The Ralph Bivins Project – Podcast Guest Bill Baldwin

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) –   RALPH BIVINS: This is Ralph Bivins with the Ralph Bivins Project. We’re here today with Bill Baldwin of Boulevard Realty. It is a significant agency that deals with Central Houston markets and a lot of the Inner Loop areas. Bill has served as president of the Houston Heights Association, and he is on the City Planning Commission. He knows a lot about the city – about what is being built and what is being sold. So, Bill, here we are – early 2024. How do you feel about how the year has begun?

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BILL BALDWIN:  We are off to a good start in 2024. Most of us are glad 2023 ended. It was not our finest moment in real estate. We had a number of challenges — from lawsuits to rising interest rates. We called it the Golden Handcuffs. 72 percent of the country used to have interest rates under 4 percent and homes were not likely to move as much as when the rates were 3, 4 and 5 percent. We had a pause which created an inventory problem which created a supply and demand imbalance which was not good for anyone.

2024 is off to a very good start. There is optimism – look, people seem to want to talk only about a looming recession. Can we just agree there was no recession, there is no recession? The American economy is resilient. Houston’s economy is very resilient, and we should put all this talk behind us.

A draw-up is coming, but it will be slow. There will not be a massive draw-up during the first quarter of 2024. There’s continued agreement that interest rates will go down, which will free up some inventory which will create a more balanced market. Certainly, there’s optimism in real estate, there’s enthusiasm out there. There is pent-up demand as well.

I had an open house for one of my agents the other day and hundreds of people were there. Hundreds. Of course, there were multiple offers on that deal, and it did go slightly over the asking price. But what I know is that one person got it and 199 are still in the marketplace waiting for the right house and the right opportunity. So, I know there’s pent-up demand. We’ve counted more showings in January than ever before. We’ve seen a little uptick in inventory. I think we are very well poised in Houston, Texas, for a very good real estate year, coming off what was not a very good real estate year.

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RALPH BIVINS: Let’s consider The Heights. It’s a historic area with beautiful homes, nice old homes, some of them 100 years old. You know everything there is to know about that area. Your office is even located there.

BILL BALDWIN: 25 years and 7,000 homes later, I’m supposed to know what I’m doing, that’s my theory. Some of the buyers who are coming in lately are from California or other high-wealth states, looking for homes where there is no state income tax.

We found that the Number 1 thing they want is walkability. They want to be able to walk to something. This is not the experience we had five or 10 years ago. Even my old house in the 200 block of Bayland is too far for many of these people to walk to anything. They want to be a block off.

This has truly helped The Heights to become even more desirable than before. Certainly, the charm and the style of the houses helped. But it’s the walkability that’s important. This is one of the few neighborhoods – similar to Montrose – that’s very walkable and that is what people are looking for today.

RALPH BIVINS: You served on a committee in the city that studied walkability.

BILL BALDWIN: I chaired the Walkable Places Initiative.

RALPH BIVINS: And what are the insights you came up with about walkability?

BILL BALDWIN: The point of the Walkable Places Initiative was to enhance the pedestrian realm, so it became a safe environment for individuals to walk, to stroll, to be in a wheelchair or on a walker or whatever they are doing in neighborhoods that traditionally had not previously been considered walkable.

Do 25-Foot Setbacks Enhance Walkability?

We are used to 25-foot setbacks, thinking that we are going to continue to enlarge roads like Westheimer and Montrose. In reality, wider rights of way and big, massive lanes of traffic have not served those areas very well at all. So, we looked at the historical pedestrian areas such as 19th  Street where the buildings are closer to the street, where there’s an active pedestrian realm and there’s some transparency. We found it actually slows down the vehicular traffic and provides a buffer for pedestrians as well as a safer environment for the sidewalk and the activities happening in the pedestrian realm there.

The initiative was very well received. We implemented it in a number of ways. Not everywhere has been designated yet as a walkable space by the City Planning Commission, but every entity that has opted in for the performance standard has been approved by the commission. It is the standard that we want adopted for people. As a result, we get something – a buffer, a wider sidewalk, transparency and an active pedestrian realm. Developers get things, too, like a little more buildable space because they can move their buildings to the 5- or 10-foot build line, depending on the road. The city also benefits by getting a safer walking realm.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Click Here to Listen to the Entire Podcast

Bill Baldwin bio

Bill Baldwin is the broker and owner of Boulevard Realty, an independent boutique firm with about 55 agents who work in Houston and Galveston. The firm often ranks in the top 10 real estate organizations selling in Central Houston.

In addition to his service on the Houston Planning Commission, Bill has served multiple terms as president of the Houston Heights Association and co-chaired Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Quality of Life Transition Committee. He was chairman of the Walkable Places Committee and a member of the North Houston Highway Improvement Project Steering Committee.

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Feb. 14,  2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024


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