HGTV, launch platform for an ever-expanding universe of home renovation programming, has never staged a show in “Space City,” also known as Houston. But now, the home of NASA’s Mission Control Center — and a pair of house flippers — finally gets its moon shot.
The network’s “Going for Sold,” based in the nation’s fourth-largest metro area, premiered Aug. 1.
Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin (pronounced chon-you-pin) oversees design, while real estate agent husband Jon Pierre Tjon-Joe-Pin handles project management and those ever-satisfying sledgehammer shots. Requisite behind-the-wall OMG discoveries are tossed in — they include plenty of critter skeletons (Houston, we have a problem). The couple’s young son and daughter, Grayson and Harper, make cameo appearances.
We chatted with the hosts as they drove to a 1954 four-bedroom home under renovation in Oak Forest, a community just northwest of Houston.
Tell us about Oak Forest and any other favorite Houston neighborhoods.
Jon: Oak Forest is one of the hotter markets because of its proximity to downtown, the uptown area and the midtown area. It has a neighborhood feel to it — very walkable. It has lots of great schools. There are decent-sized homes built in the 1950s. You can still get houses that have really good-sized yards. We’ve done houses in the Third Ward as well, an up-and-coming gentrified area even closer to downtown Houston (and location of Beyoncé’s childhood home).
Houston’s real estate market is softening — any concerns?
Jon: It’s softening, but it’s because we’re coming down off of two years of selling more and more houses. So, it may not be as strong as it was last year, but still, houses are not staying on the market very long. Our median home price is about $228,000 —not very expensive. It’s still a seller’s market overall.
We image-searched “bamboo sinks” after viewing the one you installed. We’re taken with the golden wood and soothing vibe they lend.
Mary: It started with flooring that’s bamboo as well. The brand is Alfi (bamboo farmhouse apron-front kitchen sink, $790). I jumped on the opportunity to get it because it was actually under budget from your typical stainless or porcelain sink — a huge price difference. It was just so beautiful and tied everything together nicely.
Jon: The sink was definitely a showstopper for that house. That neighborhood (the Third Ward) is very hip, it’s very young. You’re getting a lot of younger buyers and we kept that kind of buyer in mind when renovating that home. They loved it.
What also caught our eye in a loft space you renovated: a wall of triangular shapes, first masked off and then painted gray with coral-colored variations. It’s a 1970s throwback, yet looks ultra-modern.
Mary: That kind of stuff never goes out of style — if you’re able to use it in a way that really speaks to you. That wall to me was like an art piece that can definitely stand the test of time. I usually pick about three colors for each house. I used (Sherwin-Williams’) Coral Reef for the front door, and brought it from the outside in for a pop of color on that wall.
You had some hard knocks with your first flip, a lengthy sale that helped sink that transaction — you lost $10,000. Lessons?
Jon: There’s nothing more important about this business than what you buy your house for. If you buy it for the wrong price then it’s very hard to overcome that, especially if it stays on the market longer than you expect. Your holding costs pile up. Second thing — make sure that you know for certain what you think you can sell for. If you’re going in hopeful instead of realistic, you oftentimes put yourself in a hole. That house was a great learning experience.
Why did HGTV take so long to site a show in Houston?
Jon: I have no idea. You know, I think we just became the most diverse city in the nation, like over 120 different languages spoken in this city (the exact number is 145, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). The housing is so diverse. There’s city living in terms of being inside downtown or in condos. Now, what’s really popular are those tri-level homes, or you can get just a regular suburban home. It really is an awesome city.