Houston is one of the first city names you think of when someone mentions Texas. It’s famous for hosting NASA, not to mention its terrific location near the coast.
The greater Houston metropolitan area is estimated at 6.95 million people and includes cities like Katy, Pearland, Sugar Land, Cypress, and Memorial. The region is booming with jobs, economic growth, and real estate prices that are well below the national average. If you’re thinking about purchasing a home in Houston, here are some things you should know.
A Brief History
The city of Houston is named after General Sam Houston. His army won independence for the region from Mexico in 1836. Texas was the 28th state to be admitted to the union. Because of its convenient location near the water, it was designated a port, and the city took off from there.
In 1901, oil was discovered at Spindletop, which effectively put Houston at the center of the map for petroleum resources. The city has maintained a reputation as one of the best economies for jobs and expansion ever since.
Houston is also recognized for its role in the achievements of NASA. In 1967, Houston earned itself the nickname “Space City”; it’s home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
NASA also operates its Mission Control Center for U.S. human space flight here. You might recall the famous phrase “Houston, we have a problem,” which comes from the Apollo 13 moon flight when the crew reported major technical issues.
One of the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Cities
When the most recent recession descended, cities all over the nation took a hit. Jobs disappeared and businesses shut down.
Houston fared better than most, however. The city continued to create jobs and expand business activity, though the region struggled all around it. This was largely thanks to the oil corporations headquartered there.
The strong network of petroleum companies and ancillary industry have kept the city strong throughout the ups and downs of the national economy. The fourth largest metropolitan area in the US, Houston was ranked number 1 for paycheck worth by Forbes.
It’s also been referred to as the top city for job creation, and it’s a great place to start a business. In 2015, the census estimated a population of 2.29 million people, which was up from 2.1 million in 2010 — an impressive record of growth.
Houston has been called “the true melting pot,” even when compared to New York and Los Angeles. More than 90 foreign consulates are located in the area, and it hosts frequent visitors from around the world.
The residents represent a variety of ethnicities and cultures. The city commissioned a stunning sculpture entitled Tolerance to show its commitment to maintaining diversity in the city.
Given Houston’s size, you might expect home prices to be through the roof. But Houston boasts relatively low home prices compared to the national average.
The median home price is just $309,900, and the median rent price is $1,500. One of the city’s best attributes is that it features both high-paying and plentiful jobs and a low cost of living.
According to research from The Council for Community and Economic Research, Houston has the third lowest overall cost of living for 20 of the nation’s most highly populated areas. It’s about 5.6 percent below the average across the nation.
The real estate market for this region is all but recession proof. When the 2008 recession hit, the housing market in Houston remained steady.
Even given the dipping oil prices, housing costs haven’t fallen. If you’re considering the purchase of a home in Houston, you can be confident your residence will maintain its value.
No Zoning Laws
Another attractive facet of Houston is the lack of zoning laws. This means you can build pretty much anywhere without restriction. This has advantages and drawbacks.
On the positive side, you can build anything you like on your property without worrying about breaking a law. On the negative side, a developer could build a nightclub on your block, or your neighbor could open a pawn shop in his garage, and you’d lack any legal recourse. Consider yourself warned!
Although Houston is one of the largest cities in the US, it doesn’t have the walkability that many others have. Pretty much everyone in Houston owns a car and most drive to work rather than taking public transportation.
Unfortunately, this makes traffic one of the biggest issues in the Houston metro area. It’s easy to get stuck in a jam during rush hour, thanks to all the commuters. It’s not cheap either. Allstate calculates that the average Houston commute adds about $6,000 a year to a person’s expenses.
Plenty of Public Transportation
Like any metropolitan area, there’s an integrated transit system to make up for the low walkability. There are buses, light rails, lift vans, and taxi services. It’s affordable to take any form of public transportation, and there may be some tax incentives for those who do.
Amazing Shopping and Eateries
The shopping in Houston is impressive. You can find pretty much anything you’re looking for among the vast array of shops and boutiques in the city offer.
The largest complex is called The Galleria. You’ll have to set a budget so you don’t run out of money, which is all too easy in this shop-till-you-drop metro region.
When you need a break from all the shopping, enjoy one of the many restaurants for which the city is also famous. If you love BBQ, you’ll love Houston, which is loaded with great southern barbecue food.
Houston also claims to be the birthplace of Tex Mex, so you can get burritos and tacos with a unique American twist. But BBQ and Tex Mex are just two of the many, many food options here. You can get everything from sushi to Greek, and residents love to eat out.
Art, Museums, and Entertainment Galore
Art is absolutely everywhere in Houston. The city has won awards for “best show” by the International Association of Art Critics, and you can visit an art show whenever you like.
There are also famous artworks that enable you to see multiple artists in a single evening. A total of 20 museums inhabit the Museum District, ranging from children’s museums to natural history and science. As a bonus, many Houston museums have free admission.
Houston is home to the largest rodeo in the world, as well. More than 1.3 million people pay to see the cowgirls, cowboys, concerts, carnivals, food and wine events, and other live entertainment.
Residents can also enjoy regular concerts, theater, gun shows, magic shows, comedy, and so much more. You’ll have your fill of options for a date night or evening out with the family.
A Short Drive to the Coast
Though there’s a port right off of Houston, terrific beaches are less than an hour away, near Galveston or Texas City. They’re perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon with the kids or a weekend getaway with your significant other. You can enjoy a dip in the ocean, a walk along the boardwalks, and fresh seafood.
The best school districts are honestly in the suburbs of Houston: in Friendswood, Katy, and Pearland. But many of the schools within Houston city limits are top notch. A mix of public, charter, and private schools serve an equal mix of students.
The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District has a Houston zip code, and it gets high ratings for academics and teachers. It’s also top-rated for diversity and college preparation, with an excellent assortment of clubs and activities for well-rounded kids.
The best schools in the city of Houston include Carnegie Vanguard, Michael E. DeBakey, and Performance & Visual Arts High School. Houston ISD is a large district with significant class sizes, but you can be assured your kids will get a quality education if you live here.
Interested in Houston Real Estate?
If you love the many perks and amenities of Houston, it might be time to consider purchasing a home. The city’s vast array of amenities, jobs, and quality schools would attract any home buyer, especially given the high paychecks and low cost of living.
Use our robust home search tool for Houston area properties. By filtering search results based on location or preferred features, home buyers and investors alike can find an ideal property in the booming Houston area. For more information about prospective homes in the area, contact us today!