Author Topic: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?  (Read 5533 times)

Genevieve

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Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« on: January 31, 2015, 10:04:10 PM »
Hello everyone!

My husband just got an awesome job in Houston.

I have absolutely no idea about the best place to rent.

His office is going to be downtown near Main St and McKinney St. We'd love to live near work and a grocery store, but I'm not sure if his office is the best area of town to live in.

We are 26 -- we'd like to go to cool museums and cheap ethnic eats in the city.

We have one car. It seems like Houston has suburban sprawl and we might need to get another one. :(

I know absolutely nothing about Houston, so please educate me!

slugline

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2015, 10:23:45 PM »
I'm way out on the west side, but I live in Houston. I'm curious to know what concerns you have about the area near your husband's job.

If I was in my 20s and just got a great paying job downtown, I'd be start my rental search in downtown and in nearby Midtown area. You'd have access to the Main Street light rail line that connects to the Museum District.

Are you job hunting too?

DecD

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2015, 10:27:10 PM »
His office will be located right downtown. 

Don't consider moving outside the 610 loop- given what you've posted, it's not what you're after, even though it's way less expensive.  Not worth it for the commute.

Check out the neighborhoods of Midtown and The Heights.  Some awesome, quirky areas, close to downtown, lots going on.  These neighborhoods are not sprawly.  We lived near there for two years and I never drove more than 5 miles from my house- everything you could need is right there.

Where are you moving from? 

Psychstache

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2015, 10:29:08 PM »
Grew up there for 20 years, but I was mostly in the suburbs. My sister settled in Kingwood (northeast-ish suburb). Has lots of trails and nature. It's the most mustachian part of Houston I was ever in.

Def a sprawled city with godawful public transit. 2nd car is likely in your future.

The humidity is year round and awful, but there is a lot of good culture (MFAH should be high on the list when you settle in).

Good luck with the move!

DecD

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2015, 10:31:59 PM »
Also- add Montrose to your list.  Very cool and quirky neighborhood close to work.

You'll avoid the sprawl if you stick very close to downtown.  The feel in these areas (and Rice Village, West U, Museum district, Medical Center which can be $$$$) are totally different than the rest of sprawly Houston.  Lots of biking, events, non-chain restaurants & shops, etc.

Genevieve

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2015, 07:17:48 AM »
Hi everyone. Thanks for the advice so far -- keep it coming! Anything I need to know to be a better Mustachian in Houston?

We are very excited to be moving to Houston -- a city with high salary, low COL. My husband is super excited about his job as well.

From my husband's first impressions (admittedly very limited -- no car to explore), the area directly near his work was all business and not a neighborhood.

We are moving from small town PA, but we were only here for school.

I will be job searching as well. Since I have no idea where I will end up it's not much of a constraint on the decision of where to move currently.

BTW, I forgot to mention. It would be awesome to be somewhat near some green space too. But commute is more important.

I will definitely check out Montrose, Midtown, The Heights and Kingwood.

« Last Edit: February 01, 2015, 07:27:38 AM by Genevieve »

Noodle

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2015, 08:10:54 AM »
Yes, your husband will be downtown. The city is trying to encourage more downtown living, but it's not really a viable community yet. On the upside, he will be right on the light rail line. So that would be one possibility, looking down in the Museum district so he could ride light rail to work. (The area just south of Downtown is still sketchy but if you get down near the museums it's nice...don't know how much rents might be.) The bus system isn't super-practical because it's so hot at least six months of the year that walking to and from the stops and waiting in the heat leaves you pretty messy.

Otherwise Midtown is close but might be expensive, Montrose and then Upper Kirby are just west of there (and there are actually some reasonable on a professional salary apartments around the fringes of River Oaks, a famous rich-people neighborhood.) The Heights is a neighborhood that has been gentrifying over the last decade or two, and Garden Oaks is a neighborhood northwest of there that is gentrifying now so a little cheaper. Rents unfortunately have been going up fast the last year or so because right now there are a lot of people who want to move inside the Loop and a lot of big apartment development projects that are still a year or so from coming online. Once that happens, the market should settle down some. I will warn you, from the highways and even the main streets, the city doesn't necessarily look great. But inside the loop if you can get onto the side streets behind the major ones, there are pretty neighborhoods with trees, nice homes, etc.

Overall, I encourage you to a) move to Houston with an open mind (it seems like you have a great attitude) and b) ask for help from locals as much as you can. The portrayal of Texas outside the state is really different from my experience of living in the state...in the big cities I have found it to be diverse ethnically and politically (Houston's mayor for the last five years is a lesbian, which surprises a lot of people) and the only time people wear cowboy gear in Houston is during Rodeo. The city, however, is not great at presenting itself for newcomers...not that people aren't friendly and welcoming, but more that it can be really hard to sort out the great neighborhoods, restaurants, events, parks etc from the visually undistinguished mass. It's not a pretty city overall (although it has pretty parts) but it is has really nice people, so ask for recommendations! The other weird thing about Houston is that there is no zoning. So you will have housing mixed right in with businesses and offices inside the Loop, unless the neighborhood has deed restrictions. That surprises some people.

Good luck!

slugline

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2015, 08:32:13 AM »
Your best Mustachian move in Houston would be to live near where you work, assuming that you can afford it. Car traffic congestion can be quite soul-sucking if you let it in your life.

Prior to the last decade, the downtown district (where your husband's job will be) really was pretty much all businesses. But developers are beginning to respond for a demand for residential. The construction has been happening and continues to happen right now, probably even as I'm typing this. :)  These would be high-rise towers and lofts. The situation is so fluid that you probably could find new units coming on the market on a month-to-month basis. I had forgotten to think about the grocery situation -- Phoenicia Market is there but not anything else I can remember. But you're right in that it doesn't feel quite "like a neighborhood" yet.

Midtown is immediately outside downtown and has been farther along on its journey to residential character -- condos, lofts, apartments are there. I'm suggesting starting your search in Midtown and downtown because of proximity to the Main Street light rail (the "Red Line"). That would really help keep your automobile needs to a minimum. Otherwise, Houston is a very car-dependent city with a weak bus local system, especially outside the 610 Loop freeway.

The Museum District is a bit further south of Midtown, but still close to the Red Line.  Museum District is like downtown in regards to developers beginning to bring in new residential offerings. As you might guess, living there would put you in close proximity to lots of museums!

The Montrose and Houston Heights neighborhoods are a couple miles west of downtown. Especially if your husband is up for the challenge of urban bike commuting, then these could be strong close-in contenders. (Common sense would have had light rail service extended to both by now, but local politics have stopped this from happening.)

Immediately east of downtown, the East End is starting to rise economically. A new light rail line is due to open to serve the area in the next year and the area is likely worth a look as it may still offer some good real estate values versus the other options.

Regarding green space, what do you two like to do in it? Hermann Park is a really good large urban park especially for family-friendly activities adjacent to the Museum District. The area west of downtown has a linear park being developed that will offer some great hike/bike trails. If you go even further west of downtown, closer to the West Loop freeway, Memorial Park is a very large park with large forested swaths popular with mountain bikers, sports fields, and an extremely popular 3-mile jogging loop that is the informal epicenter of the Houston running community IMO. In the downtown district itself, Discovery Green is a nice six-block oasis.

I was really surprised to see Kingwood suggested above as a Mustachian suggestion. That's a 30-minute drive on a good day when the freeway is clear. (Granted, the Eastex Freeway is probably the least congested of the arterial freeways at rush hour, but compared to the others that's not worth bragging about.....) I have a friend that is actually doing a Kingwood-to-downtown commute and she is using Metro's park-and-ride express bus. Maybe your husband's employer either offers cheap parking or subsidized bus passes?

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2015, 10:08:49 AM »
I actually used to live in Kingwood (LOVED it!), but had several kids already.  It was a *great* mustachian place to live, even though I had a 25 min commute.  Our house was $65/sq ft, total PITI was about $1k/mo for 1500 sq ft.

For you, though?  No.  26, married with no kids?  Yeah, you want to be as close as possible to work.  Besides, since we moved out 3.5 years ago, there's been a lot more development around Kingwood and our friends say traffic has gotten significantly worse just to get to the freeway.

Psychstache

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2015, 10:22:31 AM »
I actually used to live in Kingwood (LOVED it!), but had several kids already.  It was a *great* mustachian place to live, even though I had a 25 min commute.  Our house was $65/sq ft, total PITI was about $1k/mo for 1500 sq ft.

For you, though?  No.  26, married with no kids?  Yeah, you want to be as close as possible to work.  Besides, since we moved out 3.5 years ago, there's been a lot more development around Kingwood and our friends say traffic has gotten significantly worse just to get to the freeway.

This is probably the bigger reason I had mentioned Kingwood. It is a nice area with great schools and very green, wooded areas. Without kids, it would lose a lot of the appeal. Thinking ahead though, if kids were in the OP's future, I would avoid buying in the downtown areas if you think kids are a near future thing. I would never in a million years send my kids to Houston ISD schools, so a lot of the close-to-work savings would be wiped out by private school tuition.

slugline

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2015, 12:10:20 PM »
Thinking ahead though, if kids were in the OP's future, I would avoid buying in the downtown areas if you think kids are a near future thing.

My suggestions were based on the assumption of renting. With no urgency to buy, this couple can spend a year or so exploring the area and also decide whether they even want to stay in H-Town long-term. Also, maybe the real estate can take a breather (oil layoffs, anyone?) and not be such a sellers' market when they might turn their thoughts towards buying.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2015, 12:15:56 PM »
The most badass place to live would be the northern Third Ward. There's some basically new construction there that's very cheap because it's not the greatest neighborhood, but I have walked around it and not been scared. There is a rail trail so you can bike to downtown (which is honestly in walking distance) and to the Rice/Museum District area. If that is too intimidating, check out EaDo and Eastwood.

Get somebody to show you the tunnels under downtown so your husband (and you if you get work there) can walk through downtown and avoid the downpours.

The Heights and Montrose are very trendy and expensive. Not very mustachian.

johnstein

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2015, 02:59:52 PM »
Montrose, midtown, the heights, rice military are the best bets.  Not sure what's your idea of a tolerable commute is, but Kingwood to downtown is at least 30mins. 

if he's got such a good paying job, i'd stick to the location to minimize commute as much as possible.  As for cost of living, i dont think you'll be in a good surprise once you get here.  Rental for a decent 1bedroom in good neighborhood inside the loop range from 1400-2000/month. 


ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2015, 03:10:45 PM »
Montrose, midtown, the heights, rice military are the best bets.  Not sure what's your idea of a tolerable commute is, but Kingwood to downtown is at least 30mins. 

if he's got such a good paying job, i'd stick to the location to minimize commute as much as possible.  As for cost of living, i dont think you'll be in a good surprise once you get here.  Rental for a decent 1bedroom in good neighborhood inside the loop range from 1400-2000/month.

Again, all trendy west-side-of-the-loop options.

Gerard

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2015, 05:12:31 PM »
From reading gardening and cooking websites, one thing that strikes me about Houston is that you can grow a ton of your own veg and herbs and stuff, including a lot of Indian and other Asian things, for many months of the year. If I moved there, I'd be looking for at least a little gardening space.

wildflowersarefree

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2015, 05:19:20 PM »
I lived by U of H (Scharpe St), we bought a house for $68,000. It was a sketchy area but "transitioning". We biked a lot, biked downtown, grew a lot of our own veggies. We sold our house for $88,000 after doing a lot of work to it in <2 years when we moved to San Antonio.

My husband's parents live in Garden Villas by Hobby Airport. It is amazing neighborhood for growing veggies. My sister and her family live in Jersey Village and she rides the the Metro into downtown and never pays for parking. Her job pays for her bus pass, too.

I have a lot of friends who lived in trendier neighborhoods, but I was never jealous. I loved our $730 a month mortgage payment.

I miss Houston a lot. But I love San Antonio, too.

Noodle

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2015, 07:23:12 PM »
This is true...one thing to think about is your personal comfort level with a gentrifying neighborhood. Houston is growing so fast that there are a lot of neighborhoods on the edges of the expensive areas that are in the early stages of getting nicer (a few have already been mentioned). In those neighborhoods rents will be a lot cheaper, and you're not worrying about schools yet. But based on your original post, it sounds like you were hoping to be close to the kinds of amenities that would be found more in places like Montrose and Midtown.

wildflowersarefree

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2015, 07:52:54 PM »
I wanted to mention this again, just because I think it's so cool. If you have issues with living in downtown (either too expensive or too urban or whatever), here is a map of the park and ride stops for Houston with a downloadable PDF.

This gives you a lot wider area to look that could be more comfortable for you. My sister puts less than 4 miles on her car a day even though she lives 15 miles from her job downtown and never has to sit in Houston traffic, she crochets.

http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/ParkRide.aspx

I forgot to answer your question about green space. My favorites were Memorial Park, Houston Arboretum, Terry Hershey trail, White Oak bayou trail. When we lived in Houston I would occasionally get just sick of being in the city and want to go hiking, the Lonestar Trail and Huntsville state park, Armand bayou nature center, Brazos bend state park and Matagorda bay (on the ocean) nature park are good places to escape to. Don't expect any elevation gain though as the whole area is flat as a pancake. :)

Sara

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2015, 08:10:34 PM »
A good place to start your search is har.com which is Houston's real estate website, it features both buying & rental properties.

I live near Hermann Park with my boyfriend and we love it, the green space around here is amazing.  We both work downtown and take Almeda & Fannin super easy commute about 10-12 mins. When you visit/move you should check out the McGovern Centennial Gardens (part of Hermann Park) it just opened and it's gorgeous!

There has been a ton of new apartment buildings going up in the last 2 years so you might be able to score a descent deal like first month free ect.

If you want to stay with one car I would also suggest Midtown, that way you can take light rail to museums/downtown/zoo/park/ect.

Genevieve

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2015, 08:59:31 PM »
Thanks for all the answers!

Re: Gentrifying areas: I love the idea of it, but I think I'll have to live there to figure out which areas are transition areas and which areas make me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps this will be my goal for a year from now.

We are renting for now. We will buy in a few years and consider the schools when the time comes.

@wildflowersarefree: What neighborhood does your sister live in? Less than 4 miles a day on a car sounds nice. Thanks for the recommendations on green space. We will definitely check those out.

@Sara: That sounds lovely if we could find a good deal!

In reality, we will probably check out all of these options.

I've heard that realtors will show you apartments around the city for free? Is this true?

sangria

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2015, 09:16:04 PM »
The Heights and Montrose have been popular for years, don't know that they are necessarily trendy, though most of the trendy places are located in one of the two.  Most of my pre-kid friends who have moved from out of town seem to prefer the Montrose area, close to downtown but also a nice neighborhood on its own.  People with kids seem to prefer the Heights. Downtown, while having more residential options as of late, can still be a bit rough/deserted feeling at night. Good luck in your search and welcome to Houston!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2015, 05:22:29 AM »
Another commuting option is the light rail, which is mapped here. The blue and brown lines are not built, aren't planned to be built, and should be ignored in your considerations.

Sara

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2015, 07:27:55 AM »
@Genevieve  Yes it is true that realtors will show you around for free (the apartment company pays them).  We used this service when we moved from out of state as we knew nothing about Houston.  The only downside is a lot of time the complex will come down on rates if your not with a realtor, so you will be paying the advertised market rate.

wildflowersarefree

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2015, 12:32:27 PM »
She lives north of Jersey Village near the Cypress Park and Ride. There is also a nice area around Addicks.

I forgot to mention, gas/electric and water were somehow unbelievably expensive in Houston compared to everywhere else I've lived. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment in the med center and our utilities were almost always over $250 in the summer. So if you find a place that pays any utilities I would definitely consider that a plus.

slugline

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2015, 01:53:40 PM »
She lives north of Jersey Village near the Cypress Park and Ride. There is also a nice area around Addicks.

I forgot to mention, gas/electric and water were somehow unbelievably expensive in Houston compared to everywhere else I've lived. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment in the med center and our utilities were almost always over $250 in the summer. So if you find a place that pays any utilities I would definitely consider that a plus.

Over $250/month? I have to believe your apartment was leaky and/or deficiently insulated. $250 is my monthly electric bill for for my old 3-bedroom Houston house in the winter with ridiculous consumption of electric heat. (I have insulation projects to do!)  I moved from a one-bedroom all-electric apartment in the Addicks area and I'm pretty sure my electric bill never broke $200 in the winter or $150 in the summer. But yeah, I agree that utilities are higher here than in other parts of the country.

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2015, 02:26:38 PM »
I've lived in Houston for 8 years now...One problem with a lot of the places suggested is that they are either super expensive (Rice, Upper Kirby etc) or are moderately expensive and you have to worry about crack heads and the occasional hooker walking around (montrose, parts of the heights, museum district, eado etc.). I'm surprised nobody mentioned the Galleria area which is about 8 miles from downtown. Apartments are moderately priced, crime is minimal (comparatively speaking) and if you wanted, you could buy a 1,000 square foot condo for under 100k.. I've lived in galleria for 6 years and am in the process of moving to the burbs. Though the commute is worse, you get more bang for your buck for living space and if you value open space then living within the 4th largest city in the country may be overwhelming.

wildflowersarefree

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Re: Best Place to Live in Houston, TX?
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2015, 02:27:31 PM »
I have a feeling you're right, I never had trouble in the winter, only summer with the AC. I admit to keeping it in the mid-70 range just to keep the inside humidity down.