12/03/16 2:19pm

1015 Erin Drive

What could be better than growing up in a home you love, and years later returning to that family house as the owner? There’s a lot of satisfaction in coming full circle.

Gary McDonnell grew up in the close-knit neighborhood of Lake Park Estates in this 1950 ranch at 1015 Erin Drive. In 2001 he and his designer wife, Belinda, remodeled the family home into a Texas regional contemporary.


12/02/16 5:13pm
Boot Ranch

Boot Ranch already has amazing amenities, but they’re upping the ante with new developments.

Lucky me (Lucky I?) was invited to be a guest at Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg this past month, to learn details of news from the 2,000-acre luxury residential development and private golf and swim club set in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.

We’ve written about Boot Ranch before. On the agenda now: an introduction to the Village Homes at Metzger Park, a condominium-like option added to the array of residential offerings here; and planned Longhorn Lake amenities: a party pavilion, tree houses and jumping rocks off the spring fed lake’s shore. A road trip was in order to check out the new features.

Check out the scoop on SecondShelters.com.

12/02/16 3:50pm

6366 Greenway Front 2

It was pointed out to me last week that our Friday feature highlighting what you can get in the $400,000 to $500,000 range doesn’t branch out much past the Dallas County line. See, I’ve been operating under the assumption that there aren’t many interesting homes in this bracket to the north and west. But then I caught wind of the Ridglea neighborhood of Fort Worth thanks to our Tarrant County Tuesday columnist Seth Fowler.

And it is a treasure trove of cute cottages that have been tastefully remodeled (think: University Terrace or Ridgewood in Dallas). There are quite a few cute homes on the market in the neighborhood, but I fell fast for 6366 Greenway Road. Bonus: The Christmas lights are already up, so you can go see what this cutie looks like during the holidays! (more…)

12/02/16 1:49pm

3000 SimondaleAm I in a rut? Whether it’s a Mira Vista Modern or a Mistletoe Heights Pre-War Manse (pre-World War I), the flatlander from Dallas continues to marvel at the stunning hilltop views in my adopted city. And since this is Fort Worth, they face almost religiously west.  Located in Bellaire Estates, 3000 Simondale, is a bit of a tease. It’s a split level with an ample almost 5,800 square feet, all concealed by lush landscaping, mature trees, and a low-profile, street-level façade. (more…)

12/02/16 12:27pm
Kim Armstrong

Interior designer Kim Armstrong hired Nathan Grace Realtor Laura Crowl for her home search. Ten years later, the two are still working together, but in a different way.

Friends of friends can be the best connectors.


Laura Crowl

So it was with interior designer Kim Armstrong and Realtor Laura Crowl. They first met about 10 years ago when Kim and her husband were searching for their first home in the Dallas area. Laura was recommended to Kim by one of her mentors, who said she had a friend just starting out in real estate.

Based on the personal connection, Kim gave Laura a shot. They’ve been friends and business associates ever since. “Laura found our first house. We’d been looking for 6 months with a different real estate agent. That went nowhere,” recalls Kim. With Laura, “we put a bid on the first house she showed us within a week of seeing it.”

Since then, Laura has found investment properties as well as a bigger home for Kim and her family. Of Laura, Kim says, “She’s a fighter for her clients. And a workaholic. I learned early on that she will go way beyond staging to help a client sell a property or find the right one.”


12/02/16 10:43am


I want to make something perfectly clear: an indictment does not mean you are guilty. And U.S. medical law is very complex, a difficult road to navigate. It is also my personal belief that sometimes the medical community is held to higher standards than any other profession while payment for services is tightly regulated by insurance companies. Attorneys pay each other for referrals; physicians are barred from it. Drug companies cannot even give a doctor a pen for fear they will be “unduly influenced”. The government is using nukes in some cases where in others, those who have clearly abused raped the system have gone scot free.

But the law is the law, and there are greedy folks in every profession. Remember that when you learn that a federal grand jury has indicted 21 people — from Dallas to Costa Rica — related to the now-bankrupt Forest Park Medical Centers investigation of a $40 million kick back scheme. The group includes high profile doctors, surgeons and health care executives. The feds said Thursday they took part in a massive, four year illegal kickback scheme to drum up patients. What they allegedly did: since the Forest Park Hospitals (there were five) were physician-owned, they could not treat patients covered by any public health insurance plan (the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, which have notoriously low reimbursements) because they could not bill for them. Forest Park focused on treating patients with better-reimbursing private health care insurance. But they allegedly referred the public health patients to other doctors who then allegedly got a kick-back, which came in the form of sports tickets, diamonds, high end dining and even deals on medical office space and advertising! Talk about goosing the economy!

All very complex, but I’ll tell you what: some really great real estate may be on the horizon:


12/01/16 3:00pm

GetMedia.ashxOne of Dallas’ Real Housewives and her LA-house flipping spouse, Travis,  just snatched the bargain of the century on a house that may well be the most notorious dirt in town. I am talking about 3816 Turtle Creek Drive, which was built by Braden Power, as you may recall, back in 2005. The home was famous for, among other things, the swimming pool in the main foyer! Built of the highest quality materials, the home is exquisite: when Braden thought one element was wonderful, he put in 10 and added swans! The master closet rivals the couture department at Neimans size-wise with a sitting room, wet bar and desk. The jacuzzi spa is indoors and part of the upstairs media room. Yes, that is the point: you sit in or out of the oversized spa while watching the tube, clothes completely optional. Mais oui. (Must have been a blast on election night!) Sixty percent of the upstairs is devoted to the master suite, including a whole room for a shower, that indoor spa jacuzzi with television, a separate bathtub room, coffee/wine bar and of course, the room where you actually sometimes really sleep.

Downstairs there are two kitchens, formals, the pooled foyer, and a fabulous infinity exterior pool and yard overlooking Turtle Creek.

We have loved 3816 Turtle Creek since she was a gleam in her daddy’s eye. She even has a name: Casa Bellamini and was featured on HGTV’s Million Dollar Room. Once Braden built the home, he tried to sell it but the market did not cooperate — remember Lehman Brothers? First Erin Mathews listed it back in early 2010 for $6,900,000, getting it again in July 2010. No go. Even Marilyn Hoffman had her hands on this deal, raising the asking to $7,900,000. In January of 2011, a Chris Lowdon listed it for $7,900,000 or $929.41 a square foot. Yeow! And then, sometime in between all these agents, Braden covered the pool in the foyer.

You always want to be the first-born, the second wife and the third agent: Along comes Doris Jacobs to the rescue. She sells the home on March 24, 2011 for a whopping $7,900,000 to none other than Lee Bailey, then the fresh ex-wife of restaurateur Ed Bailey. Lee proceeds to make the home respectable: no more wild parties, talks to both Sherry Hayslip, whose husband, Cole, designed the home, and Trisha Wilson about the interiors, and takes the cover off that pool in the foyer!

Fast forward to 2016: Lee Bailey wants to sell, she enlists Doris again who lists the home at $8,895,000 after more than a million dollars in renovations, and in a much healthier market. In June, shocker: Lee changes agents to Kelly Watson with Keller Williams Urban, a lovely woman from Zimbabwe, South Africa. Then shocker of all shocks: Lee and Kelly bring on Concierge Auctions, who, as you know, can get the job done lickety split. (“3816 Turtle Creek is for the elite and someone who really loves to entertain high end black tie, but also casual AFFAIRS”) 3816 Turtle Creek Drive is going, going, GONE on November 14, 2016 for… are you ready because it’s LESS THAN DCAD…

12/01/16 12:29pm

Report Cover Page 1

On November 29 I read a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about a bill before the Texas Legislature (SB 2) to stanch the tax increases felt across the state by homeowners. I decided to read further and downloaded the 90-page interim report by the Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform & Relief that’s the impetus behind the SB 2 bill mentioned by the Star-Telegram.

Gosh, but property taxation in Texas is a huge CF.

I’ll begin with the flaming pink elephant in the room: Nowhere does this report recommend or even acknowledge that non-disclosure of real estate transaction sales prices is a big part of the problem.  As I’ve written ad nauseum, without accurate data on actual property sale prices, no Central Appraisal District (CAD) can make the most accurate valuations of property.  I say this system favors the wealthy because lower-priced properties are appraised with more accuracy.  Looking as I do at multi-million dollar properties for sale in Dallas, I can tell you it’s the RARE property that’s actually appraised at anything near its asking price.  I can also tell you it’s overwhelmingly these same people who hire tax consultants to plead their case with the CAD for lower valuations at the same time their home is listed for millions more than the assessed value.  It’s such a time-worn tactic of the wealthy, it’s even presidential.

That said, the system is also opaque, seemingly by design.