Time for a Q&A with Bernstein Realty, Inc.’s Relocation Director Mary Piper on what surprises people when relocating to Houston!

On the Move: Relocation Spotlight on Bernstein Realty

It might be hard to believe, but some newcomers actually experience a bit of culture shock when they first arrive in Houston. This is because they often have preconceived notions about what they think Houston will look like and what it has to offer.

This is something that Mary Piper sees on a daily basis as director of relocation and operations for Bernstein Realty.

In a recent interview, she discussed the aspects about Houston that tend to be the most perplexing for newcomers today, and the many unexpected surprises that they soon discover once they get here.

MS: What tends to shock your relocation clients the most when they first arrive in Houston?

MP: Prior to arriving, most of our relocation clients search on Google, where they can zoom in to see a satellite view of Houston. However, that doesn’t always translate when they get here and drive in from the airports to start their home search.

So, I’ve had several people call me when they get here and say how ugly it is. They might be on Beltway 8, and what they see is just not what they were expecting. Then, when they veer off of the Beltway just a little, they are often shocked by the beautiful neighborhoods that they see.

MS: Is there anything about the neighborhoods themselves that can be shocking to newcomers?

MP: We recently assisted somebody who had found a beautiful house online and viewed the 40 available pictures. When they actually got here and drove through the neighborhood, they were shocked at what they saw because of our lack of zoning. They didn’t realize what was on the streets just outside of the neighborhood, which was a shock.

So, we talked about zoning, and about some other areas that might be better suited to their needs. The hope was that they could have only one car if they lived in the neighborhood where they were working, because it would be possible to walk to work.

MS: Has walkability become more desirable among your relocation clients?

MP: Some would like to have walkability, which has become a whole lot easier. Recently we assisted someone who wanted to have an apartment near their office, which was located downtown. When we started looking at properties, they were pleasantly surprised that there were so many choices, all within eight blocks of their office.

MS: Are people surprised by the housing prices here, which can be considerably less than in other parts of the country?

MP: Everyone looks online at the house prices, and they are sometimes a little surprised, but what they don’t really know before talking to a Realtor is about our property taxes.

Many people aren’t used to such high property tax rates. So, when they add that into their mortgage payments, they are sometimes a little surprised by the housing costs.

MS: What are some of the things that newcomers need to be aware of if they prefer to lease an apartment rather than buy a property?

MP: Some of the apartment communities can be very pleasantly surprising, because although they might show one price online, many of them offer incentives when you visit the community.

For example, they might offer 1 or 2 months for free on a 12-month lease, or if someone works for a particular employer, they might waive the application fee.

MS: Are there other things that might be deceiving when viewing properties online?

MP: When people look at properties online, they can generally see the whole house by looking at the photographs that are also available.

But, some people are also a little surprised when they learn that the houses don’t come with the furniture. We see this more with our international clients, so we have to explain that to them.

MS: Are there other aspects about Houston and the housing options here that are surprising to your international clients?

MP: It can be very exciting when people see the sizes of the houses here, and that they have lots of closets and bathrooms.

They also find it a little surprising that although they might be living in a neighborhood that has a school, that their children might not be walking to school, because people in Houston drive everywhere.

People are also very pleasantly surprised when they come here and see just how much there is to do, and that there’s so much culture here. And for those who have never lived in one of the southern states before, they are shocked at how friendly people are in Houston.

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Courtesy of Michelle Sandlin with Chron.com