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  1. You do understand the definition of 100 year floodplain don't you? I ask because many people do not. It has nothing to do with whether a particular flood occurs every 100 years (or 500 years). It has to do with the probability of that level of flooding to occur in any one given year. 100-year floodplain simply means there is an estimated 1% chance in any given year of seeing a flood. 500-year floodplain simply means that there is an estimated 0.2% chance in any given year of seeing a flood. If you have a 100-year flood one year there is still a 1% chance that you'll see the same flood the next year, and again the following year. And that is based on HISTORIC climate models. As the city continues to develop and increase the amount of hard surface, and as climate changes due to global warming, these estimates may well need to be thrown out the window.
  2. My wife and I are contemplating relocating from Waco to the greater Houston area next year. This past weekend we were visiting friends who live in Cinco Ranch and so spent some time driving around there and killed Sunday morning walking through every one of the massive cluster of model homes that all the builders have out at Cinco. Personally I think my wife and I would prefer to buy an existing home in an older neighborhood with mature trees and landscaping. I'm just not willing to wait 10 years before I get shade and mature trees. Now of course the salesmen at the model home sites are very good at slinging all sorts of BS about how the homes they are building now are so much more energy efficient and built to all sorts of higher standards than those in the 90s in terms of insulation, appliances, etc. The oldest neighborhoods in Cinco are from the early 90s so we weren't talking any earlier than that. And it got me wondering how much of it was truth and how much was BS. I worked sporadically in the construction trades through college and am somewhat in tune with modern construction methods. And there really isn't much that is being done today that wasn't at least KNOWN about a decade ago. But I have no idea what builders back then were actually doing. But we certainly had the technology to make beautiful energy efficient houses. Of course if I had my druthers, my preference would be something like a prewar Craftman-style in an elegant old neighborhood. But with 3 young girls and my wife who is looking into physician positions mostly in the suburbs, I don't see that happening. If we do move to the Houston area it will most likely be so my wife can join a family practice group near one of the new hospital complexes in the burbs like Katy, Sugarland, Cypress, Woodlands, etc. And then she'll want to live nearby. I know architectural styles have changed over the past decade. A lot of the homes from the early 90s have more traditional floor plans that are less open and soaring. But how do they really compare in terms of energy efficiency and things like hurricane-resistance? Has building really improved in that short amount of time? Or am I being sold a load of BS from salesmen. I would hate to end up with a white elephant that requires endless upgrades and retrofits to turn into something close to the current standards in terms of energy efficiency. Any opinions about this?
  3. That's actually a LOT cheaper than similar houses lease for in the Waco area if you want to be in the Midway ISD which has schools comparable to Katy ISD In any event, I don't know that leasing will be required if we can time things the way we want. But it is nice to know the option exists. I would be reluctant to buy in Katy until we are able to sell our house in the Waco area and I would rather take my time looking for the right house at the right price rather than quickly snatching up something on a weekend visit.
  4. Hi everyone: My wife and I are contemplating relocating from Woodway TX to Cinco Ranch. Probably buying into an existing neighborhood rather than building new. We tend to like the more established neighborhoods with more mature trees and landscaping. Last time we visited we walked around some of the neighborhoods bordering the Cinco Ranch beach club and really liked them. However we definitely want to take our time looking for the right house/neighborhood before building or buying. Get a feel for the traffic patterns, neighborhood amenities, etc. We have 3 daughters ages 3, 6, and 11 so schools are a priority. And being adjacent to schools is even better. So our preference would be to lease a nice house for a year or two to really get a feel for the area before making the plunge into home ownership again. Due to the circumstances of our last move we were basically forced to find and buy a house over the space of a 3-day weekend. Which worked out OK but was more rushed than I like. So my question is this. Do the HOAs in Cinco Ranch and/or the other nicer communities in the Katy area restrict leasing? Or can one find nice houses available for lease? The reason I ask is because the HOA in the first neighborhood we bought into in the Waco area prohibited leasing. Whereas there are no such restrictions in our current neighborhood in Woodway. If homes in Cinco Ranch can be leased, can anyone point me to a realtor or management agency that deals with Katy area homes? Or is it more of a Craigs List/Classified ad sort of thing? Thanks
  5. I do agree with you on the credit stuff. Could someone please explain it in layman terms? I mean, why Allah does not allow (or frowns upon) credit? --------------- There is no teaching in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam that forbids making a profit on investments. Even Jesus taught that doing it wisely is a virtue. It's not just Islam. Christianity and most other religions have deep historic prohibitions against usury, which was defined as charging money for loans. Before the modern era and the advent of inflation it was seen as immoral. Basically it boils down to the idea that one shouldn't profit on the misfortunes of others. In biblical days one didn't take out mortgages or car loans. The only real purpose for loans in pastoral societies was to get people through really rough spots so they wouldn't starve. Things like that. For a great deal of good information on historical preachings against usury from the Bronze Age to the present, check out the wikipedia entry on the subject. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury
  6. Actually as I understand it, the reason Baylor is in the Big-12 is because Ann Richards was a Baylor Alum and was governor at the time of the breakup of the SWC and as governor made sure that UT and A&M brought Baylor with them into the Big-8. I actually live in Waco and I tend to agree that Baylor doesn't belong. Baylor's natural rivals are the other big private schools in Texas (TCU, SMU, Rice etc.) and they stand out as a sore thumb as a middlling-size private school in a conference of big public schools. Baylor would have more success in football and basketball if it were playing against more natural rivals. It is rare that a private school can really compete against the big boys. Duke in basketball and USC in football are the exceptions. The more normal thing is to see teams like Northwestern in the Big-10 and Vanderbilt in the SEC struggle year after year. I think it would actually be more interesting if Houston joined the SEC in lieu of Vanderbilt. As Houston is more of a southern city than a midwestern one. The model that Houston should follow is the Louisville model. I can remember not to long ago when no one paid any attention to Louisville. Now they scare everyone and have built a huge program with a new stadium. In any event, back to the original question. The only reason I can think of for a school to play in a neutral site is for recruiting and fan development. I lived in Seattle for many years and you would NEVER catch the Huskies playing in the Kingdome or the Seahawks new stadium. On the other hand, Washington State, which is 300 miles east of Seattle likes to play there once a year or so in order to better recruit in the Seattle market. As I recall, they played Baylor there last year. I suspect part of why UT-OU play in DFW every year is to help out recruiting in the metroplex. It's a lot easier to round up a lot of local high school kids and bus them over to the Cotton Bowl than it is to fly them into Austin or Norman for a formal recruiting weekend. By the way, I was at the UH-Oregon game last year and I agree, it is pretty lame to have college games in those pro stadiums. Just didn't feel like a home game. The venue is nice, but the atmosphere is lacking.
  7. Heh, yeah. Actually my wife has already informed me that she'll divorce me if I find some old beater house to rip apart and work on while we're living in it. She has no patience for that sort of thing what so ever. Her idea of remodeling is going on vacation and coming back home to find the contractors are all done with whatever project and the house is spic and span. Myself, I'd probably be living in the old house that is continually in a state of remodel if I had my druthers. As it is, I have to do my project work out in the yard. She doesn't mind if I'm constantly messing around with the landscaping.
  8. I usually worship in the tool department of Home Depot and sometimes at the electronics section of Costco. My wife leans more towards the shoe department at Nordstrom. Each to their own!
  9. Ding, ding, ding. Forget about the pro sports. If San Antonio wants football they should do like the rest of Texas and build up a Division I football team at UTSA. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think UTSA is the largest school in Texas that lacks a football team and the campus is growing rapidly. At least with a college team you know they aren't going to flee to another city for more money. And they will be happy to play in the alamo dome without new luxury boxes.
  10. As you can probably tell from my first post, I naturally lean more towards older houses. However, my experience is in places like Portland and Washington DC where most all the houses you ever look at are older houses and many if not most are pre-WWII houses. I lived in 5 different houses in Portland and they were all built before 1930. Because of the explosive growth in Houston over the past 50 years, it seems that the situation in Houston is somewhat different. In Houston what people consider an older house is one built in the 80s or 90s. Well, maybe not central Houston, but certainly in the burbs that is the case. I'm not a builder or architect so I really don't know these things. But when did construction start getting really crappy? I assume it was a slow evolution. But is there some rule of thumb about this? Some cutoff date or decade before which you could depend on solid old-growth lumber construction etc etc? Because I've seen a lot of houses built in the 70s of crappy plywood sheathing and that sort of thing that look like absolute junk. Also, are there climate issues that tends to age houses differently in Houston? I would guess that wood houses probably age much faster in hot wet Houstin than in say, hot dry Phoenix.
  11. If you do intend to evacuate, buy a GPS for certain. Texas has an almost infinite network of small country and farm roads that will get you almost anywhere. I drive between Waco and Fort Worth quite often. There are many times when circumstance cause I-35 to come to a complete standstill, whether just normal traffic, construction, or something else like major accidents. Around Christmas there was a multi-truck tanker accident that closed I-35 in both directions near Waco. With a GPS I think nothing of grabbing the nearest exit and taking remote country roads. You can drive anywhere in this state and never touch a freeway much less an interstate. There are literally thousands of local and rural roads that don't even show up on the state-wide paper maps or Rand McNally Atlases. With the GPS I have figured out about 25 ways to drive between my home in China Spring (NW of Waco) and Fort worth without touching I-35. And no matter how congested I-35 is, I NEVER see anyone else but local pickups taking the smaller parallel roads.
  12. Well, gas doesn't go bad THAT fast. You could probably buy gas near the start of the hurricane season then use it up at the end of the season in your car and be OK. And then repeat the process every year. But diesel does probably make more sense from a safety standpoint. I'm going to look into those natural gas gensets though. Never heard of them before. I live in a rural area outside Waco where we have no municipal gas service so everything in the house is electric. For that reason I keep a couple extra propane cylinders around for the grill and I can cook 3 meals/day on the Weber for a month if forced to by lack of power.
  13. Guess if we move to Houston I'll be doing a lot more disaster planning than I've done in Waco. Here in Waco we only face two realistic natural disasters: Tornados and grass fires. Both of those are so localized that if you get hit by either you can still count on the rest of the greater community being pretty much intact. I already own a big commercial-quality chain saw I brought from Oregon and have water filtration equipment for filtering storm water if necessary. And I usually have more than a month's supply of food in the house from Costco. So it seems like the major investment yet remaining would be for a decent generator, portable air conditioner, and gasoline storage. I wonder how many laws and HOA regulations it would violate (if any) to put a 55 gallon drum of gasoline with a hand pump in your storage shed. Anyone know? Seems like 55 gallons should be enough to run a generator for a week and/or top off the car for a run out of the area. All this talk of preparedness makes me think of a Christmas dinner I had at a friend's house in Juneau Alaska in 1999 (just before Y2K). There was a neighbor there for dinner and he spent the entire evening talking about every detail of his preparedness for Y2K and how insane we were to not follow his lead. The man had basically built a fallout shelter/armed fortress in his basement for tens of thousands of dollars. He had over a year's worth of food and fuel and enough guns and ammo to arm a platoon of Rangers. He kept talking about when people are running wild on the streets he's going to be prepared. And I kept thinking. What people? You mean all your middle class neighbors who instantly band together at the drop of a hat when there's any sort of emergency like a lost child? They are all suddenly going to go "night of the living dead" on you because the computers don't work? I never did find out how he did on January 1, 2000. He must have been one dissapointed guy when there were no raving lunatics to shoot on the street.
  14. Thanks everyone for providing so much useful advice on my other thread on family neighborhoods. That thread generated a long list of notes and links of places to explore and research as we proceed down this path of maybe moving to Houston. My next question involves buying new or used. Before moving to Texas I lived most of my life in older established east and west coast cities where most everyone buys older established homes in older neighborhoods because that's mostly what's out there. Here in Texas there seems to be a fairly heavy bias towards new construction in new neighborhoods. Not just the Houston area but everywhere in Texas. It's almost as if housing is another disposible commodity. When we moved to the Waco area 4 years ago we bought a new house that was a spec house in an established neighborhood where the large trees were preserved. So I've got at least 20 large oak trees on my 6/10 acre lot even though the house was new. But I think that is a pretty rare thing. I think we were also lucky to get a fairly quality home that was made with quite a bit of detail and care by a very small local builder who is semi-retired and only does one or two houses at a time. So we have no complaints about the construction. What I have learned from buying both new and used houses over the years is that there are extaordinary expenses that come with buying new that go way way beyond what you first expect. Sprinker systems, fencing, patios/decks, landscaping, interior finishing (closets, towel bars, window blinds etc etc.) Over the past 4 years I've probably sunk close to $40 grand into this house when I add everything I've ever bought and put into it and I've done everything myself. At the same time I've been reading up on the state of real estate law in Texas and am horrified at how tilted the laws are towards the builders. Buyers of new homes seem to have almost no rights and are totally at the mercy of the builder if they get a lemon. And the number of stores and complaints about most of the large builders that you find at the hobb.org site is enough to make your hair stand up in fright and horror. It would seem to me that if a house is a lemon or has major structural problems, it will be MUCH MUCH easier for a good construction engineer to discover them on a 5-10 year old house than a newly constructed one. As any problems that are hidden will begin to reveal themselves in that time frame. So it might well be less risky to buy used rather than new. On top of that, the law seems to make it easier to go after a private seller than a builder in the event of fraud or undisclosed problems. In addition, I really like large trees and mature landscapes. So for me it seems like a no-brainer to be looking for older construction rather than new construction. But I'm curious what the rest of you think. I see the pros and cons as follows: New Home Pros: Up-to-date wiring and networking for computers/home theater Latest construction materials More up-to-date finishings Clean New Home Cons: Large investment needed to finish it out (sprinklers, landscaping, fences, window blinds etc.) Immature landscaping will take years to fill out Construction problems may be hidden and take years to reveal Flooding/drainage issues may not yet be apparent You don't really know how the neighborhood will finish out and what the final result will be in terms of traffic, demographics etc. More expensive Used Home Pros: Someone else already made all the investments in finishing out the place. Landcaping is mature Hopefully major construction problems have had time to reveal themselves You know how the neighborhood will look when finished because it is finished You know what the neighbors will be like and the neighborhood character Used home cons: Furnishings may be dated or in need of replacement (carpets, appliances) May be less energy efficient (appliances and construction) Possible hidden problems (mold, termites etc.) On balance, it seems like a no-brainer to me. Buying a used home in an established neighborhood seems like the much better investment, even if you're only buying a 2-3 year old home in a newer development. Comments?
  15. We're ranging a little far off track here, but I'm now wondering about a few things and maybe you folks have already thought about this stuff: 1. Can an existing house be retro-fitted for hurricanes? For example, are there products like metal straps that are designed so you can go up in your attic and tie the roof down better than it might have been constructed the first time around? Or are you basically just screwed if the house wasn't built right from the beginning. 2. How long did it take to clear the roads after Alicia? How realistic is it to think you can evacute post-storm if necessary? As for the other comments on buses? Not going to happen because everyone wants to drive their own cars and let some other family sit on the bus with no control as to where you are going. The only people who are ever going to ride evacuation buses in mass are those who own no cars and can't find friend or family to hitch a ride with.
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