Former Cowboy Linebacker Dexter Coakley loves living in Lake Ridge, a hilly 3600 acre development along Joe Pool Lake on the west side of Cedar Hill, 3.5 miles west of Highway 67. In 1994, Bluegreen Communities acquired the one-time ranch land and opened it to builders. Said to be the only place where you are truly mid-city — you can have views of downtown Dallas and Fort Worth at the same time, not to mention Cowboy Stadium and the lake. Unlike many developed communities with cutely-spun names, Lake Ridge is actually ON a lake, on a ridge. The 800-foot elevation on the hilltop provides views of Joe Pool Lake, downtown Fort Worth, and Tangle Ridge Golf Course. Within the community are the rolling acres of Valley Ridge Park, with sports fields, playgrounds, and walking and biking trails. Lots range from a bargain basement low of $29,900 to half a million dollars, sold directly to the consumer. And all this natural beauty is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Dallas.
Which is what drew Coakley and his family.
“My wife is from Austin,” says the former pro player. “Lake Ridge reminds me of those Hill Country hills and landscapes you don’t get in flatter parts of Texas. Plus there are bigger lots, so you can enjoy all your toys.”
The lots are huge in Lake Ridge, most averaging one to three acres per homestead. And the homes are large, too, with a minimum square footage requirement of 2200. Most are far larger: one retired couple built an 18,000 square foot home. Sam Putney’s Lake Ridge home, before he sold it, weighed in at 9202 square feet. (And that home was loaded!)
But you cannot write a story about Lake Ridge without scouring her past: this area was once referred to as the foreclosure capital of North Texas.
The neighborhood, like most after the real estate market fell out, suffered from foreclosures. At one point, back in 2009, renters were living in million-dollar Lake Ridge homes for less than $1,000 per month. It wasn’t only in Lake Ridge — this happened everywhere. Some areas, such as the Singing Hills subdivision in southeast Oak Cliff, also became a prime target for fake rental scams: unscrupulous people leasing homes they had no ownership in to renters. When the home entered foreclosure, these scammers filed an appeal bond, delaying the court’s foreclosure process for 30 to 60 days or longer. Then, with the case tied up, the scammers used that time to change the door locks and seek “tenants”, collecting rent until the homeowner, real estate agent or authorities got wise. In the first half of 2008, Lancaster, DeSoto, Duncanville and Cedar Hill had more than 900 foreclosures.
Lake Ridge, perhaps because of its large homes, had no higher of a foreclosure rate than most mass developments: 60 homes out of 2600 were lost in foreclosure, like .2 percent. But for some reason, those measly foreclosures at Lake Ridge captured media attention like a big scarlet “A”.
But if Lake Ridge once had a “foreclosure reputation,” it is quickly gaining a new rap: it’s the new poster child of foreclosure success. I was curious to see what was going on out there, so I drive out a few days ago, bracing myself to see empty homes, rotting bulldozers, all those elements of construction standing still.
Saw none of it. In fact, Lake Ridge is doing surprisingly pretty darn well. Fewer than 200 homesites are left to sell out of those 2600 homesites. The Summit, 800 feet elevation, has only 13 lots left. And all those homes shown on the news as “foreclosures” back in 2008 and 2009 now having families living in them. The rent check scammers — gonesville.
I’m not saying this is all real estate nirvana.
“I’m not sure we’ll ever get back to those good times in 2005, 2006, where you could flip homes and make money overnight, ” says Coakley. “Appreciation is not going to happen even in a year or two. We need to go back to thinking long term. My family is young, and I’m willing to give it at least ten years.”
Coakley notes the large volume of homes sold already, the way buyers can use the custom builder of their choice, which keeps the development from looking too cookie-cutter.
We are seeing construction, he says: people are buying, building. Not just average homes, but 7000 square foot plus. New retail and restaurant is also coming in to nearby shopping centers, all positive signs that there is a lot of life after foreclosure.
The Coakleys could have lived, well, anywhere.
They were living in Coppell when Dexter was drafted by Dallas. He and his wife looked at Starwood in Frisco, but wanted more bang for the buck and more property. They had never been in Cedar Hill. Their Realtor took them out to Lake Ridge, and Coakley was “wowed”. He wanted a few acres and to take his sweet time building, which they did. Buying the property in 1999, they didn’t build until 2004, completing their 5 bedroom, 8 bath, 7,000 square foot plus home with basketball court and pool in 2005, while he played for the Rams. In fact, it wasn’t until 2007 they got to finally move in.
“I was itching to get back to the house and that land when I was in St Louis,” he says. “I guess we caught the market just right.”
Coakley says his family is 20 minutes from both downtown Dallas and Fort Worth, 20 minutes from Cowboy Stadium and DFW. They like the central location while being away from what he calls the “hustle and bustle”, yet still keeping an eye on it. This July 4, his family watched fireworks from five communities in their backyard.
“I lived that crazy life style, crowded restaurants, waits and traffic when I was in the NFL,” says Coakley. “Now I want to come home and enjoy life.”
Come out here, says Coakley, you might fall in love with the hills and never want to go back.