October 22, 2004
The real estate divide
Kash points to this story about political considerations as a factor in determining where to buy a house. It's some more empirical evidence for the Great Divide thesis that Bill Bishop has been writing about.
Of course, yard signs during campaign season aren't really necessary for this kind of self-sorting. We had some neighbors a few years back (a married couple about our age) who came to Houston to follow a job. The job was in the Woodlands, and they were set up through the employer with a real estate agent out there. They looked there, but having done some research beforehand they knew that the Woodlands was not a good match for them. So they asked the agent about Montrose and the Heights. The agent responded that in her opinion, those parts of town were crime- and drug-ridden dens of iniquity, and she refused to show them anything south of FM1960. They found their own agent, and everything worked out in the end.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 22, 2004 to Society and cultcha
That's a common perception in the suburbs, though. And there was a time when the perception that the Heights and Montrose are dangerous was a lot more accurate than it is now--20 or 30 years back, true, but it was so.
I tend to remember what a cop told me about dangerous neighborhoods in Houston: crooks have cars!
So they asked the agent about Montrose and the Heights. The agent responded that in her opinion, those parts of town were crime- and drug-ridden dens of iniquity, and she refused to show them anything south of FM1960.
That sounds like steering, which is illegal. Did they report the agent?
I lived in the Montrose neighborhood back in the late 70's and early 80's. I can recall the shock on the faces of some of my associates at work when I told them where I lived.
But I had the same feeling about the suburbs: What kind of a person would want to live there?
I have lost track of what's happening in Houston, but it seems to me that things are less divided now than they were then. A lot of inner-city neighborhoods have suburb-type stores and people have cleared lots and built suburb-styled houses. At the same time lots of people who might prefer to live downtown have had to move out to the suburbs because of affordability.
Mathwiz - I'm reporting from memory of a couple years ago, so I may not have the details exactly right. The main thing was that the agent freaked about anything outside her little safe zone.
Bill - Yes, a lot of that has happened, especially in Montrose and surrounding areas, like Neartown. There's good and bad to it, but it has made those areas someplace people want to live again.
Gentrification may be confounding these sorts of things.
Take the neartown area around what used to be called Freedmen's district. I bet most real estate agents in town who are not inner loop specialists would not even give that area a second thought, when in reality it's one of the hottest spots going right now (and just ripe for further development as more people move in). I talked to one real estate agent at a seminar I attended through my credit union who DID seem horrified when I asked her something about offerings in that area (I just wanted to see if she knew anything about Houston -- she was a KATY realtor for gawd's sake -- and she didn't). It may just be that there are plenty of bad real estate agents out there. :)