Is the McMansion dead? To find out why “McMansion” is a pejorative in the architecture world, check out this hilarious Tumblr blog, McMansion Hell. (Image: McMansion Hell)

Recently, Trulia analyzed data from 2006 to 2016 for the 100 largest metros, seeking to understand the new home premium.  They dubbed recently built (2001-2007) 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot homes as McMansions and compared them to homes outside that age and square footage range.

It’s worth noting that for all the tiny house rage, average home sizes are at historic highs (after a short-lived retreat during the recession). There was a tiny decline in the first half of 2016 (from 2,658 to 2,616 square feet) that’s being attributed to a shift towards more entry-level housing. This partly explains why Trulia defined McMansions as being as much as double the national average in size.Trulia McMansion 1


Using highly selective data from Trulia, news outlets trumpeted the death of the McMansion. The Chicago Tribune blared, “The day of the McMansion has come and gone” complete with misty-eyed millionaires having to take a loss on their McMansion (because they’d bought another one). Meanwhile CNBC hailed, “’Death of the ‘McMansion’: Era of Huge Homes Is Over.” Even The Dallas Morning News reprinted a Bloomberg article titled, “Once a booming real estate trend, McMansions now a bad investment.”

These outlets (and many more) pinned their ideas on Trulia’s research that seemed to show that, much like new cars losing value the minute they’re driven off the lot, so too did new homes.  Or did they?


Best real estate markets 2016

Nearly a decade after the housing crisis that sent the U.S. economy into freefall, housing is most certainly back—just look at our DFW market. Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, the New York Times recently reported that sales of new single-family homes nationwide were higher this past July than in nearly 10 years.

Nationwide, a company that tracks the health of U.S. real estate, reported at the end of quarter two that “the overall U.S. housing market is sustainable,” adding that “few regional housing markets are vulnerable to a housing downturn.”

In a new study, financial services site WalletHub compared 300 U.S. cities across 16 key metrics to help prospective home buyers find the most attractive real-estate markets. Their data set ranges from “median home-price appreciation” to “housing affordability” to “job growth.”

North Texas cities scored big: Frisco, McKinney, Richardson, Allen, and Plano made their top-ten list of best real estate markets nationwide in 2016. Denton, Carrollton, Fort Worth, Irving, Grand Prairie, and Dallas scored in the top 50.

So what made DFW cities score so high?

“North Texas cities have healthy and sustainable real estate markets,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “Very few homes have negative equity, home appreciation in the past seven years has continued to increase, and foreclosure rates are extremely low. In addition to having a healthy real estate market, these cities are affordable with low maintenance costs and cost of living. Not to mention, the economic environment in North Texas is thriving, boasting some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country (under 3 percent across the board).”



Crusty Jim Schutze of The Dallas Observer wrapped a very long, very sad week in Dallas history with some stuff to be actually positive about.

He didn’t come out and say it, but it’s really our real estate market:

Burdened as we are by a peculiar past, even hobbled by a certain disconnection from national progress, the fact remains that Dallas and its environs in the last decade have become a marvelous new realm, or, maybe more accurately, a couple of marvelous new realms.

Both new realms reflect changes that already took place in many other American cities 20 years ago. But they are happening here now, and these changes should make us all strongly optimistic for our future.

That peculiar past: the old way of running a city, he says, with iron fists, white iron fists. I wasn’t here in the sixties or even 1978, when Schutze says he arrived. But he is probably the most knowledgeable person in the city when it comes to race relations in Dallas. When I got here in the 1980’s and saw what people told me was a separate drinking fountain — separate for who, I asked?  Oh yeah, I had heard of those where I grew up, but had never actually seen one in Chicago, Boston or New York City. The whole concept of segregation like that was just so — so mean. I may have grown up in a Lily white Chicago suburb, but I never forgot the day my doll lost her shoes — wind blew them off — while walking down State Street in the Windy City with my parents. A kind man chased them down and returned them to me.

He happened to be black.

Schutze says he was info central this week for the out of state reporters here for a crash course in race relations, etc. They were reporting on the downtown ambush that left five of our finest dead. I’ve been cringing over this event since last Thursday night. How would it shape our city? Why Dallas? Schutze went ahead and told the out-of-towners about the skeletons (I wonder if he mentioned the name John Wiley Price), then he said something very positive: (more…)

EZ Stow Signs

Conventional real estate signs are a necessary and familiar accessory for real estate agents. But they’re also kind of a pain. They’re big and bulky and don’t easily fit in most car trunks. The stakes can damage a car’s interior upholstery and seating. They’re dirty and muddy, and many agents have to pay someone to install and remove them.

Longtime North Texas Realtor Patricia Manos wanted an easier way to market her properties. She came up with the idea of EZ Stow Signs. They solve many of these common complaints agents have about lawn signs.

“I’ve put up with conventional signs for 37 years and I never found a good solution— my car is a vital asset to support my success, but it seems that every time I wanted to buy a new car, one of the issues I had to consider is the transporting of the signs,” Manos said. “So I, along with the help of my family and some great engineers in Ohio, came up with the solution, and that is when EZ Stow Signs was born.”

This Dallas-based, family-run company is aiming not only to make their products popular in DFW, but also to take their signs national.

“We have created relationships with Keller Williams, Fathom Realty, and ReMax, and I’m sponsoring prep courses at the Champions School of Real Estate,” said Robert Spragins, sales manager for EZ Stow Signs and Manos’ son who has taken his mom’s idea and launched a business. “We’re also attending the National Association of Realtors convention in Orlando in November — we’re renting a booth there to get national exposure, and we’re also attending area trade shows and will be adding more sizes to our product line.”


Where home prices are surging the most, and see how dwindling inventory affects that:

Metropolitan Area
Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI)
YoY Home Value Change
Percent Inventory Change for All Homes
Bottom-Tier Percent Inventory Change
Middle-Tier Percent Inventory Change
Top-Tier Percent Inventory Change
Condo Percent Inventory Change
Denver, CO $336,600 15.2% 0.1% -2.3% 15.3% -4.8% 6.8%
Portland, OR $325,400 15.1% -31.6% -39.8% -39.0% -21.6% -43.5%
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX $183,700 12.6% -21.0% -32.1% -35.1% -11.9% -33.6%
San Jose, CA $962,400 12.3% 1.3% -3.8% 3.2% 5.8% 7.1%
Seattle, WA $386,300 11.6% -21.1% -28.5% -20.9% -15.6% -23.9%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL $232,800 10.5% 18.0% 10.3% 16.6% 21.9% 28.7%
San Francisco, CA $806,800 10.0% -2.1% -14.9% 0.1% 6.1% 11.9%
Tampa, FL $165,600 9.7% -16.2% -27.9% -19.3% -8.1% -12.8%
Austin, TX $250,400 8.9% 2.6% n/a n/a n/a 20.6%
Phoenix, AZ $220,600 8.8% -8.0% -20.2% -6.6% -4.1% -15.6%
Source: Zillow

DEBJ Best Developer

Nothing like the weekend to get the real estate buzz brewing. Almost every developer I spoke with — three, all off the record, of course — is scratching their head about the way Hayman Capital Management’s Kyle Bass has brought Mehrdad Moayedi, founder and CEO of Centurion Development, into the United Development Funding story spotlight.

Bass is accusing United Development Funding of running a Ponzi scheme at the Grapevine-based institution. The company was raided by the FBI on Thursday. United Development Funding has financed more than $1 billion in residential development across Texas.

Agents carried boxes out the company door all day Friday to see what UDF is up to.  We think it’s because, starting last month, Bass began posting reports and sending letters to the media with claims that UDF is mishandling investor REIT funds, overstating the value of its assets and making improper loans to developers.

A “billion dollar house of cards” and a “Ponzi-like real estate scheme,” is what he called it. Kyle Bass’s website is

It’s hard to tell exactly what the company has been doing, unless we look at one of their prospectuses. What a firm does with investor money is supposed to be outlined in a prospectus, and the client is supposed to read it (even the fine print) and understand.

One of Bass’ beefs is that UDF is overly concentrated with lending to two clients, one being Centurion America.

“The concentration issue becomes that much more problematic if the borrowers cannot repay the loans,” said Bass, whose hedge fund, Hayman Capital Management LP, claims that UDF is operating like a Ponzi scheme by “using new investor money to pay existing investors.” At a website put together by his team at Hayman Capital — — the likely outcome is bankruptcy, he predicts.

But here’s my confusion: Centurion’s acres of dirt are tangible assets — secured by lots. And they are located in some of the hottest parts of North Texas, too, like The Normandy in Plano, Prosper, Flower Mound. And our real estate market is not in trouble as of this date and time, though house flipping is making a comeback in Vegas — yikes! Not saying our market will always be so strong, and maybe that’s one of Bass’ points.  But Centurion usually makes damn good buys — many of the company’s assets were bought back when the market was low and the company held them. Kind of a bottom-feeder. Mehrdad bought the Stoneleigh out of bankruptcy, for example.



What the hec! A few days ago a story came across the desk about Kyle Bass, he of Hayman Capital Management, complaining about a Ponzi scheme going on at a financial institution in Grapevine. This happened about the time we were hearing about Nancy Carroll and the missing funds over at Millennium Title. Unrelated, but my antennae perked.

Now KXAS-TV is reporting that the FBI just raided the office of United Development Funding, a Grapevine company that has financed more than $1 billion in residential development across Texas.

This is the company Bass says operates as a Ponzi scheme.

Agents were seen carrying boxes out of United Development Funding on the 1300 block of Municipal Way and loading the boxes into large trucks.

Starting last month, Bass began posting reports and sending letters to the media with claims that United Development is mishandling investor funds, overstating the value of its assets and making improper loans to developers.

A “billion dollar house of cards” and a “Ponzi-like real estate scheme,” is what he called it.

But Bass had been shorting the company’s stock, United Development Fund, which has lost more than half its value in the last couple of months. Of course, that’s what hedge funds and brokers do to make money for their clients. (Some have accused Bass of being self-serving and making all this noise to benefit his shorts.) It is unusual, however, that they blow the whistle and call foul. Bass even “says he’s aided small investors who might have lost money with the company.” Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.15.08 PM


Britt fair headshot

Does this guy look familiar? He should, he is Britt Fair, former President of Hexter-Fair/First American Title Company, once a family title business with deep roots in Texas founded by the Hexter family in 1916 and bought by Britt’s grandfather Bill Fair in 1968. California-based First American Title Insurance Co. bought Hexter-Fair in January of 2012, along with all 21 Dallas Fort Worth-area offices. Hexter-Fair owner and CEO David Fair, Britt’s father, ran the company as chairman, then this guy took over.

In November, it didn’t surprise me to learn that Britt, a graduate of Highland Park High School who holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton as well as an MBA in accounting and finance from the University of Texas at Arlington, was striking out on his own to create Fair Texas Title.

Britt’s detailed and keen analysis of the North Texas real estate market has long captured local Realtors, and he and his father are probably the most-quoted real estate experts in North Texas. Here it is, one month from taking his license live, and three Fair Title Texas offices are open, staffed, and doing business the old-fashioned way, with a caring, personal feel, exclusive focus on North Texas, and the best possible service.

The family legacy continues…