Tuesday, January 6, 2009

[New?!] House Stalking in the Heights

They just don't build homes like they used to...or do they?
Over the weekend my husband, his brother, and I went to a bar in the Heights, one of Houston's oldest neighborhoods. Driving through the neighborhood, I was struck by how well the neighborhood had managed to rebuild while still staying true to its Craftsman and Victorian roots. In fact, the new builds are barely distinguishable from the old builds. My neighborhood (Montrose) on the other hand is a mishmash of 1920s Arts and Crafts bungalows, 1960s apartments and modern townhomes (some of which are very, very modern). While the variety could be deemed eclectic, it makes the neighborhood feel less...well...like a neighborhood and more like a bunch of random homes that just happened to find themselves situated on the same block.
But I'm not here to whine about the "lost charm" of my neighborhood -- I'm here to share some pictures from my virtual stalking. Can you believe the house to the right was built in 2007? Even the size (a moderate 2300sf.) is more in line with original builds and -- unlike new construction in my neighborhood -- this hasn't been built out to the lot line. Why can't they do this where I live?
[Actually, that's a rhetorical question with a depressing answer: because builders aren't required by law to. You see, while Montrose is roughly the same age as the Heights -- and in very close proximity to it -- the diverging fates of the neighborhoods is largely the result of the fact that the Heights is a designated historic district and Montrose is not. Thus, it's not that homeowners in the Heights have some greater sense of history or style -- it's just that, by law, all new construction has to comply with a ton of restrictions from lot size to style that are not similarly imposed on most Houston neighborhoods.]
Fortunately, the inside of this house is just as wonderful. Just look at that detailing! This house isn't just dressed up like a Craftsman from the outside: from floor to ceiling, it is one. Just look at the inlaid border in the wood floor! To quote Rachel Zoe -- I die. The master bedroom even boasts a double tray ceiling. And thanks to the falling oil prices and the swooning economy, the house can be yours for under $500k. We never found a deal that good two years ago when my husband and I were house hunting. But then again, it looks like this house has been sitting empty since it was built in 2007. Perusing HAR.com (a thorough and completely addicting housing resource for Houston that almost renders Realtors useless), it looks like there are quite a few completely adorable Craftsman/Arts and Crafts bungalows sitting empty in the Heights just looking for a home. Above is another one I found particularly appealing -- and at $469,000 and over 2900sf., it looks like an even better deal (though I do think the interior is not quite as exquisitely finished). But that's a matter of taste -- I vastly prefer dark wood and more masculine interiors to the "light and bright" spaces Realtors often blather on about.

If Craftsman isn't your style, never fear. The large percentage of the houses (both new and old) in the Heights are Victorian in style. For roughly the same price, you can buy a brand new 2400sf. Victorian on a corner lot with an absolutely beautiful front/side porch. This particular house is forcing me to revise my opinion on Victorian houses (too stuffy, too ornate, choppy rooms, etc.). Love the yard in particular, which is absolutely covetable "inside the loop". Unfortunately, the interior pictures of the house were horrible shot (perhaps to make up for a mediocre interior?). If I were the owner or listing agent, I would take more pictures immediately. You can't sell a house in this market with too-dark pictures that aren't even formatted correctly. I also noticed that the Heights is starting to build some New Orleans style homes as well -- perhaps an acknowledgment of the many 'Nawlins transplants that now call Houston home post-Katrina? In any case, I am absolutely loving the red paint on this house. I do wish more folks in my neighborhood would paint their homes something other than white, gray or pale blue. If my house weren't brick (bleh), I think I would either go for red like the house on the right or a very dark blue-gray (like Benjamin Moore's "Phillipsburg Blue", which I have in my master bedroom, and am still completely in love with 2.5 years after painting it).

In general, what attracts me to all of these houses -- and the Heights neighborhood as a whole -- is the detail that is so often missing in modern construction (particularly modern suburban construction). Unless a house is a custom build, you just don't get detailed woodwork, stained glass, elaborate tile work, etc. in most modern homes -- and I think that's a shame. I think most people would sacrifice a little bit of square footage for some personal detail and quality that makes the house feel special. But perhaps even more importantly, you're giving your neighbors something pretty to look at and something to take pride in. Who wouldn't want to walk their dog down a tree-lined street filled with houses whose styles have stood the test of time? Talk about keeping your neighborhood desirable.


Patch said...

I love!!! All the benefits (read: style) of an old house, with none of the annoying rundown everything!!!

Jamie S. said...

We love, love, love the Heights! The grey house you posted is actually one block from ours, and pretty similar. There are wonderful deals to be had, and many of the new home builders are creating perfect blends of Victorian and Craftsman exteriors with the wide open interiors of townhomes. PS - great blog!

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