By Betsy Denson
There is perhaps no better illustration of the housing boom in Oak Forest than Chippendale Street. When Laura Carter’s family bought a new, two-story house there in September of 2008, there were only a few rebuilds on the street. As of this week, there are approximately 45 new houses, houses under construction or cleared lots waiting for a potential homeowner to sign on the dotted line.
Kristi Boyer, who does sales for Bastian Builders in both the Heights and Oak Forest, says that it is primarily families with children who are driving the current market in Oak Forest.
Boyer says they’ve heard good things about Oak Forest Elementary and Black Middle School. There’s also the benefit of location. “One spouse may work downtown and the other is either in the Woodlands or at the Medical Center. Oak Forest is convenient.”
Carter’s family was planning to build in Garden Oaks but changed course when their house in Kingwood sold so quickly. “We decided that we didn’t want to move twice by having to rent while building,” she said. “And we couldn’t find what we were looking for already built in Garden Oaks so we expanded our search to Oak Forest. We drove by our house and fell in love.”
The same thing happened to Michelle Kennedy, a Brit who moved to Houston from Australia. “We were looking in the Heights but shifted our focus here. Our house was almost finished when we found it.”
Kennedy and her husband were interested in resale value since the family may be transferred again someday. But they also wanted a nice community to put down roots for their two boys.
“Coming from the UK, I wasn’t used to houses this size,” she said. “There comparable lot sizes tend to have smaller houses and bigger gardens, but the house is beautiful and the area is fantastic. I’m very happy with our decision.”
Builders are busy
Justin Gordon of Justin Gordon Homes said that business is so good he hasn’t built a spec house in four years. A resident of Oak Forest himself, his custom houses are in the 3,500 square foot range.
“The lot values keep going up – they were at $140,000 and now some lots are going for more than $200,000,” he said. “But it’s still more affordable than the Heights.”
Gordon, whose company has adopted esplanades on Ella and Rosslyn, built his first house in the neighborhood on nearby Woodcrest. His first home on Chippendale was finished in 2009 and currently he is building another on the street.
“Chippendale is good because it drains well,” said Gordon. “When I’m driving around I look to avoid low spots in the neighborhood. I also favor streets that don’t cut through between Oak Forest and Ella.”
As for why some streets have more rebuilds than others Gordon speculates that people like to build around new construction. “It’s also availability,” he said.
There aren’t many rebuilds past the 1800 block of Chippendale because Oak Forest Elementary’s district border stops at Piney Woods.
A changing demographic
It is retirees and the elderly who are primarily selling. Gordon talks about a woman who recently sold him her house and is buying a new car and home in Tomball with a nice nest egg still left over.
But not everyone is looking to sell. Fanor Mayorga has lived in his one story house on Chippendale for five years. His daughter is grown and he says he’s been approached on more than one occasion by builders but that he and his wife don’t want to go. His neighbors and friends have left though, and Mayorga doesn’t know the people who have taken their place.
“One day there’s a house and the next it’s gone,” he said. “Everything is so much higher.”
Not too far down the street from Mayorga is Lea Bitner who moved into her single story house in 2002 and is currently renovating it. She doesn’t rule out a second story in the future and is friendly with many of the new arrivals. “They are good neighbors,” she said.
Carter was a little nervous about the reaction of her neighbors but appreciated the kind reception her family received. “The negativity we felt about having a new home was entirely via the Internet,” she said.
Gordon is also aware of what people are saying about the building boom. “New construction is driving up property values but there’s also a flip side,” he said. “They are getting an extra $100,000 equity in their house.”
Kennedy understands the feelings of some of the more established homeowners. “This is a good place – it’s why we bought here, but it’s so different than what they have known their whole lives here.”
Victor Jones, who has lived in the same house on Chippendale since 1956, concurs with Kennedy. Mentioned by numerous residents, both new and old, as a caretaker and watchdog for the street, Jones describes himself as “observant, not nosy.”
“I bought this house for $12,750,” he said. “They’re selling the one across the street for $759,000. My house is perfectly good the way it is.” He says he was offered $400,000 for it at one time. “I thought about it,” he said. “For five minutes. I raised two boys here and my wife lived here. There’s a lot of memories and no way I can go.”