East of I-45, developments clustered along Rayford Road and the Grand Parkway are adding homes as buyers move to the area, seeking proximity to major roadways, area builders and developers said.

Master-planned communities are prevalent in the area, with developments such as Harmony comprising 1,000 acres and 2,600 single-family homesites south of the Grand Parkway.

Master-planned communities can be described as those with mixed land uses including residential and commercial as well as a mixture of price points and a single developer, said Jim Gaines, an economist with the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center.

Other developments such as Meadows at Imperial Oaks allow buyers to personalize their chosen floor plan on sites they have purchased with prices ranging from the mid-$200,000s to $600,000s, according to Avery Daniels, marketing coordinator for McGuyer Homebuilders. The community’s 1,300 homes will be completed within five years, Daniels said.

Todd Rasmussen, division president for the Houston division of Taylor Morrison, said in late June the company was sold out of its stock for the Harmony master-planned development, where it had more than 300 single-family homes available. About a dozen builders have homes listed in the development. With the success of those offerings, he said the company will continue to look for developable land on which to build in the future.

“We’re actively looking for land in that area so we can continue to grow,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve had such great success in that area; combined with the schools and retail and entertainment, it’s a great place to invest.”

With The Woodlands nearly built out—development is continuing in East Shore and Creekside Park—Rasmussen said other parts of The Woodlands area, including east of I-45, continue to offer a range of desirable amenities.

Developers said the major roadways in the area are one of the perks for buyers.

“The opening of the Grand Parkway in 2016, in that stretch that serves that Harmony area ... was really gaining steam and growing in addition to Grand Oaks High School, which opened in 2018, was a big draw as well,” he said.

In addition to the new high school, which is part of Conroe ISD, the area east of I-45 will be served by a new YMCA long in the planning stages. The Holcomb Family YMCA will be located off Imperial Promende Boulevard in the Imperial Oaks area.

Other new developments along the corridor include the Regal Benders Landing movie theater and shopping center, which opened in June.

Trends since 2020

While construction is ongoing in many of these communities, the price of materials has been on the rise, but demand has been sufficient to keep houses selling in communities such as Harmony, developers said.

Among the factors contributing to higher prices are lumber costs, which according to a Texas A&M Forest Service report from June, had risen by 250%-300% as of May, depending on the type of lumber.

“[Builders] are getting pressured on cost increases from many fronts, not just lumber,” said Keith Luechtefeld, president of the Greater Houston Builders Association. “That has been the most dramatic, but certainly some labor trades some increase in plumbing, some increases on metal prices, and that impacts some of the things we put in the house.”

Nonetheless, demand has been great enough that the current workforce is strained to keep up with the need to build, he said.

“I absolutely expect growth to continue in unincorporated areas both east and west of The Woodlands,” Luechtefeld said.

With master-planned communities making up many of the neighborhoods east of I-45 around the Grand Parkway, Luechtefeld said those developments help buyers and builders know what they are getting and provide an array of amenities at a range of price points.

“I do believe master plans are a very viable and attractive component of the market,” Luechtefeld said.

Regional growth

In addition to the master-planned communities around Rayford Road, a Caldwell Cos. master-planned community, The Highlands, expects to bring 4,000 homes and as many as 14,000 residents to south Montgomery County.

Located between Rayford Road and FM 1314, the community will be zoned to New Caney ISD when it launches in spring 2022 and will bring with it about 200 acres of commercial development as well as park amenities and a golf course, according to Caldwell Cos. President and CEO Fred Caldwell. The community will also offer a natural lake, a national park theme and a golf course, Highland Pines, he said.