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sohomod

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  1. Hi Lowbrow, I actually looked at 4004 b/c of your raves about it and I agree, it is a great location! The unit we saw was a front corner, about 1900 SF 2BR. It was really nice. Private roof deck, 2 story atrium, great layout. I guess the fees were so high b/c of the square footage. Take a look! Not sure if I remember correctly but it was not that $$, maybe $170K? But that $600 condo fee and the possibility of it going higher if there needed to be more work which we heard rumors of...
  2. Bon question. Here's my really long answer. First of all, weather was gorgeous, people were fabulously friendly, and Mr. Mod himself, Robert Searcy, is surely the best, nicest, most knowledgeable realtor out there. I had no idea realtors were allowed to be honest, decent and pleasant. He was even patient with the baby. We loved him! Day 1: We visited Norhill, Brookesmith, and vicinity, I guess the eastern fringes of the Heights. Small but charming bungalows, but for what we'd like to spend ($200K), usually a bit too small, a bit dowdy, vigorously Home-Depot-ized, or in a somewhat questionable location. Day 2: duplexes in Montrose/Museum, with the idea of living in 1 and renting out the other. For the most part they were just pricey enough that the numbers wouldn't work out for us. Rent on 1 duplex wouldn't cover 1/2 the mortgage. Also, while I liked the neighborhood I was a little confused by the patchiness of it. We did love a condo in 4004 Montrose, though, which was nearly perfect in every way except for a $600 common charge and rumors of construction/repair issues. Day 3: Eastwood. Loved it. Much more for the money than Norhill et al, and nicer streets too. But the lack of schools/parks/stores/restaurants stopped us short. With a little kid, it's hard to be away from conveniences. Then on to Glenbrook Valley. Wow it's nice down there. Winding green tree-lined streets of well-kept houses. Robert alllllmost had us with one of his listings... a 5BR on a huge piece of land. But Jarrett snapped out of it and started screaming. It was way too burby for him. Too much of a shock after living in Manhattan for so long. I *think* I could do it, but Jarrett couldn't sleep that night, it made him so nervous! Day 4: Breaking out of the loop... While Robert closed on a deal, we spent the day exploring Piney Point, Bunker Hill, Memorial, the Galleria area and lots of other areas we can't afford. Just to get an idea. Boy, after seeing Central Market and all those stores, Jarrett's words were: "God bless Robert, but he's got a tough row to how, trying to lure people to the east side!" And we're not even shoppers. Just saw at once the convenience of having anything you need right there. Poor Robert! Day 5: Spring Branch mods, Memorial townhouses. Spurred in part by a Houston Press cover story on the best high schools in the city (Spring Branch #4), we go with Robert to check out Spring Branch. SB has a lot to recommend it: in addition to the great schools, much more racial/cultural diversity, and proximity to shopping. And we see a beautiful mod that has been nearly but not quite ruined by renovation. On a beautiful block, for a good price, and very close to lots of Korean groceries and restaurants (a big plus for us, as we're 1/2 Korean!). But this is the burbs for real, and Jarrett isn't sure he can lump it, good schools or no. Again for schools, we check out townhouses in the Memorial area, zoned for Frost. Not bad, not great. Day 6: Westbury: another great mod, another great school (Parker). And it has a pool! But boy, it sure looks like any suburban block anywhere. Gives Jarrett the willies and a severe case of anomie. And I have to admit, me too. 2 WEEKS LATER: Well, we're back in freezing (literally - 31 degrees) grey New York City. I am looking out at the gorgeous historic cast iron building across the street (studio of fashion photographer Arthur Elgort), one of dozens here in SoHo. Houston had so much to recommend it, but I still can't wrap my mind around the construction there. We're so used to huge brick/limestone/stone/cast iron buildings that ranch houses don't seem quite real to us. We were disappointed in the neighborhoods. The Heights didn't seem really neighborhoody. People were nice (we were regulars at the Hgts Blvd playground and lots of families chatted us up), but if those 3 blocks of 19th Street are the primary retail it doesn't really cohere. It's more like blocks of houses than a real neighborhood. Montrose even more so. Occasional blocks or 2 of cute buildings but everything bisected by big faceless boulevards and weird patches of who knows what-all. It's funny, we liked Houston a lot more than we thought we would (it's much greener and prettier, for one thing, and more diverse than we'd heard) but on the other hand we came away with issues we hadn't foreseen. I had hoped that the Heights would be something like Park Slope or the West Village here, and it was nothing like. It made me wonder where those people shop or hang out, where were the neighborhood cafes or bakeries? Yale Blvd seemed too impersonal and large in scale to serve as the neighborhood corridor, and all around I saw fewer mom-and-pop shops and restaurants than I'd hoped. So we are a bit lost. As Jarrett says, Houston is still very much on our radar, not least in part b/c Robert and the people on this forum have been so incredibly helpful and friendly that it augurs well for meeting great people should we move there. However, it isn't everything we had hoped for. I have a suspicion that we will never find everything we are hoping for. I doubt such a place exists. Is it affordable San Francisco with good schools? Ethnically diverse Portland with good weather? Smog-free affordable L.A. w/o the LAPD and all those actors? Affordable NYC w/o the craziness? So we have to figure out our priorities and adjust our expectations accordingly. We may also have to take another look at the budget and see how the picture changes if we increase the housing budget a bit. In the meanwhile, I will admit, it's nice to be back home. Any time any of you is in NYC give me a shout out and I'll show you around!
  3. But we have expanded our search to include craftsman bungalows, 30s traditionals, 1950s ranches, 1970s contemporaries. Basically anything that does not smack of soul-less mcMansion tract developments. All for our budget of $200K. The exciting thing about Houston is that we are finding lots of things we like, but since we don't know Houston at all, it's hard to know if the neighborhoods where we're finding them are bad or good. Here in NYC if you find beautiful buildings you know it's a good neighborhood but things seem different in Houston. So I'd love to hear some frank assessments of the following areas so we're not barking up the wrong trees: Eastwood, Washington Terrace, Norhill, Lindale Park, Sunset Heights, Timbergrove, Meyerland, South Bellaire. I've heard there are some unsavory apartment complexes in the SW part of town, so I'm worried about the nice Mods I'm finding there. And some of the cute bungalows in Eastwood have bars on the window, which does give one pause. And yet I'm hearing on this board that Eastwood is pretty safe so are the bars from an earlier, more crime-ridden era? A big reason for this relocation is to give our toddler a nice green place to play outside so a good neighborhood is key. Our other ideals are a walkable community (i.e. stores and restaurants on local "Main Street"-type commercial streets), good schools (not as important as our daughter is not yet 2 and we could go the magnets route), a good sense of community and nice families, so she can make friends and playmates. I suppose as long as I'm asking all these questions if someone would be so kind as to tell me how much private school tuition is, just so I could factor it into the equations. This board has been not only invaluable but very encouraging. It's great to know there are such friendly, helpful and like-minded people in Houston. Thanks so much!
  4. I've been browsing around the Third Ward (Washington Terrace/Riverside Terrace) area but have also noticed this in parts of the Heights and elsewhere, these awful listings that show a cute little house in need of work and then -- apparently as a selling point????!!! -- photos of hideous new townhouse developments in the area. I'm glad the realtors put them up b/c they function as an unintentional warning to me. Would hate to be across the street or god forbid next door to one of those. Often the listing description will actually come right out and promote the property as a tear-down, even when it looks to be in mostly good condition. Could someone please explain this to me? Why would people pay more money to live in an ugly box in a row of boxes than in a real house with a yard and character? This is not a rhetorical question. I am honestly curious and really want to know. If it is just the newer fixtures/kitchens/bathrooms, why not "update" (a word I am starting to dread seeing in the listings) the older house rather than tearing it down? We don't have townhouses here in New York, so I just don't get it. No one here, in their right mind or not, would tear down an old brownstone or prewar apartment building to build something new. Ever. As for landmarked or historically significant buildings, the zoning codes and community boards are such that you would have to mount a real campaign just to change the paint color. A little exaggeration but I really wish more Houstonians valued their architectural heritage because it looks as though you have some great neighborhoods there that are being blighted by careless development. Okay, didn't mean to rant. It's very late (1:44AM), baby didn't nap today, I am exhausted and hope I haven't offended. Off to bed.......
  5. Thanks, a fantastic answer to the question of Austin vs. Houston. I am copying this to my husband at once! This is exactly my impression of Austin. We have about a dozen friends of friends there (vs. knowing basically no one in Houston) and I feel that they are all tattooed roller-derby-enthusiast vegan bloggers. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but feels a bit limiting and clich
  6. Exactly. Also, though SA is pretty big population-wise, people told us that there's not much there. Jacksonville is way too white (no offense!), St. Louis never considered honestly but got the feeling that it was not thriving, in the same way that Pittsburgh, while full of gorgeous old brick homes and cultural institutions, is dying rather than thriving. And Kansas City, while full of gorgeous cheap craftsman bungalows, is the home of my mother in law!!!!!!! Also, very very white. Actually, there is some black population there too but it is so segregated that I visited for years before I saw one apart from my mother in law's cleaning woman. Tells you something, eh?
  7. Raleigh, NC Asheville, NC St. Petersburg, FL Fayetteville, AR Little Rock, AR Santa Fe, NM Atlanta, GA Los Angeles, CA We decided the first 6 were too small and for the most part too white or white/black. We really wanted a city with a very visible Asian minority. Atlanta has a surprising # of Asians and seemed progressive, interesting and well-priced. We just decided that in the end we'd rather be Texans than Georgians. There's something about the openness (physically and other) of Texas that appeals to us. Something about preferring Western over Southern, to put it reductively. Just a hunch. Also we both love Mexican culture and liked the infusion of that into the mix. Los Angeles we love. It's another city that people say has no soul but that we think has it in abundance, if you seek it out. We are hoping Houston is the same. Of course LA is also up there with Houston on the pollution and traffic, and in addition is astronomically expensive. So is NYC but the whole point of relocation is to scale back, calm down, and get out of the rat race a bit. We almost think of it as "getting back to the land," which is of course funny considering it's Houston we're talking about, but it seems like a place where we can live a simplier, gentler, less stressed, less competitive, more family-centered life without all of the harshness and nastiness (MidtownCoog aside) that is sometimes here in NYC.
  8. Maybe it sounds crazy but what we did was take our criteria (affordable housing + good arts/cultural scene + ethnic/cultural diversity + big enough to be interesting + warm sunny weather + good schools) and come up with a short list, which we then winnowed down by doing a lot of research. And came up with Houston. It's maybe not a perfect fit (i.e. we're very politically liberal and like to walk everywhere) but it seemed like it may work. No relatives or friends in Houston. One acquaintance, a banker who was transferred there 2 years ago. And another who doesn't live in Houston but who teaches at the UoH one semester every year. Oh and someone I met once who lives in Beaumont. We are both Northerners, Midwest born and East Coast educated, and long-time New Yorkers. We were going to be brave and strike out into unknown territory. Honestly, everyone we've told is absolutely incredulous. They've heard of people moving to Vermont, London, L.A., Raleigh or even Austin. But never Houston. We just had an idea that there were lots of good things to be found in Houston and that it was an underappreciated city with bad press (v.s. an overappreciated city with good press, such as Seattle).
  9. Oh Lordy, it's all falling apart. My husband took a look at air/water/soil quality reports online and now thinks Houston is a mire of toxins. Never mind that we have lived for the last 15 years in Manhattan, not exactly anyone's idea of green meadow. At this rate we're going to be living in Glacier National Park. He looked up Austin's pollution levels too and now's he's saying we should be looking there instead. Although I've been told it's 2x more expensive than Houston. Any other reasons I should give him for Houston over Austin? We've bought our tickets, so we're going to be in Texas for 9 days regardless. Just trying to persuade him to look at least half that time in Houston as now he's convinced the whole place is a big oil refinery and besides we'll constantly be stuck in traffic just to get groceries or take our daughter to school ...
  10. http://www.har.com/search/engine/indexdeta...=0&backButton=Y Okay here is an example of what looks from the front and back to have been an adorable house... description says may have been a William Floyd design. Anyway, whatever mod cuteness this house may have once (until very recently, I'll venture) possessed has been completely stripped. Much money has been spent to denude it of any charm and turn it into a gleaming generic white nothing. Yuck yuck yuck. Not as bad as all that Tuscan/Saltillo country tile but super shiny cherry flooring! Black granite everywhere! Call Bret Easton Ellis, stat! When I think of what it probably looked like before I am very sad indeedy. I would totally have bought it. Doesn't anyone leave their house alone before putting it on the market? Too many people are watching too much H&G TV in Houston!
  11. Whew.... have had my head buried deep in Westbury listings all night long. Cross-referencing crime/parks/schools/demographics/conveniences.... this is hard work. Re Parker Elementary: Don't know how far $2500 is going to go (could buy about 5 clarinets, eh?) but that is good news... I have my heart set on Twain or Roberts. Aside from rating exemplary with magnet arts programs they have pretty high %s of Asian kids. I grew up in the blonde blonde Scandinavian midwest and while I had a lovely childhood we are trying to give our daughter a more diverse environment. That house on Willowisp is one of our very favorites so far, not least because it has not been "updated" with the hideous faux-Tuscan Home Depot designer tile that looks to be spreading through Houston like a plague. That tile is killing my husband. I'm afraid to show him any more photos of houses with it... he may just cancel our plane tickets. Anyway, it is certainly no Eichler but the entrance is cute, and the big LR in back has potential. Send any more you see my way! And by the way, we love Robert and are looking forward to meeting him (are you reading this Robert?). He obviously works hard, knows his stuff, seems to be a very nice person, and most importantly, may be the only realtor in Houston who doesn't come from Bizarroland... those descriptions boasting of "decorator colors" (i.e., periwinkle and magenta), "gorgeous new tile" and "live in now, build new later" of charming albeit little bungalows, are giving me real estate headache. We did love the look (and price!) of those Eastside bungalows but once he saw the bars on the windows and doors my husband put the big kabosh on that neighborhood. We were more willing to be real estate pioneers when we were childless but now it's all about safety. After I get done sorting through Westbury will head over to Oak Forest and then try Montrose/Museum again, this time looking at condos. Although our dream was a house and yard... Trying to sort out what our priorities are if we can't have it all: good schools, walkable conveniences, yard. Our ideal was exemplary schools right in the neighborhood; stores, library/YMCA/community center to walk to; green yard with mature trees. I'm beginning to think that's not possible for $200K, is it?
  12. You got me. A lifelong Northerner (from all the way back -- my parents are even North Korean, although of course back then it wasn't its own country). I see that was a silly question. Here where to put all the boots, mittens, hats, scarves and big down coats is always an issue. Hardly anyone in the city (except for the filthy rich, and yes, I do wish I were one of those, just forgot to amass wealth when I was young and childless) has enough storage for all the winter paraphernalia and let's not even get into strollers, little red wagons, tricycles and the like. That's exciting to hear about Godwin Park (well, not the murder). We have found some possibilities in Westbury and will definitely look into them when we visit. Maybe my 20-month-old daughter will meet your 18-month-old at the park when we're in town!
  13. Actually, a friend's sister who lives in Pearland said this. That if you go to the playgrounds they are like graveyards. Not a kid in sight. That would be depressing... I love the casual and random interaction you get in public spaces. I've also heard the same about Hermann, that it is lovely but the main difference b/t Hermann and NYC's Central Park is that Central Park is FULL of people on weekends, families and joggers and picnickers and kids and polka-dancing Ukranians and disco-dancing roller skaters. But that Hermann is barely used. I think that's what's driving us to look at the teeny tiny bungalows in the Heights, an impression that it is more of a neighborhood-y neighborhood. But for $200K you get a 2BR/1BA needing work or with distressing Home Depot "updates" on the edges of the neighborhood, near 610 and/or Shepard, which does not seem ideal.
  14. We are definitely renting first. As a matter of fact, for our week in Houston we're subletting a little cottage in the Heights to get a feel for the nabe. And we'll do the same when we get to Houston, before we buy. Don't quite understand it all but am definitely starting to understand that the burbs in Houston is entirely different from what I'm used to. Traditional outside/mod interior is what we do here in Soho also. Our loft is in what's called a pre-war here, built around 1910. Pressed tin ceilings nearly 12 feet high, very elaborate crown molding, with an Eames pedestal table and chairs, arc lamp and Scandinavian platform bed. I think the current issue of Dwell Mag has a story on this theme. Do you find that the bungalow is large enough to live in? I'm concerned about the lack of storage, walking in the door directly into the living room. Where do coats and shoes go, for instance? Our loft is small, but high ceilinged and completely open plan, and some of those bungalows look rather claustrophobic by comparison.
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