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Luxury Apartments Get Even Better

Developers and owners of multifamily housing are luring high-income renters into the best Houston apartments and apartment buildings by making the apartments larger and adding a long list of attractive, and in some cases exotic, amenities. Whether the trend of building luxury apartment rentals in Houston will continue is anybody's guess, but right now, apartment residents who can afford to pay thousands of dollars a month in rent on the best Houston apartments can find a wide variety of special services to meet their personal needs and desires.

The annual number of apartment buildings constructed has fluctuated wildly over the past two decades, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1975, 442,000 units were built. That figure dropped to 343,000 the next year, then increased steadily to 636,000 apartments at the height of the real estate market in 1986. Four years later, the number dropped back to 342,000. The real estate market weakened in 1992-94, and in 1993, only 153,000 apartment units were completed. Last year, the total was 284,000.

The average size of all those new apartment units varied as wildly as the number being built. In 1975, the average new apartment was one thousand square feet. The smallest average, 911 square feet -- coincided with the building boom in 1986. Since then, the average new apartment has been steadily increasing to a high of 1,095 square feet last year.

These larger apartments come with lots of goodies for apartment residents. A literature review by the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC), found the following amenities in one or more multifamily housing settings:

  • Private in-unit alarm systems, including systems to allow residents to view entry gates, pools and play areas via closed-circuit television.
  • In-wall speaker systems with theater-quality sound.
  • Units pre-wired for multiple telephone lines.
  • Computer workstations with high-speed Internet access.
  • Units with integrated cable TV and Internet service.
  • Coin-less or smart-card laundry rooms and vending machines.
  • Private entries, split levels and attached garages.
  • Nine-foot ceilings with crown moldings.
  • Bay windows and skylights.
  • Double-sided fireplaces in master bedrooms and living areas.
  • Better soundproofing and larger water heaters.
  • Keyless entry systems.
  • Moldings, mantles, chair rails and other interior finishes.

The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University also reports new amenities popping up in apartments. Consumer demands, according to the center, include full-size washing machines and dryers in the apartment, large-capacity water heaters, security, natural lighting, five- or six-foot windows, parking and large mailboxes.

Not all of the fancy technology works as well as promised, however. An apartment complex in Houston, Texas was wired with T-1 lines, which were supposed to give tech-savvy apartment residents very high-speed Internet access. Unfortunately, the apartment complex developer wasn't as up to speed with the technology as the apartment residents were. The service was so poor they reportedly started calling the wiring "Info highway to hell."

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