Chronicle: Completion of long-awaited highway to provide new transportation options

New highway to offer new commuter routesThe ring road Houston's city planners envisioned as long ago as 1952 is finally complete, according to the Chronicle, as the last stretch of the Sam Houston Tollway opened last weekend.

The director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, Peter Key, told the newspaper the project is primed to be an example of a successful infrastructure project.

"Public infrastructure projects in this country, in urban areas in particular, tend to be very expensive, and they tend to take a lot of time to bring to completion. Here's something that's actually coming to a conclusion," he said.

The $400 million spent to build the road will be paid for by EZ Tag fees, and the newspaper says that the growing population in the northeastern part of Harris County will travel on it frequently.

The area's new highway could have a number of effects on Houston property values nearby. Easier transit could reduce traffic congestion, but properties from which road noise is audible could see their sale prices sink, experts say.

Harris County population growth could mean higher values for Houston real estate

Population growth could push property valuesBetween 2000 and 2010, Harris County, Texas, has seen a 20 percent population increase, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, meaning that more housing is needed to shelter the extra residents. The county had 3,400,578 residents in 2000 and 4,092,459 in 2010, the government's figures said.

A former Census Bureau director and current demographer at Rice University, Steve Murdock, told the Fort-Worth Star Telegram that Texas has been a huge part of the growth of the U.S. population over the past decade.

"It has been a phenomenal run for Texas. Texas grew by nearly 4.3 million out of 17 million in the country; that's almost a quarter of the total growth of the nation," he said in an interview.

The Hispanic population increased at a greater rate than any other ethnic group, up nearly 50 percent in the Houston area.

Experts say the rapidly growing population will provide opportunities as well as challenges to the city's real estate market, pushing housing demand higher and causing a possible rise in average Houston home prices. 

Study finds home sellers cutting asking prices nationwide

Prices being cut across the U.S., study saysHouston properties were not among those listed in ZipRealty's latest report on home prices, but several other well-populated areas were unlucky enough to receive special mention from that company for seeing the biggest drops in home asking prices.

San Francisco took the cake for biggest whole-dollar average price reduction, as the average reduced-price sale in that city had $32,500 chopped from its value, ZipRealty said.

The company's director of marketing, John Oldham, said the general price downturn was widespread and that many of the cuts were significant.

"In more than half of the surveyed markets, sellers are averaging at least two reductions in price. Inventory has grown throughout much of the year; as sellers face the pressure of more buying options, they seem to be discounting to attract buyers resulting in list prices being cut for over 46 percent of the homes," he said.

Cutting the price on a home one is trying to sell is a big step, experts say, adding that a consultation with real estate professionals before doing this is probably a good idea.


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