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McMansions in the suburbs make less sense with high energy prices

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There's an interesting article in the New York Times today about people who built giant homes out on the prairie having to re-think their lifestyles now that energy prices are so high.

The text isn't specific to Houston, but the story can be re-played in exurbs around the country and across Texas.

“Living closer in, in a smaller space, where you don’t have that commute,” he said. “It’s definitely something we talk about. Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.’ ”

Across the nation, the realization is taking hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a change with lasting consequences. The shift to costlier fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.

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Cue the Inner Loopers turning up their noses at the suburbanites....

You don't have to be an inner looper to understand that these days it makes more sense to live close to work. Hell we live outside the Beltway even.

We now fill up the car once A MONTH, vs. once every three-four days. Our summer energy bill went from 550 for a 4100 sq foot brand new house with 22 foot ceiling and no mature trees around it, to 425 for about the same size house, built in the 60's that isn't hermetically sealed, but with only 8 foot ceilings and tons of enormous oak trees to shade it. We turn off the AC and the hottest it gets in here is 76. I was shocked, I honestly thought our power bills in this old house wouth be at least 30 % higher.

While the new designs of open concept living are appealing, the cooling issues for Houston make it impractical. (Not to mention how loud they are)The upstairs gameroom in our Woodlands house was impossible to get below 76 in the summer even though the system was top of the line and exactly what the house required. Because it was open to the downstairs it was always running. Our current house, the upstairs AC doesn't even run during the day, and when we turn it on for the evening it's down to 70 within an hour.

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Interesting article.

While it may be a lifestyle shift for the people in the exurbs, the ecomonics are more delicate in the urban core. Developers have provided lots of infill for the Falcon Point homeowner who wants to ditch the spread and move into a a half million dollar townhome in town, but it begs the question, where is the planning for the low and middle income urban? They can't all be forced out into the new slums, and they sure as hell can't afford the new urbanism. With the exception of Canal Street, I haven't seen any development that looks to this market. Is there more out there? I'd love to hear of it.

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You don't have to be an inner looper to understand that these days it makes more sense to live close to work.

...for some people.

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LOL this has nothing to do with energy. this is an urbanista article.

i can introduce you to someone who moved from the burbs to inner loop to a condo 1/2 the size of the house and is paying more in bills. there are sooo many variables not even mentioned in the article.

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The text isn't specific to Houston, but the story can be re-played in exurbs around the country and across Texas.

Construction starts on homes in the highest price points are up throughout the Houston region but have slowed down somewhat in the inner city, according to MetroStudy.

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but it begs the question, where is the planning for the low and middle income urban? They can't all be forced out into the new slums, and they sure as hell can't afford the new urbanism. With the exception of Canal Street, I haven't seen any development that looks to this market. Is there more out there? I'd love to hear of it.

It's the same question I've been asking on here since I've been a HAIFy. The answers are buried somewhere in this message board. A refresher would be nice...

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Interesting article.

While it may be a lifestyle shift for the people in the exurbs, the ecomonics are more delicate in the urban core. Developers have provided lots of infill for the Falcon Point homeowner who wants to ditch the spread and move into a a half million dollar townhome in town, but it begs the question, where is the planning for the low and middle income urban? They can't all be forced out into the new slums, and they sure as hell can't afford the new urbanism. With the exception of Canal Street, I haven't seen any development that looks to this market. Is there more out there? I'd love to hear of it.

I think the short answer is that land prices in the innerloop are too high to allow for new low and middle income urban developments.

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Get ready Katy, FairField, Cypress, Pearland, Friendswood, this is you!

Sugar Land and the Woodland might be immune to this.

Care to explain why you have handpicked the Woodlands and Sugar Land to be above the others?

IMO some of these areas you have mentioned are too large and diverese to generalize.

For instance, alot of once affluent, "nice" areas in West Pearland are slummy or becoming that way and the people moving there are ignoring the signs in front of them.

Also Katy (as it is often considered) is not immune in some areas. But I see no reason to believe South Katy will slum up, With Seven Meadows, Cinco Ranch, Grand Lakes, Kelliwood, etc.

You have too realize that in a good bit of all these communities people are not commuting to an urban core.

And also not everyone in the burbs or the exburbs lives in a mcmansion, even in a nice nieghborhood. I, for instance live in a modest 1 story home of around 2,200 SF in cinco ranch(south Katy). It is not costing me an arm and a leg to cool my house, just an arm. damn de-regulation!

Way to much generalizations and assumptions are made everytime this discussion arises.

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Get ready Katy, FairField, Cypress, Pearland, Friendswood, this is you!

Sugar Land and the Woodland might be immune to this.

Parts of Katy, Spring, Clear Lake City, and Richmond/Rosenberg, yes. The higher-end ones you mention have a ways to go.

Actually, if you look at how Clear Lake City is going, which was a really nice area in its day, that's a pretty decent indication of how much of Cypress is going to evolve. It'll be a slower decay than, say, Spring or North Katy.

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Care to explain why you have handpicked the Woodlands and Sugar Land to be above the others?

Sugar Land, and more so the Woodlands have REAL master planned neighborhoods and actually is attempting to establish a funtioning CBD, not just a strip malls and Walmarts, but something that is attractive and sustainable for a real live, work, play environment.

I can't think of a real towncenter that is not a strip mall in Katy, Pearland, or anywhere else. The rest are just residential neighborhoods with Walmart and HEB strip centers mixed in them, nothing else. Cheaply built homes too that only look good for about 5 years.

As mentioned above, Maybe the Clear Lake area can be included, but I don't see it yet.

I am just glad I bought my depressed run-down home on the cheap in Uptown back in 2003 instead of opting to live in the burbs.

Edited by Pumapayam

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It'll be a slower decay than, say, Spring or North Katy.

North Katy is a trap! They really suckered people into getting homes there. It should have stayed as farm land. Good luck ever seeing mass transit there or even decent freeway access.

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North Katy is a trap! They really suckered people into getting homes there. It should have stayed as farm land. Good luck ever seeing mass transit there or even decent freeway access.

Do you even know where I'm talking about?

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Also Katy (as it is often considered) is not immune in some areas. But I see no reason to believe South Katy will slum up, With Seven Meadows, Cinco Ranch, Grand Lakes, Kelliwood, etc.

South Katy just has really nice neighborhoods, with houses in the millions dollar. Yes it is nice, but would I want to ever live there, nope. Too far. Sure the school are nice and the area is safe. But after you raise your kids, what's the point of living there anymore?

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Sugar Land, and more so the Woodlands have REAL master planned neighborhoods and actually is attempting to establish a funtioning CBD, not just a strip malls and Walmarts, but something that is attractive and sustainable for a real live, work, play environment.

I can't think of a real towncenter that is not a strip mall in Katy, Pearland, or anywhere else. The rest are just residential neighborhoods with Walmart and HEB strip centers mixed in them, nothing else. Cheaply built homes too that only look good for about 5 years.

As mentioned above, Maybe the Clear Lake area can be included, but I don't see it yet.

I am just glad I bought my depressed run-down home on the cheap in Uptown back in 2003 instead of opting to live in the burbs.

This is the same tired rhetoric, drivel, that doesn't deserve a response. You can do better than generalizations. Just Try it.

If you really don't realize that the energy corrdior and the burgeoning medical industry on the west side is not equivilent to a CBD than you should.

And since I am responding, I'll go on, What is a "real" master planned community. And how does Cinco Ranch not typify one?

Edited by westguy76

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What roads border what you define as "North Katy?"

North of I-10 and maybe 99 on the west and Peek Rd on the east.

Can't figure out the north end, maybe just shy of 290.

This is the same tired rhetoric, drivel, that doesn't deserve a response. You can do better than generalizations. Just Try it.

If you really don't realize that the energy corrdior and the burgeoning medical industry on the west side is not equivilent to a CBD than you should.

All those homes were built on cheap land. Developers saw an opportunity and churned out cookie cutter homes in cul-de-sac infested hoods.

It's practically a mini road trip to get out of your neighborhood to begin with just to get basic errands done like grocery shopping or going to the gym.

Edited by Pumapayam

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It's practically a mini road trip to get out of your neighborhood to begin with just to get basic errands done like grocery shopping or going to the gym.

That's probably the number one thing I hate about living in the 'burbs. There's less than a handful of major roads to get around on and there's hardly any useful retail in between them.

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North of I-10 and maybe 99 on the west and Peek Rd on the east.

Can't figure out the north end, maybe just shy of 290.

Generally speaking, look at the school district. What's north of I-10 is North Katy. And as for Spring, if you think it doesn't have good freeway access, you've never been there (or perhaps didn't realize it when you were).

As for S. Katy, that it doesn't work for you doesn't mean that it doesn't work for other people. If you've got kids and you work in west Houston, S. Katy makes for a pretty good option. With the completion of the Katy Freeway work not far off, it actually makes for a really really good option, even for inner city workers with kids. It'll only turn as a result of aging homes and infrastructure, as well as by ghetto apartments, the same way as Clear Lake City is turning now. But it won't be because there isn't demand for nice middle-class suburban areas.

Edited by TheNiche

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Funny that you think that Katy would suffer more than the Woodlands considering their geographical locations. Katy is much closer to an economic core than the Woodlands. And despite how some people want the Woodlands to appear, it's also primarily middle class.

And I think Katy has built a Town Center type thing recently. La Centerra or something.

North of I-10 hasn't ever been considered totally desireable along the west side, so the fact that it's the first to have foreclosure problems is no surprise.

I dunno, if there is going to be any slide into the slums in any burb, I think they will all suffer about the same amount.

Someone told me that Sugarland is having problems with multiple family moving into single family dwelling in some the the 400,000+ housing. No way to varify that though.

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North of I-10 and maybe 99 on the west and Peek Rd on the east.

Can't figure out the north end, maybe just shy of 290.

All those homes were built on cheap land. Developers saw an opportunity and churned out cookie cutter homes in cul-de-sac infested hoods.

It's practically a mini road trip to get out of your neighborhood to begin with just to get basic errands done like grocery shopping or going to the gym.

I live very near the corner of Westheimer Parkway and Mason in the heart of Cinco Ranch.

At this Intersection is a Krogers Grocery store. Within 2 to 3 miles there is a YMCA and a Lifetime fitness

Your ideas are misconceptions.

Not every thing can be generalized as it is in a book.

Edited by westguy76

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And since I am responding, I'll go on, What is a "real" master planned community. And how does Cinco Ranch not typify one?

Definition of a community, in my eyes is what brought me here to HAIF to begin with. The Surburban Nation really shows what is sustainable and what isn't.

Cinco Ranch is just homes, maybe with elementary schools within it. But outside the gates beyond the mess of cul-de-sacs, are churches, high schools, and Walmarts. Everything else in Katy requires a trip on the freeway into Houston.

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Definition of a community, in my eyes is what brought me here to HAIF to begin with. The Surburban Nation really shows what is sustainable and what isn't.

Cinco Ranch is just homes, maybe with elementary schools within it. But outside the gates beyond the mess of cul-de-sacs, are churches, high schools, and Walmarts. Everything else in Katy requires a trip on the freeway into Houston.

read my previous post for enlightenment

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I live very near the corner of Westheimer Parkway and Mason in the heart of Cinco Ranch.

At this Intersection is a Krogers Grocery store. Within 2 to 3 miles there is a YMCA and a Lifetime fitness

Your ideas are misconceptions.

Not every thing can be generalized as it is in a book.

Exceptions exist, but even still, I have an grocery store I can walk to across the street and I do mean walk. Not walk past 30 homes and a few blocks to wiggle out of the single entrance and then walk along a brick fence for a few more blocks along treeless sidewalks that no one really uses except for morning power walkers.

I live in a 2500 sq ft home I bought for just over $100,000. I have (4) 24 Hour Fitnesses within a 1/2 mile radius.

You can beat that.

Some master planned hoods, especially if you are tucked in a house way in the back, you have to drive over a mile before you finally get out of its one or two entrances. That is just silly.

Edited by Pumapayam

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Sugar Land, and more so the Woodlands have REAL master planned neighborhoods and actually is attempting to establish a funtioning CBD, not just a strip malls and Walmarts, but something that is attractive and sustainable for a real live, work, play environment.

I can't think of a real towncenter that is not a strip mall in Katy, Pearland, or anywhere else. The rest are just residential neighborhoods with Walmart and HEB strip centers mixed in them, nothing else. Cheaply built homes too that only look good for about 5 years.

Something bad happened to Puma at a strip mall. ;)

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I live in a 2500 sq ft home I bought for just over $100,000. I have (4) 24 Hour Fitnesses within a 1/2 radius.

WHAT? the grocery store and 24 hr fitness aren't IN your building? we just can't sustain that. :wacko:

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WHAT? the grocery store and 24 hr fitness aren't IN your building? we just can't sustain that. :wacko:

They may be! He didn't define what radius a 1/2 is???

Edited by westguy76

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And I think Katy has built a Town Center type thing recently. La Centerra or something.

Sorry, their Town Center is just a glorified shopping mall of stores that was stratigically placed to look less like a strip mall.

Residential, or an attempt at it, is still a year away and is really not much brag about.

Town and County City Centre did a better job, but I still don't consider that anywhere near what a sustainable community could be. When a city/community can develope taller building, parks, government buildings, a variety of house, and be smart and actually have a grocery store in them (why do they always leave them out!) Then it can be useable.

Sugarland has the combination of the Town Square and to a lesser degree Lake Pointe across the street. The Woodlands does not need an explaination.

Something bad happened to Puma at a strip mall. ;)

Ha :lol: , no I just think they are useless for the direction that Houston needs to go in. I don't know why they even build sidewalks along the front of them. Most people just go from their car in the parking lot to the door, rarely does anyone actually take a stroll down a strip center.

If it was not for Starbucks, most of those strip centers would not even have activity on their sidewalks.

Edited by Pumapayam

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Sorry, their Town Center is just a glorified shopping mall of stores that was stratigically placed to look less like a strip mall.

Residential, or an attempt at it, is still a year away and is really not much brag about.

Town and County City Centre did a better job, but I still don't consider that anywhere near what a sustainable community could be. When a city/community can develope taller building, parks, government buildings, a variety of house, and be smart and actually have a grocery store in them (why do they always leave them out!) Then it can be useable.

Sugarland has the combination of the Town Square and to a lesser degree Lake Pointe across the street. The Woodlands does not need an explaination.

City Centre and TCV doesn't NEED to be a sustainable community. It's already within it.

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They may be! He didn't define what radius a 1/2 is???

1/2 mile. . sheesh! I will fix that. :P

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Cue the Inner Loopers turning up their noses at the suburbanites....

I am a "Just outside the Inner Loopers" and I just feel aweful for people who invested in these homes out in BFE and drive in town each day! ^_^

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I am a "Just outside the Inner Loopers" and I just feel aweful for people who invested in these homes out in BFE and drive in town each day! ^_^

I don't need your pity. I enjoy my lifestyle very much, thank you.

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Oh lordy! Inner vs. outer strikes again!

I agree with Puma for the most part and really enjoy living near work and places outside of work I frequent, but I chose that with or without gas prices.

I don't have much tolerance for sitting in my car between home/work regardless.

And I like the variety of (non-chain) places I have easy access to from my neighborhood.

But I also realize that I don't like what most people seem to - which is why I live where I do, and lots of others choose the exurbs.

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For instance, alot of once affluent, "nice" areas in West Pearland are slummy or becoming that way and the people moving there are ignoring the signs in front of them.

Huh?!?

I've spent a good bit of time exploring the west side of Pearland and I have yet to see any indication of slumminess. I must be among the blind you cite. Can you back that up with a "for example"?

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You don't have to be an inner looper to understand that these days it makes more sense to live close to work.

I just love comments like this. The underlying assumption is that all suburbs are bedroom communities - and that's it. In Clear Lake... you can live and work down here, if you chose. You want Midtown? OK... Look at the intersection of Bay Area and 45... Berryhill, Cafe Express, Taco Milagro, Starbucks, Borders, Barnes & Nobles... Clear Lake has all the same favorite chain establishments as can be found in the finest parts of the inner loop. Plus Lowes and Home Depot are actually close by. Not to mention, the Gulf of Mexico is only 30 minutes away. Great swimming opportunity, for those that like brown water.

There are some older neighborhoods that are actually pretty nice, too. In fact, that's why Glenbrook, an "edge of loop" neighborhood, is in the sad state it is in today - because all those residents fled to Clear Lake City, decades ago... and by the looks of it... I don't see them going back.

There are other factors too. Want to send your kids to a good school? Good luck with HISD. Why pay all that money to live in the inner loop - and pay to send your kids to private school - when you have good school districts like CCISD. You pay the school tax. Why not get your money out of that expense? Calculate the cost of sending your kids to private school, in addition to the money you must pour down the drain to HISD, and then see if inner loop living (with children at least) is such a good bargain.

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I don't need your pity. I enjoy my lifestyle very much, thank you.

Yeah, I get an average of 90 minutes more freetime a day since I am not stuck in traffic. Enjoy your life stuck in traffic (Generalization of most people stuck on 290, I-10, and 59).

And I like the variety of (non-chain) places I have easy access to from my neighborhood.

Great point, how many Gamestop and Mattress Firms anchored with Best Buys and Walmart do we really need.

All these strip centers start looking alike as far as what they contain. It is like the same pool of 30 chain stores mixed and matched a dozen at a time placed in strip malls 5 or 6 exits apart from each other.

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Can't we just cut-and-paste this debate from last year and save everyone time?

The anti-chain rants and the inner loop DINKS on their high-horse... Oy Vey.

I don't think anyone in this city is being forced to live ANYWHERE. Nobody cares where you live and what you enjoy no matter where you live.

And just in case nobody has noticed, there are some NASTY places inside the loop.

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Huh?!?

I've spent a good bit of time exploring the west side of Pearland and I have yet to see any indication of slumminess. I must be among the blind you cite. Can you back that up with a "for example"?

Once the first owner of the house leaves, or decides to rent it out, then you will notice. These new homes look ugly really fast.

Any why do people built and buy the same damn cookie cutter homes, 2 story brick first floor, hardi second floor and rear, and that silly arch stone in the top middle of each window, and roof top profiles with so many peaks they rival mini mountain ranges. :rolleyes:

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There are other factors too. Want to send your kids to a good school? Good luck with HISD.

Over the years on this board I have found the most vocal inner-loopers don't even have children...

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That's probably the number one thing I hate about living in the 'burbs. There's less than a handful of major roads to get around on and there's hardly any useful retail in between them.

And it's the single biggest suburban development mistake and one of the main drivers of "new urbanism". Only a handful of arterial roads, where all the commerical is located, and residential neighborhoods with long, winding or circular roads instead of a grid pattern. It promotes isolated residential areas and terrible congestion on the arteries. Hence, the 'town square' model that tries to better integrate residential and commerical.

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I don't think anyone in this city is being forced to live ANYWHERE. Nobody cares where you live and what you enjoy no matter where you live.

People are being shamed into buying cheap homes in the middle of nowhere. I don't blame them for buying it initially, because it SEEMS like a good deal with the promise of a great investment.

To get back on topic, it's the aftermath, especially now with energy costs on the up and up that really makes it a terrible investment.

And with so many cheap looking neighborhoods being built outside of the BW 8, do you really see any improvement in property values. This more so applies for the west, northwest, south Houston. Those areas are being saturated.

I think the coastal markets are exempted from this becuase of the appeal to be near water (not a silly retention pond), a real lake or bay, like the Clear Lake area.

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Once the first owner of the house leaves, or decides to rent it out, then you will notice. These new homes look ugly really fast.

Any why do people built and buy the same damn cookie cutter homes, 2 story brick first floor, hardi second floor and rear, and that silly arch stone in the top middle of each window, and roof top profiles with so many peaks they rival mini mountain ranges. :rolleyes:

Sorry Puma, I'm still looking for a better answer than that. Many of those neighborhoods are already 10 years old, so surely into second owners. Things still look pretty good.

I'm not invested in this in any sense of the word, I just think these opinions are being flung around pretty wildly, and I'll like to hear some evidence.

I agree about cookie cutter homes. One reason people may buy them is that they cost 1/2 to 1/3 what a more interesting house in the loop might cost. That's a fairly compelling reason. Personally, I wish the builders would build things that varied in style more, in particular more modern homes. But I guess the rest of the buying public disagrees, or they probably would.

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Over the years on this board I have found the most vocal inner-loopers don't even have children...

I think that people with kids have to resort to buying these cheaply built bigger homes in the middle of nowhere to give each kid their own bedroom, a game room, and back yard to play in(which actually, I think is getting tinier compared to the 1970's surburban home).

Reality check, most kids never play in their tiny treeless fenced in backyard, unless you have a pool in it. It's becomes a poop garden for the family dog. :P

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People are being shamed into buying cheap homes in the middle of nowhere. I don't blame them for buying it initially, because it SEEMS like a good deal with the promise of a great investment.

I'm kind of laughing now. But seriously, what are you talking about? Who is shaming whom? And anyone who thinks a suburban house in Houston is a good investment is worse than a sucker.

I really think most people are buying these houses to live in, and to raise their families in. Not because they've been "shamed" or think they're going to get rich buying in a suburban subdivision.

Of course, I can't pretend to know the minds of the masses....

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People are being shamed into buying cheap homes in the middle of nowhere.

This is the most outrageous statement in this thread, considering everything else you've said.

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I agree about cookie cutter homes. One reason people may buy them is that they cost 1/2 to 1/3 what a more interesting house in the loop might cost. That's a fairly compelling reason. Personally, I wish the builders would build things that varied in style more, in particular more modern homes. But I guess the rest of the buying public disagrees, or they probably would.

I know, we need more bungalows, cottages, victorians, colonials, farmhouse, ranch style, and less McMansions.

No personality.

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Puma, while I would rather live closer to town I think some of your comments are unfounded. I live in Governors Place which is in South Katy, and I have very easy access to I-10, 99, and the Westpark tollroad. I also live within two miles of a Kroger Signature, Fiesta, HEB and a Specks. I also have easy access to some great Mexican food (my favorite), A YMCA, a Lifetime Fitness, any fast food I want, Parks, lakes, malls, etc, etc.

I will also mention that La Centerra is not that bad at all. It's a fun place to people watch, eat a nice meal, and have a drink (there is a Bakers street pub, and a wine bar). All in all it gives those of us living in the burbs a nice alternative to Houston. T

I still like coming into town, but I certainly wouldn't paint such a broad brush sterotype of the area.

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