This is not an entry about Green politics, literature, soccer, cycling, or any of my usual topics. This is a story about unfortunate decisions motivated by love.
Usually, when the subject of the real estate market arises in my vicinity, it involves me carping about how gentrification is rendering formerly affordable areas of Houston unaffordable for their traditional residents, or for young adults and students. Today my thoughts on the topic of real estate lie in a very different territory.
In a few weeks, it will have been 15 years since I closed on the purchase of the only house I've ever owned. Well, one never completely owns a house, does one? Especially in the case of older homes, the house own you. The purchase price was $121,000 for a 3-2-2 in Sharpstown, built in 1963.
That brings us up to Fall 2009. By then, I had lived for a year at my new POSSLQ's house in Westbury, and I wanted to stay with her and her two children. A close friend, who never much liked my POSSLQ, advised me to keep the house, but I desperately wanted out from under a burdensome mortgage, and I was prepared to eat a few thousand in the deal. So, in February 2010, while the housing market was still in post-crash mode, my agent and I somehow sold the place for $113,000.
Getting the house and yard in salable condition, and offloading all our unneeded furniture, required a great investment of time and effort. My son pitched in when he could during winter break; he had a monster of allergic attack, more severe than any I've ever suffered (and I've had some doozies) from the dust kicked up by cleaning out his room and closet.
So where does this whole sad story lead? To this: Take a look at what Zillow says the place is worth now, thanks in part to some interior improvements the buyers made, but also due to an inflated housing market. Then check out the 77036 zip code as a whole, with 55-year-old, one-story, four-bedroom homes priced over $200,000—even the houses that aren't right on the golf course.
By Summer 2011, POSSLQ & I determined, with a relationship counselor's assistance, that we had very different priorities. She gave me two weeks' notice to move out. I didn't have the house in Sharpstown to retreat to, which was fine with me. I moved inside the Loop, within easy cycling distance of work and church, and got on the waiting list for HAUS Project, which led to three years of co-op living and some of the best experiences of my entire life.
Do I miss living in Sharpstown? Only a tiny bit. On the plus side, there is all that great and cheap Asian cuisine within easy reach. The biggest minus: Being surrounded by Bellaire Boulevard, Fondren Road, Beechnut Street, and Gessner Road is hell on an avid cyclist. But I learned a great deal. I met some nice folks, including original Sharpstowners who had bought there 40 years earlier. I grew to enjoy the yard work and home maintenance chores. There's a bit of nostalgia reflected in the fact that I converted the PReston-exchange phone number of our land line to the mobile number that I still carry.
No, I don't miss it, but if I had kept the house, I'd be halfway through paying it off and sitting on a potential windfall.
So far, the deed restrictions of Sharpstown, Houston's first master-planned community, have held off invasions by yuppie lofts. Imagine what the property values (and property taxes) there would be like if the civic association amended those restrictions, allowing developers to raze the raised ranches and replace them with 4-6 townhomes each—like in, say, Third Ward—or if they knocked down some of the remaining apartment buildings and put up a high-rise luxury block.