Roger Martin and Life in the Loop

 

Oct. 28, 2010

Healthy Trees for Houston - Tips from West University's Urban Forester

Example of Oak Canker InfectionWe need more healthy trees for Houston - and this is definitely not one of them.

This photo (courtesy of Texas A&M University) is of an oak tree infected with Hypoxylon Canker, a fungus which has been showing up in East Texas.  There is no cure for the disease, which manifests in stressed-out trees.  Proper feeding and watering are the only hope.  Be warned -- if more than fifteen percent of the crown dies off, the entire tree must be destroyed.

Trees are important to us here in West University Place.  We love our green, shady streets and yards.  And our City keeps an Urban Forester on staff to keep it that way.

Just recently, one of my West U customers was forced to cut down a Hypoxylon-infected tree.  Craig Koehl, West U’s Urban Forester, confirmed the disease.

Unlike urban environments, forests are naturally diverse biological communities.  But when we homeowners plant a mono-culture of Live Oaks, our trees are more prone to diseases like this oak canker.

Rather than planting another susceptible Live Oak, Craig suggested choosing from among the following Completely Resistant trees:

  • Cedar Elm
  • Winged Elm
  • Mexican Sycamore
  • Bald Cypress
  • Monterrey Cypress
  • Drummond Red Maple
  • Trident Maple

You can also choose from among the following Mostly Resistant trees:

  • Monterrey Oak (Mexican White Oak)
  • Bur Oak
  • Swamp Chestnut Oak

I know that planting a good-sized tree can be a sizable finacial investment, so I recommend checking with Craig before you make your final selection.  Or go to the City of West U’s website at www.westu.org and select “Tree Information”.

Thank you, Craig, for your tips on healthy trees for Houston!

Roger Martin

Oct. 27, 2010

"Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants - Ken FollettI have just finished Ken Follet's new mega-novel, Fall of Giants.  It is excellent. This is the sort of tale usually accompanied by the adjective "sweeping". I know many of you loved this author's 12th century novels (Pillars of the Earth and World Without End). This new novel begins with the tensions leading to World War I, and follows five different families (English, Welch, American, German and Russian) as their worlds spin apart. This was especially interesting to me - the fictional American family lived in turn-of-the-century Buffalo, New York, where I grew up. It was great fun for me to recognize the landmarks, streets, etc. described by the author.

Enjoy! All 800 pages of it!

Recommended by Ann Martin

Posted in What West U Reads
Oct. 26, 2010

Price Per Square Foot - Pitfalls in Valuing a Home

Price per Square Foot - Pitfalls in Valuing a HomeAn appraiser I know stopped by to chat, and we discussed an interesting topic — When is price per square foot a good indicator of a home’s value?  

The answer is:  Sometimes.

Price per square foot is the very simplest yardstick of home value.  It uses only two factors, ignoring the other myriad details that affect value.  If we compare two homes of equal square footage, there will be at least 30 items that contribute to value… finishes, construction quality, number of rooms with plumbing (plumbing rooms may be the most expensive footage in a home), age, general condition, and size of the lot, to name a few.

In a suburban neighborhood, most of the homes were built about the same time, usually by the same builder, and on similar lots.  In effect, many of the variables have been standardized.  So you have a large pool of comparable houses, and a simple ratio comparing size vs. price can often give good results.

However, the same is not necessarily true in the older neighborhoods of Houston’s Inner Loop.  As we near the center of the city, the value of land goes up dramatically while the value of older structures may go down.  In West U, it is perfectly possible to find a small 1930’s cottage with its original tile and plumbing fixtures sitting on a huge double lot.  Right next door, you may find a big new home with granite counters and stainless appliances, but this new home is built on a small lot.  The trick is that the price of both these homes may be exactly the same – but one is valuable because of its structure and one is valuable because of its land.  In this case, price per square foot will NOT be a good indicator of value, because the cost of the land and the age of the structure are ignored in the calculation.

If you examine a professional appraisal, you will see the proper way to value a property.  The appraisal will contain a column for your property, plus two or three other comparables homes. Each column will show a long laundry list of items, ranging from lot size, number of rooms, to, yes, square-footage. Each of these will have a plus and minus to “adjust” the value of the property being appraised.

So, when you are valuing a property, use the simplified price per square foot only as a starting point for comparisons.  Be aware that many other variables can be equally important in determining the value of a home, especially in Houston’s older neighborhoods.

Roger Martin

Oct. 23, 2010

Angels in the Operating Room by Mallory Agerton

Angels in the Operating Room - "Be Not Afraid" - Mallory AgertonCan you envision angels in the operating room, surrounding a patient in surgery?  Mallory Agerton did.  Recently, I was privileged to attend a preview party for this painting by Mallory, who is a West U resident and portrait artist.  This enormous canvas is titled “Be Not Afraid” and was based on her personal experiences while facing surgery.  The composition shows angels of many cultures, races and faiths, all guiding the operating room professionals at work. You can read more about this piece on her website www.theangelpainting.com.  As a treat during the preview party, I was able to meet several of the children who served as models for the painting.

Well done, Mallory.  Our community is richer for having talented people like you living in West University Place!

Roger Martin

Posted in Art in West U
Oct. 1, 2010

New Internet Cafe – Aroma Classique

Aroma ClassiqueThere is a new internet café in our neighborhood, and it’s a winner!

Check out Aroma Classique at 3953 Richmond at Weslayan, across from Costco.  This little café serves up Mediterranean soups, salads and sandwiches with an emphasis on fresh and homemade.  Yes, the bread is baked on-site daily.  Yes, the salad dressings are homemade.  Even the pastries are baked on-site.  And the veggies?  So crisp and fresh that you almost risk a paper cut from them!

So give this European-style bakery and coffee shop a try.

Roger Martin

Posted in Where West U Eats
Sept. 30, 2010

Roger Martin - HAR Top Producer 3rd Quarter 2010

Roger Martin, Broker/Owner of Roger Martin PropertiesThanks to the Houston Association of Realtors, who has named me one of their 2010 3rd Quarter Top Producers for my work with real estate buyers.  And many thanks to my wonderful clients who have made award this possible.

Roger Martin

Sept. 28, 2010

Astronauts in Space Speak LIVE to Local Students!

Local Students spoke to astronauts on a live linkToday, my wife Ann was privileged to watch astronauts from the International Space Station speak live and in-flight to students from three local HISD schools.

Turns out, Astronaut Shannon Walker was born and raised here in Houston, and is the first native Houstonian in space.  Dr. Walker graduated from Parker Elementary, Johnston Middle School, and Westbury High School, and majored in physics at Rice University.

A wildly enthusiastic crowd of students from Parker, Johnston, and Westbury greeted Dr. Walker and Colonel Douglas Wheelock, the Space Station Commander.  The two astronauts floated gracefully in near-zero gravity while answering questions from the students - who had, of course, spent the preceding months studying space issues with their teachers.   Dr. Walker really lit up when asked about the most exciting part of her job.  She said, hands down, that it was her 8 ½ minute ride on the Soyuz rocket into space – although she imagined that her splash down was probably going to be equally exciting.  Bellaire City Councilman Corbett Parker and a host of dignitaries from HISD were also on hand to listen in.

To learn more about Dr. Walker’s adventures in space – fixing the broken toilet, being a test subject for the medical experiments, etc. – follow her blog at http://blogs.chron.com/inorbit/.

Many thanks to astronaut Shannon Walker.  Dr. Walker, you make us all Houston Proud!

Roger Martin

Posted in Our Schools
Sept. 23, 2010

3922 Villanova St - SOLD in West University Place

3922 Villanova is a traditional brick home close to Colonial Park.  There is an art studio/guest quarters with full bath and closet above the garage.  

Property Information

  • Sold For: $679,500
  • House Size: 3,264 sq ft
  • Lot Size: 5,000 sq ft
  • Bedrooms: 4
  • Bathrooms: 3.5
  • Listed by Roger Martin
  • MLS #28128763

Features

  • New appliances and A/C
  • Master suite includes 2 cedar closets and 2 walk-in closets
  • Master bath includes marble counters, jetted tub and separate shower.

>More Great West U Homes for Sale

 

Sept. 21, 2010

First Time Home Buyer Assistance - That Has NOT Expired!

First Time Home Buyer AssistanceOf course there has been much press coverage about the expired federal first time home buyer assistance program.  But did you know that the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs has two STATE programs still in effect????

  • Their first program gives downpayment assistance and low-rate loans, and

  • Their second program (my personal favorite!) provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 per year over the life of the mortgage.

There are also special programs for persons and places affected by our recent hurricane, although the window of opportunity for that program is closing soon.  In any case, go to www.myfirsttexashome.com for more information.

Be aware that to qualify for first time home buyer assistance, the home, the loan, and the buyer must all meet stringent program qualifications.  This process takes time and effort, and may extend the length of time necessary to purchase a home.  The help of a really good real estate professional comes in handy when jumping through all these extra hoops!

Actually, one of us here at Roger Martin Properties has personally qualified for the tax credit program, so I can honestly state that we are in a position to advise on first time home buyer assistance programs.

Call us if we can help.

Roger Martin

Sept. 13, 2010

Hurricane Ike - Two Years and Counting

Hurricane KatrinaThe Texas Association of Realtors held their annual convention in Galveston this year.  Interestingly enough, the dates coincided with Hurricane Ike’s second anniversary.

Given the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike, I am astonished at the improvement in the City of Galveston.  True, a few buildings are still boarded up, and some are gone completely -- but overall, the city looks really great!  In fact, if I hadn’t seen the piles of trash and the blue tarps myself, I wouldn’t believe that a major hurricane had scored a direct hit here.

Galveston (and Houston, as well) are to be doubly congratulated.  It is easy to forget that we took a one-two punch that week.  It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike (and over a battery-powered radio to boot!) that I heard of the national subprime mortgage crash.  So our region's recovery (both phyically and economically) is twice as impressive.

Roger Martin