by Amber Ambrose, Lauren McDowell, Lauren Patterson • March 2, 2020
What to Consider Before You Buy in Downtown
Terry Stanfield and Kelly Pachar of the StanfieldPachar Team at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene don’t just sell the dream of Downtown living, they embody it. Stanfield and Pachar have focused on residential real estate sales in Downtown Houston for 18 and 13 years respectively, but they’re also leading by example. Both are Downtown residents and homeowners, practicing what they preach.
When not showing properties to clients or organizing HOA mixers, you can find them out and about mingling with friends and neighbors, enjoying an al fresco breakfast at Niko Niko’s or hard at work in their Market Square office at 214 Travis alongside the two office cats.
With real-life and real estate experience, their insight on making a big move to Downtown boils down to these five tips.
1. Come with an open mind.
“Be willing to explore new avenues,” says Pachar. “We see people who enjoy it the most are the people that come with an open mind.”
Like any new adventure or major life transition, being open to the possibilities is a must. If you’re flexible on the must-haves, it will allow you to appreciate the potential intangible benefits that may not have been on your radar. With a full spectrum of properties and amenities available in the area, comparing will help you get a better feel for what is right for your lifestyle and your budget. Leave preconceptions at the (condo) door and explore all the options.
2. Explore the neighborhoods within Downtown (it’s not all the same).
“People always lump Downtown into one area, but there’s the historic end, there’s the more central business area. It’s only a few blocks away, but it feels like different neighborhoods,” says Pachar.
You might be surprised by the diversity of architecture, the access to nearby businesses and transportation options, how quiet or energetic the area is and even what landscaping or outdoor elements exist in these small, but significant pockets of real estate. Walking the different blocks will help uncover the spaces that feel the most like home, and give you a starting point on your search.
3. Visit Downtown “after hours” to get a feel for what it’s like to actually live here.
“I’ve always felt like half of what I sell is a lifestyle as well as a particular property, because it is about the lifestyle,” says Stanfield, who recommends spending time in Downtown on Thursday and Friday evenings or during a weekend before scouting properties.
Experiencing the social aspects of Downtown gives potential buyers a glimpse of what it feels like to truly live in the neighborhood before making a big decision.
4. You have to give to receive.
“If you want walkability, you can’t have three cars and want to park them all down here. If you want a different lifestyle, you have to compromise something to get all the benefits,” says Pachar.
It’s no secret that parking in Downtown is a hot commodity, but access to public transportation is also dense and clustered, meaning...you have options. Sidewalks, bike shares, rideshares, proximity to bars, restaurants and cultural activities all help to balance it out. If you’re willing to sacrifice things, you’ll gain them in other ways.* It’s about being honest with yourself when it comes to what you want out of day-to-day life.
*Refer back to #1.
5. Educate yourself on Homeowners Associations (HOAs).
“Each HOA is based on a budget that is reassessed every year by a board of directors. It’s non-negotiable, but it’s also part of the lifestyle and the lock-and-leave factor of not having to worry about things like repairs and maintenance,” says Stanfield.
HOAs are based on the square footage of each unit, which means small spaces will incur lower fees, and larger areas equal higher fees. HOAs are all nonprofit entities and costs can change from year to year, based on the needs of the building and its upkeep.
“In Downtown, we have a variety of buildings that go from no amenities to full amenities, so you get to figure out what you will use and what you won’t and find what fits your lifestyle the best,” says Pachar.
In other words—more amenities mean higher HOA fees, because the cost to keep them running is greater, but one thing they all have in common is the convenience factor.
“It’s an ease of living,” says Pachar. “There’s nothing in them that you wouldn’t be paying yourself if you owned a single-family home. It’s just paid differently. It’s more like escrowing your repairs.”