Houston Texas here we maybe come

(37 Posts)
lolaflores Tue 04-Jun-13 18:20:21

Would really love to hear from any lovely MNers in Houston. There is a move afoot, possibly end June/early July for myself, DH and DD2 (6) for 6 weeks.. Have been looking at things in general but DH tells me the office he will be based in is in Memorial.
What is that like? Is it really expensive? Where is nice, safe and not too expensive?
Do you like it? Would you think it is a good place for a longer visit than 6 weeks? this visit is a sort of taster.
looking forward to hearing from you all..

wentshopping Tue 11-Jun-13 03:52:59

of course that says NO getting out of the car. What I wrote means something else entirely here...

lolaflores Tue 11-Jun-13 07:50:08

went....that last sentence before you updated your spelling is very very very funny in indeed.
Am sending a PM

went grin

I would appreciate if you could PM me the costs for buying/selling. I did hear from an exHoustonian that we can roll the closing costs into the mortgage so don't need the cash up front for that, which helps us out a lot. We'll be able to put that money towards a car.

Do you feel safe there, generally? We are in Montreal right now, and we've never felt unsafe here. Have often walked home through downtown 2amish with DS in the stroller and never felt threatened. We do have a private police unit in our suburb though, which also keeps crime down.

Does anyone know about living in gated communities? I presume the fees/taxes would be quite high to upkeep the golf course, leisure complex etc..

We are waiting now on our company to do the paperwork for the visa's to go ahead. We need to wait where we are until we get it approved and do our in person interview before we can book a vacation for July. Very frustrating, but we don't want to get stuck somewhere while waiting for them and cost us more $$$. Fingers crossed our landlady does not rent our apartment any time soon, as we will really be stuffed then!

wentshopping Thu 13-Jun-13 01:03:01

HerRoyal - yes, will send you details later this evening.
On safety, yes, in general, in the area I live in... but Houston doesn't have the old walkable downtown that many other cities have. I have never been to the east side of town - warned against that when we first arrived. I find it quite a strange city in that you might have an area - West University for example (I don't live there so I may get this wrong) which is very friendly, cafes, shops etc with a pavement outside, and then a couple of streets away, there will be an area where you need to lock your car while you are driving. You just have to figure out the good bits! I consider our area to be fine, but twice in ten years the bank inside one of the local grocery stores has been held up at gunpoint.
I am moving to a gated development later this year - it just has a man in the gatehouse, lakes and eventually, a pool, so the fees are not very high. I also find that ethnic groups live in clusters, and so local shops may be aimed at a particular ethnic group - so Korean grocery stores, or Hispanic bakeries etc.
On taxes, there is a property tax which is calculated on the value of your house. High value house= higher tax payment=good school district. So, if you are going to a private school, watch out where you live, as you are contributing to the local school too through your property tax. This is quite a high amount, and usually the mortgage company will collect it as a monthly payment (in an escrow account) and pay it as an annual lump sum. The same is done with your household buildings and contents insurance. This is very expensive, if your house is old. (eg the one I just sold was built in the 1960s, so was difficult to get coverage for).
I am not sure about rolling the closing costs into the mortgage - it might depend on your bank.
And leave plenty of money spare for motor insurance. I find that very expensive.

butterflies and went would you mind putting down approx. costs of living to give us an idea please?

We are generally expats, but for some reason in our Houston office they're making us local hire and therefore we are losing a lot of benefits. They gave DH a good payrise to compensate, and I'm waiting for an offer for me. We're trying to do a budget to see how things will cost out. We will be forced to buy a house (sub 300k with 20% deposit, I've allowed 1500 to cover this incl tax/insurances) as we don't want to waste our money on rent (normally the company pays this). Fingers crossed it works out! Still waiting on visa's, they want more info on how DH is a specailist compared to anyone else in the US or in our company. sad

Things I'm looking at are:

(we are 2 adults, a 6yo and 3yo)

Utilities
Food
Health Insurance*
Internet
iphone x2
Fuel
Car Insurance **
Tolls from Katy to Town $78/month
Cleaner
Pool Cleaner

* Any tips on what kind of cover to go for? Our company offers, a basic with Aetna, an Aetna 1000 (which i think is 1000/year excess) and 2 HMO options

** I guess we are going to take a lease, something like a Volvo C60, Merc GLK350 type size, Ford Edge (I think that's what DH has been looking at) (happily, they are HALF the payments in the US than here in Canada!!)

Also a question on house insurance, when they give an estimate and it's put in the escrow through the mortgage company, is this the house only, or house and contents insurance?

Thanks for any info you can give us!

Actually I will revise my tolls to 215/mth for work. I didn't read the diagram properly. Which is okay as we have free parking at the office.

wentshopping Tue 25-Jun-13 16:13:41

Hi Royal - well, mine are:
Utilities - these are all per month
gas (town gas for heating) $20
electricity $250-350 per month - highest in summer
water $100 - this could be more if you have a pool as you'll need to top up pool water as it evaporates in summer
phone/internet/tv (as a package) $160
cell phone package - 3 phones, one recently upgraded to iphone $150

Food - around $200 per week, but includes fast food and some specialist things
Fuel for car - I put 10 galls in once a week - $36 - but I only do under 200 miles a week

Now, take a deep breath...
car insurance - $2,500 for 2 cars, which was a six month premium. It cost more to pay instalments.

Health insurance. Go with the company one. For various reasons I am on Cobra cover, and it is $460 per month. Including children $750 per month.
Don't forget co-pays - the portion you pay at each office visit - probably $25-35.
Does the company one offer prescription cover? (And dental and vision)

Cleaner - varies - $70-100 for a morning
Pool cleaner (I can recommend one) $173 per month
Gardener - $100 per month

Car lease - not too sure.

I feel as if I have forgotten something - but can't think what.
Insurance estimate should be both buildings and contents.

Thanks Went, that's very useful. I overestimated some things and under on others, namely utilities, so I should come out about right.

The utility per month, is that average, or is it more in summer (we have the opposite here where it is significantly more over winter, looking forward to the change!)

Car Insurance - eek! when you say 6 month premium, does that mean it's $5k for the year??? I really hope we can manage with one car.

We're looking at about 500/mth for car lease. We got caught on the hop as we haven't been saving for car replacements whenever we move, so don't have car savings to buy outright, and lost 10k on our last lease as the company said we were going, but never mentioned the US! In which case we could have driven it over and kept it I imagine. Oh well.

wentshopping Tue 25-Jun-13 16:29:20

I averaged out the utilities - but put a range in for the electricity. These were for my older 1960s house. I am moving to a new-build (not built yet) where the utilities will be less - located half way between Katy and Galleria, in case you are interested.
I know "eek" on car insurance. Very few families have just one car - unless you can make use of the rubbish commuter bus into town - I say rubbish because a city this size should really have a good transit system and it doesn't. Businesses complained about having light rail going past them as people wouldn't be able to park up and use them. Houston really lives in its cars.

wentshopping Wed 26-Jun-13 07:46:18

fyi - Texas sales tax holiday weekend -
The recent passage of Senate Bill 485 (83rd Regular Legislative Session, 2013) changes the dates of this year’s annual Sales Tax Holiday to August 9-11, a week earlier than previously scheduled. As in previous years, the law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend.
Boo from me as I will still be in UK. Oh well, more of an excuse to buy UK things.

lola how are your plans going?

Our visa application has FINALLY been submitted <mutters> and we're expecting the approval by the end of the month. We're not sure if the company will let us still take vacation or move straight there, considering they wanted DH for beg. June originally. Fingers crossed it all works out, as we are scuppered with no work if not.

Visa's approved, now to book the movers. Still waiting for DHs contract for signing, but I guess it's all good. Hopefully we will land there in 2 weeks at the latest!

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