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Making Dallas Even Better

Forget About Buying a New Home Under $200K in North Texas

Citing a report by housing-market data service Metrostudy, HousingWire says anyone looking for a brand-new starter home for under $200,000 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is out of luck:

“First-quarter starts data presents further evidence of Dallas-Ft. Worth’s market shift in price,” said Paige Shipp, regional director of Metrostudy’s Dallas office. “Historically, most of DFW’s starts and closings occurred below $200,000. The new normal reflects a meteoric rise in starts above $200,000.”

According to Shipp, housing starts to be priced between $300,000 and $349,999 jumped 81.2%, which is almost twice the increase in closings.

On the other hand, starts below $200,000 dropped 14.6% from last year and closings plummeted 31%, Shipp said.

And Shipp said that there’s not much hope on the horizon for those looking for a new home priced under $200,000.

“Due to rapidly rising land and development costs, developers argue there is little hope for the revival of the sub-$200,000 new-home market,” Shipp added. “This will remain an issue until municipalities, developers and builders understand and deliver higher-density lots and smaller homes to the market.”

How Many Multi-Million Dollar Dallas Houses Does Andy Beal Need?

Back in January, it was reported that Dallas billionaire Andy Beal had purchased Tom Hicks’ estate, which had been on the market for $100 million — and didn’t seem to be finding any takers at that price.

Yesterday on MarketWatch, Dallas real estate agent Thomas Randall wrote that not only did Beal land the Hicks property for about $80 million, but Beal now has his sights set on another significant property — the former home of the late Margaret Crow:

The other property Beal had his eye on was 4500 Preston Road, which is appraised at $24 million and was up for sale at $59.4 million, later reduced to a mere $46 million. This property sits on 6.1 acres in Highland Park. This property is next-door neighbors to a man named Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not only did Andy Beal close on the $100 million property but it is rumored that he also has 4500 Preston Road under contract. When you have $11 billion, I guess buying a couple multi-multi-million dollar properties is just another day.

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Q&A With an Entomologist: Attack of the Mosquito Hawks!

They are everywhere in North Texas. Are they here to suck your blood? Do they mean us harm? What’s the deal with mosquito hawks? I called an entomologist to find out. Mike Merchant is a professor and extension urban entomologist with Texas A&M. He lives here. He knows a thing or two about bugs, and he runs a bug blog that you might enjoy. Here’s the deal:

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The 10 Most Popular D Magazine Lists of 2015

You love them even when you love to hate them. Yes, lists — the best this or that or some other thingamajigs — are popular among our online audience, and it’s hard to imagine there ever being a time when that won’t be the case.

Here were the most popular “best” lists on during the past year:

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Parsing the Aldredge House Controversy

I keep trying to ignore the Aldredge House controversy, because I guess I keep thinking it will just go away. In addition, people whose opinions I like and respect have come down on opposing sides of the issue.

As I understand it, the deal is that the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, a fairly well-heeled group of individuals, owns a fantastic, well-preserved old house on Swiss Avenue. To support its mission, the Society has turned day-to-day management of the space over to a special events company, which makes it available for weddings, parties, etc., much to the chagrin of surrounding neighbors.

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Why Are Most North Texas Houses Built of Brick?

We’re used to it, because this is where we live, where seemingly everyone has a brick house. But Gaile Robinson addresses the matter in the Star-Telegram:

The reason is simply geography and geology. As any gardener knows, our soil is loaded with clay, which is not great for gardening but is excellent for brickmaking. There is a large vein of clay that stretches across the United States from Central Texas, across Oklahoma and Arkansas, and up into Virginia and Maryland.

It has, in varying degrees, the right combination of clay, sand and silt for brickmaking. Within the belt is an ideal band called the Wilcox formation that has no iron in it, making it even better for brickmaking. It runs from San Antonio up to Arkansas. North Texas sits smack in the middle of the mother lode of brickmaking clay.

Most of it is under what the brick manufacturers call “overburden,” a very distressing term for trees, grass and other attractive organic matter.

Once the overburden is scraped off, the clay is removed in a strip-mining fashion that leaves very large terraced pits. Often the clay plays out and the pits are filled, making lakes. Some clay reserves are still producing, though, even after 100 years of mining.

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Everything We Ever Wanted You to Know About Dallas Neighborhoods

Let’s talk a moment about the elasticity of “neighborhood.” Sometimes the word is used to refer to an entire quadrant of a city, while some people wouldn’t dare call someone from three streets over a “neighbor.” It means pretty much whatever we want it to mean. That’s either useful or frustrating, depending on your outlook, or whether you’re off your meds.

I was talking about this with a fellow from North Texas Real Estate Information Systems — the company that keeps track of regional home sales data — a few months back. NTREIS relies heavily on the self-reporting of individual agents. He noted how inconsistent Dallas-area agents are in their use of the “subdivision” field when logging information about a property. One agent might dutifully type “Bent Tree North #3” while another reports a house on the same block is simply in “Bent Tree.”

This results in it being exceedingly difficult to track trends at a level as specific as a “neighborhood,” whatever that word means.

Anyway, read on to find out about our new neighborhood guides.

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Why It’s So Hard to Buy a House in Dallas

It’s a great time to be selling a house in Dallas, in that demand is so great that you can make some serious bank on your investment. But what then? As Bloomberg notes today:

Last year, Rick Smith put his family’s house in suburban Dallas on the market, hoping to find a new home close to better schools and the city’s downtown. Selling the old house was a snap; buying a new one wasn’t. In January the family moved to a town home in a rental community, and quickly found they weren’t the only family forced into renting. “If you drive around our community, you’ll see moving boxes stacked up in the garages,” he said. “No one wants to unpack, because they think they’ll be moving again soon.”

Welcome to Dallas in 2015, a city whose bustling economy is attracting new residents at a rapid pace—and making it increasingly difficult to buy a house. New listings get multiple offers in mere days, said Steve Habgood, president of the MetroTex Association of Realtors. Homeowners are increasingly reluctant to sell lest they wind up in Smith’s situation. “People are saying, ‘Great, I can get a premium on the price I paid, but where am I going to live once I sell?'” said Habgood. “The options are pretty limited.”

It’s become a vicious cycle.

D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Suburban Expedition

When reading John Bloom’s July 1987 story, “Misty Crest: On the Frontier of the New American Dream,” what struck me was how strange it was to have a neighborhood in southwest Arlington written up as a hot new development. A-Town seems like an aging former starlet past her prime, while everybody now goes gaga for her much-younger counterparts in Collin County.

Bloom pokes fun at the absurdity of navigating among subdivisions with “Glades” and “Glens,” “Villages” and “Creeks” in their names — regardless whether there are any actual glades or glens or villages or multiple creeks in the vicinity. At the time, one of the homes he ventured out to look at had an asking price of $96,850, about the median for Dallas-Fort Worth at the time. Twenty-seven years later, houses in the same neighborhood are going for somewhat more, but generally sticking pretty close to today’s median.

I asked Bloom what spurred him to write this piece, which we are honoring as one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine. He responded:

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Watch a House That Was Built in a Week Get Built in 30 Seconds

Tim Rogers spent nine tireless years in pursuit of the story of the Biggins family, stopping only to eat, drink, sleep, brag about his children, anger his wife, win a free tuxedo, take vacation, drink, write National Magazine Award-winning work, and quit his job in favor of a cushier gig one row of desks over.

In 2004, the short-lived reality TV show Renovate My Family built the Bigginses a house. You can read what happened to them in the aftermath of this good fortune — the headline is a bit of a spoiler — in the August issue of D Magazine. You can also watch the above time-lapse video that compresses the building of the Biggins home, which was done in a week, down to a mere 30 seconds.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Backyard Yacht of Highland Park

The 4000 block of Miramar Avenue looks pretty normal — if “normal” can ever appropriately be used to describe a row of homes in Highland Park. It sits just off Lakeside Drive, with easy access to sickeningly picturesque Lakeside Park and Exall Lake. It’s a block away from Beverly Drive and Dallas Country Club as well.

The homes are a mix of traditional and modern designs, most valued in the $3 million-$4 million range. On the corner, technically on Lakeside, sits the 60th most expensive home in Dallas. At 4004 Miramar, you’ll find one of D Home‘s 10 Most Beautiful Homes in Dallas for 2014. Across from that, at 4005, is a fairly unremarkable (by Highland Park standards) that’s valued at more than $3.1 million, with $2.5 million of that assessed for the land alone.

That lot looked very different 50 years ago.

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