Roger Martin and Life in the Loop


May 24, 2012

Favorite Asian Restaurant #1 - Panda Garden

Favorite Asian Restaurant #1 - Panda GardenSo, this is a blog post about my Favorite Asian Restaurant.  Neat.  Right. Suppose I'll introduce myself to anyone reading. My name is Christopher Martin, and I'm a six-foot-eight Food Snob. This post is to hopefully allow other folks to take advantage of my years of finding tasty places to eat around and around West University.

This particular post is inspired by a client of Roger's. I'd been asked for advice on where to find good Chinese food in the area, and before I knew it, I'd sent Roger something like fifteen texts full of recommendations. After that, I figured, hey, if I can do it on a phone, I can do it on a fancy blog-ma-jig. That's some right technical terms, just so y'know.

First off, Panda Garden (713-667-0880, Panda Garden's been a staple of mine for several years now. Located at 5534 Weslayan Houston, TX just north of West University Place, Panda Garden is best for a nice sit-down, dine in meal. The food's quite nice, the staff is prompt, and the restaurant is, for lack of a better word, soothing. It is quiet, the lighting is usually fairly unobtrusive, and they have those comfy booth-table-chair things.

My personal recommendations on the food can pretty much be summed up as 'anything on the menu', but my old standby is the #4 Combo, which is Sesame Chicken, White Rice, Wonton Soup, and a Spring Roll. It's quite a nice amount of food, and usually what I go for when I want a dinner meal. If aiming for something a bit different, their House Wonton Soup is basically a meal in its own right, as the 'small' is made for being split between two people and comes in its own cast iron bowl. Very tasty. I often supplement it with an order of dumplings, and I really can't choose on my favorite type of dumpling at Panda Garden. They come in the standard steamed and fried 'large' dumplings (Six per order), or you can get an order of spicy Schezuan dumplings, which are the small ones you find in their soup and come in an order of twelve.

I also have enjoyed the Mongolian Beef, General Tso Chicken, Lettuce Wraps, and the Mushu Pork. Problem is that I generally don't think to order anything other than my usual, because I enjoy it so much it has become a reflex to sit down and cheerily order 'a #4 white rice wonton soup spring roll and a pot of tea' before letting the ol' brain contemplate something different.

Somehow, I can live with that.

Combo Meals run from $8.50 to $10.50 for the lunch specials, or $9.50 to $12.25 for the dinner combos, with the seafood and beef combos being a bit pricier than the chicken ones, as a rule of thumb. 'Small' House Wonton soup is $5, while all the dumplings cost $5.25. On average, expect to pay about $13ish per person plus tip. That includes everyone getting a beverage of some sort instead of sticking to water, of course, and also can vary depending on what folks are getting. My father is quite content with splitting some soup and a single appetizer for a meal, for instance.  We both agree that Panda Garden is our #1 Favorite Asian Restaurant.

Christopher Martin

Roger Martin Properties

Posted in Where West U Eats
May 24, 2012

Julie Webber, the Clever Confidante - Pools & Sellers

Julie Webber, a real estate professional at Roger Martin Properties and author of the Clever Confidante blog, has contributed this article.  She warns real estate seller about some do's and don'ts of photographing pools. 

Seller floating in her pool"Remember the song on Sesame Street, 'One of these things is not like the other?'  The first photo is a REAL photo from a real estate site.  The floating, topless person is the seller!  Um...  maybe not a good idea when trying to attract buyers. 



Serene reflection of home in poolI am well aware not everyone has the means for a pool like one of the others shown.  However,  people-free, clutter-free photos are the way to go!  ...  If this photo doesn't convey, 'resort - right in the privacy of your backyard,' I don't know what does. 



A professional pool photo with fountainsThe last two seem very serene.  I can hear the water from the fountain in my head in photo [three], while photo [two] seems so peaceful and quiet, it almost lowers my blood pressure just looking at it.


'Research has shown that people make extremely sophisticated judgments in a fraction of a second.  Once they've drawn that conclusion, they resist changing it'*.  So please...  if you are selling a house with a pool, refrain from donning your bikini on a float for the MLS shot!"  


Photos from: (1) Hooked on Houses (2) Architectural Digest (3) House and Home  *Quote from author, Seth Godin

Julie Webber,


May 18, 2012

Wonderful in West U - By Julie Webber, Clever Confidante

Julie Webber, Sales Associate with Roger Martin Properties, has contributed this post from her blog The Clever Confidante.

"Welcome to my favorite house in West University (a neighborhood in Houston that is a city within a city, close to Rice University and the Medical Center). These photos are beautiful but seeing the house in person is spectacular! Eleanor Cummings was the designer and Kirby Mears was the architect. All of my favorite things are represented in this house. It was originally built in the 1930's and recently renovated to change the flow of the house.  With a growing family of 2 older children and 2 younger ones, they wanted a pretty house but also one that met their needs of being comfortable and functional.

"The wooden walls and ceilings add tremendous character and warmth while the French antique chandeliers and moldings glam it up a bit. One of my favorite features is not pictured here but they used the same greige wood to make cabinet doors, reminiscent of Kentucky barn doors, which slide across to hide the TV in the family room. There are many nods to the equestrian life in this house, as one of the owners grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. Great houses tell stories of the people living inside. I happen to know this family but even if I didn't, this house feels good. It's sophisticated yet casual and everyday life is a little richer when every square inch is used appropriately with tons of charm. When function, elegance and ease combine in a place where you live and create memories, you've won the Triple Crown."

Photos: Traditional Home Magazine, Eleanor Cummings Design
For a full story on this house, please see the February 2012 issue of Traditional Home.

Julie Webber, Clever Confidante


May 13, 2012

West University Elementary School - Proud of Our "Inner City School"

West University Elementary SchoolI guess the phrase “Inner City Schools” can’t be used as a put-down anymore – or at least not with respect to West University Elementary School.

For twenty years, Children at Risk, a non-profit research and educational organization, has made it their mission “to serve as the voice for children in the greater Houston area”. This organization seeks to measure our kids’ quality of life – and advocate for effective improvement in those lives. One of their reports an annual analysis and ranking of Houston’s public schools. (For the full report, go to

According to Children at Risk, the public schools can be found in two very different places – in the big “comprehensive” suburban schools and in the program-specific Magnet schools of Houston’s inner city.

For example, my office is located directly across the street from West University Elementary School. My son Christopher attended this fine school in the eighties. Back then, West U had the highest concentration of medical professionals of any city in the US. So a Magnet program emphasizing math and science was (and still is!) a perfect fit for this school near the Texas Medical Center.

And a wonderful school it is! In 2010, the children of West U Elementary ranked ninth in the Houston area and thirty-fourth in the state. In 2011, they progressed to fifth in Houston, and thirty-third in Texas. In 2012, they ranked fifth in the city and eighteenth in the state. I congratulate the dedicated teachers, administrators, and parents who make this excellent school a “magnet” to parents moving into the City of West University Place!

Roger Martin

Roger Martin Properties



Posted in Our Schools
May 10, 2012

Higher Home Prices Forecast

Higher Home Prices ForecastDr. Ted Jones delivered a higher home prices forecast for the Greater Houston Metropolitan area.  Dr. Jones is an economist with the Instutute for Regional Forecasting, of the Hobby Center for Public Policy, of the University of Houston.

The Houston Chronicle quoted Dr. Jones as follows...

"Area housing prices will rise this year amid a strong local economy and a limited supply, economist Ted C. Jones said Tuesday at an annual symposium on real estate and the economy.

"Apartment rents could go up as much as 10 percent, which will encourage more people to become homeowners.  The median price of a house will rise about 3 percent, Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title Guaranty Co.,told an audience...

"'This market is back," he said. 'It's vibrant.'"

Whenever possible, I always try to attend these economic lectures held by the Institute for Regional Forecasting of the University of Houston.  I find them insightful and fascinating.  I would have loved to hear Dr. Jones deliver his higher home prices forecast.  But this month, I was just too darned busy, well, selling real estate.

Roger Martin

Roger Martin Properties

May 7, 2012

West U Home Prices - Published Statistics Are Misleading

We all want to know how West U home prices are performing, and the Houston Chronicle has recently published their annual neighborhood report for home sales in Houston.  They reported just 52 house sold in West U.  However, a quick search of the Houston MLS shows over 200 closings in West U during 2011.  HUH????  Why are these statistics so misleading?

The problem with the Houston Chronicle statistics is that they are not reporting numbers for the entire City of West University Place, they are reporting only on those sales in the subdivision actually called West University Place. 

West U is divided up into a squadrillion of tiny "subdivisions".  Of course each townhome complex is its own subdivision, as is common throughout Houston proper.  But in West U, the legal subdivision names can change on a street-by-street or block-by-block basis.  The situation is complicated because some of these tiny subdivisions can extend out beyond the city limits.

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of West U subdivisions...  Academy TH, Annapolis Court, Arnold St, Belle Court, Belmont Ave T/H, Bissonnet Place, Brompton Terrace, College Court, Collegeview, Colonial Terrace, Cunningham Terrace, Evanston, Fairhaven, Matthews Place, Montclair, Monticello, Pemberton, Pershing Place, Preston Place, Quenby Court, Tangley Terrace, Rice Court, Sunset Terrace, Virginia Court, West University Place, Westchester Court, Wroxton Court and Wroxton Square.  Apologies if I left anyone's subdivision off the list, but you get the idea!

So to get a feel for the true state of neighborhood sales, you have to sum all those tiny subdivisions together.

My own research shows the following...

  • In 2011, 228 single family homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service in the two cities of West U and Southside Place.
  • The average price of a home in West U was $924,675 up 6.6% from last year.
  • The average Sales Price per Square Foot was $263.52, up 5% from last year.
  • The average Days on the Market was down to 77, or about two and-a-half weeks faster than last year.
  • On the average, a home in West U sold for 96% of its asking price, roughly unchanged from last year.
  • The cheapest home in West U sold for $275,000 in 2011.  The most expensive sold for $2,758,490.

In conclusion, many of these real estate yardsticks are showing that the West U market has tightened in the last year.  In fact, our supply of listings, currently standing at 160, is too slim for my taste.  West U is a great community, and many people want to live here.  So call us, if you want the inside track on West U home prices!

Roger Martin



May 7, 2012

Ebooks vs Printed Media

Ebooks Vs. Printed MediaRoger and I are avid readers - from a long line of avid readers on both sides of the family.  So I am betting that we are just about the last converts to eBooks.  We even resisted the move to electronic media when our son Christopher brought home a free-trial Nook from the Barnes and Noble where he worked.  However, the change has begun.

The tipping point came by way of our hand-held tablet computers, which we dearly love.  Now I find that eBooks are dangerously habit-forming.  It is only three clicks from a "good read" to its sequel.  It is just too easy to dive back in!

But this technology is not quite there yet, in my opinion.  The trick is that the publishing industry has standardized its formating software with the .PUB file extention, and this is a huge step in the right direction. Basically, this standard format means that all pages display, turn, etc. in the same way across all platforms.

However, the licensing still has not been standardized across the industry.  In other words, an eBook purchased from one vendor will not necessarily display on a device purchased from another.  Rats!  Remember when we couldn't "port" our phone numbers when we changed cell phone companies???  - this software barrier is just as annoying.  Ebook vendors need to learn from Adobe, who made PDF (Portable Document Format) the universal standard when Mac and IBM computers refused to talk to each other.

So, for the time being, we eBook readers will have to have a ton of accounts and/or login codes at different vendors.  Or we need to concentrate our book-shopping at one vendor and ignore the rest.  So here is what I have discovered about the various eBook collections...

  • Google Books - Google lists over three million titles in its eBook collection, with over a half a million of them available at no charge.  I have found, however, that the ability to search and sort is somewhat limited.

  • Barnes and Noble - Barnes and Noble made its mark by re-publishing out-of-copywrite classics.  B&N shows 1,836,790 free eBooks in their system.  They have the abiltiy to search and sort, including the ability to search by category.
  • - Amazon carries 34,913,842 books in English, of which 1,155,723 are available for the Kindle.  This service has advanced search features, including the ability to search by department ("Mysteries").  About 36,000 of the Kindle books are free.

So for now, I am still purchasing both digital and printed books.  It just depends.  And my wish list for the future includes better search-and-sort functions and more portable licenses for the eBook industry.

Ann Martin

Posted in What West U Reads
April 30, 2012

Houston Economy 2012 - Energy Leads the Way

Energy Leads the 2012 Houston EconomyThe Houston Economy 2012 is driven by the energy industry, according to Bill Gilmer, an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  The following was excerpted from Energy Leads the Way as Houston Surges in 2012HoustonBusiness, A Perspective on the Houston Economy, Dallas, March 2012.

"Houston put the Great Recession behind it in 2012, growing strongly and returning to the prior peak levels of activity it enjoyed in 2008.  Local growth far outstripped the pace of the U.S expansion by taking advantage of torrid growth in emerging markets.  Exports to China, Brazil and India were important, but more important to Houston was the ability of these developing countries to drive the price of oil.  High crude oil prices and extraordinary changes taking place in drilling technology opened the door for Houston's energy sector to lead the city's growth in 2011...

"Looking forward, we find lower stimulus for Houston in the year ahead and higher risks, but the door remains open to another year of solid local expansion...

"Rapid expansion of emerging countries such as Brazil, China and India is essential to Houston's near-term prospects. First, these countries provide a market for oil services and machinery, petrochemicals, refined products and a variety of nonoil products shipped from the region.  Having surpassed California a decade ago, Texas is the leading export state, and the Gulf Coast is one of the most important exporting regions.  Second, growth in these countries has returned oil and other commodity prices to high levels...

"Drilling has gravitated to oil away from natural gas, technology to horizontal away from vertical, and as a result, revenues for service companies are much higher than the recovery of the rig count might indicate.  The key to sustaining the current level of activity and revenues is a high oil price...  The [downstream] petrochemical industry has been revitalized by low natural gas prices.

"Houston can count on only limited economic stimulus from the U.S. economy in 2012, as the nation continues to make significant repairs in the wake of the Great Recession.  Consensus forecasts such as the Blue Chip place 2012 U.S. GDP growth at less than 2.5 percent, slowly accelerating to 2.7 percent by early 2013.  Continued strong growth in Houston must come from rapid growth abroad or from energy.

"The four pillars of Houston's economy have traditionally been aerospace, medicine, and upstream and downstream oil.  For the present, aerospace has been sidelined by the end of the shuttle program, continued layoffs in the Clear Lake area and uncertainty about the future for manned space flight.  Construction at the Texas Medical Center has come to a halt as we wait for rules to clarify health care reform.  Hence, energy has been the key driver of economic activity for Houston in 2012 and will likely continue that role in 2012..."


April 27, 2012

New Website at Roger Martin Properties!

New Website at Roger Martin PropertiesWe have a new website at Roger Martin Properties, with an all new look - and function!  The new site is clean and colorful.  In addition, it is hugely interactive and chock full of photos, features, and "flags" for things such as open house dates and time.

The information on the website is linked live to the Houston Association of Realtors and the Houston Multiple Listing Service.  With updates every few hours, the data is always current – never stale.  All data is provided by licensed real estate professionals, is subject to legal and ethical standards, and is highly reliable.

We have set up several pre-configured searches for you.  If you don’t know where else to start, try the “Search Houston Greater Metropolitan Area” search.  Each neighborhood and/or community is identified on the map by a green oval.  Hover over the oval, and you will see real estate statistics for that neighborhood (for example, Average Sales Price).  Click on the oval to “drill down” and see actual listings.

Once you have searched around a bit, a pop-up screen will offer you the chance to create a login.  Doing so will allow you to save your searches.  Your information is always confidential and private.  We do not sell or share our clients’ information in any way whatsoever.

So check out the new website at Roger Martin Properties - and enjoy!

Roger Martin

April 27, 2012

Julie Webber - Welcome to Roger Martin Properties!

Julie Webber, Sales Associate with Roger Martin PropertiesI am thrilled to welcome Julie Webber to Roger Martin Properties.  Julie brings with her a wealth of creativity and enthusiasm, and is a welcome addition to our team.

Julie was raised in Fort Worth.  She has made her home in Houston for over two decades.  She is a current resident of West University and a former resident of the River Oaks area.  Julie has real estate expertise inside the loop as well as in Tanglewood and Memorial.  When not showing properties, Julie enjoys writing for Clever Confidante, her blog on style with a heavy emphasis on interior design.  Julie Webber also enjoys sports, traveling and spending time with her two sons, Drew and Mitchell.

So welcome to Roger Martin Properties, Julie Webber!  We look forward to working with you.  And I am sure our clients will receive Unmatched Personal Attention from you!

Roger Martin



Posted in Julie Webber