Photos: Jo England

Photos: Jo England

I just chatted with Denise Edmondson, sales director at the Shelby Residences. This building, which wraps around the Twisted Root Burger Company on SMU Boulevard, is a rare bird in Dallas — it’s an apartment building that, in our hot rental market, is converting to condos.

“We did a lot of market analysis,” Edmondson said. What the developer, the Marquis Group, noticed was the severe lack of ownership opportunities in the University Crossing District. It’s a desirable neighborhood for Millennials, recent college graduates, and young professionals or graduate students thanks to its proximity to mass transit, walkability, and nearby grocery and restaurant options. “In this location, there’s nothing for less than $400,000.”

That may seem too steep for someone who is paying off a hefty amount of student loan debt, and the attractiveness of investing in ownership instead of renting, along with living a car-free lifestyle, might be too much to pass up. Interest in the 10 available units has been through the roof, Edmondson added, and they expect the market debut tomorrow, April 18 from 11-7, to be a feeding frenzy.

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Blind 6

(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a hopefully regular series from Jon Anderson, in which he dishes on the inner-workings of life in the sky. Anderson’s take on Dallas high rise living is both entertaining and educational. You can read his first installment here.)

By Jon Anderson
Special Contributor

Driving up and down our High and increasingly Toll “ways” one can’t help but be proud of the number of housing units built for deaf and blind people. This has picked up considerably since the recession and something we can be proud of.

Or course I’m kidding about the deaf and blind, but how else can you explain the huge numbers of apartment blocks and condominiums lining our dirty and unendingly noisy six-lane thoroughfares? Otherwise, I’d be forced to think developers actually believe people with functioning ears and eyes would not only want to live facing a high-speed motorway but use a balcony overlooking it all.

Here’s just a sample…

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2900 Mckinnon 506 Living Dining

Word comes from Homes.com that Dallas is the second to only Atlanta as one of the best cities for new college graduates to thrive in. Our average starting salary, reasonable rents, low unemployment rate, and higher-than-average number of nearby colleges and universities makes us a great place to live for debt-crippled former students who have developed a taste for ramen noodles and cheap beer.

“In a still-recovering economy, where the job market remains uncertain and the repayment of student loans is a daunting reality for many recent grads, the ideal place for many may be wherever that first job is landed,” according to Homes.com. “Nonetheless, some cities are more promising than others, providing college grads exceptional opportunities for growing careers and affordable housing.”

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Renting Vs. Buying screenshot

A friend of mine has been following our recent analysis of demographic groups more likely to rent or buy, especially this story by Candace Tharp and this breakdown of Census info, and sent me a link to this online lecture from a Khan Academy instructor that dissects the costs associated with renting versus buying a home.

The instructor, who lives in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, attempts to compare the cost of renting versus buying two identical homes. About 40 seconds in, though, my journalist spidey sense went off when the instructor started making generalizations and using absolutes, saying “Well isn’t buying always better than renting?”

Well, isn’t Veuve Clicquot always better than Cook’s? I may think so, but that’s just my opinion. 

That’s where the instructor jumps off into criticizing homeowners for peer pressure, Realtors for, you know, wanting you to buy so they can make a living making sure you get the best deal possible for your new home/home you are selling.

Really, this looks to me like not only an oversimplification of a naturally cyclical market, but a gross oversimplification of a very complicated buying process. Heck, the instructor even admits that he’s oversimplifying things. He’s basically bending his logic to his assumptions.

So, watch the lectures and tell me what you think: Is it always better to buy than rent, and what is up with the ridiculous rents in Silicon Valley? I’d move to Texas instead!

Tumbleweed Tiny Home

We’re seeing Jed Kolko’s name pop up all over the place nowadays. This time it was in this Wall Street Journal piece comparing how the word “cozy” is often used to denote “small” properties in real estate markets.

“Cozy is one of those words that means very different things in different markets. Cozy in Texas is not what’s cozy in San Francisco,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at TruliaTRLA +0.02% a real-estate website.

Trulia examined for-sale listings, excluding foreclosures, in 100 U.S. metro areas between Jan. 1, 2011, and Nov. 30, 2012. “In every metro area, homes that mention cozy are smaller than listings that do not,” Mr. Kolko says.

Tiny Apartment

I love how the story compares Dallas “cozy” to New York “cozy” (read: claustrophobic). Of course, we get the total cliche out of the way thanks to Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s agent Christy Berry:

“Cozy almost means small, and we don’t have small. Everything is bigger in Texas,” she says.

Maybe it’s true: We do have some gigantic properties in Texas, but really, can Texas do “cozy” justice?

Tumbleweed Tiny Home

We’re seeing Jed Kolko’s name pop up all over the place nowadays. This time it was in this Wall Street Journal piece comparing how the word “cozy” is often used to denote “small” properties in real estate markets.

“Cozy is one of those words that means very different things in different markets. Cozy in Texas is not what’s cozy in San Francisco,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at TruliaTRLA +0.02% a real-estate website.

Trulia examined for-sale listings, excluding foreclosures, in 100 U.S. metro areas between Jan. 1, 2011, and Nov. 30, 2012. “In every metro area, homes that mention cozy are smaller than listings that do not,” Mr. Kolko says.

Tiny Apartment

I love how the story compares Dallas “cozy” to New York “cozy” (read: claustrophobic). Of course, we get the total cliche out of the way thanks to Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s agent Christy Berry:

“Cozy almost means small, and we don’t have small. Everything is bigger in Texas,” she says.

Maybe it’s true: We do have some gigantic properties in Texas, but really, can Texas do “cozy” justice?

Aside from her vote on Dallas taxes a few years ago, I knew I’d like Angela Hunt. She took the time to write me that her quote made it sound like she was supporting Poo Prints, the dog-poo DNA program in effect at The Ilume and other Dallas apartments. Here is another thing I like about Angela: she didn’t say “I was mis quoted”. Instead, she clarified her quote, which is very important. Too often I think we (me triply included) say things quickly, without measuring the words, and what gurgles out of the boca is not our exact intent. So here, then, is what Angela means. Takeaway: she does NOT support a citywide program to test every Dallas dog’s DNA in order to cure people who don’t clean up after their pups (but for apartments, it’s not a bad idea):

Candy, saw your post and wanted to clarify my thoughts on the ever important issue of dog poop:

Let me clarify my quote that made it sound like I enthusiastically support a taxpayer-funded CSI lab devoted to analyzing canine excrement.

Would something like this be a useful tool for enforcement? Absolutely. Is it practical in Dallas? Not at all.

First, not all dogs in Dallas are registered, so I would venture to guess that most of the tests would be a “waste” of time. Heh. This process works great in apartment complexes and other closed communities because the landlord can trace each dog to its owner. Not practical or effective in a city like Dallas.

Second, we have more pressing issues to deal with at our city, and not enough code enforcement officers (not to mention Animal Control personnel) to deal with them.

Third, the guy speaking on behalf of the poop analysis company actually claimed that the city could reap anywhere from $40m – $100m in revenue as a result. That is so ridiculous I had to laugh at him. No, sir, that is not realistic.

I respectfully asked him to provide us with more information and show us how this has worked in other cities. I am open to being proved wrong on this, and I don’t think the concept is bad. I just don’t think it could work for Dallas, I don’t think it’s a burning priority, and I don’t see how we have the personnel or funding to enforce it.

With high occupancy rates and increasing rents, it's a good time to be a landlord.

Looks like developers are working hard to keep up with demand as new apartment high- and mid-rises are going up across the region.

StreetLights Residential, a boutique development company, is building its first high-rise dubbed The Taylor, set to open in 2014. The uptown apartment building, which has rents in the $1,000-and-up range, is just one of the many rental properties planned, in construction, or opening soon.

And according to a study from Axiometrics, average rents are on the rise, too. For Dallas, occupancy is tight at a little more than 94 percent, and average rents are at $879, which is a 12.7 percent increase over 2009. To get a taste of the upscale rental market, check out the Oak Lawn area: rents have increased 19 percent since 2009, with average rents at more than $1,500.

So, are we becoming a nation of renters? And, is that a bad thing?

As Candy mentioned, restrictive lending practices and tight-fisted banks despite historically low interest rates. So, more mortgage restrictions means fewer homeowners means more renters, right?

This story from MarketWatch says increased rental occupancy and prices can really be traced to the slow recovery from the recession and high unemployment:

The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 8.2%, and incomes have stagnated. Fewer Americans can afford to buy a home or qualify for a mortgage, especially given tighter lending standards. As a result, home ownership declined again. It fell to 65.4% from 66% in the fourth quarter, putting it at the lowest level since 1996.

Well, what do you think? Is it a renter’s market? And is that a bad thing in our economy?