Houston is a great place to call home! I work with quite a few first time homebuyers and it really depends on what you are lookn or and the area. You are right -- Houston has crime all over but every large city does. Overall, I feel completely safe in Houston. I live inside Loop 610 and have never felt unsafe. My last few clients seem to be like you and we found them townhomes/condos. They felt like having neighbors close by would help them not only meet others in this large city but to also feel safe. Anyhow, it's a great city as is Austin, and I think you will definately like it here!
Very interesting question. Realtors can help you with stats on housing and such, but in the end youwill have to decide which is the best investment for you. I can tell you that there are sweet sweat deals both in town as well as suburbia. I guess it depends on your lifestyle and pace. There a lot of questions that need to be answred. What part of town yill you be working in? do you mind a long commute? Do you want to be close to nightlife or parks or museums? etc....
Althought there is a big shift in demographis in many parts of town, I think you hit it right on the nail when you said ".... houston is like a checkerboard....". I will be glad to provdie some stats ar the market and show you some property in different areas of houston so that you can get some answers to all your questions
Hope this helps.
You will love Houston, we move at a different pace and dance to a different beat than Austin, I love Austin, but the cost of living is higher and you will find the folks in the Houston area the most relaxed in Texas/
Now that said let me say that we as realtors can give you the printed stats along with complete neighborhood stats on crime but we are not to give opions of crime rate/ We can give opions of School ratings but not crime rates. Get the picture Equal Housing. Everyone gets protection even the criminals.
On my web site I not only include a place for folks to check out different financing on their own. I can give them names as well, but many feel better checking out things on thier own. Do not give your S.S. number to anyone until you are ready to apply for your loan preapproval . I also include, under -All Area Property Search, a site where people can find out about crime. I also have a location for the Forclosed , HUD, and Short Sales. I handle the Houston Metro area as well as Montgomery county but you can find a list of other Agents there as well.
Crime is a good thing to look into, but first, lets decide where we will be working or want to work, Are there to be school age children while you are in this home and so on. Then narrow down the area of town you want to be in.
A lot of answere to these questions - type of industry, schools and so on can be found on the same site as crime rates.
A complete answer would require more info about price range and how much sweat you're willing to put in...most of the inner loop areas offer plenty of rehab opportunities, but they typically require substantial renovations (tear-down/rebuilds are most common). Older homes in the Heights, Shady Acres, mid-town (all inner loop) should remind you of Hyde Park or Travis Heights in Austin....though I believe the crime rate would be higher in the inner loop.
If you're considering suburbia, older neighborhoods in The Woodlands are becoming more and more popular for rehabs. Grogan's Mill, Panther Creek, and Cochran's Crossing (all in The Woodlands) have mostly early 80's to early 90's homes, and are minutes from the new Waterway District - making them ideal rehab candidates.
I'm happy to help if you'd like further advice. I made the move back to Houston from Austin in 2003.