"Production Solves All Problems."
This is a concept that my uncle drilled into my head over and over again when I worked with him during college. And to be honest, I did not fully grasp the concept at the time. It wasn't until I had a business of my own--my own "production"--that I finally "got it".
My units look the way they do mainly because I am an bizarrely productive person who also happens to think long term. I look at every repair as an opportunity to upgrade the property (or the unit) in order to add more value for the tenant--which ultimately adds more value to my bottom line. Why?
Because better units = more applicants to choose from + happier tenants = lower turnover = more rent = higher profits. I am not an altruist--I am an objectivist in the purest Ayn Randian sense of the word. And I am more than happy to do upgrades that are both good for me AND good for the tenant--because in the end, we both win.
In the Houston market for example, if you pull out the crappy old window units and put in central air conditioning, you will increase the average rent for your units by at least $100/month. (The new central air will cost you about $3500 per unit.) So, in 35 months you're at break even. After that, as the landlord, you're making an extra $100/month on that unit. Further, the average electric bill for that same unit will be 50% less with central air than a window unit--which is better for your tenants--and better for the environment. So WHY are there so many vintage apartments inside the loop that STILL have window units???
It's such a win/win scenario that I'm really surprised that more landlords don't "get it". More cash flow coming in at the beginning of every month ("production") = more cash flow left over at the end of the month for problem solving (and upgrades). Since 2001 I have spent over $1.25 MILLION dollars on upgrades & restoration projects at my various properties--without borrowing a single penny. I did it all from cash flow.
The units that appear below are the units that will be coming available over the next 30 to 60 days.
I keep my game pretty tight so normally I do not have many units just sitting empty (unless we happen to be working on a unit). People move out, people move in--so you always have a few days of vacancy here and there. Typically we have most units re-leased before the current tenant vacates, with just a day or two of vacancy in between to make sure that the unit is in tip top condition for the new tenant.
The availability date for each unit is indicated below--along with a contact email for that property. Sometimes the current tenants can move out sooner than the availability date indicated... sometimes not. So if you need to move sooner than the date indicated by the available unit, just let us know the move-in date you need when you email us and we'll check with the out-going tenant to see if they have any wiggle room.
If your ideal or projected move-in date is beyond the availability date below, I'm obviously not going to "hold" this apartment for you without rent. Something else may come up that is available closer to your move-in date, however. So feel free to contact me or--Like / Follow us on Facebook to get instant updates of our availability.
Click the "View Unit Details" link by any property below that you are interested in... then send an email to the address indicated for that property if you would like specifics about upcoming showing dates and times.
(You may also want to check out the Home page for a little background on Medusa Properties and how we roll.)
IF THERE IS NOTHING BELOW THIS SENTENCE THEN WE ARE 100% FULL AT THIS TIME. PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER. :)
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|Mid-Century Modern in Galleria / Highland Village (Houston, TX)
Bored with doing the same "Turn-of-the-Century" restoration projects for the previous five years, in 2002 I decided to mix things up bit with a little Mid-Century Modern.
This classic 1950s 8-plex is one of only a few remaining, original, small complexes built in Afton Oaks in the 1950s (before the Galleria was even a twinkle in Gerald Hines' visionary eye. (http://www.aftonoaks.org/)
Because of its excellent in-town location, unusually large lots, and strictly enforced deed restrictions, the prevailing model in Afton Oaks is to tear down the existing 1950s ranch style houses (@ $600-$700k a pop) and replace them with faux French McMansions and falso Italianate Villas (@ $2 million + a pop). Most of the original, smaller, vintage 4plex, 6plex, and 8plexes like this one have been laid low by that same paradigm shift in recent years.
As tempting as that might be to me financially, I kinda liked Afton Oaks the way it was--quaint and unpretentious--so I decided to recycle this classic building instead of sacrificing it to the gods of consumption.
This project was fun mainly because we got to work and re-work the same basic floor-plan eight times. This allowed me to tweak the scope & look of each unit, improving the functionality and aesthetics of each as we moved through the building. (My own mini Case Study project.) My goal was to end up with eight unique units--and I think I achieved that goal. No two units in the building are exactly alike. Some lean more toward the Vintage and some more toward the Modern--but they are all Vintage Modern.
Aside from the common floor plan of two bedrooms and one bath--and some shared color schemes--every unit has its own personality. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Sometimes they are drastic. But each has its own individual character.
The tenants are generally an eclectic mix of young professionals (25-45). Probably owing to the central courtyard, this property has more of a community feel to it than any other property that I have owned--which I like--and which is why certain types of people prefer a small complex like this over 200, 300, 400 unit complex.
If you work or play inside the loop, this location is hard to beat. "Galleria" is an oft over-used reference point in Houston real estate--especially in apartment listings. This property is literally three blocks due east of the Galleria shopping centers--tucked just inside the 610 loop. You could walk out your front door & be trying on shoes at Neimans in about five minutes. There is also a Central Market, Best Buy, Target, Spec's, and three Starbucks within easy walking distance.
There is also great freeway access to 59, 610, and I-10. And the shopping is the best in the state. (Where else in Houston can you live close enough to walk to Crate & Barrel, Central Market, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Nordstrom, and Anthropologie?) http://www.shophighlandvillage.com/center.html
For what they are (700 to 800 s.f., Mid-Century, two bed / one bath flats) these are about the nicest units in this price range that you are going to find anywhere near this location--possibly anywhere inside the loop. They are what they are. If you are looking for shiny new pennies, you'll have to live in a 400 unit property and park in a parking garage. This is eight units. Killer location. Two bedrooms. (Most of the tenants there use them as 1+ study / guest bed set ups.)
See unit details below for pics & info on each individual unit. Click any thumbnail to enlarge.
Thorntree (quartz & slate), DalTile, ICI Paints, K&N (appliance), the Detering Company (trim & moulding), Custom Precision Stainless (custom kitchen sinks & other stainless details), Ferguson (misc. plumbing fixtures), Trinity Hardwoods, Klassic Hardwoods (recycled flooring), Custom Cabinets Houston (www.custom-cabinets-houston.com), M&M Lighting, Bobbitt Glass, Emmanuel del Angel (sheetrock, paint, tile), Morales HVAC, St Charles Electric.
For more info about renting one of these units (policies, procedures, showing dates & times, etc.) send and email to email@example.com
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HOUSTON, TX 77027
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|Turn-of-the-Century Mansion (now 6-plex) - (Avenues - Salt Lake City - UT)
Built in 1905 as an enormous single family residence, this classic Avenues mansion was converted into 6 large units at some point over the past 100 years.
My aim when taking on these projects is not to "remodel" these old buildings but to restore them. This may seem like the same thing to a layman but if you have ever sunk your teeth into a 100 yr old building, you understand the difference. (And if you have been looking at apartments in the Aves for very long you will definitely SEE the difference in these units.)
Restoration involves stripping off years of cheap, ill conceived & trendy "updates", poorly done repairs ("handy man" specials), pulling off the old doors, moulding & hardware, stripping off the many, many coats of paint & flooring--the tacky finishes du jour that have been grafted onto the building over the years, upgrading the infrastructure (plumbing, electrical, HVAC)--then put the old doors, fixtures, moulding, and hardware back on.
Invariably some of the original fixtures have been damaged or lost. So that takes me to places like Georges Architectural Salvage to track down replacement doors, knobs, and fixtures.
As you can imagine, this process takes a LOT of time and energy--and of course, plenty of cash money. But the end result is the essence of what makes these old buildings so much more liveable than most of what's been built after the 1940s: original hardwood floors from old growth forests, tall ceilings, big windows with the original art glass, subway tile & mosaic floors, cast iron fixtures, claw tubs. In a word: Vintage.
Another great feature of this building is the original wrap-around front porch--great for chilling out and watching the world go by, studying, surfing the web, or just practicing your bongos or guitar (as a former tenant, Josh, was fond of doing).
There is also plenty of extra storage space in the basement for bikes, kayaks, ski & snowboard stuff, camping gear, suitcases, boxes, seasonal items, or that ugly lamp that you just cannot seem to part with. (Each tenant gets their own dedicated area in the basement and we have never run out of space--it is a BIG basement.)
For the eco friendly tenant the city bus stops right out in front for easy access to the U of U, TRAX, the hospitals, and downtown SLC. And we have a pretty comprehensive recycling center set up on site--including bins for paper, plastic, & glass.
I have also installed a high speed internet connection in the building for the tenants to share (Ethernet & WiFi)--which saves everyone about $60/month--which is nice. We can all use a little extra coin in the pocket these days!
When I see what else is out there for rent in the Aves it kind of makes me sad. So many landlords buy these great old buildings and "remodel" the history and charm right out of them. They end up looking like the latest Home Depot displays. But the sad reality is that it is easier, faster, and a lot cheaper to go to Home Depot and buy junk fixtures & plastic "laminate" floors than it is to spend a month on your hands and knees stripping off paint, and scraping and sanding on the orignal hardwood floors. But man, once you get through the four layers of linoleum and tar paper, and you smell that virgin fir that was hand felled and hand milled by the Pioneers... and a big drop of sweat slips off your brow and hits the floor and soaks in and you know it is gonna be there for another 100 years... man, that's something.
- LeDel Pace Plumbing
- Jean Flesher Construction
- Daltile & Contempo Tile
- Kingdon Sheet Metal
- Glidden Professional Paints
- Georges Architectural Salvage
- Rich Heating & Air
So, click on any thumbnail below to see the full sized pic and shoot me an email if you like what you see.
See individual units below for appropriate contact email for that unit.
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3RD AVE @ N ST
SLC, UT 84103
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|Mid-Century Lofts & Flats (Upper Kirby - Houston - TX)
I rescued this little gem from the chopping block in August of 2006. The tenants had all been evicted... the gas meters had pulled out of the ground & the main lines terminated... and the water to the property had been shut off at the main by the city: the wrecking ball was on its way !
But I felt like she had a lot of life left in her. So I got out the pencil & pad and started sketching. Then I got out the sledgehammer and starting demo-ing. And then I got out my checkbook and started writing checks... very big checks! :)
14 months later the first new tenants started moving in... and I've barely had a single day of vacancy since.
Before I bought the property the building had been owned by the same family since it was built in the late 1940s. The entire street used to have many similar properties on it; all but this one had been torn down over the years. (Well, actually Twin Peaks down the street is actually two fourplexes like this one--combined into one big building--then wrapped in a commercial facade. So, technically, it is an original structure.)
The 70 yr old woman who sold me the property had lived there with her family when she was a child; it had remained in her family ever since. Fortunately for me she had no interest in restoring the building. Getting on in years, she had been living off the rents & letting the property run down for the past few decades... (the classic "slumlord" scenario).
This property is just off Kirby, between 59 & Richmond--making it one of the shortest commutes you will find to just about anywhere in the city. 10-15 minutes from every university and college in town; 5 minutes from the Medical Center; walking distance to River Oaks, Greenway Plaza, movie theaters, shopping, and many great restaurants. (Japon & Miyako are both across the street... mmm... sushi!) (Haven, a new, mulit-million $$$, "green" / "farm to table" restaurant went in next door a couple of years ago.
The property has six units total: four larger one bedrooms in the main building (two lofts and two flats) and two one bedroom apartments over the garage.
The look inside is 50/50 "vintage/modern"--but definitely not "traditional", "contemporary", or any other easy / predictable style. I guarantee that you will not find ANY units at ANY property, in ANY price range that have the kinds of fixtures and finishes that I have in these units. I did not have a budget when I restored these units. I just did what needed to be done--and used materials and processes that would last a lifetime. Steel. Wood. Glass. Brick. Stone. Cement. The basic elements.
The two lower units in the main building (#1 & #2) have stained concrete floors & very large private patios in the front. The two upper units are all hardwood floors with nice private decks off the kitchen. The baths & kitchens are all completely custom & high-end with stainless steel appliances from Bosch (dishwashers), Siemens (dual fuel ranges), GE (microwaves fridges & washers & dryers) + natural stone counters, and built-in / under-counter laundry. Overall the look is very modern but with a shout out to the building's 1940s pedigree.
- M&M Lighting - fixtures & fans
- Thorntree - natural stone (Quartz countertop material)
- Detering Company - trim, moulding, doors, & windows
- Custom Precision Stainless - custom stainless sinks, sink bases, shelving, etc
- Montalbano Lumber - misc building materials
- West End Roofing
- Ferguson Plumbing Supply
- Custom Cabinets Houston (www.custom-cabinets-houston.com)
- EnergyGuard - expanding foam insulation
For more details about these units send an email to:
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Houston, TX 77098
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|* NEW CONSTRUCTION * MIDTOWN * AVAILABLE SOON *
Late in 2012 I bought two adjacent properties in Midtown that spanned Holman and Francis streets.
The houses on those two lots--though salvageable--were pretty far gone and functionally obsolete. (A bit too small. 100 yr old plumbing. 100 yr old electrical. No central air or heat. Termites. Rot. General decay. The usual stuff I have to deal with when restoring these old buildings.) But when everything around you has been torn down--or is being torn down--and replaced with new houses and townhouses... there's really not much point--and no particular honor--in being the last man standing... yet again.
Since 1995 I've been buying, restoring--sometimes selling, (but mainly leasing out) historic / vintage properties inside the loop. And one of the reasons I have done this is because I've hated most of what I've seen built in the city of Houston from the 1960s through today. The vast majority of it has been--and still is--cheap, generic crap.
Renovating and restoring is one thing. You take someone else's original ideas... assuming they are decent ideas... and you preserve them (and hopefully improve on them whenever possible). But building from scratch is REALLY putting your money where your mouth is... because you are now putting your own original ideas out there in the forefront and opening yourself up to the same types of criticisms that you've been heaping on other builders for years.
A lot of design work is reductive. In Midtown, we began with 10,000 s.f of land that is 50 ft wide x 200 ft long. That's the starting point. We can't change that size or shape. So we apply the City Planning Ordinance to that lot, in that particular location, with those particular limitations... and from all of the above we end up with a basic site plan... and that site plan gives us the specific footprints for each house.
Step two is taking those specific footprints--in this case roughly 30 feet wide x 30 feet deep--and figuring out how to make all the "necessary things" fit into that footprint. Like a garage. And a front entry. And the stairs. And the mechanical systems. And when it comes down to it, there are only so many ways you can lay out each floor--given the basic site plan and footprint limitations. That's where the reduction comes into play. You place the main / crucial / required elements first... then just fill in everything else around them as functionally, interestingly, and beautifully as possible.
The next big consideration--after you've worked out the site plan and the footprint and the basic layout of each floor--is the "style" issue... which goes hand in hand with the "elevation"--or what the outside of the building will look like. If you're an inexperienced builder--or just a douchebag who doesn't give a damn--you really don't pay much consideration to this question. You build what's easiest and / or what's cheapest to build. Or you build what you "think" will sell--or what you "think" the market wants... or worse yet--what your Realtor tells you is "hot" right now. You don't pay any mind to the houses around you or the neighborhood in general. You build Spanish style villas 5000 miles from Spain. You build Modern / Contemporary style houses in historic, bungalow-filled neighborhoods--or Craftsman reproductions in mid-Century modern neighborhoods.
If you've driven around Houston's inner loop much and seen the new construction of the past 20 to 40 years you will see this type of insanity in every neighborhood--some worse than others. (The Heights, for example, has managed to stay pretty close to its original Arts & Crafts / Bungalow style. Montrose has not been nearly as lucky.)
Back in 1997 I moved to Atlanta (from Salt Lake City) to build houses with a high school friend of mine, Tony Tripoli.
Since high school (mid-80's), our paths had diverged greatly, putting us literally on opposites sides of the country. Tony moved to Jacksonville (FL) in the late 80's (and later to Naples in the early 90's) and got into the home building business almost immediately. I moved to Utah to go college right around the same time. After college I moved to San Diego to start a mortgage company with another friend from Houston.
In the mid 90's, a home building boom in Atlanta brought Tony up from south Florida. By the mid-to-late 90s, Tony had built hundreds of houses for several different big builders and was itching to get out on his own. On the other side of the country, interest rates had ticked up a bit and the refi boom of the 90's was over for a while. And I never really like the mortgage business anyway. So I was looking for a change. I visited ATL for the summer Olympics of 1996 and stayed with Tony and hung out for a couple of weeks. We talked about building houses together and by December of that year I was en route to ATL. Over the next two years we bought infill lots in Midtown and a couple of outlying suburbs and built several houses together that all sold quickly and for a nice return.
Then, in late 1998, on a trip back home to Houston, I bought a 1920s 4-plex in Montrose. (The second Montrose 4plex that I bought in the 90s.) And since the 4-plex needed a LOT of work, I decided to move back to Houston for a while to work on it, restore it, and get it leased up. I kept my house in Atlanta for the time being and figured I'd go back at some point.... I never did. :)
Tony continued building homes in ATL and started doing larger land development deals as well. He went on to be recognized by the local press and his peers as a premier, multi-award winning builder and developer.
Jump forward 10 yrs to 2008 and the financial collapse--and subsequent real estate / construction collapse. Around that time I started talking with Tony about coming back to Houston and picking up some lots here and building some houses together again. But it took almost another five years before things got bad enough in Atlanta--for long enough--to finally get him to pack up and head to Houston. By then the recovery here was in full swing and we were in the middle of another construction boom.
In 2013 we formed The Fine Art of Construction--a joint venture between my main gig (Medusa Properties) and his main gig (Homes by Design). Between the two of us, we've built, renovated, restored, and remodeled well over 500 houses and small apartment buildings--and a few commercial spaces as well. We have over 40 years of continuous real estate, construction, development, and property management experience between us. So I felt pretty confident that these six houses would turn out VERY cool. :)
Over the past few years I've been quietly buying up lots around town as I've had the spare cash and as I've run across great deals. Currently I have four buildable lots in the Heights and six in Midtown. Between those--and the occasional custom build--and misc renovation projects we pick up--we should stay pretty busy.
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Holman / Francis
Houston, TX 77004