Wednesday, December 30, 2015


This post is not intended to take away from the remodeling of the older homes and businesses in downtown.  Downtown is not right for everyone.

Cowan Terrace has an East and West, which makes for a nice tight neighborhood.  We are Halloween central, although this past year was not as good as previous years.  I was very pleased with how many people prepared for Christmas with outdoor decorations.

Most of the homes were built in the early to late 70's.  There are many homes on 1/4 and 1/2 acre lots.  Although smaller lots are more common - especially those on the Resaca.

There are a lot of good homes with in ground pools. In the 4  1/2 years I have lived here on my cul-de-sac a third home is undergoing remodeling.  The one currently undergoing remodeling was an estate sale. 

My home was remodeled about 6 years ago, just before the previous owner sold to me.  My home still needs to have the copper pipes removed, and the breaker box needs to be upgraded.  Had my inspector done his job he would have known the box is a 150, when standards require a 200.  Not one of the electrical plugs on the east inside wall in my home works.  Why?  The 150 box could not handle the previous upgrades so all of those plugs were disconnected.  I regularly work on code violations which the inspector missed.  In the Summer I expect to upgrade the box, which will then   for all of the plugs be within code.  Part of the moral here is, if you remodel make sure your contractor gets all proper permits and calls in the city to check the electrical and plumbing remodeling to insure it is within code


I was approved for a $10,000 loan from the Texas Veterans Commission at a very low interest rate.  My monthly payments were going to be reasonable.  Before deciding on the $10,000 I had a plumber give me an estimate to replace all of the copper pipes with a flexible pipe which allows the plumber to leave the copper pipes in the wall.  I also had an electrician give me an estimate to upgrade the breaker box, connect all of the plugs on the east wall, put a light switch for the hallway at its entrance, and separate the recessed lighting in the living room from the ceiling fan.  The $10,000 also covered three French doors which enter onto the pool deck from the family room and two bedrooms.  About three weeks later when I needed them to put their prices down on the forms for the loan, all of a sudden the prices changed to where each wanted nearly the entire $10,000.  Once they saw on the form I was approved for the $10,000, the plumber and electrician raised their prices big time. 

Over the Summer my brother will come and we will do all of the work except installing the new breaker box.  The moral here - be careful who you choose to do your work.  An electrician will be hired for just the new box.


I would imagine in the early 70"s when the first new homes were going up, the Cowan Terrace area was an upper middle class neighborhood.  But many seniors who own their homes, do not have the resources to remodel or pay for the regular upkeep.  A home is a mortgage along with constant spending for upkeep. 

The neighborhood is quiet with beautiful trees, tropical plants and flowering bushes making for a well developed community.

I recommend you come for a look and drive up and down both Cowen Terraces, in and out of the cul-de-sacs and the street which connects both streets.  Before buying a home which needs remodeling get a written estimate of the costs of remodeling before you buy.  Appraisals are junk science.

An appraisal on my home will not reflect all of the upgrades because its estimated value will include the low prices paid for homes which needed $30,000+ in remodeling.  I was waiting to try and get the house next door for about $50,000.  I knew it needed at least $30 - $40 thousand in repairs which includes resurfacing the pool and buying a new pump and filter.  Well someone beat me to the punch and paid too much.  The buyer did not know the level of repairs needed and has now spent well over the real value of the home when you include the cost of remodeling along with the original purchase price.

My home which I paid $123,900 for would have cost me at least $350,000 on the other side of town.  My first goal was energy efficiency.  I am done with water and energy efficiency and now moving onto electrical and plumbing.  If you want to live on the other side of Ruben Torres you will get a box and a very small lot for the same price.  Also a lot of those homes are iffy.  In the Country Club area a lot of homeowners are putting stucco over the brick to cover up the slab/foundation problems.  You need a good inspected who can tell you the brick has been covered up.


You will still pay far less then you will pay west of Ruben Torres.  The deals are there - you just have to look for them.  Many are for sale by owner.  I bought mine the first day it went on the market.  It was a good deal.  The couple had to move fast.  The husband found another teaching position at an Alabama university.  They actually were partially moved into their new place.  Subject to the inspection we signed the deal the first day it went on the market.  I knew the true value of the house and knew I was getting a good deal.  I can easily get $140,000 within 30 days, because I have attended to the home. 


My neighbor with a smaller home was constantly complaining of BPUB bills over $500 a month.  Mine rarely broker $300.  The one I am about to pay is about $254.  Do not buy a cheaper home with a BPUB bill which is twice as much as another home which is more expensive. 


Anonymous said...

I lived in Cobblestone for 20 years..cowan terrace is a great tranquil neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Likewise, I lived in West Cowan Terrace for years. I wish it was closer to the growing North side of town, but having lived in a big city, I can't complain about it taking me only 10 minutes to get to the mall by taking the back road to 802. The houses are older but very well built, and none of the new "cookie-cutter" homes compare. They don't make them like they used to.

Anonymous said...

Would you share the name of the contractor who did your French doors and paint?

BobbyWC said...

Home depot and Lowes guarantee the work of there installers. Also wait unil they have 18 or 12 months interest free. I do all kf my own drywall and painting

Anonymous said...

ah nice neighborhood. use to live there. my parents bought a lot and the house was built by a roger gerdes construction. had a laundry area in the home. a lot of closet space too. even my dads office on the other side of the house. with bathroom. back then before cell phones came into play . we had over 7 telephones in the house. lived on the Resaca. there were also drug lords on that street. we had a neighbor who owned the famous night club that is now the KVEO tv station. think it was the godfather not sure. then there was the big mansion down the street. cant think of the neighbor. we never had a swimming pool. then who ever was building the houses on cowan terrace east tried to copy the bay window area . there were memories at that house. my dad had to sell it a year after my mom died. yes the ac during june, july and august was enormous. my dad practically gave it away to some people . that was in 1994. even had a built in china cabinet. and yes the house was in a good area at that time. close to my dads job with the port of Brownsville.

BobbyWC said...

So this is the memories post. In 4 1/2 years I have only heard of one robbery. The owners of the house had both of their homes broken into the same night in two different parts of town while they were in Mexico. It did not sit well with my neighbors. They moved out and made it a rental. In the last few weeks my roommate whose window faces the street - mine faces the backyard - has told me he has seen people pulling up to the house with coolers and lots of people partying in the empty house now that the renters have moved out.

Before it was rented and after the owners moved out, one day my roommate saw a young kid in the driveway pointing a rifle at someone telling them to get off of the property.

I have told him to just tell me or call me and I will call the police.

We have had no personal problems with anyone in the house - but I do not like the situation and just once would like the police to show when something is happening. It may force the owner to sell the house. But our cul-de-sac is very, very quiet and everyone gets along

Bobby WC