Choosing a Home in Houston

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Moving to Houston opens up a world of possibilities in the realm of home ownership.  Here is some information on making your housing selection so that your relocation process can be seamless.

Home Ownership

There’s nothing like owning your own piece of property to help you feel connected to an area and its people. The first consideration is location, location, location. Where do you want to live? What neighborhoods appeal? Do you want a new housing development with the latest amenities, or a settled community with established traditions? What about a yard? Walking or recreational opportunities? Proximity to shops and work? And the big one: schools? Even if you don’t have children, buying in an area with excellent schools will pay off when it comes time to sell.  

Even after the sale goes through, the home needs maintenance and repair and these cost. One rule of thumb is to budget one percent of the sale price for maintenance; another is to set aside one dollar per square foot per year.  Generally, upkeep costs will go up as the age of the home increases. Most new homes have warranties that cover problems for the first few years. And home warranty policies can be purchased for re-sale homes. In addition, make sure you are aware of any deed restrictions or homeowner’s association regulations that might be in effect in your chosen area and any corresponding assessments. Taxes vary by county, school district and Municipal Utility District (MUD). The good news is that mortgage interest and property taxes can be deducted from your federal income tax.

The best place to start is with a professional REALTOR®, who will be able to guide you and your family to the right area and choice.

Pre-owned Homes

Very often, pre-owned homes are situated in established neighborhoods. This allows you to assess the character of the community, talk to a couple of neighbors, get a feel for the street. Watch for great locations on golf courses, near parks, lakes or shops. Is the house in an area zoned to a desirable school? Or is it in a place prone to flooding? Is there a homeowner’s association, deed restrictions or zoning laws? And consider the commute. How far is it to work? How does that cost in time and money compare to the cost of the house? Get the local knowledge from a realtor.

Pre-owned homes are as different in style and character as their previous owners, and often this adds appeal and opportunity. Some homes are ready to move in; some need a little work; others need transformations in order to meet your needs. Before you purchase a pre-owned home, hire a licensed inspector to analyze the house, inside and out, to evaluate its condition. If repairs are needed, be sure to get several estimates for the entire project. 

Even if the house is sound, you may want to do a little or a lot of remodeling. The Greater Houston Builders Association (www.ghba.org) and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) are excellent sources of reputable home improvement companies. In addition, the Chambers of Commerce in this guide can provide referrals. 

New Homes

If starting from scratch and building from the ground up appeals to you, the many outstanding homebuilders in Northwest Houston are ready to help. There is a wide range of choices for home sites – in new and established subdivisions, on the waterfront, on a golf course, even with a pastoral or forested setting on an acreage. A realtor can quickly narrow down your site-selection process by matching the best locations to your needs; she can also work with you to find a builder. Some specialize in green building and energy efficiency or may have advanced training from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Be sure to tour model homes to evaluate the designs, features, and workmanship of each builder. The architectural styles, floor plans, interior finishes, appliance choices and other options vary, and it’s important to begin honing your tastes and preferences. Designers can help with selecting packages and upgrades to complete a home beautifully as well as on time and on budget.  Production houses can usually be finished in 90 to 120 days, and most builders have homes in varying stages of completion and can accommodate newcomers who need to move in quickly. Please visit www.HoustonNewcomerGuides.com for a complete list of homebuilders in the Houston area. 

The Greater Houston Builders Association works to “provide advocacy, education and meaningful services to benefit its members and the housing industry.” On their website (www.ghba.com) you will find a list of area builders, spec builders, neighborhoods, product and service providers, as well as other consumer resources.

While building a custom home takes time and planning, the effort and wait are often worth it, especially if you work with a quality builder: you get an outstanding, distinctive home built right to your specifications. Some custom homes are one-of-a-kind. In other cases, builders work with buyers to customize rooms, adjust square footage, add details or energy-saving features. Whatever your new-home dream, it’s not too early talk to a builder. Be sure to view homes already built by the company and, if possible, speak to homeowners about their experience with the builder and the process. Interview two or more builders before signing a contract, asking how long they’ve been in business, how many homes they’ve completed and reviewing references. Once you’ve chosen the builder, review the contract carefully. You should understand if the final price is guaranteed, what the move-in date is and how upgrades or change orders are handled. Attorneys who specialize in construction are available to review contracts and their fee may save you money in the long run, helping you to avoid misunderstandings and frustration.

 

Photo Credit: Johnson Development, Riverstone