Advantages, disadvantages, real estate, culture, housing

  • Kenisha Johnson, 34, and her husband, Chris, 31, have moved to Houston from Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • After growing up in New York City, she longed for a hectic city life, but with more space.
  • Houston is diverse and ticks boxes Charlotte couldn’t, but it takes a lot of driving.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Kenisha Johnson, 34, who recently moved with her husband to a Houston suburb from Charlotte, North Carolina.

His story is part of “Moving Truck Diaries,” an insider series sharing the stories of Americans who have moved states since the start of the pandemic. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My husband and I were actually looking to buy a house in Charlotte, NC. But for what we wanted to build and what was important to both of us, it just didn’t make sense. My biggest problem was that we were moving further and further away from Charlotte in order to get what we wanted.

Towards the start of the pandemic, my husband said jokingly, “Well, why don’t we move out of Charlotte?” I was like, “Well, find an area, and if I agree, then we can move.” And then he said, “What about Texas?” That’s when we decided to focus on Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

We visited Dallas first and weren’t really impressed. I was like, “She’s a bigger Charlotte.” And honestly, I was a little disappointed with the food. In June 2020, we took a trip to Houston, and instantly we both said, “This is what we wanted.” We never made it to Austin.

The skyscrapers of downtown Houston rise above the restored 1910 Harris County neoclassical courthouse in downtown Houston, Texas.

Downtown Houston.

John Coletti / Getty Images


I immigrated to New York, then lived in several cities in the South

When I was in second grade, my family emigrated from Jamaica and landed in Brooklyn. I had to deal with assimilation. It was in New York, and things move really fast there. But once I got my bearings, I was able to soak up the culture and make a great group of friends.

After graduating from high school, I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where I attended the University of Tennessee. It was another shock. The food was different, the culture was different. Everything was completely different.

I graduated during the Grand


Recession

in 2008. I moved to Nashville because that’s where I was able to find a job. I got into mortgage banking, and have been in the mortgage business ever since.

Nashville was a bit more my pace – it had more of a city vibe. Our downtown area was phenomenal, with all the museums and everything. And of course, it’s Music City. So these things were really good.

I stayed there for about five years and then moved to Charlotte. Today is very different from when I moved there in 2017. They are expanding the highways. There are more houses rising. The cost of living has definitely increased there. [Editor’s note: As of October, the median sales price for a home in the Charlotte metropolitan area was $330,000, compared to around $200,000 at the beginning of 2017, a report from the Canopy Realtor Association said.]

I just felt it wasn’t my final destination. It didn’t give me everything I wanted.

A view of the rooftops of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina

A view of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina.

Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images


You miss city life if you grow up in New York

At one point when I was in Nashville, I wanted to go home to New York. But then I had to be realistic. When I looked and saw what I had in Nashville – and then what it would cost to maintain that same standard of living in New York – it didn’t make sense to go back, even if I wanted to. .

Every place I moved, I always compared it to New York. There’s always been that lingering feeling – “Oh, I can’t have my Jamaican spices” or, “The last movie is at 9pm and I used to go at 10:30 pm” Those little things.

Houston lacks nothing

It gave me the amenities that I loved. It made me feel like I was in a big city. In New York, you are on top of each other. But in Houston, everything is spread out. I always get this fast pace. I always get all the great food. There are always things to do here. We can have a house on the outskirts of Houston, in Rosharon, one of the smaller suburbs. This way I’m only 30 minutes from downtown.

It gave us the best of both worlds. It was a deciding factor because my husband really wanted land and space, and I really wanted a city feel.

My husband grew up in Miami, then his family later moved to South Carolina. I met him in 2017, when his work moved him to Charlotte. He’s very tall in the South because that’s all he knows. It doesn’t understand apartment living or townhouses. It’s just not his vibe, because he’s always had land and been in the South.

Our budget for a large house was $ 500,000

When we first visited Houston, the city had just reopened having a mask warrant and being on lockdown. We had so much fun. We decided to partner up with a real estate agency, Jermeshia Goudeau, and she showed us different parts of Houston. She let us know, “Hey, Houston is huge.”

Downtown Houston, Texas, surrounded by freeways

Downtown Houston is surrounded by freeways, which means a lot of driving.

Tim Leviston / EyeEm via Getty Images


We knew we didn’t want to spend more than $ 500,000. We lived in a four bedroom in Charlotte so I didn’t want to downsize. I didn’t want to live more than 30 minutes from downtown Houston, just because I’m a city girl. We also had to make sure we were going to have space as one of the requirements for my husband was that we had to be on an acre of land and more.

Rosharon, a suburb south of Houston, was right

We got everything we wanted.

After visiting in June 2020 we had to take an extra trip to verify this was what we wanted to do. We were talking about coming back in August, but our work schedules just didn’t coordinate.

We visited Houston again in October 2020, and that’s when we signed our contract with our home builder. We ended up paying $ 30,000 or $ 40,000 more than we would have paid if we had made the August trip.

Chris and Kenisha Johnson with their real estate agent, Jermeshia Goudeau, outside the house the couple bought in Rosharon, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

Left to right: Chris and Kenisha Johnson with their real estate agent, Jermeshia Goudeau, in front of the house the couple built in Rosharon.

Jermeshia Goudeau


If you move here, be prepared to drive – a lot

You absolutely must drive to Houston. In New York, we are walkers. We are public transport takers. Here, you don’t necessarily have that luxury.

To get in, I walk around my neighborhood, but I wouldn’t dare go to the grocery store. Here, if I forget something at the grocery store, I’ll have to wait until tomorrow, because I’m not going to be driving again.

Highways 10 and 610 intersect in Houston, Texas during the evening rush hour, filmed about 1,000 feet above our heads.

A freeway interchange in Houston.

Artistic bet / Getty Images


I feel like if I had come to Houston straight from New York, I would be a little overwhelmed by how many trips there are to drive.

Houston is a great melting pot

You can literally get all types of food here. I have the impression that everyone is represented in Houston, a bit like in New York. You might have to drive or dig for it, but it’s definitely here.

Honestly, what attracted me to Houston was that I can take advantage of the amenities of the South, but I can also take advantage of the diversity I had in New York.

I was skeptical, I will not lie to you. It was probably the biggest move I have ever made when it comes to moving from state to state.

But visit and, trust me, you are probably going to find a neighborhood in Houston that you will fall in love with. I think there is something here for everyone.

Did you move during the pandemic? Do you have a story to share? Let us know! Complete this quick survey and an Insider reporter will get back to you.

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