridor, Westchase and The Woodlands, Stream reports.

Office leasing expert Sanford Criner of the CBRE realty firm puts it this way: “Where will we be at the end of 2013? We will be the envy of virtually every city in the country and most of the rest of the world.

Original Source: Ralph Bivens for Culture Map Houston

Downtown’s $324 Million Hotel

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

These renderings show the proposed 30-story convention center hotel proposed for a site just north of Discovery Green.

The new project, for which the city approved $138 million worth of incentives last week, will be developed by Houston-based Rida Development Corp. and designed by Morris Architects.

It is slated to be a Marriott Marquis and include more than 1,000 rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space.

via Houston Chronicle

Houston Housing Inventory Dips as Sales Soar

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

The supply of homes for sale in the Houston area has dropped to its lowest level in 12 years, the Houston Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

Sales of single-family homes shot up 27.3 percent in November, compared with the same month in 2011, the realty group said in its monthly market report.

Home sales have been rising for 18 straight months, as pent up demand, low interest rates and a growing population continue to fuel home buying activity.

Buyers closed on 4,978 homes in November, reducing inventory to 4.1 months. Supply has not been that low since December 2000.

“Homes are selling at an unusually hefty pace for this time of year, and that has left fewer properties on the market and driven up prices,” Wayne Stroman, the association’s chairman, said in a statement.

The single-family median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less — rose 8.1 percent to $167,000.

Houston ranked the No. 1 economy in America: City beats back the recession

Posted on: December 3rd, 2012 by alex No Comments

Those looking for good news in Brookings’ Global MetroMonitor, an annual report on the economic state of 300 cities worldwide, will find it — as long as they live in China.

With virtually every city in Europe still mired in a worsening recession and much of the United States still in a weak recovery mode, mainland China featured 34 of the top-performing metropolitan areas in 2011-2012, dominating the top quintile. Overall three-fourths of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in developing Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

“Houston is the highest-ranked American city, in 40th place globally.”

However Houston was a rare bright spot in the American economic landscape. While only Dallas, Knoxville and Pittsburgh were declared to be “fully recovered,” from the recent major recession, Houston is the highest-ranked American city, in 40th place globally, based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and employment change.

Louisville, Salt Lake City and San Jose also ranked highly enough to be among the top 20 percent, but their three economies combined are still less than Houston’s $400 billion GDP.

The good news for the United States is that while only a trio of cities were categorized as fully recovered, most cities in America are partially recovered, not still in a partial recession. So it is getting better — and Houston is leading the way.

The 10 hottest happy hour deals in Houston: Making drinking and eating cheap an art form

Posted on: November 29th, 2012 by alex No Comments

Good happy hours with deals on both drinks and food are hard to find, but we’ve got 10 hot new picks for you. Get your drink and food on with these specials.

Happy hour at Kiran’s Restaurant & Bar near Highland Village runs Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. Small plates such as calamari and kebabs are $6 each.

Select beer goes for $3, select glasses of wine and cocktails like the Fresh Pineapple Martini are $6. With cooler temps here, grab a table on the veranda.

Eighteenth Bar
The fare on the happy hour menu at Eighteenth Bar near West University is ample enough that you won’t need dinner. Available Monday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. at this sexy speakeasy: chimichurri chicken panini and brie grilled cheese sandwiches for five bucks each, well drinks for $4, house wines and craft beers for $5 and domestic beers for $3.

From classics to creative, all cocktails are $7.

The Blue Fish
Both locations of The Blue Fish, Bayou Place downtown and Washington Avenue, offer discounted prices during happy hour. The deals are good at Bayou Place weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and at Washington Avenue every day from 5 to 7 p.m.

The menu is fairly large and with prices ranging from $2 to $5; you can eat, drink and be merry for cheap. At the $2 price point: vegetable tempura, crispy spring roll, Kirin Ichiban draft beer and house sake. For only a dollar more, order a spicy salmon roll, crab potstickers or house wines. For $5, order the spicy salmon tartar on crispy rice or braised short ribs.

Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays at the swank Katsuya at West Ave and also from 11:30 a.m. until close on Sundays. Grab a seat in the lounge and catch the Houston Texans game (many of the players actually like to hang out here during the week) on one of the flat screen televisions.

Featured bites include pork-belly sliders, spicy tuna rolls and honey chipotle shrimp for $9 and under. Save on libations, too, with $7 specialty cocktails and premium spirits, $5 select beers and $6 select wines.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
Stop by one of Fleming’s three locations — Town & Country, The Woodlands and River Oaks — and check out the “5 For $6 ‘Til 7″ happy hour menu which includes five cocktails, five wines by the glass and five appetizers.

Each selection is priced at $6 and served at the bar from 5 to 7 p.m. Don’t miss out on the $6 prime burger with cheese and bacon.

Kung Fu Saloon
The 357 food happy hour menu at Kung Fu Saloon on Washington Avenue is available Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 6 to 10 p.m. On the $3 menu: Steak fries and onion rings. For $5: Lettuce wraps, cheese sticks and Asian Chicken Salad. For $7: Specialty sandwiches like the Chicken Teriyaki, Club and the Philly.

Happy hour drink specials — $4 wells, $3 domestics, $2 off everything else — are available Monday through Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. and all day Sunday.

The newly opened Cuchara in Montrose has introduced a happy hour menu that offers charalitos (deep fried lake fish), chicharrones (crunchy pork rinds) and Mousse de aguacate (avocado mousse) for $5 apiece. Wines by the glass are $5.

The happy hour food selection changes every few weeks. Happy hour runs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the bar from 5 to 7 p.m.

Harvest Organic Grille
Located near Tanglewood, Harvest Organic Grille features drink and food specials Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. During that timeframe you can get an order of baked wings for $8.99, chicken tacos for $9.99 or ceviche for $10.99. There’s also a 1-2-3 drink deal with $1 off select beer, $2 off organic wines by the glass and $3 off handcrafted cocktails.

Frank’s Houston
Frank’s Chop House near River Oaks has changed management and names. Now officially Frank’s Americana (signage will change in early November), with the new moniker comes a new happy hour deal. Try the short rib sliders for $8, angus mini-burgers for $7 or crispy okra for $5. Beer is $3, house wines by the glass are $6 and cocktails are $5 to $7. Happy hour is weekdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse
Hit the bar at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in the Galleria Thursdays and Sundays (only) from 4:30 to 11 p.m  where for $7 you can enjoy the house-made blue cheese chips, ahi tuna tacos, select flatbreads, filet mignon tips and more. Signature drinks such as the Knockout Martini made with Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian gold pineapples and the CEO Martini with Finlandia vodka with blue cheese stuffed olives are also included on the $7 menu — along with glasses of wine.

Let us know . . . what are some of your favorite happy spots?

New Heights restaurant with foodie cred to feature fried chicken, donuts & a drive-thru

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by alex No Comments

According to Google, the most popular (or at least most interesting) foods to pair with fried chicken are waffles, sushi (um, what?) and champagne. But don’t tell that to Lee Ellis, one of the owners ofLiberty KitchenBRC Gastropub and Petite Sweets.

“There’s just nothing like having fried chicken and donuts,” Ellis says. That pairing is at the center of Ellis and partner Lance Fegen’s next concept, dubbed Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts.

 ”Chef Lenig brines his version for three days, giving it an incredible amount of moisture and flavor.”

There’s no opening date yet, but Lee’s will be located in the small structure behind Liberty on 11th Street, and replaces the original plan for that space, a coffeehouse called Joe Black’s. Ellis says the idea for the concept came from how popular the Dixie Fried Chicken special is at Liberty on Wednesdays.

Ellis says chef Travis Lenig brines his version for three days, giving it an incredible amount of moisture and flavor.

Lee’s will offer a drive-thru and limited seating (including a planned deck surrounding a large shade tree on the property), serving buckets of fried chicken, over a dozen biscuit sandwiches, sides like creamed corn, hush puppies and slaw and boxes of biscuits, although the recipe will be different from the biscuits served at BRC.

And, of course, donuts.

The Original Greek Festival Houston, Texas: October 4 – 7, 2012

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

Come and join The Original Greek Festival, now in its 46th year, and be Greek for a day! Growing attendance over the years continues to create excitement as the word gets around, so bring your family, friends and co-workers to enjoy the festive atmosphere and our new expanded festival site. Facilities, children’s activities, Athenian playground & seating capacity have also been expanded. OPA!!

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – October 4 – 7, 2012.
Festival Hours and Food & Dance Program Times

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral complex
Near downtown and the Museum District
3511 Yoakum Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77006
Maps and Directions

Free Parking & Free shuttle
Free shuttle from Lamar High School
West “Student” parking lot, 3325 Westheimer
(between Westheimer & West Alabama, and between Buffalo Speedway & Kirby).
Free parking is available for shuttle passengers.
A new “no parking” zone street map has been added to this page
Shuttle Times and Parking Information

“Best Festival Food” honors for the authentic Greek food and pastries prepared by community parishioners from recipes handed down over the centuries.
Menu and prices

View the 2011 Festival program here.

Admission at Gate

$5.00 (adults). Children 12 and under admitted free

Pre-sale Tickets
$20.00 – Includes admission and dinner plate with your choice of Souvlaki, Greek Salad,
or Pastry Box (note: Does not include Gyros).
Order Tickets

• Cathedral Tours
• Religious Artifacts/Icons
• Greek Folk Dancing
• Authentic Greek Foods/Pastries
• Gift Shop
• T-shirts, Videos, CD’s, Tapes
• Agora Greek Food Store
• Annunciation Orthodox School Exhibit
• Athenian Playground (Children’s Activities)
Entertainment Schedules


Don’t miss the photo gallery from the Original Greek Festival. Are you in there?
Photo Gallery


In 1917, a handful of Greek immigrants formed what is today one of the largest Greek Orthodox communities in the United States. The vision, foresight and dedication of those few faithful immigrants laid the groundwork for what exists today.

From its original location in downtown Houston (what is now Tranquility Park) to the sprawling grounds that border Yoakum Boulevard, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral has become a major force in the religious and social communities that comprise Houston today.

Proceeds from the Greek Festival have helped many people through donations to various charitable organizations, such as Children’s Assessment Center, S.E.A.R.C.H., Houston Area Women’s Center, Covenant House, Texas Emergency Aid Coalition (EAC), and the Star of Hope Mission. A complete list of this year’s donations is available here.

New 21-story Apartment Tower Aims to be a Walkable Inner Loop Mini City with High-Tech Perks

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments
After several years of delays, ground has been broken at Regent Square, a mixed-use, multi-story, mini-city-within-the-city that will occupy 24 acres of inner Loop land. This is just phase one of the construction, which is expected to take place over the next 10 years.

Scott Ziegler, principal at Ziegler Cooper Architects, tells CultureMap to expect a lifestyle arrangement at Sovereign Tower, the 21-story, 290-unit apartment complex that comprises the first phase of the project.

It’s all about the pedestrian, a solution to suburban sprawl.

“We’re trying to give up the car as much as we can in Houston,” Ziegler says.

In order to make that happen, his firm has, in conjunction with the GID Development Group, developed an urban district with everything a resident needs — restaurants, retail, office space and entertainment — in one space.

It’s all about the pedestrian, a solution to suburban sprawl.

And it doesn’t hurt that Regent Square is situated just steps from the Buffalo Bayou trail system, and only a couple of blocks from the Whole Foods Market that went up while the project was on hold.

Zielger expects to attract young professionals to the Sovereign Tower when it opens in March 2014. “This demographic wants an urban lifestyle without yard maintenance . . . at a lower cost of living than owning a home,” he says.

Future residents of the LEED-certified tower will have first-class finishes and great downtown views, plus four-star amenities and a focus on green living.

The eighth floor amenity level will have an outdoor pool area and herb garden plots available for those residents who want to spend a few extra bucks each month to get their hands dirty. Inside is everything else: A fitness and yoga studio, a library, WiFi lounge and movie screening room.

The garage, which will be surrounded by seven levels units that relate to the street level, will have a charging station for electric cars. Ziegler hopes that there will be a bicycle shop there, too.

The eighth floor of the Sovereign Tower will hold all of the amenities. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

The eighth floor of the Sovereign Tower will hold all of the amenities. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

The residential tower is just the first phase of an anticipated 10-year construction timeline for Regent Square. GID Development.

The residential tower is just the first phase of an anticipated 10-year construction timeline for Regent Square. GID Development.

The tower will stand 21 stories, but the lower floors will interact with the street level. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

The tower will stand 21 stories, but the lower floors will interact with the street level. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

Developers are hoping to draw a nice mix of restaurants, retail, office and entertainment tenants. GID Development.

Developers are hoping to draw a nice mix of restaurants, retail, office and entertainment tenants. GID Development.

The pool at the Sovereign. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

The pool at the Sovereign. Courtesy of Ziegler Cooper.

Originally published 09.01.12, 2:14 pm


Renters Get Rolling: Paint Makeovers Complete!

Posted on: August 30th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments


Name: Eliza
Challenge: Trouble Deciding on a Color
Color: Glidden Paint Sea Spray
Eliza wanted to keep her apartment sophisticated, and wanted to add color without adding a sense of clutter. She chose an airy, nuanced blue and painted two walls in her living room.

Watch Eliza’s Before & After video here
Name: Lisa
Challenge: Make her rental feel like home
Color: Glidden Paint Very Berry
The walls in Lisa’s home were white, but she loves vibrant colors! It was time to bring her home in line with her personality. Lisa chose a vivid raspberry color for her small foyer, creating a dramatic entrance that makes her happy every day!
Watch Lisa’s Before & After video here
Name: Cassandra
Challenge: Replacing someone else’s color choice
Color: Glidden Paint Dolphin Grey
Cassandra’s bedroom had been newly painted a dusty yellow when she moved in a few years ago, and as time went on it got harder and harder to live with a color she didn’t like. Opting for a cool grey to replace the yellow, Cassandra now has a serenely crisp bedroom that she truly loves.

Watch Cassandra’s Before & After video here
(Images: Glidden)

How To Clean & Organize a Refrigerator

Posted on: August 30th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

Before I took on this assignment, I really didn’t think that my fridge was that dirty. Well, let’s just say that I was wrong. In case you too have fallen victim to that somewhat subtle accumulation of of grit and grime, follow along for my step-to-step guide to getting rid of the mess.

Here’s a before photo just so you can grasp the full extent of this transformation. Also, to get this off my chest, I recently returned from a mini-vacation to Wisconsin that involved several brewery visits, so please ignore the disproportionate food-to-beer ratio. The name of the beer below pretty accurately sums up how I feel about revealing the contents of my fridge to you at this point:

Now, with all the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to cleaning….

What You Need

A sponge
Dish soap
Dish towels
Glass cleaner and a paper towel or two
Plenty of counter space for organizing food
A trash can
An old toothbrush (optional)
If you have a stainless steel refrigerator:
Stainless steel cleaner, vinegar, or oil and a soft cloth
If you have an enameled steel refrigerator:
A multipurpose cleaner


1 (optional) Unplug the fridge. If the interior needs serious scouring, you can do this to save some energy while you’re cleaning. I left mine plugged in because all the shelves were removable, the rest of the interior wasn’t that dirty, and I closed the doors in between steps. If you do decide to unplug your fridge, though, rest assured that this whole process won’t take long enough to harm any of your foods.

2 Take everything out of the doors and start using up that free counter space I mentioned. You could take everything out at once, but I found it was easier to do this in stages.

3 Get rid of expired products and consolidate doubles. I really didn’t need two jars of sambal oelek or that quarter bottle of cooking wine that had been in the fridge for two months. This is also a good time to group like with like. I had several beers hiding out in the door, and the rest were on the other shelves, so this was when I put them all together on the counter.

4 Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the rest of the fridge. Then repeat them with the freezer.

5 Remove all shelves and drawers.

6 Wash them with warm soapy water. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place with a large double sink and a retractable hose, but if you aren’t so lucky, then there’s no shame in dragging those bins and shelves to the bathtub. Even in my giant sink the produce drawers got pretty unwieldy.

Dry them with dish towels and set them aside. At this point, I also chose to use some Windex on the glass shelves to get them extra clean and streak-free.

7 Wipe down all the fridge’s interior spaces with a damp sponge or towel. For those of you looking for a really deep clean, if there are any shelf seams or rubber seals with buried bits of grime, an old toothbrush will get the job done. Put the shelves and drawers back in and admire the transformation.

8 Replace all your food, wiping down any sticky jars before putting them in your newly clean fridge. I found it helpful to keep all my items grouped by use, which is a task I completed as part of step 3. If you need help organizing the fridge, check outthese helpful tips. Stick in a new box of baking soda, and if you unplugged the fridge in step one, don’t forget to plug it back in.

9 You’re almost done! Now that you’ve cleaned the inside, be sure not to neglect the exterior of the fridge. If you use magnets, tidy up the items they’re holding and discard any outdated coupons, etc. Then give the exterior a quick wipe down with your product of choice. If you have a stainless steel fridge, use a stainless steel cleaner and wipe with the grain of the steel. Alternatively, you could use vinegar and a microfiber cloth or olive oil. For enameled steel fridges, a multipurpose cleaner will do the trick.

10 Admire your clean, happy fridge.

(Images: Carolyn Purnell)


Downsizing Design: Tips for Moving to a Smart Stylish Smaller Kitchen

Posted on: August 30th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

Sometimes you have to downsize, for one reason or another, to a kitchen with less storage and space. Once in your newer, smaller kitchen you realize that you shouldn’t look at another Williams-Sonoma catalog and get sucked in by all of the pretty seasonal gadgets, because you can cook just about anything with a basic set of tools.

Kitchens come in sizes big and small and often, kitchen size doesn’t always correlate with how large or small the rest of the house is. Here are some of the most important elements that every kitchen needs to keep organized and functional.

Choose a few key appliances: Sometimes sacrifices need to be made, and being selective about your small electric appliances is a necessity. Think about those that you use most often and those that are the biggest time savers, and prioritize them. For me it is the espresso machine. food processor, and hand mixer that made the cut, although sometimes I regret giving up a toaster.

Edit your glassware and dishes: 
The more mismatched your dishes and glassware are, the more space that they will take up. Matching dishes and glassware have more stacking ability, which will maximize your storage. A basic set of white dishes might sound dull, but they can be dressed up for parties with the right tabletop decor and gorgeous food, which should always be the highlight of a table.

Invest in a few space-saving pieces: Modern technology has enabled companies like Joseph Joseph to design clever, multi-tasking kitchenware that is made for those with limited space, like this folding box grater. Nesting bowls are a must when downsizing on space, and several companies make them in various materials from stainless steel to melamine.

Add some wall hung storage: When all of the editing is complete and you are still short on storage space, take a look around your kitchen. If you have any open walls you can take advantage of the open shelving trend and add some stylish storage. Even if your open wall is very small, IKEA makes some great wall brackets for hanging kitchen utensils, which will clear up space in your kitchen drawers.

(Images: 1. Charley and Jessica’s ‘Patina Clean’, 2. Kitchenaid, 3. CB2, 4. Joseph Joseph, 5. Better Homes and Gardens)


Stores or Restaurants To Take Place of Ben Milam Hotel Shops, Bells & Whistles

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

A GROUND-FLOOR plan of the Ballpark Apartments developer Marvy Finger is set to build on 2 downtown blocks beyond Minute Maid Park’s leftfield fence shows a couple of retail spacesare planned for the southern end of the 7-story complex. They’ll face Texas Ave. between La Branch and Crawford. The larger space, on the corner of Texas and Crawford, will take the place of what are now vacant retail spaces on the ground floor of the (long-vacant) Ben Milam Hotel. (It’s at the far bottom left of the Crawford St. rendering above.) A smaller space will take up the ground floor of land now occupied by the more recently shuttered Bells & Whistles Cafe, at the corner of Texas and La Branch. The plans, leaked to HAIF earlier this week, were prepared by Atlanta architects Niles Bolton Associates.


* * *

Last week, Houston’s city council approved a plan to sell the block of Prairie St. between La Branch and Crawford to Finger; it’ll be used for the 380-unit, dual-courtyard complex’s parking garage.

Rice University Offers a Beer Education Your Own College Probably Didn’t

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments
Photo by Katie Haugland

Photo by Katie Haugland

When you talk about getting educated on beer at college, I am going to assume that you mean learning about the finer points of keg tapping and Natty Light hauling. Because until recently, a real beer education was something that most universities didn’t teach. Wine appreciation classes? Sure. Beer? Forget it.

But beer is in bloom, thanks in large part to the craft beer movement, which is teaching Americans that there’s more to the world of beer than Bud and Miller. Last year at Appalachian State University, the chemistry department added an “intro to beer brewing” course. Closer to home, people like Professor Aaron Corsi — who also happen to be brewmaster at the upcoming 8th Wonder Brewery – are teaching classes on brewing science, viticulture, enology and distillation science at the University of Houston.

And now, Rice University‘s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies is offering a seminar of its very own: “Beer Beyond the Hedges.”

The course will be taught by Bev Blackwood II, a longtime beer writer and brewer who once brewed professionally for Saint Arnold. (In a funny aside, Blackwood’s last Twitter update – from 2009 — is a public unfollowing of the Saint Arnold account for Tweeting too much.) The class will focus on old guard brewery Saint Arnold and new guard Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, both of which are helmed by Rice grads.

Says the full course description:

While the history of consuming beer within the hedges of Rice University may be quite long and storied, Rice has played a significant role in the brewing of beer for the larger community. Through visits to two of Houston’s craft breweries that have Rice connections – Saint Arnold Brewing Company and Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company - and one on-campus lecture and beer tasting, you will learn not only about the brewing process but also about the history of beer, how the various styles are created and how to appreciate what many consider to be the world’s most varied and versatile beverage.

The class starts on September 20 and wraps up on October 4, so you don’t have to commit to a full semester. You do have to commit some cash, though: It costs $109. There are only 61 seats available in the class, so sign up now.


New Website Rewards Houston Commuters with Coupons for Walking, Biking To Work

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

A brisk walk or bicycle ride to work is invigorating; public transit commutes can be stress-free and amusing. For many, it doesn’t take much convincing that getting to work in an alternative way is better for the self and for the environment.

But the deal becomes even sweeter when there’s a tangible incentive to commute alternatively. That’s the motivation behind NuRide, a site that rewards commuters with coupons, gift cards and more for walking or biking to work, taking the bus or rail, ride sharing or even telecommuting.

“Anyone who takes a greener transportation option can sign up,” explained Jackie Lambert, business development coordinator for the Houston Downtown Management District. That organization paired up with NuRide and Macy’s for the program, which launched this week.

It takes only a few moments to create a free NuRide account, and commuters can immediately begin tracking and tallying trips, arranging carpools and ride shares, through the easy-to-use site.

It takes only a few moments to create a free NuRide account, and commuters can immediately begin tracking and tallying trips, arranging carpools and ride shares, through the easy-to-use site.

One way trips count for 100 points, round-trip excursions for 200. Rewards start for as little as 500 points, and something like a ticket to a downtown theater performance can be redeemed for 3,500 points.

For the first three months of the initiative, participants who work in downtown Houston will be entered in a drawing for $250 Macy’s gift certificates and for $200 in Macy’s Money. Lambert told CultureMap that the Downtown Management District is working to garner greater participation from local retailers.

On top of that, the Houston-Galveston Area Council has deemed August “Commute Solutions Month,” and the organization will be posting up at transit centers throughout the area, encouraging single-car commuters to try out alternative transportation — if only just once — and conducting outreach events to thank regular riders.

(Hint: Hang out near the METRO Texas Medical Center Transit Center for breakfast tacos on the morning of Aug. 29, or around Greenway Plaza between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sept. 13 for food, music and information on ride sharing.)

Nicholas Williams, senior air quality/commute solutions planner for the H-GAC, recommends that commuters and employers look to the organization’s Commute Solutions website as a resource for other alternative transit options.

“We want to get people out of their cars,” Williams said.

via Houston CultureMap

Using Heights Blvd.’s 2 1/2 Block ‘Jogging Trail to Nowhere’ for Art Car Displays

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments
Activists would like to turn this recently built 21/2-block jogging path in the middle of Heights Boulevard into an Art Car Museum art park. Photo: Michael Paulsen / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

Activists would like to turn this recently built 21/2-block jogging path in the middle of Heights Boulevard into an Art Car Museum art park. Photo: Michael Paulsen / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

Rebecca Bass eased what used to be a Saturn station wagon up on the median in the middle of Heights Boulevard, careful that none of the bejeweled yogis fell off. The last time she’d driven “Earth, Wind, Fire (and Water),” a police officer at the Free Press Summerfest had hurried her over a curb – ad idea; art cars should never be hurried – and she’d lost one of the bead-covered Styrofoam figures carved by her art class at Davis High.

Furious, she jumped out, retrieved the yogi, and griped a little at the cop. Then she sped away – or, at least, as fast as she dared in a hallucinogenic vision that involves not just yogis that move up and down on robotic arms, but also a fire-spitting eagle, a fog machine and even a computerized water fountain programmed by a Davis robotics crew. “Earth Wind,” to say the least, wasn’t built for speed.

It was built, like all art cars, to be looked at – and like all art cars, it spends too much time hidden away from spectators, languishing in a garage or driveway, unable to flaunt its showy self. So that’s why, on this Friday evening, Bass was easing “Earth, Wind” onto the median in front of the Art Car Museum: to show how terrific a rotating exhibit of art cars on that median could look, to show how, for practically no money, great displays of public art would be possible for the whole city. The grassy middle-of-the-street nowhere could be a landmark. And the city’s best art cars would have a new, high-visibility spot to be seen as they’re meant to be seen: From the road.

Taking it slow, Bass parked “Earth, Wind” on the median; even the freshly reglued yogi stayed firm. And as the evening light glinted off the car-sculpture’s silvery skin, the idea of an art-car park in the median looked very fine indeed.

‘Jogging trail to nowhere’

It’s cruel fun to say the phrase “Ainbinder 380 agreement” in the Heights. People’s faces turn red or deep purple, and their jaws lock tight. Some make involuntary moans; others are struck speechless.

If the phrase means nothing to you – if you don’t automatically recall every gory detail of the controversial agreement between the city and the developer of the Walmart-anchored Washington Heights shopping complex near the Heights – then you’re probably also unaware that a tiny part of the $6 million deal involved the median in front of the Art Car Museum. In exchange for tax incentives, Ainbinder promised to make upgrades to its own property – the Walmart chunk west of Yale, as well as the strip-center bit facing Heights Boulevard – and the public land surrounding it. One of those upgrades was to add a $76,000 landscaped trail to the median on Heights Boulevard, between the Art Car Museum and Ainbinder’s strip-center-in-the-making.

The Stop the Heights Walmart forces argued that the public upgrades weren’t worth the public money, and that the 21/2-block path on the median was a “jogging trail to nowhere,” unconnected to the longer jogging trail north of White Oak Bayou and Interstate 10. And recently, when I walked the path with Jonathan C.C. Day, a Heights lawyer active in the protest, I had to admit that they were right. Even if the landscaping turns out to be marvelous, there’s no obvious reason for anyone to bother crossing the street to walk on that pedestrian path. Two and a half blocks isn’t long enough for a satisfying jog or walk. Funny little loops at either end of the path indicate that you’re supposed to turn around, repeating the path until you’ve tired yourself out. But who in their right mind would do that?

A call for public art

As it stands, the upgraded median makes sense not as a public, pedestrian amenity, but as the entrance to the new Ainbinder strip-center development across the street from the Art Car Museum – a landscape announcement that this brick strip mall is very classy indeed.

Day firmly believes that the city should squeeze more out of the developer, that in return for the tax rebate, the public should receive something highly visible, and of solid public value. Why not an art-car park? Why not make that trail to nowhere into something better and bigger than a strip-mall entrance?

Spurred by Day’s idea, the Art Car Museum and the city’s Public Works Department are now discussing a deal. Day, though, isn’t in on those discussions – presumably because of his insistence that, at this late date, Ainbinder pony up lots more money for the project.

But really, it doesn’t seem that lots more money or the developer’s involvement would be needed – just a tad to cover insurance, and to draft rules making sure that the cars, carlike objects and sculptures aren’t dangerous or obscene. Stuff like that can be worked out; I have high hopes.

Art car displays on the median won’t make the Heights any happier with the Walmart development; they’d be completely unrelated to it. But they would make that median a much better place. As Noah Edmundson, the Art Car Museum’s director, told me recently, “This city needs more public art. That’s all there is to it.” via

Slideshow: Preview of OKRA’s Downtown Charity Bar

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

The OKRA Charity Saloon preview party and fundraiser kicked off at 924 Congress St. on Friday afternoon.

The downtown crowd featured foodies and professional types all participating in what someone informed me was “National Duck Out of Work Day.”

OKRA, which stands for Organized Kooperative on Restaurant Affairs, is the new collective of independent Houston-based bars and restaurants.

It was founded by Anvil’s Bobby Heugel along with business partners Chris Shepherd, Kevin Floyd, Steve Flippo and Mike Burnett.

View the slide show at Houston CultureMap

Downtown’s 32-Story Former Tenneco Building, Now Kinder Morgan Tower, Up For Sale; Could Fetch $400M

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments


It’s been a busy year in the commercial real estate market. The 1 million-square-foot Kinder Morgan building is the latest Houston skyscraper to go up for sale.

The 32-story building at 1001 Louisiana was the former headquarters of El Paso, which was acquired by Kinder Morgan this year. The property is now the new global headquarters for both the Kinder Morgan family of companies and the now-separate EP Energy,

which also leases space in the tower.

An asking price has not been set, but a recent report from Real Estate Alert said the tower could fetch as much as $400 million. The property was recently renovated to LEED Gold standards, according to an announcement from HFF, which is marketing the building with Studley. Kinder Morgan will be occupying its portion of the building under a long-term lease.

The Houston area has seen a spate of of buildings go on the market or sell in recent months for record prices. Click here and here for some high-profile examples.


Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Posted on: April 19th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments

by Mr. Kate
I often get questions from people on how to decorate a rental if you aren’t allowed to paint the walls, etc. You can see a video tour of my DIY-decorated rental apartment here. I recommend you find out exactly what the rules are of your rental agreement before you totally write off painting your walls. Often times the landlord is required to re-paint the walls when you move because of normal ‘wear and tear’. Thus, if you paint the walls in a light enough shade that can still be covered up with their generic white, it shouldn’t be an issue. Know your renter’s rights!

But in lieu of paint or poking holes in the wall to hang pictures, one of my favorite things to use are vinyl wall decals! They are removable and wall-friendly and many of them can be re-stuck, so you can get more that one use out of them. There are tons of styles available from objects like trees and birds to abstract ones like geometric designs, etc. Here are some fun ones I

found online…

Cute Ways to Decorate your Houston Apartment

Posted on: April 6th, 2012 by habitationleasing No Comments


by Mr. Kate

I often get questions from people on how to decorate a rental if you aren’t allowed to paint the walls, etc. You can see a video tour of my DIY-decorated rental apartment here. I recommend you find out exactly what the rules are of your rental agreement before you totally write off painting your walls. Often times the landlord is required to re-paint the walls when you move because of normal ‘wear and tear’.  Thus, if you paint the walls in a light enough shade that can still be covered up with their generic white, it shouldn’t be an issue. Know your renter’s rights!

But in lieu of paint or poking holes in the wall to hang pictures, one of my favorite things to use are vinyl wall decals! They are removable and wall-friendly and many of them can be re-stuck, so you can get more that one use out of them. There are tons of styles available from objects like trees and birds to abstract ones like geometric designs, etc. Here are some fun ones I found online…

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals


Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

People and nature. All from Etsy.

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Renter Friendly Decorating: Wall Decals

Geometric. All from Etsy.


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