Houston is currently the fourth most populated city in the nation and is on track to overtake Chicago as the third by 2025. In other words, Houston is growing and the housing market is competitive. At the same time, housing prices are more affordable than other big Texas cities. The average value of homes in Houston is $204,810, which is less than half the value of a home in Austin. If you’re hoping to buy your first home in Houston, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some things you should know about the first-time home-buying process in Houston.
Things to Know About Buying in Houston
The general process of buying a home is similar across the country, but every city and state has its own quirks to be aware of. For example, Texans don’t pay state income taxes, but property taxes are higher than many other states. The average property tax rate in Harris County is around 2.03 percent, which adds up to approximately $5,075 a year on a $250,000 home. If you’re planning on buying a home in Texas, don’t forget to factor property taxes into your budget.
It is also important to note that homeowners insurance premiums in Texas can be expensive, especially in cities along the Gulf of Mexico like Houston. The average annual insurance premium in Houston is around $3,835. This is more than two times higher than the national average of $1,631, and is the highest average rate among the top 20 metropolitan areas in the US. Homes in Houston need to be properly insured against hurricanes and the associated flooding and wind damage, which is the primary reason for the high insurance price tag. As you’re searching for homes in the city, you might want to make sure the home is not in a floodplain and be sure to purchase sufficient insurance to protect your investment.
Another thing to know about buying a home in Houston is that there are many great neighborhoods, but they all offer different advantages. The East End and Northside have affordable homes between the suburbs and downtown; Houston Heights offers a small-town feel inside The Loop; Downtown and Midtown provide true city living; Montrose is filled with cozy cottages and trendy shops; and Spring Branch offers serenity in a great school district. And for those who don’t need to be within city limits, there are plenty of great spots just outside of Houston, including The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Katy, Pearland, and Richmond.
Homebuyer Education Classes in Houston
Completing a homebuyer education class is a great first step for first-time homebuyers because they offer a crash course on the process and are required for many homebuyer assistance programs. Here are a few first-time homebuyer course options in Houston:
- Avenue Community Development Corporation: HUD-Certified First-Time Homebuyer’s Classes
- The Credit Coalition: Fundamentals of Good Credit
- Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation: Online Homebuyers Classes
Houston Homebuyer Assistance Programs
It is always a good idea to see if you qualify for any assistance programs in the area before closing on a home because they can save you money and allow you to maintain more of your savings. Here are a few assistance programs for homebuyers in Houston:
- The Houston Homebuyer Assistance Program: Intended for first-time homebuyers with a household income at or below 80 percent of area median income. Qualified applicants can receive assistance in the form of a no-interest, forgivable loan.
- The Community Services Department Downpayment Assistance Program: Offers down payment assistance of up to $23,800 for income-eligible first-time homebuyers in Harris County.
- Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program: Offers assistance to homebuyers who were in Houston on August 25, 2017 and have a household income at or below 120 percent of the area median income.
Texas Loan Programs
In addition to local assistance programs, there are a few statewide loan programs that can make homeownership more achievable. Here are a few loan programs available to Texans:
- Homes for Texas Heroes Home Loan Program: loan program for teachers, police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel, corrections officers, and veterans.
- Homes Sweet Texas Home Loan Program: loan program geared toward buyers with low and moderate incomes.
- My First Texas Home Loan: 30-year, low-interest rate mortgage that offers up to five percent of first lien mortgage amount in down payment and closing cost assistance for veterans and first-time homebuyers.
- My Choice Texas Home: 30-year, low-interest-rate mortgage that offers up to five percent of down payment and closing cost assistance for veterans and repeat buyers.
Discover More Tips for Buying a Texas Home
The process of buying a home can be overwhelming, especially the first time around. Discover more tips on how to best navigate the home-buying process from professional loan officers in our guide to buying a Texas home.