Hot West Oak Lawn Offers Small Investors The Option of Being a Landlord

Oak Lawn Map 3 SM

After The Recession pause, we all know real estate has boomed.  In older neighborhoods south of Northwest Highway, the boom has brought gentrification to once-affordable neighborhoods.  This isn’t surprising, as these areas are up-luxed and densified. A few years ago, noting your address was “near Harry Hines” was not considered polite conversation. That’s swiftly changing.

In the run-up to The Recession, many a developer assembled larger tracts of properties in Oak Lawn, west of the Dallas North Tollway, by stringing together single-family lots or by purchasing apartment buildings.  The plans were for the same townhouse developments seen on other parts of Oak Lawn. Depending on timing, the lots may have or may not have been cleared.

Before disaster struck, Perry Homes had built a series of brick façade townhomes on Knight and Sylvester, between the tollway and Harry Hines.  They took quite a while to sell. Others tried with cheaper clapboard models a block over on Throckmorton. They too took a while to sell.

Today the area — north of Oak Lawn Avenue and between Harry Hines and the Tollway — has returned to new development.

In-Town Homes' Congress and Shelby Rowhouses

In-Town Homes’ Congress and Shelby Rowhouses

One of those large lots is actually on the east side of the Tollway behind the Oak Lawn post office on Congress and Shelby — a hop-skip from the coming 1,600 cars per day Starbucks that passed City Plan Commission last Thursday with one dissent … Commissioner Margot Murphy.

Coming Soon, 100+ Townhouses

Coming Soon, 100+ Townhouses

The Congress and Shelby project is being developed by In-Town Homes, who also plan a 100-plus townhome development on a super-sized plot at Afton and Hawthorne. It’s across from the Esperanza “Hope” Medrano Middle School and a few block west of Ojeda’s restaurant on Maple Avenue.

Recently sold Sylvester and Knight. Coming soon, roof decks with downtown views

Recently sold Sylvester and Knight. Coming soon, roof decks with downtown views

As you can see on the map, there other developments soon to spring forth. One on Sylvester between Arroyo and Lucas and another on a 2.64 acre site on Sylvester between Knight and Throckmorton, very near those first pioneering townhouses.

I remember looking at a single-family lot on Vagas Street during The Recession as I contemplated up-skilling my renovation bent to full-on new construction.  As I recall, it was listed for $60,000-ish. I knew that with the Old Parkland project, UTSW Medical explosion, and the DART station nearing completion at Vagas and Harry Hines, the area would boom once money returned.

I bring this up because it’s not too late.

There are multiple lots for sale in the area that are currently zoned as MF-2 … meaning multi-family.  One is east of Maple at 2523 Hondo Avenue with a 50 by 150-foot lot size. It’s listed for $299,000 with Donna Bosse with Donna Savariego Homes. How about a 50 by 100-foot lot at 2200 Lucas for $210,000 that faces the school?  Maybe you’re a big spender?  There are a bunch for sale ranging from $244,900 to $300,000 on Arroyo Avenue … 2135, 2202, 2206, 2138, 2210, 2342 and 2343 … with 2138, 2202, 2206 and 2210 running in a line for a 200 by 150-foot lot measuring nearly three-quarters of an acre.

Compare these prices with eastern Oak Lawn.  A similar lot may be $100,000 more east of the Tollway and a 50 by 100-foot lotted, two-flat listed on Hawthorne is for sale at $575,000 and described as being in bad shape, needing “work … has loads of character, but value is in the land.”

OK, so you’re not getting in on the ground floor here, but you’re far from topped out.

And let’s be realistic, no one is going to purchase one or more of these lots for a single-family home.  But for the small-fry investor, I can certainly see taking a page from Chicago (and parts of Dallas) and building a two-flat.  Most would think of squishing two skinny townhomes side by side on a 50-foot lot.  The same old bedroom/garage on the ground level … open living/dining/kitchen followed by a bedroom or two at the top … crowned by a roof deck guests have to traipse through your bedroom to access. Bo-RING.

Think differently.  With flats, the spaces are wider, leading to more generous proportions. Also, being stair-free, they’re perfect for the mobility conscious (or those who hate wasting limited space with stairs). The small investor might also figure on living in one unit while renting out the other to dramatically cut their mortgage.  Many people like renting in small buildings without the raucousness of neighbors and the feeling of single-family. Downstairs units get the yard while upstairs residents get the deck.

The Angst of Gentrification

It’s super easy to see opportunity in places like this.  Sweet location and relatively inexpensive prices.  But there’s also the realization that looking at DCAD, nearly every owner on streets like Hondo, Arroyo, and Afton has a Latin last name.

While I’m happy they’re getting a good payday for their properties, I’m also sad at yet another neighborhood falling apart in the face of development.  I also wonder where these sellers are going?  It’s a question not limited to lower income residents.  With prices what they are, many of us would have no idea where we’d move to.

Time was that north of Oak Lawn Avenue was largely divided by a large Latino population sharing space with the Gayborhood. I recall visiting in the 1980s when it was a more tense relationship that has mellowed over time.  But one of the reasons it’s mellowed is because both neighborhoods have frayed from their heydays.

This was always going to happen, I guess The Recession offered a few more years.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email