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Thinking about moving to Houston? You’re not alone.
Houston, Texas is the 13th largest growing metro area in the United States and the largest city in Texas. People move to Houston for the great Goldilocks weather — temperatures rarely dip below 45 degrees and reach the low 90s in the summer, not too hot and not too cold. It’s home to the corporate headquarters for Walmart, McDonald’s, Kroger, and United Airlines, among others, and with future job growth at a predicted 30.9%, the city will only continue to attract newcomers.
Whether you’re moving to Houston for a job or looking for a place to retire, the city will have a neighborhood that fits your want list. But with so many options, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. Different homebuyers have different needs — a retiree looking to downsize will be looking for different things than a family of four.
We talked to real estate agents who work in Houston every day and dug into some research to identify the best neighborhoods for buyers in Houston, no matter where they’re at in life.
Family-friendly: West University
Named the best city to live in America in 2018 and 2019, West University Place (or West U), attracts many families. Located southwest of Houston, it has some of the top-rated schools in the Houston Independent District.
Honey Dunlap, an agent in Houston, Texas, who works with 70% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area, says that West U “feels like a neighborhood in a movie — big, brick traditional homes, lots of families, lots of diversity.”
It’s close to Hermann Park, a 445-acre urban park which hosts the Houston Zoo, and has a railroad, pedal boats, and two playgrounds. Within West U, you’ll also find 10 local parks with everything from sports facilities to playgrounds.
There are six local pools which offer a mix of indoor and outdoor swimming. It’s easy to see why 93.8% of homeowners in West U are married, the average household size is 3.18, and the median age of residents is 42.1 — the area primarily attracts families.
The Museum District is also easily accessible to some of the city’s main attractions — you can take your kids to the Children’s Museum or go star-gazing in the Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Afterwards, grab a bite at one of the many restaurants in and around the Rice Village Shopping Mall, a nearby upscale, open-air mall. Dunlap says that it’s so close to Houston, “the location is hard to beat.”
The median home price is $1.1 million, and the majority of West U residents own their homes. Rents are around $2,260, though only 9% of people in West U rent. The average West U resident has a 19-minute commute, as it’s well-located close to Rice University, the Texas Medical Center, and other major employers.
West U’s nickname is The Neighborhood City for a reason — it has a small-town vibe with access to big-city amenities.
Historically charming: The Heights
Houston Heights, or “The Heights” to locals, is a significant historic landmark. Locals built homes here to escape mosquitoes during times of yellow fever and cholera, and the neighborhood has the feel of a bygone-era. Bungalows, Queen Annes, Craftsman, Folk National, and Folk Victorian homes line the walkable streets.
Mark Dimas, an agent who works with 84% more single-family homes than other agents in Houston, Texas, says that the Heights “is known for its eclectic array of unique and historical and Victorian homes.”
In the Heights, you’re buying a piece of history — though an expensive one, as homes cost, on average, $1.1 million. Homes are smaller, with around 2,000 square feet and an average of three bedrooms and two baths — though lots are quite large, with about 6,000 square feet.
The city has declared the neighborhood a historically protected area, which means there are strict rules for building, and different subdivisions might have a homeowners association (HOA). The smaller neighborhood has five schools. The majority of residents are in their 30s and 40s, and 43.5% of households are married couples with children.
Dimas says that there’s “Never a hard time finding something exciting to do, with lots of swanky restaurants, art festivals, antique shops, museums, and just about anything else your heart desires.”
Even though the demographics skew younger, Dunlap has seen a lot of clients moving back into the city as they become empty nesters.
“The Heights has the coolest vibe in Houston, homes are very small, most of them are old and redone now,” she says. “I have a lot of clients that are empty nesters that raised their kids in the suburbs and want to move into town, downsize, move into the Heights.”
It’s a hip area where you can walk to a lot of bars and restaurants, so she describes these clients as living their second childhood when they move there.
Because it’s close to downtown, most people who live in the Heights have a short commute, under 30 minutes. Average rent is $2,450, and newer construction townhomes and apartments have increased the number of younger people living in the area. The Heights’ turn-of-the-century architecture attracts a wide range of people, all passionate about their city.
Young professionals: Midtown
Trendy, weird, lively, and hip — young professionals are flocking to Houston’s Midtown neighborhood. It’s close to downtown and Texas Medical Center, and a short commute to many employers from one of its three METRORail stations. The highly walkable neighborhood features bars, restaurants, museums, and shopping.
“Midtown is quickly becoming known as the ‘Hub of Houston,’” says Dimas. “With rapid development and vibrant nightlife, Midtown has become one of the most energized and exciting areas of town!”
The median age of people who live in Midtown is 33.4, and the average household has two people in it — the majority of households don’t have kids. In keeping with the youthful, double-income, no-kids vibe, 76% of residents rent rather than own. The median home price is $315,289, however, and rent runs around $1,400 a month, so it’s one of the cheaper areas in Houston.
Even though it’s not a super family-friendly neighborhood, it does have access to great schools. The area has been growing, with many new luxury high-rise apartments and condos built over the past few years. Even with growing interest, it remains an affordable housing option for many of Houston’s younger residents.
Nature lover’s paradise and planned community: The Woodlands
The Woodlands lived up to its name — just a 30-minute drive from Houston, this 28,000-acre forested suburb is a planned community perfect for nature lovers. Newly built luxury houses have a median home price of $374,300; if you’re willing to commute into the city you’ll get a more bang for your buck here. Rents are lower, too, at $1,566 a month.
According to Dimas, the Woodlands “is so desirable with miles of nature, walking, and biking trails; there is a plethora of family activities to embrace.”
If you move to the Woodlands, you might not spend much time at home. Amenities include kayaking, hiking, swan boat rides, and an outdoor amphitheater where you can take in shows like Miranda Lambert, The Who, and the Dave Matthews Band. But the suburb doesn’t neglect the intellect — these schools are some of the best in Houston.
While 71% of residents own their homes, there is a decent amount of rental housing. Homes are built for larger families — with most having a minimum of four bedrooms and two to three baths and 2,600 square feet. Townhomes and condos are smaller, with two bedrooms.
The town has residential development standards that govern new construction, but you can still buy a lot and build your dream home.
Dining options cluster near I-45, and you’ll find everything from Mexican to pizzerias to grills. This community balances urban amenities with a focus on nature. Outdoor enthusiasts and those who want an active lifestyle will find what they’re looking for in the Woodlands.
This Houston suburb ranks No. 1 on Niche’s list of best places to retire in and around Houston. On the edges of the Woodlands, you have access to the great nature it offers and four golf courses. Temperatures never dip below 41 degrees, even in the middle of winter, and in the summer they’re in the 90s.
Dunlap says that a lot of people think that Shenandoah is part of the Woodlands, but the area is truly “its own incorporated little pocket, with nice, pretty homes that are more affordable.” It has “a few neighborhoods with patio homes and townhomes where I’ve moved older clients.”
Just east of I-45, you have two hospitals, one rehabilitation center, and several clinics nearby. Median home prices are $261,000, and rents are $1,071. While only 55% of residents own their homes, there are several senior living facilities that skew this percentage lower. There are a variety of senior living options, including a memory care facility, apartment living, and assisted living, as well as in-home care available.
“It’s an affordable option if you have kids or grandkids that are in the Woodlands and you moved here to retire,” says Dunlap.
Something for everyone: Northampton
Dunlap says that Northampton is one of her favorite neighborhoods around Houston, a hidden jewel that’s ”not just a neighborhood, it’s a community.” Over the years she’s helped hundreds of other families buy, sell, and remodel their homes in Northampton.
Connected to the Woodlands, and with access to many of the same dining and cultural activities, homes in this neighborhood have large yards and towering trees. You’ll also find parks, pools, ponds, tennis, and “an esplanade that takes you back in time,” she says.
While this outdoor lifestyle appeals to young families — and it also has great schools — retirees will find a lot to like here, too.
It’s home to the challenging course at the private Willow Creek Golf Club. Dunlap says that “You see neighbors on golf carts headed to the course to play a round or have dinner and drinks at the club.”
Unusual for most master planned communities, which are typically built over 10 years, homes in the community were built and developed over 50 years. So you’ll find homes priced anywhere from the $300s to $1 million or more, of varying ages, shapes, conditions, and styles. Whether you prefer a ranch-style home or a Colonial, you can find it in Northampton.
As Dunlap puts it, “There is simply no place else like it, and quite a few of us say, there’s a magical feeling you get.” There’s something for almost everyone!
If you’re home shopping in Houston, Texas, HomeLight’s Agent Match tool can help you find a top agent to guide your home buying journey. The agents in our network are the best in their area and have a deep knowledge of the areas they serve—- as reflected by the fact that they sell more homes and close faster than the average agents in their areas. Working with one of our agents, you can find the perfect neighborhood for you in Houston.
Header Image Source: (Austin Hervias / Unsplash)