Woodland Dr. Hip Pocket

Christine McKenny’s luxury listing on Woodland Drive benefits from having 11 extra photos on the listing, but not all homes need 36 photos. Photo: Courtesy Christine McKenny

Some buyers have the hardest time imagining how a home will work for their families, and in the digital age, Realtors are providing tools like virtual open houses and tours to help these buyers fall in love with their listings. So I wasn’t surprised when MetroTex Association of Realtors increased the number of  photos agents can upload for each listing from 25 to 36.

Of course, some Realtors and real estate professionals see this as a fantastic development. Others? Not so much.


texas-gun pic

Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

As if tornadoes and earthquakes are not enough of a challenge for those of us in North Texas real estate, we may soon have to add bullet proof vests to our everyday wardrobe. I have worn one — they are heavy!

Business owners all over North Texas are wrangling with the most dramatic overhaul of Texas’ gun laws in two decades. It could be just like the old wild west days come Jan. 1, when those who hold CHL’s, that is, Concealed Handgun Licenses, no longer have to bury their guns in pockets or purses. They can carry handguns in plain view in belt or shoulder holsters, just like the police do, Elliot Ness style.

But it’s going to be confusing where you can go with the gun on display. That’s why I’m worried many will be stolen from cars and trucks when patrons realize they cannot take the gun inside, so they’ll lock it in the car. License holders are generally allowed to carry on property owned or leased by the state or by local governments. But guns are banned at schools, courts and jails.

Government meetings can be gun-free zones, so long as proper notice is given. The same goes for hospitals, including those that are public. There are other quirks in the law — bars, polling places and sanctioned sporting events are also off-limits to firearms- booze and rowdiness do not mix well with bullets.

Businesses, on the other hand, have the right to keep guns out of their place by hanging certain “no guns” signs. That applies at restaurants, grocery stores, churches, private museums, hospitals and any property that isn’t publicly owned. Which would include a private home. Or a real estate office. Whole Foods, a Texas-based store,  said no to open carry.  Krogers said yes.

Kroger, Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops already allow concealed carry in Texas stores and will also allow open carry. Though they will provide their employees extra training, representatives for those businesses pointed to the experiences they’ve had in other open carry states.

“We’ve not seen any significant issues,” said Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston.

So why did the legislature do this? Good question: it’s not all that foreign. Some form of open carry of handguns is allowed in 44 other states, though some require permits or licenses. Others restrict the times or places when open carry is allowed. Only six states (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.) still have outright bans.

Take that, Big Tex: the percentage of Texas citizens who own a gun — 35.9 percent — is below the national median of roughly 40 percent. And Texas voters’ opinions are openly divided on open carry, with only a minority in favor.

A joint University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll released in February showed that the majority of Texan voters — 77 percent — believe people should be able to carry handguns in public in some form. But only 32 percent support open carry, with another 45 percent in favor of allowing those with licenses to carry a concealed handgun, but not openly.

That a minority of Texans support open carries has prompted charges from some gun control advocates that that the State Legislature is being influenced by pro-gun interests.

No, really? The thing that bothers me the most about this is that law enforcement officials don’t support the law. When they arrive to the scene of a crime, how are they going to distinguish the nutcase with a gun from the cool-headed CHL holder who is just trying to help? At the very least, CHL education in this state should teach how to react when law enforcement arrives to help, not hinder.

Otherwise, it is going to be the wild west out there. How do you deal with guns and real estate clients? Do you have (or will you get) a CHL to pack heat at open houses?  Does St. Johns design bullet-proof vests?


Barbara Corcoran

When you talk about the dream that gets people into real estate, it often follows the arc of Barbara Corcoran’s story. She worked 22 different jobs before getting a $1,000 loan from her boyfriend and starting a fledgling real estate office in New York City. More than $5 billion later, Corcoran is a well-known entrepreneur and stars along with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank.

The Corcoran Group is what made Barbara her fortune, but she couldn’t have done it without an iron will and fearlessness for which she is admired. If you find yourself gearing up for 2016 and looking for the right motivation to build your real estate business into a universal brand, then you don’t want to miss Barbara Corcoran’s “Rags to Riches” keynote May 10 at the Plano Centre.

Hosted by Champions School of Real Estate, Corcoran will share the story of her journey to becoming a real estate mogul detailed in her book “Shark Tales.”

You can purchase sponsorships, as well as group and individual tickets, through Champions School of Real Estate today. Don’t wait because this will likely sell out!


New housing starts have grown the most in the $300,000 to $400,000 price ranges. (chart: Metrostudy)


More confirmation that Dallas has pricey dirt in this latest report from Metrostudy: While housing starts are up to the tune of 12.4 percent year-over-year and 8.3 percent over last month, few of those have been in more affordable price ranges. More people who would have preferred to buy new construction have turned to the existing home market, and those unable to find an affordable home in the market have turned to renting in droves.

“New home starts below $200,000 dropped as starts between $250,000 and $400,000 surged,” said Paige Shipp, Regional Director of Metrostudy’s Dallas Office. “Although starts between $200,000 and $250,000 increased, a diminishing supply of homes at that price point is a concern. Buyers seeking affordable housing near employment and urban core are forced to buy from the limited resale market or into the rental market. Starts during the third quarter surged 38.9% and 74.5% higher than the second quarter for homes priced $250,000 to $750,000. The most notable increase in starts was in the $300,000 to $350,000 range, which is quickly becoming DFW’s new “affordable” price point.”

That’s exactly what we heard from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University last month, as economist Dr. Jim Gaines noted the gap in the less-than-$200,000 bracket:

“For years in Texas, we have had the most affordable housing for a major metro area,” said Dr. James Gaines, chief economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “Affordability and workforce housing are going to be a major issue.

“We are not building enough houses in the $150,000 to $200,000 bracket.”

So what fallout could we expect from that? What is the increased demand for leases in Dallas-Forth Worth doing to rents?


Centex Homes' "Larkspur" floor plan starts at $175,990 inside the Paloma Creek development at Little Elm.

Centex Homes’ “Larkspur” floor plan starts at $175,990 inside the Paloma Creek development at Little Elm.

We’re seeing tons of apartment construction, but what about affordable single-family homes? They’re getting more and more rare inside Dallas, especially if you’re shopping for a new home. According to Steve Brown’s story, the first-time homebuyer price range is thinning out in a big way, and if you want a new home, plan on a long commute.

There are some builders who are still constructing homes in the $175,000 to $200,000 range, but you’ll have to travel all the way to exurbs like Little Elm to find them. Why? It’s because of the price of the dirt itself has gone up, making the cost of the lot a disproportionately high portion of the total cost of the home.


All that's needed is a chalk outline of the body

All that’s needed is a chalk outline of the body

When buyers peruse listings, they rely heavily on the pictures posted by the listing agent. Usually pictures entice, however sometimes they’re scary, wary, or pointless. I know when I look at homes, I expect the pictures to be a storyboard that escorts me through a property.

I want to see the exterior, the entryway, and onwards as though I’m walking through the home. I give extra points if pictures “connect.” By this I mean that if I see a chair in one picture, I want to see it from the next picture. It becomes a bridge that gives the viewer an idea of how the rooms flow.

We all know we’ve seen listing pictures uploaded to the MLS in a scattershot fashion – bathroom, basement, attic, master bedroom, backyard, etc. Viewers can’t get a feel for where anything is. And in the end, agents wind up visiting homes that a buyer would have axed had they been given a better storyboard.

Storyboards are all well and good, but if the pictures are bad, it won’t matter much.


America's Most Haunted

We’ve all lived in homes with creaky floors and funny noises, writing them off as the house settling, the wind, or some benign cause. But what if that thump, thump, thump in the attic is something else? Something much more sinister? Are their certain neighborhoods that are more likely to have an unexpected guest of the spooky kind?

That’s what RealtyTrac set out to find as it searched for the Zip codes with the highest density of homes most likely to be haunted. What increases the likelihood of a haunting? According to RealtyTrac, it’s homes that are vacant with a deceased homeowner. While Mobile County, Ala., topped the list with one in 89 homes that is likely to be haunted, Dallas and Fort Worth both had Zip codes with high ratios of haunted homes.

Feeling ghoulish? Jump to see the most haunted Zip codes in Dallas and Fort Worth … if you dare!


Dallas Avg Apt Rental Rates

Chart: via RentRange

Why are so many investors hot on Dallas apartments? Why are more people choosing to become landlords instead of selling their homes after moving to a new one?

It might have something to do with demand for rentals and rates inching skyward. In fact, RentRange has Dallas/Fort Worth ranked at the No. 9 spot for year-over-year rental rate increases for single-family residences, and Dallas is posting huge gains in rental rates for apartments.

That, of course, might have some people saying this:

The Rent is Tood Damn High

Well, they better get used to it. If you’re hoping to see some affordable apartments getting built in Dallas, you may have to wait a while. Luxury developments are the majority of what’s going up in West Dallas, North Oak Cliff, and North Dallas, as companies such as Transwestern and Trammell Crow Co. are buying up former industrial sites and plunking down pricey rentals in areas that are gradually gentrifying thanks to cultural amenities.

And they just keep coming, as Steve Brown notes in his piece about The Mark at Midtown Park. It’s an apartment community along North Central Expressway and Meadow Road, just a hop, skip, and jump from Royal Oaks Country Club developed by Dallas businessman Carl Wescott, designed by BGO Architects, and built by Balfour Beatty Construction. It looks a little something like this:


As Eric Nicholson noted in his piece for the Dallas Observer, not all of these buildings are stunning feats of architectural genius. In fact, they all kind of look the same. Critiques aside, isn’t it interesting that rents are going up, up, and away, and yet developers seemingly can’t build enough units? That’s a great recipe for any investor.