by Betsy Denson
Chris Krienke has been a homeowner of a one story house on Althea in Oak Forest – zoned for Oak Forest Elementary – since 1997 and said she is not interested in selling it. That doesn’t stop the letters from coming though.
“They come in spurts,” she said, “about two or three a week.” Krienke said that some of the letters are apologetic and tell her that there’s nothing wrong with her house. But many of them are clear that her home is primarily appealing because of the lot it sits on. And if she sold it, it wouldn’t stay a one story house for long.
“I don’t really pay attention to who’s sending them,” she said.
It could be any number of entities. A builder, a realtor – or on the other end of the respectability spectrum – an “investor” who solicits with a “we pay cash for houses card” and is looking to make a quick profit on a booming real estate and rebuild market.
Justin Gordon with Justin Gordon Homes doesn’t send out mailers or go door to door. He doesn’t have to. He has a partnership with Hartman & Associates and works with other realtors too. From living and working in the area he also hears directly from homeowners wondering what their house is worth.
“People call and say ‘I heard that you bought this house for a certain amount, would you pay the same for mine?” he said. Gordon said that for an interior 7,500 – 7,600 square foot prime lot, he will pay as much as $300,000.
There are more variables with corner lots, according to Gordon, because they are associated with higher crime depending on where the lot is located. The homes built on these bigger lots don’t have to have the garage on front of house, though, and they get a nice side yard which is also a plus.
“It’s discouraging when people are told their house is worth less [than it is], $250,000 is not current anymore,” he said.
Rick Paulson on Althea, who paid in the mid 40s for his house in 1980, knows what it is worth now. He’s surrounded by new construction, gets lots of letters, and is on friendly terms with the builder working next door – who has Paulson’s cell phone. If he’s out in his yard on a Saturday, he’s certain to get a visit from a realtor, which is starting to annoy him.
Paulson said his former neighbor across the street got $295,000 for his house. “I’m on the high part of the street,” he said, “it’s a good spot.”
He said that while everyone is in a different situation he’s staying put for now. “I don’t notice the [property] taxes, it’s not that bad,” he said. “I have 22 acres in Brookshire but I don’t want to move yet.”
Oakington realtor Garrett Tyra, who lives in Oak Forest, found out quickly that mailings were not nearly as effective as word of mouth and other advertising. Clients look to him for his expertise of the market. “Every time is different. Some of my properties are never listed,” said Tyra. “My job is to represent the seller and get them the highest price with the least amount of hassle.”
He might put the word out to multiple builders instead of relying on one. Tyra either makes his profit from broker fees on the sale, or sometimes doesn’t take a commission in order to be the realtor of the newly constructed home.
He said that the going rate for Oak Forest lots zoned to the elementary school is from $275,000 to $300,000 at the upper end, and he’s heard from people who have sold prematurely without knowledge of the market for much less. “It’s not up to the builder to tell you the fair market value of your home.”
Not zoned for Oak Forest?
Tyra also said that the demand for houses on the other side of Piney Woods and Rosslyn is less but that the housing prices for new construction are comparable. As Stevens Elementary gains visibility, traction and community support, the demand is certain to increase there as well. But for now, the clients seem to skew older.
Gordon recently built a custom home for some empty nesters. Lacey Beckering lives on Wakefield and just sold her house to her mother in law who is going to build there. Beckering and her family are moving to the Heights where they will be zoned for Harvard Elementary and won’t have to deal with a school lottery.
For Section 16 Oak Forest resident Mark Leiserowitz, school zoning isn’t on his radar. He and his wife live in a house on DeMilo which he bought in 1980. He said he loves the area because it reminds him of his childhood neighborhood in Des Moines, IA.
He gets a couple of cards a month from solicitors and spoke to one person who offered him $16,000 less than the HCAD value of his home and told him that “he could pay off some bills.”
Leiserowitz, an account manager for an independent oil and gas company, told the man that he didn’t have any bills to pay off. “He had nothing further to say. I could have gone upscale long ago but love Oak Forest.”