Houston - Expat clusters
Expat relocating to Houston tend to live in the south west (Sugar Land, Stafford, Missoury City), in Katy (mostly families whose children attend the British School of Houston), in the Galleria area, on the west (mostly families whose children attend the Awty International School and the Village School), on the north west for children attending The Village School, Awty International or the British School of Houston (Lakes on Eldridge, Lakes on Eldridge North, Twin Lakes).
Fewer families in the Woodlands, Clear Lake (where Nasa has its headquarters), Pearland, Galveston.
The aptly named " Greater Houston area" covers a vast plain which is quite spectacular especially if you land at night. 'Houston downtown' is the central point and this can be seen as you glance at the map of Houston whereby three concentric "circles" are immediately spotted:
The innermost one, set within the limits of (Interstate) I-45, I-10 and US Highway 59 (alias Southwest Freeway), lies Houston Downtown, housing the oldest and perhaps the largest business district but with a skyscraper skyline of futuristic proportions. Residents are justifiably proud of their location and the improvements in 'downtown' renovation.
The middle circle lies within the '610 loop', and pretty much features 'functional' Houston, some very elite club and shopping areas, a diverse range of homes, some areas being particulary smart and expensive, especially on the west side. Living "inside the loop" is considered to impart a 'trendy address' and convenience to the 'downtown' facilities.
The outermost circle is defined by Beltway 8. The area inside Beltway 8 is heavily mixed with office buildings, shopping centers, restaurants, apartments and houses, except Memorial area, which is mainly residential with shopping facilities, and less available housing so the developments maybe less attractive due to the issue of space.
Outside Beltway 8 there are a considerable number of developed suburbs, also known as cities such as Sugar Land, First Colony, New Territory, Katy, Woodlands to name but a few. These satellite cities are in the main area dedicated to residential housing and sub-divisions with limited local facilities to serve the community needs, although this is changing fast. With the population increase and constant influx of residents, this picture is changing as more businesses and facilities seek to relocate.
There are no 'zoning' restrictions within the Greater Houston area, hence you often will find areas with residential houses, apartments and business centers. Although this may represent convenience on one hand, there may on the other sense, an element of risk, due to business function reacting to market forces such closure of business, which can then impact on real estate value, schooling, security, and etc. In short, depending on the area, you will usually find value for money but relevant risk and security issues dependant upon what you pay.
Downtown represents the Financial and Business districts of the city, buzzing with activity during the daytime. Driving is somewhat confusing as most of the streets are one-way, however as in normal American fashion, they are laid out on a grid system so it is logical. Parking is limited but developing; there are pay-parking-lots by hour or day (quite expensive too!). Also, there are street meter parking you can use to park for shorter time periods, but vigilant wardens and police officers ensure your timely return.
A relatively unknown fact is the existence of the tunnel system underground which connects buildings, some of which are lined with shops and restaurants. The reason for building the tunnels was not explicitly as tourist attraction but rather to escape the heat and humidity during the summer months. After five in the evenings and during the weekend, social activity exists only in the Theatre District and the Convention Centre area plus the mall "The Park" and China Town area. A major initiative has been undertaken to ensure the security downtown and results are that the area is considerably safer for people walking between theaters, pubs and restaurants at night than even a couple of years ago.
Inside the Loop
South of downtown, but within the 610 loop, the Museum District is a popular and trendy district, bordering south to give way to the extensive Medical Centre, which defying its name, it is actually a very large facility, almost a community in itself. Further south you will find the Astrodome and not to be missed are the charming residential and business environments of Rice Village and Bellaire. The most expensive residential area of River Oak then leads onto the main shopping districts, comprising of the Highland village, the world re-known Galleria, (just outside the loop) with some 330 shops, and the the fashionable Uptown shopping centre.
Inside Beltway 8
Generally speaking, except for the Memorial area, the catchment area within Beltway 8 suffers slightly less traffic congestion than inside the 610 Loop and has more mid-priced shopping alternatives and housing. Memorial is at the higher end of the house-price spectrum with house prices reflecting a particulary excellent schooling region.
Outside Beltway 8
Cities such as Sugar Land (Southwest), Katy (Northwest), Clear Lake (Southeast), Woodlands (North) are just some of the many family-desirable residential regions. Their outstanding facilities and features are very personal choices, but you will have plenty of choice within any price range. Developers purchase vast tracts of land and construct manmade lakes (hence the presence of small alligators who are caught in the filling process from the local rivers), golf courses as well as extensive paving and jogging trails as well as houses, condos and apartments. Many people move to these cities to enjoy the new houses, good schooling; and, most of all, a friendly family orientated environment - kids base business functions, lots of community swimming pools, tennis courts, parks and recreation. Nevertheless,
depends on where you work, you may have to suffer the daily traffic hours.
Living in those cities zonings can ensure the stable real estate growth. The growing rate is very obviously going with the fame of the school. Most of the parents both work and care very much about the education. New business establishment is very selective, it has to be petitioned through the city and followed by very strict rules and inspection, sometimes it can be turned down if the neighborhood residents voice strongly against it. The real estate tax rate is higher than Houston and put in good use. Every year, subdivision collects additional management fee for community services and improvement.