Roger Martin and Life in the Loop


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  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

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


  • 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 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

Aug. 31, 2010

Hurricanes - the Effect on Houston's Housing Market

Hurricanes and the Effect on the Houston EconomyWe Houstonians will always be proud of our response following the twin disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We rose to the challenge as a caring community and not as the impersonal mega-metropolis that our size might indicate.

Houston’s housing market easily absorbed the 240,000 people who were displaced by the storms.  An intriguing article on attributes out ability to house theses evacuees to our lack of zoning.

Marc Scribner said, “Thanks to the city’s liberal land-use policies, Houston enjoys lower real estate prices, increased availability of affordable housing, lower population concentration and more opportunities for entrepreneurs.  If not for these conditions, displaced Gulf Coast residents would have faced even tougher–and likely more deadly–challenges following the disaster.

“Zoning laws had put up artificial roadblocks to the construction of affordable rental units during the preceding decades in communities along the Gulf Coast.  This made homelessness even worse for low- to moderate-income residents after Katrina and Rita made landfall.

“In Louisiana and Mississippi, emergency temporary housing was zoned out of many of the worst-hit areas…”

He concludes, “A laissez-fair attitude toward land use is justified not only economically, but on humanitarian grounds as well.”

To read the full article, click here.

This is an interesting notion…. that Houston's lack of zoning lead to plenty of affordable housing choices, giving Houston the ability to house people displaced by the recent hurricanes.  And that influx of residents, in turn, gave Houston's housing market a boost.

Way to go Houston!

Roger Martin

Aug. 1, 2010

First Time Home Buyer Credit - Effect on Houston's Housing Market

First Time Home Buyer Credit
First Time Home Buyer Credit


The federal First Time Home Buyer credit program has just expired.  We real estate professionals saw an increase in sales from this program.  But was the effect of this program temporary or long-term?

A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas discusses the effects of the First Time Home Buyer credit program on Houston's housing market...

August 2010

"... Both new- and existing-home sales in Houston took a predictable dive with the expiration of the first-time-homebuyers’ tax credit.  The incentive pulled the usual strong summer sales figures forward into the spring, and its expiration left year-over-year sales of new homes down 35 percent in July and existing home sales down 25 percent. Builders anticipated the sales decline, leaving permitting of single-family homes quite weak and closely controlling inventories of spec homes..."

So in effect, the First Time Home Buyer credit program "borrowed" sales from future months.  These closings were accelerated to meet the program's deadline.  But the feeding frenzy dropped off when the program expired.  Was there a long-term effect on Houston's housing market?  I am doubtful.  When looking for long-range effects on the Houston housing market, I place more importance on the fundamental health of the Houston economy.  Houston's abiltiy to create jobs will have a larger and more lasting effect on our housing market than any temporary buyers assistance program.

Roger Martin