"2011 ended on a very promising note," said Wayne A. Stroman, HAR chairman and President/CEO of Stroman Realty. "We spent a good part of the year struggling to accurately gauge the market because we were comparing to accelerated sales in 2010 that resulted from the homebuyer tax credit. Once we distanced ourselves from that period, we saw clear indications of a healthy market with a balanced supply of housing inventory and strong pricing—conditions that put Houston in an enviable position compared to many housing markets around the country. The key to sustaining that positive momentum in 2012 will be continued improvement in Houston's employment numbers."
With no state, personal or corporate income tax, Houston is consistently recognized as one of the most affordable cities to do business. After all, there’s a reason 23 Fortune 500 companies base their operations in the nation’s fourth-largest city. The region’s highly-talented, yet cost-effective labor pool, superior transportation network and proximity to market also contribute to Houston’s competitive business climate.
The city’s more than 90 foreign consulates, 30 foreign chambers of commerce and foreign trade associations, as well as the 18 foreign government trade representatives and Commercial Offices further solidify Houston’s reputation as an international business hub. Twenty-two foreign banks, representing 12 nations, also help streamline international business. Houston also maintains relationships with 17 sister-cities, promoting business opportunities across six continents.
Just a light rail ride from Downtown, Texas Medical Center is home to the largest concentration of researchers, physicians and medical professionals in the world. More than 4.8-million patients visit the center’s 49 medical research and academic institutions each year. Among the Medical Center’s esteemed facilities are M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine. The area will continue to grow, as new hospitals, clinics, research centers and office spaces—totally more than $7-billion—are currently being planned.
Part of Houston’s national appeal can be attributed to the educational opportunities that contribute to the city’s overall quality of life. Distinguished school districts, along with prominent colleges and universities, draw newcomers with families and those wishing to pursue higher education. In addition to highly-rated public and private elementary schools, four state and four private universities are located in the city of Houston, along with top-ranked medical schools and top-tier law schools.
In Houston, locals don't just work hard, they play hard, too. Loyal sports aficionados have professional teams to cheer on year-round including the Houston Rockets basketball, Astros baseball, Aeros hockey, Texans football and the two-time MLS Cup-winning Houston Dynamo. Having four stadiums—all less than 10 years old—the city, itself, draws world-class sporting events like the Super Bowl, World Series, All-Star Games and the NCAA Final Four—the latter of which will return to Houston in 2016.
Thanks to the Houston Museum District, the city continues to emerge as an internationally-known arts destination. The leafy and park-filled district draws more than 6-million people annually for visits to one of the area's 19 cultural institutions. The latest addition, Asia House, opened in April 2012, joining other educational mainstays such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Children's Museum of Houston, The Menil Collection and the Contemporary Arts Museum. In a single day, art aficionados can view one of only two Rembrandt paintings in Texas, one of the most highly-renowned Surrealist collections in the country and the world's finest collection of gems and minerals.
Ranked second to NYC's Broadway district, Houston's 17-block Theatre District is home to nine renowned performing arts organizations in four venues. Houston's professional resident companies include Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony and the Alley Theatre. From Broadway productions to local dance performances, Houston's award-winning theatre scene is known for providing cutting-edge and diverse works that appeal to a wide-range of art aficionados.
Recently named America's ‘Best City for Shopping' by Forbes magazine, Houston remains a fashion frontrunner on the nation's retail scene. At The Galleria—Texas' largest shopping complex—more than 375 fine stores and restaurants come together in a multi-level, eye-catching centre. There, designer boutiques such as Versace, Chanel, Cartier and Yves Saint Laurent share space with Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Beyond the Galleria, residents and visitors find retail havens filled with specialty boutiques and national brands, all located in some of Houston's most picturesque neighborhoods.
Described by The New York Post as "one of the most satisfying food scenes in the country," it's easy to see why Houstonians dine out more often than any other city in the country. With 8,000 restaurants, representing cuisine from more than 35 countries and American regions, the city's food scene remains as ethnically diverse as its more than 4-million residents. From signature Tex-Mex and barbeque to burgers, sushi and everything between, foodies find award-wining fine dining and local establishments with cuisine that rivals all other U.S. cities.
With more than 6,000 weekly flights departing Houston, domestic and international travelers are able to choose from multiple airline carriers and benefit from competitive flight pricing. With two major airports, Houston links the region to more than 175 destinations and is the primary gateway to Latin America. Houston’s close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico also allows travelers to indulge in sea adventures as well. Just 45 minutes south, passengers will find nearly every major cruise line now sailing from the Port of Galveston.
With its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and an average winter temperature of 55 degrees, it's easy to understand why Houstonians love to be outside. Lush lawns, stately trees and tropical flowers add to the expansive parks, recreation areas and walking trails. Visit the 1,500-acre Memorial Park, located just minutes from The Galleria, for hiking, biking, golf and tennis, or venture to the Medical Center's Hermann Park. At the latter, nature lovers will find Japanese Gardens, the Miller Outdoor Theatre and Houston Zoo. Downtown, the active set finds Discovery Green—a 12-acre urban oasis dubbed one of ‘America's Coolest City Parks' by Travel + Leisure magazine. The centrally-set space features restaurants, public art pieces, family-friendly activities and more.