Bernstein Realty’s Mary Piper shares her thoughts about Houston, relocation and the real estate market.


Mary Piper was born in England, and experienced the expat life firsthand as she moved with her husband and children to various international locations before relocating to Houston in 1995.

For the past seven years, Piper has led the Relocation Department at Bernstein Realty as director of relocation and operations.

“When I speak to transferees and/or their spouses on the telephone, they can hear that I am not a native Houstonian, and they know immediately that I probably moved to a strange city myself, and that I’m going to understand their needs,” she said.

In a recent interview, Piper shared her perspectives on Houston. Here are excerpts from that interview:

MS: What is the biggest challenge currently affecting Houston relocation buyers?

MP: Typically people have been able to come for a week for a home finding trip and find a house, but now there’s the fear that they could be going home without a house because of the low inventory.

MS: In general, do relocation buyers seem to have a realistic view about our current market?

MP: I don’t think they can really understand the market until they actually submit an offer on a house and experience it.

People are coming in and understanding that they may have to go over asking price to secure a house.

The Realtors in our office aren’t frivolously encouraging that though, because they’re very fearful of clients making offers when the data for sales comparables may not justify the price.

MS: Is the Internet a friend or a foe to the relocation agent of today?

MP: Both. It’s helpful because buyers are seeing how quickly the market is moving and they are seeing less active properties, but it’s also a foe, as zip codes cover a huge expansive area, so buyers think that the whole of that zip code should be a certain price.

MS: How important is a mortgage preapproval letter for relocation buyers?

MP: We encourage everybody coming in to speak to a lender before they come and to have their pre-approval in hand, because nobody’s going to look at their contract without that preapproval.

MS: What would have been helpful to you when you moved to Houston?

MP: We didn’t have the luxury of a relocation adviser.

We were on our own with the advice of colleagues in my husband’s company, so we had to rely on friends and a realtor.

I didn’t have enough information about the schools. I couldn’t just go to the Internet and get the information, and we didn’t know people who were utilizing the public school system, so we put our children in private school.

MS: What advice would you give to someone moving to Houston today?

MP: They need to consider the public schools, and find out as much about the schools as they can, and visit the schools. They need to be sure it’s a good fit for their family before deciding to live in an area. If they’re considering staying here long term, they need to look at the elementary, middle and high school.

They also need to know about the public transportation system, understand commute times, and just really explore the area and neighborhoods.

Write a wish list and then work through that wish list and see if compromises need to be made.

MS: How do you handle it when relocation buyers connect with you during your initial phone call with them and want to work with you directly as their agent?

MP: I always let them know throughout the course of the conversation that when we are talking about looking at different neighborhoods, that I’m talking about our agent showing those neighborhoods.

I assure them that the agent working with them will have in-depth knowledge of the neighborhoods. So they know very early on in the conversation that I’m going to assign them the best agent for their needs.

MS: Why is Houston such an easy sell right now?

MP: It’s an easy sell because it has everything and it’s such an easy city to maneuver and everybody is very welcoming.

That Southern hospitality is really there and of course we have temperate weather.

If you’re homesick, you only need to go to the grocery store to see all the international food sections and you don’t have to do without very much.

MS: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?

MP: My husband has been moved to several other international locations since we moved here, but we have made Houston our home.

Michelle Sandlin is a writer and relocation industry expert. She is the 2014 President of Houston Relocation Professionals (HRP), and is a speaker at various conferences and events locally and around the country. Follow Michelle on Facebook: and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit “On the Move – Exploring Houston Relocation with Michelle Sandlin” at


PHOTO CREDIT:  Photo By Mark HiebeRt, Mark Hiebert, Hiebert Photography & Professional Imaging/Photographer/Owner