Houston City Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 19, 2008

USflagIMAGE200Houston is both the fourth largest city in the United States and the largest city in Texas. Founded in 1836, the city credits the beginning of its continuous and unsurpassed growth to the discovery of oil in 1901. Not a city to rest on its previous accomplishments however, Houston has since then made outstanding advancements in the fields of manufacturing, aeronautics, and technology. Today, the city is home to a vast multicultural population, as well as a flourishing cultural and artistic scene. The city’s economy based on a broad set of industries such as energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, transportation and health care.

Residential Places in Houston

Houston is one of the fastest growing real estate markets in the United States. This can perhaps be partially explained by the city’s surprisingly low cost of living and relatively modest tax rates. In fact, a survey conducted in the second quarter of 2007 shows that out of 24 major metropolitan centers in the United States, Houston registered the lowest housing costs at 46% below the average.

Overall property costs were also much lower, coming in at 23% below the average. The same survey further showed that the city has the lowest costs in several other areas, including transportation, grocery prices, utility costs, health care, and the prices of miscellaneous goods and services. All in all, these factors have made purchasing property in the city a potentially lucrative undertaking.

Some of the best places to live in Houston are the Midtown area, River Oaks, West University Place, Rice Military, The Woodlands, and–surprisingly enough–the vicinity of the Texas Medical Center. Midtown is an ideal location if you want to be close to the downtown area without actually having to live there.

River Oaks is one of the city’s most prestigious communities and is worth a closer look if you have a bit of money to burn. House prices here hover around the $400,000 mark. West University Place is a residential area that is always in demand, being as close as it is to many of the city’s business establishments. As you can imagine, houses and apartments here can be somewhat scarce. Finally, the Rice Military area is hard to beat for its picturesque surroundings.

Taking up residence in the city would be a breeze as shared in a post at the America Expat Forum last April 15, 2008:

Don’t worry too much about the people in Houston. Americans in general and Texans in particular have the reputation for being big hearted, easy to get along with people. While they may seem “loud” and more or less incomprehensible at first (Texan accents are tough even for other Americans!), it’s just part of the openness of the American culture. They may well have trouble understanding your accent, too, so you’ll be even.

Hospitals and Universities of Houston

Houston boasts of one of the most sophisticated network of large and small community hospitals that offers a range of services in literally hundreds of medical specialties. The Texas Medical Center is perhaps the best known in the region, and there are more than 100 hospitals and medical centers besides. The city boasts of thirteen hospitals, two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools and schools for dentistry, public health, pharmacology and other health related professions.

The largest of these is the Methodist Hospital with more than 1,500 beds. Some of the other prominent hospitals in the city are the Christus St. John Hospital, Bayshore Medical Center, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, the Conroe Regional Medical Center, East Houston Regional Medical Center, Kingwood Medical Center, and the Mainland Medical Center.

Learning Institutions

Houston offers a wide selection of top quality learning institutions whether your child is in elementary school, high school, or in college. The city’s universities are particularly well regarded, many of them being considered the best educational institutions in the country, as well as in the world.

Among these are the University of Houston, which is the largest university in the city, Rice University, which has distinguished itself with many awards for its educational excellence, University of St. Thomas, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, and the internationally renowned Baylor College of Medicine. All in all, there are sixty colleges, universities and other degree-granting institutions. There are also 112 campuses, a myriad of charter schools and  home to more than 300 private schools throughout the city.

Commercial Places in Houston

Being a major urban center, Houston obviously has no shortage of dining establishments that run the gamut from the casual and the trendy to the upper class and sophisticated. Whether you want to get spruced up for a fine candle-lit dinner or you merely want to kick back and have a quick bite in your jeans, the city will surely have a place to accommodate you.

Given its close proximity to Mexico, Tex-Mex cuisine is understandably one of the city’s strengths, and restaurants such as Molina’s Cantina, Chacho’s, Cafe Adobe, and El Tiempo Cantina hold up this culinary legacy admirably.

Steaks are another proud Houston legacy, and Morton’s Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, and the suggestively named Strip House are only some of the best places in the city to sink your teeth into some prime cuts of beef.

Service Establishments of Houston

All electricity suppliers in Houston have to be certified by the Public Utility Commission of Texas before they can provide electrical services. Some of the major companies in the city are CPL Retail Energy, Direct Energy, Gexa Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Reliant Energy, and TXU Energy. There is a website that is particularly useful in helping you determine which electricity provider to go with–PowertoChoose.org. Here you can compare offers from the different providers and base your decision on their listed services and costs.

Ambulance, fire, and police assistance is of course always available by simply dialing 911. For non-emergency concerns such as water leaks, garbage pickup, road repairs, recycling and other similar issues however, you can dial 311. For water and wastewater related services, the number to dial is 713-371-1400.

Embassies in Houston

For consular assistance while in Houston, you can either contact the office of the British Consulate-General or the British Embassy in Washington D.C.

The British Consulate-General’s office can be reached at the Wells Fargo Plaza, 1000 Louisiana Suite 1900, Houston, Texas 77002, or you can call them at the following numbers: (1) (713) 659 6270 and (1) (713) 659 6275 for commercial concerns. You can also fax them at (1) (713) 659 7094, or email them at [email protected]. Office hours are from 0900 to 1700, Monday to Friday, local time.

The British Embassy can be reached at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008 and you can call them at (1)(202) 588 6500 for the embassy, (1)(202) 588 7800 for consular assistance, and at (1)(202) 588 7830 for the British Council. You can also fax them at the following numbers: (1)(202) 588 7870 for chancery, (1)(202) 588 7866 for management related concerns, (1)(202) 588 7901 for UKTI, and (1)(202) 588 7850 for consular services. Office hours are from 0900 to 1730, Monday to Friday, local time.

Useful Sites

Find Houston Real Estate

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