THE NEIGHBORHOOD OPTIONS IN HOUSTON—huge, sprawling, diverse Houston—are seemingly endless. Choosing which part of town suits you best is a challenge, equal parts exciting and overwhelming. Maybe you’d do anything to avoid a hefty commute to your office in the Galleria. Maybe you’re all about the quality of your kid’s school. Maybe you want walkable access to your daily caffeine fix, or you want to know your neighbors intimately—or not at all.
Wherever your priorities lie, there’s probably a neighborhood in the area that’s perfect for you. This year, we narrowed down a list of our current favorites—just 10, in a sea of great possibilities—and showcased some of the people who call those ’hoods home. Both long-timers and newcomers, these neighborhood stewards told us why they’ve chosen to put down roots where they did. Before you log onto HAR.com, maybe you’ll find a Houstonian in these pages you relate to, giving insight into what might be the neighborhood of your dreams.
- Average home price: $675,000—$2.35 million
- Deciding factor: Family-oriented
- Favorite neighborhood spots: Ciro’s Italian Grill, CityCentre’s shops and restaurants, the private lakes at Sandalwood
PATTY BUSMIRE grew up in Houston and moved around a lot growing up—in areas including Boulevard Oaks, where she attended Edgar Allen Poe Elementary, then-brand-new Sharpstown, and Dickinson. In the late ’80s, she moved to Chicago for a decade with her then-husband, where she had two kids, Drew and Becky.
“Living in the inner city, it’s kind of hard to find playdates for your kids,” Busmire says. “You do whatever it is to try and find socialization for them. We’re not Jewish, but I took my son to the Jewish community center for his first social experience—he was doing Shabbat, and every Friday we had challah bread and the whole deal.”
When her family made the move back to Houston in 1997, Busmire wanted to live in a place that felt like the neighborhoods she grew up in. Her realtor, Amy Bernstein, took her to Sandalwood, an enclave near the Memorial Villages lined by three small connected lakes running along Buffalo Bayou.
“I walked along the lake trail and there was Easter grass, and I was so excited because it said to me, families are here,” she says. “And this neighborhood has proven to be just that—a throwback to the neighborhoods that I grew up in, where you played Kick the Can, and you went outside, and your friends were right down the street, and the kids go down to the lake on their bikes with their fishing pole over their shoulder.”
After her children, now 23 and 25, left for college, Busmire spent two years remodeling her lakeside mid-century modern home, while hewing close to the original architect’s intent. When she’s not running her business—Full Blown Dry Bar in the River Oaks Shopping Center—she’s entertaining guests for big dinners and pool parties. And even though she’s living solo in the house for now, she hopes her family will have a presence here for the long haul.
“I marveled when I moved here that people had moved back here and raised their kids in the schools that they grew up in. It’s just this love and loyalty to this area,” she says. “I hope my kids come back and raise their kids here. I hope one of them ends up in this house!”
Garden Oaks/Oak Forest
- Average home price: $250,000—$445,000
- Deciding factor: The neighborhood Montessori school
- Favorite neighborhood spots: Plonk! Wine Bar, Petrol Station, and Petrol’s Saturday Farm Stand
EMMA MOON was a divorced mother of a teenage daughter when, after living abroad for years, she returned to her hometown of Houston in 1999 and purchased a Montrose townhome. Then she met her husband, Ted, had another child, and put it back on the market. “We were starting all over,” she says, “so the townhome in Montrose wasn’t quite suiting us, and we were starting to think about schools.”
Their search started in the Heights, where they found the homes smaller than they’d like and largely out of their price range. “Someone told us about this neighborhood,” she smiles, sitting on the patio of Oak Forest wine bar Plonk and gesturing to the area beyond. “We came and checked it out and decided to move here, and pretty quickly fell in love with it.”
The Moons landed in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a pool, fruit trees and an organic garden in the backyard. A big selling point for her family was, indeed, the schools. Her 10-year-old son attends Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet, one of only three public Montessori schools in HISD. “That’s a big part of what brought me to this neighborhood. I love the idea of being involved with parents who would be willing to give of themselves to create something like that,” she says.
When Moon’s not running her events-planning business, she’s gardening in her backyard or selling pastured meat to her neighbors at the Farm Stand at Petrol Station. She loves that her son can go out and play with his friends without needing a ton of supervision. “It’s the mixture of urban life with a touch of suburbia,” she says. “I love being in a neighborhood where things are just a little bit slower.”
- Average home price: $216,000—$441,000
- Deciding factor: Diversity
- Favorite neighborhood spots: Sugar Land Town Square for shopping and events, Pappasito’s
TANZEEL MERCHANT spent most of her childhood in Sugar Land, where her mother and father, immigrants from Pakistan and India, respectively, raised her and her siblings. She attended the University of Houston, where she met her husband, Ibrahim Farhoud, himself an immigrant from Lebanon. After they married and started their own family, moving back to Sugar Land seemed like the obvious choice.
“We were living off San Felipe, and my daughter was 2 or 3. I was pregnant, and we needed more space,” she says. “It was for the kids. That whole suburb environment, it just makes a difference when you’re a parent. Plus, my parents live five minutes away.”
Merchant and her husband now have three girls, ages 7 to 12, and her parents stop by their five-bedroom, four-bathroom home in the Avalon at Telfair, a subdivision with six lakes connected by trails, at least once a week. “My kids get to get spoiled by their grandparents. My dad is absolutely adorable,” Merchant says, smiling. “He knows what everybody likes, and he’ll just show up at the house with everybody’s favorite ice cream.”
When her family’s not working or in school, they might be eating their weekly Wednesday-night dinner at Pappasito’s or catching an outdoor movie night at Sugar Land Town Square.
Merchant says her family adores living in the area because of the great schools, the sense of safety and security, and, most importantly to her, the wide range of people and cultures to which her kids are exposed.
“I love that it’s diverse—it’s a really big thing for me, especially with my girls,” she says. “Children are very impressionable, and being in this culturally diverse area, everybody’s happy, nobody’s self-esteem is being affected, everybody’s comfortable. It’s just a complete mix, and everybody loves everybody.”