"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." (Neil Armstrong) Read Guide >
Two must-knows for Houston apartment hunting concern the seasonal implications of 30 degrees latitude.
Houstonians who live inside the 610 Loop (“ITL” for your keyword searching convenience), which forms the inner web of commerce including Downtown, the Heights, the area around Rice University, and other such historic neighborhoods, can be notoriously arrogant. In a city where most of the population owns a personal vehicle, this provincialism can seem ridiculous. OTLers (those “outside the Loop”) consistently doubt the existence of good reasons to travel inside 610, claiming their lives are less stressful and just as exciting as ITLers. But there are good reasons to consider living ITL. Namely:
Downtown: Downtown Houston feels extremely corporate and business-like. If you aren’t comfortable seeing oil tycoons in suits hobnob it at Starbucks all day, then this might not be the district for you. Downtown also shuts down around 10pm—there aren’t too many late night or 24-hour spots for you party animals. If you want nightlife, you’ll have to head west to Midtown or Washington. That said, the area affectionately known as EaDo (“East Downtown”) has some wonderful surprises, including some of the best Chinese buffets in town… $550/month for an historic one-bedroom in EaDo. Compare that with studio lofts in the CBD: upwards of $1000/month!
The Eastern Wards: Residential development originally sprawled westward out from Downtown, the originally professional class settling in the Fourth Ward and leaving points east to industrial and shipping uses. Most of these areas struggle with high crime and foreclosures. That’s not to say there aren’t some decent neighborhoods: University of Houston sits smack in the middle of the Third Ward, which ensures some measure of safety and stability. Don’t pay much over $600/month (utilities included) for a modest-sized two-bedroom condo near U of H. Checking out the Orange Show on Munger St. is a must.
Midtown: Running west out from Downtown, this is the “it” area for young, artsy, professionals. Seedy Montrose is LGBT-friendly, West Alabama has the historic Angelika Theatre, and Washington Ave. is the new (moneyed) hipster ghetto. This neighborhood still has that urban, commercial feel, but it’s that of a smaller city. Most folks who live here rarely find it necessary to head east of the Gulf Freeway. Seriously, all the culture and amenities one needs can be found on Westheimer St. Don’t go too far past Shepherd or you’ll land in River Oaks, one of the oldest in richest communities in the U.S. (Translation: “apartments” in this neighborhood are where the au pairs live.) Luxury apartments and lofts on Washington go for around $1000/month (one-bedroom) and $1500/month (two-bedroom). Head south for more reasonable rates: $700-$800/month for one-bedrooms (Jacuzzi included?!) off Montrose.
The Heights: A wonderfully diverse and historic neighborhood (master-planned in 1891, it features Victorian mansions alongside quaint single-family homes), the Heights enjoys great access to major freeways: I-10, which will take you into the CBD or west to Katy; and I-45, which will take you north to the airport or the Woodlands. Professional folks too poor to live in Midtown plus young families give the Heights a laid-back feel. Nicer one-bedroom apartments will top out at $1000/month. Look for a two- or three-bedroom Victorian and you’ll save $200-$300/month per head.
West University: Named for Rice University’s majestic presence, this area boasts an impressive number of museums (concentrated in the aptly named “Museum District”), Hermann Park (the only real rival to Memorial Park), and the Houston Zoo. The driftwood-framed Ginger Man in Rice Village shopping center is arguably the best beer bar in town. Two-bedroom apartments with hardwood floors run $1300/month and up; a little more than half that for only one bedroom. Expect covered parking in this neighborhood. (But if not, don’t fret: there are so many trees you’ll be fine on the street.)
Between 610 and the Beltway: The graphically tubular zone between the Loop and Beltway 8 (also called the Sam Houston Tollway) is the first legitimately “suburban” area after one leaves central Houston. These communities are oftentimes still historic—picture wide, oak-lined streets and large porches—but safer and more spread out. The sacrifice one makes in moving OTL is that city feel: there are definitely highly-trafficked commercial districts (the Galleria in Woodway is a prime example), but they’re more likely to be massive malls amidst a moat of parking possibilities than ye olde main street. Here are a few neighborhoods OTL you’d best be acquainted with.
Bellaire: Just outside the southwest corner of the Loop, Bellaire lives up to its California namesake. The Galleria shopping center (poodles, Versace, etc.) perches just north of Hwy. 59, South Rice Ave. linking it to Bellaire Blvd. While Bellaire is park-less, its high number of private schools makes up for it. (Wait, what??!)$700-$800/month for one-bedrooms, higher if you’d like to be closer to the Medical Center in case of an emergency.
Memorial: As you travel west along I-10, the communities on either side of the freeway are broken up into independent incorporated “villages”: Bunker Hill, Piney Point, Hunter’s Creek, Hedwig. Children in these neighborhoods attend the prestigious Memorial High School (thereby giving the area its name). The Houston Country Club imparts an appropriate aura to this region. It’s where the “good ol’ boys” reside. $450-$600/month for efficiency one-bedrooms, higher for luxury apartments closer to the Galleria.
Aldine: A good choice if you’re going to be spending most of your weekends (or weekdays, for that matter) at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which stretches north of the Beltway but is easily accessed from Aldine. This super-cheap area (you get what you pay for, remember) offers one-bedrooms for $500/month max. Add $100/month for another room.
Hating on Houston was so 2005. Tell all your poser friends to get real and leave Austin for the Bayou City next weekend—cause you’re about to land one heck of a Houston habitat.
Houston Texas was founded in 1836 by John and Augustus Allen back when the city was nothing but swampland. In just a few short years after incorporation, the city became known as a major hub of cotton trade and a bustling railroad business. After the Civil War, developers began making plans for widening the bayous to prompt waterborne commerical trade. This was the first step to what we know now to be the Port of Houston, the second largest port in America. By the end of the Second World War, Houston also had a major medical presence in the country with the M.D. Anderson Medical Foundation. This in turn prompted the building of more hospitals to form the world famous Houston Medical Center. At this time, Houston reverted back to being a port city after being involved in manufacturing for the war effort. In the mid century, the availability of air condition finally put Houston on the livability map, taking the local economy into the newer world of energy. Also, the NASA program was developed and is still going strong just south of the downtown area. Many families from the now-blighted Rust Belt began moving into Houston for employment in the newly formed energy sector. The nickname "Boomtown" was given to the now highly populated city.
By the mid-80's however, Houston was in a recession due to falling oil prices and savings and loan collapse. Houston eventually bounced back from this problem, although many neighborhoods still show the scars from this dark period of time. The city learned from its mistakes. Houston began to diversify its economy and with that job opportunities and housing. In this modern day, the city has more resources in both aerospace and the health care/biotechnology industry. By reducing dependance on oil, which the city was essentially built on, Houston has insured its continued growth and survival for many years to come. As stated before, Houston is a land of opportunity. There are many different industries available for workers either moving to the city or presently living here. The long ago image of a rowdy Texan with a giant Cadillac and a penchant for oil is long gone. Houston is also a very culturally diverse city, with large populations of European, Hispanic and Asian communities.
Pros •Lots of available employment. •Homes are still very affordable. •Many things to do around town for either the family or singles. •Many opportunities for education, from elementary to college.
Cons •Is a huge city, in both population and area. •Has a higher than average crime rate compared to other cities. •Is over 85f degrees for 7 months out of the year and very humid. •The freeways are always packed.
The People - Who Lives Here?
Houston is a melting pot of different cultures, attitudes, religions and colors. Due to the diverse economy, many people from all over the world have relocated to Houston for employment. Most people in Houston are very friendly and neighborly, with of course a few exceptions. Its very hard to pin down a certain type of person in this city, due to the size. There are many cultural enclaves in the city where groups of people who have immigrated from different countries have established themselves, families and businesses. Even though a few of these enclaves are long gone, they still bear the marks of the countrymen and women who founded them. Houston is a great place to get to know your neighbor, or just fade into the background, whatever your preference. Due to the size of the city, there is quite a bit of crime, but no more than the national average. Violent crime is not unheard of, but isn't the It really depends on what neighborhood you move into as far as crime goes.
Social Scene - Bars, clubs, restaurants
The social scene is huge in Houston. Whatever you want, Houston has it. Houston has a very high concentration of restaurants, from chains to family owned joints that have been around for generations. It has been said that Houston competes only with New York in the amount of restaurants. Most of them are easy to find, clean and generous on the portions. Your mileage may vary dependent on tastes. Bars are another thing that Houston has a glut of. There is at least one to cater to your tastes. Quite a few may look rough on the outside, but has a community feel on the inside. The smaller neighborhood bars are the best place to get to know some of your neighbors in most cases. By far the most prevalent of bars are the sports bar variety. Clubs also have a very large presence in Houston, but are regulated to certain areas of town. If you are looking for the nightclub atmosphere, look no further than the Downtown/Midtown section of Houston, which has been revived due to these clubs. If you are looking for something a little less dress code-ish, head down to Montrose.
The Value - Rental prices vs. quality of living
Rental prices vary wildly throughout Houston. Due to the housing boom, there are many new developments both inside and outside of the city. The solid rule is that the closer that you move to downtown, the more expensive it gets. If you find what seems to be an incredible deal, take a good look at it. Often times the good deal is enticing you to move into a home that looks very shabby from the outside, or is in an undesirable section of that particular neighborhood. Luxury apartments are becoming the norm, replacing Boomtown-era courtyard apartments. These apartments can run a pretty penny, but often come with high quality amenities, such as washer/dryer in unit, or conceirge service. If its a home that you are looking for, Houston has many options to choose from. The reigning style is sprawling ranch, with 1940's style craftsman homes coming in a very close second. The downside of this is that you are paying oftentimes a high amount of money for a smaller living space. Most of these homes have been updated for todays family, with either total renovations to the homes for more space, or smaller changes for those who do not mind living in a smaller space, but want newer appliances or other amenities. Compared to the national average, you do get alot of house and land for your money in Houston. Just remember, buyer beware. Do your research before plunking down the money on a house that may be in a bad neighborhood, or was flooded during Allison in 2001.
Transportation & Traffic
Traffic is the first thing that you will hear a native Houstonian gripe about. Admittedly, the traffic is terrible in the rush hour times of day. The city is in a transitional phase of construction. At this writing, work is being done on I-10 Katy Freeway to the west of the city to reduce the traffic clogs that plague the freeway. If you are considering moving anywhere in Houston, read up on the specific neighborhood or zip code that you are moving into for information on how to get around. Many times you can avoid freeway traffic all together if there are alternate neighborhood routes and surface streets to take. The public transportation system is also undergoing many changes. The downtown light rail is still running smoothly and is very efficient if you work in the Medical Center or Downtown Houston. If you rely on a bus to get to work, you might want to reconsider your move to Houston. The buses in the city are sometimes few and far between and the scheduled time between trips can be long. Your best option if you do move here and have to take the bus is www.ridemetro.org. Here you can use the "Trip Planner" feature to ensure that you get where you need to be on time. Park and Ride is fast becoming a popular feature. For a nominal fee, you can drive to one of many hubs in Houston and take a commuter bus usually directly in front of your building downtown. In many cases your employer will reimburse you for this service. It doesn't take any longer than driving yourself usually and will save wear and tear on your car. If you are worried about going to lunch at work without a car, the light rail solves that problem.
Rental Advice & Tips
Searching for Houston apartments? You can find apartments in Houston in neighborhoods such as Old Chinatown, Greenspoint, Spring Branch, and Upper Kirby. Find an apartment near the local colleges or universities like Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, and South Texas College of Law. If living near public transportation is preferred, you can search for Houston apartments near the METRO. Houston apartments can also be found near popular spots such as the Bayou Place, Hermann Park, Williams Waterfall, Space Center Houston, and the Galleria. Houston apartments can be located in any area of the city that is desired.
Entertainment & Recreation - Things to do
There is no shortage of things to do in Houston. In addition to having 5 major sports teams (basketball, hockey, baseball, football and soccer), Houston also has a subculture of other less-known sports with leagues for you to join. There is a small rugby league, disc-golf and many many more. Houston is also home of NASA, which is a 30 or so minute drive from downtown on I-45. The Space Center Houston provides tours and many family friendly activities all year round for a not-terrible price. The Museum District is home to many forms of entertainment, including the Houston Zoo. The zoo recently raised its prices, but its still worth it to go. The Natural Science museum hosts different special exhibits throughout the year in addition to its core exhibits. It is also home to the Wortham Butterfly Garden and IMAX theater. In walking distance to the main museum hub is the Holocaust Museum, The Childrens Museum and Hermann Park. The park has many features, including Miller Outdoor Theater and a public golf course. The park also provides a large picnic area and a hill perfect for rolling down. A little further down the road and a short ride on the light rail are the art museums, The Museum of Fine Arts and The Contemporary Art Museum. Both of these provide special exhibitions and a very large core exhibit. The prices for the museums vary, but will usually run anywhere from $5-20, dependant on what you would like to do once in the museum. Every Thursday in Houston is Free Museum Day, so if you want to check these out at a nominal cost (parking/lunch), then this would be the day to go. Houston also has many neighborhood parks, usually with at least a swingset and picnic table. They are of course free to use. Some of these parks also provide a swimming pool, tennis court and gymnasium. The city offers many arenas for concerts, with many big-name acts touring at any given time. These concerts usually take place downtown, or sometimes at Reliant Stadium on the south side of town. The Reliant Stadium hosts the Houston Texans football team, in addition to the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo, which attracts many headlining acts from all genres of music.
Recommended Neighborhoods & Areas
Your milage may vary as far as a recommended neighborhood goes. Anywhere close to downtown is very desirable at this writing, with pricing to match the demand for homes and apartments in these areas. Most people move to an area that they work near. With Houston having a distinct business center, this can be difficult. Thankfully, there are many freeways to get you where you need to go. The farther out of town that you go, the less expensive it gets, the exception being exclusive gated communities in the outer edges of Houston. Really, it comes down to what your preference is. Read the individual neighborhood wikis and find what you are comfortable with, price wise and living wise. Houston is a large city, in both population and area size, so there is something out there for everyone looking to move here.
Houston is a huge city, and jobs are usually no problem to get here. If you are in the medical or energy field, this is the town for you. We are home to many huge corporations, including El Paso Energy, Continental Airlines and Memorial Hermann Hospital System. Most large name corporations are located either downtown or just off of a freeway, so they are very convienent to get to and get home. The business dress in Houston is still very business casual. Tattoos and piercings are still considered a no-no at many corporations. The times are changing however, and this will not stop you from getting a job in the same industry that you are looking for, perhaps just not at the same company.
There are many schools to choose from in Houston. The Houston Independent School District is highly acclaimed and there are always schools convienent to your home. The school that your child will go to is determined by your address. Sometimes even if you live across the street from a school, you might be zoned to a different one. Middle and high schools are also determined this way, although HISD has a very strong magnet program offering different industries for study. You can apply for these programs to attend the school of your choice, no matter what address. There are also a plethora of private schools in the area catering to all religions and cultures. You can find more information about these specialized schools in the individual neighborhood wikis. Houston is also home to many colleges, including University of Houston, Texas Southern University and internationally known Rice University.
Houston real estate has come a long way in a short time. Home prices are soaring, but are still very affordable depending on the neighborhood you are moving to. The average home price for a 2 bedroom one bathroom is $210,000 in the city. Of course, the price of your home depends on location, amenities and condition. Tax prices for homes can be quite high if you live in certain neighborhoods. Visit www.hcad.org to get a rundown on taxes for an address that you are interested in. The homes around the city tend to retain their value, especially the close to downtown neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods in Houston also have strong homeowners associations, so if this is not what you want, continue to look around.
Houston is a very warm place, with temperatures staying well above 85 degrees for over 7 months of the year. However, with the spawn of air conditioning and indoor entertainment, it is tolerable. The spring and fall is usually looked upon as a pleasant month out of the year. If you ask most long time residences, they will tell you that Houston has two seasons: summer and winter. Winter can be very cold, but not intolerable. The city and surrounding suburbs also rarely recieve snowfall or sleet.
I have lived here since 1996 and love the city. NOT the prettiest, but definitely offers everything a person could possibly want to get into. Industrial meets Cosmopolitan is the best way to describe it. -Anna the Cajun