6 homes, 1 community

Having built six new homes in the past 12 years, the Heilman family has no problem with moving in order to suit their current needs, especially since mom Janet, an interior designer, knows exactly what she wants in a floor plan.


But just don't ask the Heilmans to leave west Houston's Cinco Ranch master-planned community, where they may possibly hold the record for the most new homes built by a single family.


It all began in 1995, when newlyweds Janet and Eric Heilman bought a one-story home in the Greenway Village neighborhood of Cinco Ranch. 


"Our first home fit our budget, and we loved the master plan for Cinco Ranch.  Even though we had no children at the time, it was important for us to buy in a strong school district," Janet said.


While Janet was pregnant with the second of the family's three daughters, the Heilmans were ready to move up to a two-story home with more square footage and a gameroom, so they built a home in The Arbors, one of the newest Cinco Ranch neighborhoods at the time.


As the children grew older and Eric moved up the corporate ladder at Compaq Computer (now Hewlett-Packard), the family decided to build a new custom home in Bayou Oaks, one of the first gated enclaves in Cinco Ranch.  After picking a builder, Janet and Eric customized the design of a 4,550-square-foot floor plan.  They lived in this home for two years, before the family decided that a slightly smaller plan, with 4,250 square feet, would work better for the family.  This time, they built in Bayou Woods, located just down the street from their first custom home.


"Like our first two homes in Cinco Ranch, our third home sold the instant we put it on the market.  Each time we sold, we enjoyed a very favorable return on our investment, and that was another reason why we have been able to build so many times in the community," Janet said.


The Heilman's first custom home sold so fast that they had to move into an apartment while their builder finished construction of their second custom.  At the same time, Hewlett-Packard was in the midst of acquiring Compaq, and the resulting uncertainty made the family a little nervous about Eric's job security.  They decided to put their just-finished custom home on the market, and instead purchased a new production home that was ready for quick occupancy in the Lake Pointe neighborhood in Cinco Ranch.


"We thought this would be a short-term solution, because we always liked to build from the ground up, so we can really customize the floor plan," Janet said.  "However, we loved the neighbors and the neighborhood so much that we stayed there for two years."


The Heilmans are now living in their sixth Cinco Ranch home, located in the Shadow Pointe neighborhood, very near their previous home.


"It was a seamless transition and we are completely happy, at least for the time being," Janet laughed.  "The girls ride the same school bus and still enjoy seeing the friends they made on our last block.  Our new neighbors are old friends we first met 10 years ago, when we were having our first babies at the same time."


At nearly 5,300 square feet, the family's newest home is also the largest.  Janet and Eric were attracted by features such as a soundproof downstairs media room next to the kitchen, along with a "secret" room and lots of closets.


"Floor plans have changed so much in the past 10 years - for the better," she said.  "Even production builders offer features that used to be found only in custom homes, such as split three-car garages and gourmet kitchens with creatively designed islands."


As the owner of Garden Gate Interiors, which specializes in window treatments, custom floral arrangements and design consultations, Janet knows exactly what she wants in a home.  "I have to have everything on my laundry list, including eight-foot doors, high ceilings, and a spacious master bath.  In general, I look for an open and spacious layout that has a spark of creativity."


She also knows what she wants in a community.  "Cinco Ranch has incredible recreational amenities, and even our friends who live inside the Loop are impressed by the shopping at LaCenterra," she said.  "But most importantly, the people are what really make Cinco Ranch.  Every time we've moved into a new home, we've always found neighbors that were very warm and welcoming."


Janet said the family has never considered moving to a different community, even though new developments have sprung up much closer to the HP headquarters in north Houston, where Eric still works.  "He drives an hour each way to work, and he's happy to do it because we love Cinco Ranch and the Katy Independent School District so much. The only way we would ever leave Cinco Ranch would be if we were leaving the Houston area altogether."