Jane and Daniel Cheek

Jane and Daniel Cheek with sons Ike (1) and Abe (3). (Photo: Maryam Salassi)

I got to know Jane Cheek and her cute little boy, Abe, when she was teaching a toddler art class in East Dallas a little over a year ago. This talented stay-at-home-mom, a former art teacher, came up with the cutest ideas for crafts for our little buggers. When she and her husband, Daniel, bought a home up in Royal Highlands Village, I adored watching her transform their three-bedroom semi-detached into a gorgeous property. She managed to do it just months after having her second little boy, Ike, too.

Now with two boys and another bun in the oven, Jane and Daniel Cheek are moving back to their hometown of Raleigh, N.C. Our loss was some other homebuyer’s gain, as their adorable home was snapped up in a matter of days, all due to the brilliant marketing of Keller Williams Elite agent Vicki White.

Read on for their real estate story …

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Millennial Homebuyers

Millennial Homebuyers are missing from the market, but Austin and Dallas may be better values first-time homebuyers in this generation over San Antonio and Houston.

Where are all the first-time homebuyers? In their cozy rentals, that’s where!

With a market almost completely devoid of newby buyers, and the rental market being as competitive as it is (just ask my friend looking for a single-family home in East Dallas!), and prices going up across all segments, it’s just hard to find a place to put your leather couch and Le Creuset stock pot. Millennials hold a lot of potential when it comes to real estate purchases, but where can the find the best value? Is it San Antonio and Houston?

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3747 Duchess Front

Well, Duchess the Saint Bernard, that is! Duchess is a lovely gal who is up for pre-adoption with Dallas Pets Alive while she undergoes heartworm treatment. I’m sure this gorgeous girl who gives the best kisses would love this updated traditional at 3747 Duchess Trail inside Royal Marsh Estates. It is plenty large for a big girl like Duchess! This ranch has a huge backyard for play time and a fantastic bathtub for bathtime.

Duchess

“Duchess was owner surrendered to the Dallas Animal Shelter because she ‘got too big,'” said Cassie Evans, dog rescuer and Duchess’ foster. “Duchess is a gorgeous, pure-bred Saint Bernard with a heart of gold. She likes small dogs, friendly big dogs, cats, and nice kids.”

She sounds just perfect and she’d do so well inside 3747 Duchess Trail! This home is in a wonderful location for any family looking to be close to parks, shopping, and a short drive from downtown Dallas. This particular home, which has all the bells and whistles a family moving to Dallas would want, is marketed by Trophy Group Realtor Matthew Rice for $599,890 and has only been on the market for 27 days.

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Downtown San Antonio’s Dolorosa Bridge as seen from the Riverwalk

I have a few friends that moved to San Antonio after college. One of them is an architect and the other was a medical student. Both were initially bummed about moving to the Alamo City. It was so different from Houston and Austin and Dallas. They weren’t sure they would like it. They didn’t know a lot of people there.

I now see them post cool photos of cycling trips, historic buildings, trips to local watering holes and parks … they either learned to love San Antonio, or they busted their bottom to build the momentum the city needed to be a cool place. And you know what? More and more Millennials are doing the same thing, opting for San Antonio and Houston over Dallas and Austin according to Trulia’s dissection of U.S. Census Bureau surveys.

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7317 Fieldgate Front

This home is a fantastic rental for someone building their dream home and in need of temporary housing, or someone who decided to capitalize in our scorching market and is still looking for the perfect house to move into. And if access and amenities are what you want, you really can’t beat this location.

This is one of those rentals that, when you come across it, you feel like you’ve struck gold! It’s only been on the market for two days, and considering how sought-after the Meadows is, well, I give it a week, max.

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Lance Armstrong Lake Austin

We knew 2013 was a banner year for Dallas Realtors as our market pulled itself up by its bootstraps and posted post-recession growth that amazed even the most seasoned brokers. But according to research from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, the market posted year-over-year numbers that showed Texas flexing its economic muscles like never before.

Numbers are up across most demographics, with condo sales, luxury sales, and investment properties getting snatched up at record paces.

“The Texas real estate market showed strength in sales volume and price all year long and the fourth quarter was no exception,” said Texas Association of Realtors chairman Dan Hatfield. “We’ve now seen year-over-year increases in both sales volume and price every quarter for more than two years. This makes it clear – demand for Texas homes is strong and enduring.”

We agree, as the Texas tech industry continues to boom in Austin, pushing up prices and demand reminiscent of the Bay Area’s unfettered growth. High salaries and limited inventories — the statewide numbers show a precipitous drop to a 3.6-month supply of homes (6.5 is recommended for balance between supply and demand) — have resulted in huge price increases. But, as Candy pointed out, not all growth is good for everyone. As prices increase, housing affordability decreases, pushing out lower wage earners.

But Austin’s growth isn’t isolated, as every metropolitan area in Texas posted sales volume and price increases in the fourth quarter of 2013. According to the report, 60,998 single-family homes were sold in the state during the fourth quarter — 6.78 percent more than fourth quarter 2012. Median home prices increased 8.48 percent from fourth quarter 2012 to $172,600, and the average home price was a whopping $226,216 — up 8.88 percent from Q4 2012.

Real Estate Center economist Jim Gaines Ph.D. explained: “One thing that is notable about the price increases seen in the fourth quarter is that they are relatively consistent across the state. Those increases are being seen in markets of every size, not just in the largest Texas markets, so that indicates broad-based appreciation for Texas real estate.”

“Demand for Texas homes in 2014 should continue, but it’s possible that a shortage of inventory could inhibit sales volumes,” Gaines added. “The steady price increases we’ve seen recently should help alleviate that, enticing more sellers into the market, but buyers should continue to expect to compete for desirable properties.”

Interesting outlook for 2014. What do you think? Will the growth price-wise lure more sellers to the market?

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First-time homebuyers are finding it harder and harder to get into their dream home.

The National Association of Realtors said that first-time homebuyers make up only 28 percent of the national housing market in a Jan. 28 new story, the lowest number since the organization started measuring the demographic in 2008. According to the NAR, first-time homebuyers typically make up about 40 percent of the market, but several factors are keeping them from purchasing a home, including higher competition for lower priced properties, which are being swept up by investors at increasingly high rates.

Cash purchases accounted for 42.1 percent of all U.S. home sales in December, up from 38.1 percent in November, and up from 18 percent a year prior, according to RealtyTrac.

Tight credit is also preventing younger home buyers from qualifying for a mortgage to buy a home, as mortgage lenders require higher down payments. FHA loans, which many first-time home buyers turn to for the low downpayment requirements, have seen their market share decrease recently after an increase in premiums and fees this year made them less attractive to some.

However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are lending more to first-time buyers, according to a report from Inside Mortgage Finance. The share of financing for first-time home buyers by the mortgage giants reached 19.5 percent in December, up from 14.1 percent a year prior.

Dallas agents have noticed this trend, too. Keller Williams Urban agent Britt Lopez says that in 2012 and 2013, first-time homebuyers made a huge impact on the market, coming off the fence to buy properties in the $300K to $400K range. In those two years, first-timers made up about 60 percent of her client base.

“I believe that the improvement in our basic economy here in Dallas has been the catalyst for the influx of ready, willing, and able buyers into the market,” Lopez added. “I also think that the interest rates and mortgage requirements play a huge part in the buying temperature. Potential buyers pay very close attention to the media regarding mortgage statistics and real estate prices. If a threat of rising rates and prices looks imminent then they will rush to buy now.”

On the other hand, some buyers have been squirrelling away, renting to save up for a down payment, waiting for the perfect time and perfect house to make the perfect investment. While planning is a great asset, sometimes buyers have missed out on deals by waiting too long.

“I believe that there are many buyers who have been ready for a while with their credit and down payment money, waiting for the most opportune time to buy. They watch and wait and pounce as soon as the right property comes available,” Lopez said. “The shortage of property has caused multiple offers to be much more common with many first-time buyers having to try for several homes before they get one.”

Kathy Murray has found that many first-time buyers have saved up for a considerable down payment — a must now that zero-down financing is more rare than a black rhino. Murray says she sees many first-time buyers with at least 20 percent down, but hasn’t closed on a first-time deal yet for 2014.

With new mortgage qualifications and increasing rates, it’s likely we’ll see fewer first-time buyers for the remainder of 2014. What do you think?

WRL DOG PARK

Photo: DogTipper.com

Great story from our favorite Dallas Observer reporter, Eric Nicholson, on the proposed $1 million makeover the White Rock Dog Park is getting.

It’s probably the most popular dog park in all of North Texas, considering that when I’ve taken my Great Pyrenees mix there, I’ve run into folks from Frisco and Murphy. It gets a lot of use, and some days it’s little more than a fenced-in mudhole, so it could definitely use some work. But $1 million worth of work?

Maybe the world is ending, but I’ve finally found something Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway and I can agree on. Caraway, no stranger to colorful language, represents District 4, an underserved area of Southern Dallas.

“I just want to make it a point, we don’t have a dog park, and doggone it, if all these millions of dollars in these dog parks with air conditioned dog houses and all these other things that they got going, then give us something,” Caraway said. “At least put us in a plan for a dog park somewhere.”

Folks in Oak Cliff have been working to bring a dog park to their neighborhood, but roadblock after roadblock has kept organizations such as FIDO Oak Cliff from realizing their dream. Add the existing problem with stray and dumped dogs throughout Southern Dallas and … let’s just say I see what Caraway is getting at. It’s a quality of life issue. Until we really focus resources in underserved areas, Southern Dallas isn’t going to thrive no matter how many great-sounding initiatives Mayor Mike Rawlings launches.

“Our priority has been what? Stray dogs,” Caraway told Unfair Park this morning. “Well goddamn, that’s kinda unfair that we’re fighting stray dogs that we can’t pick up” and Greyson and Allen are suggesting they should pour their cut of bond money into dog parks.

“Our priorities are totally different from what they’re saying,” he says. “We’re already the ones that are under-recognized, for lack of a better word, economically.”

Dog parks are huge selling points in neighborhoods, and the White Rock Lake area has benefited handsomely from having a huge off-leash park in the area. It has permanently etched the neighborhood’s reputation as a dog-friendly area in the minds of all North Texans. If neighborhoods south of the Trinity had park facilities such as these, they’d benefit from that investment, too.

What do you think? Are dog parks amenities that add a significant value to a property’s location? Or are they more of a liability than we think?