There are only two homes currently for sale at the Ritz Residences in tower one, and they’re both skirting 3,000 square feet. And they both have one-of-a-kind floor plans. And they’re both listed with the same agent – Sharon Quist with Dave Perry-Miller. And one’s on the 18th floor, the other the penthouse 19th. And yes, 51 square feet is (sorta) all that separates them.

Since we’re at the Ritz, let’s start at the top. Unit 1901 clocks in at 2,928 square feet with two bedrooms and two full and one half bathroom. Pretty standard stuff at the Ritz. But how about 12-foot ceilings, and as you can see above, 891 square feet of terrace. And yes, it’s a terrace. You and I have balconies. It’s co-listed with Dave Perry-Miller agents Sharon Quist and Curt Elliott for a straight $3 million.

I think it’s safe to say that in urban living and especially Ritzy urban living, that nearly a grand of terrace space might just be worth the $300,000 more than the other unit, but I’m outdoorsy. So outdoorsy that when I viewed the units with Quist, we decided to sample the amenities of living at the Ritz-Carlton — room service.

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One Perfect Room

The Library: One Perfect Room

[Editor’s Note: The penthouse unit perched atop the Ritz Residences has been in headlines recently, and Jon just showed off the unit of the penthouse buyers, also in the Ritz and marketed by the one and only Sharon Quist. We reported on the former home of billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones on Aug. 28 of last year. Get all of the details on this incredible mansion in the sky right here.]

“Ritz” has been transformed from name to noun by the opulence found in César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier’s Hôtel Ritz on the Place Vendôme since 1898 in Paris. The world has changed as lot since then, but Ritz is still a brand associated with timeless opulence, something we can see today in Penthouse 2200 at Dallas’ Ritz Residences. Neighbor and Realtor Sharon Quist and Kathy Myers of Dave Perry Miller are the agents skilled enough to market this incredible penthouse owned by billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones.

* The word “penthouse” traces its lineage back to the French “apentiz” of the 1520s, meaning to append or hang against. Literally a house that was appended to another structure. The English Middle-English-ized the word to “pentis.” (so 500-years later, together with Freud, I could pull off my double entendre title!)

By now, you know me. When looking around most homes, I tend to see projects. You know, those nagging, “Oh no they di’int” moments. Not this time. In this $8.5-million penthouse, my pickiness has met its match.

The library (pictured above) is one example of how to create a perfect room. Far from the largest room in this 5,666-square-foot home, the library oozes comfort and peace wrapped in killer views of the Dallas skyline with terrace access. Some would say my testosterone is talking. And I suppose with its wood-paneled walls and ceiling, it’s a tad more butch than the “Hers” master bath. However, with an amazing use of lighting, it’s far from the oppressive, dark, Chesterfield-lined smoking-hall that’s such a stereotypical turn-off to the ladies. Add a fridge and a toilet and I’d move in.

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Ritz Unit 1802 Entry (Near right door leads to powder room. Far left, a coat closet)

Ritz Unit 1802 Entry (Near right door leads to powder room. Far left, a coat closet)

Just as in Scrabble, where the two highest-point tiles are Q and Z, buyers talking to Sharon Quist about the Ritz Residences also score big. Quist, along with co-listing agent Kathy Myers, is fresh off her record-breaking sale of the Trevor Rees-Jones Ritz penthouse, last listed at $7.5 million.  Quist was not only co-lister but buyer’s agent on the deal. At over $1,200 per square foot, it’s the highest price paid for ANY condo listed in the Dallas MLS … EVER.  That’s how you roll when you’re “Sharon of the Ritz.”

Who’s the new owner of the penthouse?  A neighbor.  It’s what I’ve been telling you all along, if you’re a happy high-riser, you often just bounce around your building like pinballs until you’re happy or die. Quist herself is already on her second Ritz home.

But now that the penthouse has sold and the resulting thunder of champagne corks has died down, Quist has a new listing to tempt us.

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Park Towers Small 2

Park Towers is one of Dallas’ original high-rises built in 1964 and located at Fairmount and the Katy Trail. It’s been no secret that I like their floor plans but hate the exterior of mismatched enclosed balcony “sheds” (that have finally been painted a uniform color). When I was looking to buy in 2012, I kept hoping the right unit would pop on the market. Today I can say, “thank God it didn’t.”

Word comes to CandysDirt.com from residents and Realtors that last Thursday, after barely finishing $3.7 million in special assessments (about $40,000 per unit) to take care of long, long, looooooong neglected infrastructure, that Park Towers now just raised their HOA dues a staggering 38 percent.

The HOA meeting was standing room only as the board approved the increase to cover a $247,000 shortfall from the $3.7 million spent on capital improvements. Many residents made the case for another special assessment to cover the shortfall and a more modest increase to the monthly dues. They were cheered by others in the meeting but the board wouldn’t budge. With resident monthly dues going up $500-ish a month, it’s not hard to understand their wrath.

This episode is yet another example of poor communication between residents and their HOA boards and management companies.  Residents were reportedly unaware of the impending increase. They were just told the budget would be discussed at the meeting and encouraged residents to attend.

As one resident put it, “Shazam!” The increase just materialized without warning. And let’s face it: the last thing a resident expects to hear after a $3.7 million special assessment is that the “party” is just getting started.

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Wow, it was unreal. I picked up my Wall Street Journal Friday morning and tossed away the political news — yeah, Mitt did real well Wednesday night — tearing right into the brand new mega steroidal section designed for everyone who loves House Porn and craves real estate news: MANSION. There I had it kind of like a dream, everything from house hoarders like Larry Ellison– he now has 27 homes in Malibu — to the House Story on poet Maya Angelou. She owns three homes, each filled with art.

I am not the only one out there who collects homes!

Then we go abroad to see the (literal) craziness of real estate in London, where dirt is about the priciest anywhere. Now everyone’s living at Princess Park Manor, a former insane asylum re-born as upscale apartments. Think your apartment complex is loaded with nuts?

Then there’s page M4, where our beautiful Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas makes our city proud. And finally, real estate class: no snarkiness snap at Museum Tower. We are given a chart in the print version comparing staying at a luxury hotel versus living there: stay at the W Hollywood, for example, at $8000 a night. (Really?) Buy a three-bedroom, 2614 square foot unit at $2.9 million for $1,135 a night. This must be a 30 year amortization based on (they say) an owner who keeps the unit for 7 years. I will ask WSJ writer and fellow NAREE member Kris Hudson if he figured in any appreciation or HOAs.  So you see, the condo is much cheaper. But what about compared to a home with it’s unending upkeep? I have long wanted to compare what we spend on home maintenance to high rise HOAs. This article hit a total nerve: a friend saw it, called me and said “I am so tired of dealing with my home, this looks absolutely wonderful!”

Marty Collins, chief executive of Gatehouse Capital here in Dallas (and married to beautiful Josie Collins of the best home furnishings store anywhere, Scoot & Cooner, as you can see above) talked about how developers have slashed pricing to meet the market: the W Hollywood in LA came down to $625 a square foot from $800, and units started selling. The Tower Residences here offered a 10% reduction earlier this year and sold out all 12 reduced units. In fact, the price slashing has brought buyers in from out of the woodwork. I hear there have been some recent sales even at The Palomar.

So is it all about branding? Every property mentioned in this story was holding a luxury brand. As Kris reports, you couldn’t get enough of this stuff during the real estate boom. And what a deal for developers: they used the cash from condo sales to finance the luxury hotels — one reason why hotels have all kicked it up a notch or two these last few years.  Ritz, Four Seasons, St. Regis and Fairmont (not mentioned, but same tier) indulged us with what Kris says are million dollar rooms. As my son now says, “my mother won’t stay at a hotel that doesn’t provide plush bathrobes.”

Buyers loved the brand, loved being attached to the luxury hotel services which the condos also helped pay for, by the way. So buyers, says Kris, did not mind paying 35% over market rates to get a piece of the panache. Money was coming from the banks a whole lot more freely, too. In fact, banks are now looking harder at condo purchases, and requiring 20 to 30% OR MORE down payments, Kris says. I’ve heard a lot of cash buyers (like from Mexico) come in to the Ritz and plunk it down on units. Many of those, however, want an additional deal on top of the reduced pricing. But if I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times in Dallas from buyers and appraisers: the Ritz is the only Dallas high rise with no foreclosures because its connected to a brand.

Well, so is the W, but we have had beacoup foreclosures there. That was not addressed in the article. The other day I was talking to an expert who worked on the W development. What happened? Not enough of the three P’s: Parking, Price and Programs. Victory storefronts are all bland and the same, no variety. And the American Airlines Center crowd that came down did not want to fork over $500 for a meal, sorry.

The House by Phillipe Starck? Now there’s a brand, just not one that may resonate as loudly with Dallasites. (How many times have I mis spelled his name?) Last February it was foreclosed on by lenders who gave up patience after only 26 of the 112 units sold, and pricing there was so aggressive when I last talked to Bobby Dhillon he was about to let me charge a one-bedroom unit! Steve Brown has my favorite line about The House: it opened, he said, just in time for the recession. Last May, the lenders popped the units into the city’s frenzied lease market, then offered to kick back some of the rents (ranging from $2500 a month to $6500 a month for the biggest) to a down payment. 

And Dallas rents are predicted to rise by 19% in the next three years.

They will find buyers. Museum Tower will be best friends with Nasher pretty soon, they will even have overnights, jump-start sales. Yes, I’m an optimist, but Dallas is also one of the few cities in the U.S. with a growing population. Everyone’s moving here. We are becoming a business hub — did you see that Energy Transfer Partners bought Sunoco?  With the exception of the way we finance pediatric orthodontics, our state is fiscally sound and our real estate market rocks. As long as the earthquakes stay below 3.4 on the Richter Scale…

 

Only at the Ritz would they bring in beauty consultants to give their driveway a good, solid microdermabrasion. This is at Residences Tower I. Turns out last year’s winter freeze left pock-marks on the pavement that were not too pretty, and really chewed up the concrete. Rather than opt for topical coverage — drive-way make-up anyone? — the Ritz went all out, called in the contractors and said, make her look like she’s new again!

(Just like a trophy wife!)

“Our commitment to our home owners is to keep the Residences looking perfect,” says a Ritz official. “It will be complete in no time.”

This photo was taken last Friday. My guess is that driveway is already smooth, fresh and ready to rock n’ roll.

Ritz lease exteriorWouldn’t you just love to have an address that says, “Ritz” without actually OWNING it? Talk about the $30,000 Millionaire! Maybe there is one, maybe there are two, but there are no more units at the chi chi Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas available for lease. That’s why you want to walk, not run, in your best $200 Nikes to catch this unit #904, a one-bedroom, one and a half bath on floor nine that has a twin in the same building: the stunning red and black decked out Carleton Varney suite. (more…)

Ritz residences receptionDon Carter sure got 2014 off to a great start by buying the last available penthouse space at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Tower I. That would be unit 1802.

After selling his stately Georgian mansion at 4000 University in the Park Cities last July, 2013, I was told he was building out a huge unit at The Stoneleigh.

His home at 4000 University had a huge lap pool and putting green! There are six living areas, a bar room, wine cellar, two story formal foyer with split staircase, and full theater. In fact, Don unloaded a lot of his Dallas real estate portfolio last year: the man who basically birthed and nurtured the Dallas Mavericks into the sixth most valuable basketball team in the U.S. sold off his to-die-for North West Tower W condo of many levels in early October. The W was a giant custom unit, just shy of 4,000 square feet with two bedrooms, three full baths and one half as powder room on the 27th floor.

Well, on January 31 of this year, Carter snapped up the last unfinished shell space available in Tower 1. The possibilities are endless: the vast space ( 4258 square feet) could become a four bedroom mansion in the sky, with a bath for every bedroom and then some, a media room, separate den and of course all those 5-star hotel amenities including concierge, valet, room service, full service spa, fitness center, pet park, and the greatest people right at your fingertips.

Also, looking in DCAD, I see Mr. Carter is now down to owning just two residential properties here in Dallas, a unit at the W and this Ritz penthouse.

Wonder what happened at The Stoneleigh, why Carters didn’t buy there? I have heard they plan ten designer units for show at The Stoneleigh Residences, with top name designers decking out each of the models. Heard Sherry Hayslip will be one, heard designer Emily Summers (mother of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s agent Caroline Summers) will NOT. Except for the model units, the Stoneleigh will be left as a shell for buyers to create their own world, kind of just like what Mr. Carter is doing now in 1802 North Pearl Street. Other high profile Ritz I owners include Dr. Jeff Adelglass, Kevin Twomey, Denny Alberts, Tim Headington, Ron Haddock, William Solomon, Ronald Disney, and Charles and Moll Anderson who bought Tim Headington’s penthouse on the 21st floor.