01/16/13 10:00am

Allie Beth Allman.new photo.2009Allie Beth Allman’s charm jumps across the phone line from the very first first “hello.” From her West Texas drawl to her thoughtful and gracious answers, I felt like there was no one else she’d rather talk to than me even though I know she’s one of the busiest women in Dallas real estate.  She was somewhat reserved talking about her own accomplishments and I had to prod a bit, but the minute we started talking about her agents, she was animated and full of admiration for their work ethic, character and integrity.

For more than 30 years, Allie Beth Allman has been a real estate legend in Dallas and on the Top 10 List. For three consecutive years she was Dallas County’s Top Producer – head and shoulders above 7000 competing agents. She made national news in 2008 for helping George and Laura Bush find their new home in Preston Hollow. Her company has been named the Consumer’s Choice Award for Business Excellence in the category of Dallas/Fort Worth Executive Home sales three years running. Her team consistently ranks #1 in Park Cities sales and is recognized annually as the most productive single office in Dallas County both for sales and listings. And to crown all those achievements, in 2012 her office had over $1 billion in transactions. Yep. With a “B.” After that amazing billboard went up on Central/75 celebrating their year, we had to find out more.

CD: Where are you from originally? 

Allie Beth: Graham Texas in West Texas.  It is near Possum Kingdom Lake.

CD: How did you get into real estate?

Allie Beth: I came to Dallas originally for college. I went to TCU. Upon graduation I had a job offer in radio and TV with WFAA. I met my husband Pierce Allman there. He was the Program Director.

CD: The same one who witnessed the Kennedy Assassination?

Allie Beth:  Yes. After we got married, I quit working at WFAA and managed some apartments for something to do. In the 1970’s I sold my own home “by owner,” and then a friend asked me to sell hers. And then another friend asked for help and suddenly I was in real estate. I got my license and never looked back. I worked for a while with Hank Dickerson & Company until I had more business than I could handle and I went out on my own in 1985.

Working in the luxury marketplace just happened. I sold Jerry Jones his house on Preston Road when he first moved down here which led to more and more listings in the area. The company grew and I sold it in 1995 to Henry S. Miller so I could retire.

I missed it terribly. Luckily, I have loyal customers who wouldn’t let me retire. Sammons Enterprises, Inc. called me with a project – 130 unit high rise luxury condominium at Crestpark in Highland Park. It was a fun project. I also had many of my previous agents asking if I was going to come out of retirement because they wanted to work with me again. In 2004, I went to Henry Miller and asked him if he would support me in re-opening Allie Beth Allman.  He not only agreed; he gave me his home to list – the Park Plaza condos across the street from the Crestpark.

Since then we’ve grown to over 300 people in our office with over $1 billion in transactions in 2012.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Allie Beth:  Not only did I sell 130 condo units at the Crestpark in Highland Park, I’ve lived there myself for the past 10 years. I love it. The services and amenities are wonderful and the people are lovely.  We lived on Stratford before that, but it was too much upkeep after our children were gone.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Allie Beth: No. People will probably be surprised to know that I find cars to be unimportant. I drive my cars a long time and don’t care about the latest models.

CD: Do you have a second home?

Allie Beth:  Yes on Possum Kingdom Lake.

CD: What have you learned in 40 years of selling?

Allie Beth: I’m old school from West Texas where your handshake is your bond. I tell my agents always be honest whether you win or lose the sale. Don’t try to sell at a price that isn’t right or tell a customer what they want to hear just to get the listing. Tell the truth. It will pay off in the end. I also tell them to do what they say they are going to do and work with integrity.

If there is a “secret” to our success at Allie Beth Allman, it is excellent and honest customer service. I have the best agents in Dallas. They are smart and on the ball. They are brought in because of their character, strong work ethic and integrity.

CD: Do you still sell yourself?

Allie Beth: My agents handle most of the transactions, but there are always those every year that I do myself because of our friendship and long history together.

CD: What do you like best about real estate?

Allie Beth: I enjoy the thrill of the deal and the wonderful people. I am so happy when the kids and grandkids of my customers come to me to help them with their homes.

CD: What is next for you?

Allie Beth: I take it day at a time. I guess I’ll be Ebby one day. She set such a good example for the rest of us.

01/08/13 9:00am

Karen LuterFor more than 40 years, Karen Luter of Allie Beth Allman & Associates has been blazing trails in Dallas real estate. She became a broker in 1982 and has been a consistent multimillion dollar producer ever since. She opened new territory in the luxury home market in Dallas, helped developers re-brand themselves for the high end market and built communities that have stayed together for decades. She is known for her attention to detail and incredible work ethic.

And she’d also one of Candy’s favorite people!

Karen has achieved top industry recognition and designations including Counsel of Residential Specialists, Graduate Realtor Institute, Advanced Historic Home Specialist from Preservation Dallas and Accredited Buyer Representative. She was recently in the news because she listed the icon home of the late Mary Kay Ash, 12,000 fabulous square feet over on Douglas Drive in Old Preston Hollow. We talked with her recently to learn what makes this beautiful, energetic gal tick!

CD: Where are you from?

Karen: I’m a native Dallasite who grew up in Lakewood. I went to Woodrow Wilson High School.

CD: A real Dallas native! How did you get into real estate?

Karen: I married and divorced really young. At 21 I was single with a six-year and two-year-old. I needed a job and went to work at a law office downtown that turned out to be a pit of vipers. The secretaries were trying to get me fired and the politics were fierce. I was miserable. A friend had a potential IPO that he let me in on. I borrowed $1,000 and we turned it into $12,000! I was so excited! I paid off my car and jumped into the worst real estate market you can imagine… it was the 70’s.

I sold $1 million in my first six months and never looked back. I worked insane hours. I had a way of helping people find houses that were suited for them. I found a home for a man I was dating and we started our own agency together. I wanted to be different and designed signs and logos that were well-designed and cool – so cool in fact that they kept getting stolen!

So I took an entrepreneurship class at SMU and took every business lessons to heart. I paid cash for everything and signed no long-term leases. I decided to work with a more established agency. Unfortunately, many of the agencies in town were struggling because of the market. I worked with Virginia Cook, Murray Realtors and Ellen Terry in quick succession. A new development called “Wellington on the Creek” was one of the early master-planned communities. I worked onsite and pre-sold 100 homes to Park Cities families. I had such good relationships with my peers that I marketed my properties in their offices. Many of these families had never built a home before. It was tough, too, because Wellington was on the “wrong side of Midway” according to most people’s way of thinking at the time. I threw awesome parties and made it fun to come take a look. It was a challenge, but together we all developed a real community. Many of the original tenants are still there decades later. They referred their friends and all moved to new homes together. Many of them travel together; play golf together; party together – a real community in other words.

After Wellington, I represented PortoBello by the Creek. The West Village didn’t even exist at that time. We were marketing a complete dream…with non-refundable deposits in advance. It was incredible. I worked with developers to re-brand their companies for a high-end marketplace. They would want to build a modest model home and I’d say “You are wasting your property! You’ve got to think bigger and better!” And they did. It was very time consuming. I worked by myself and only took time off during the middle of the week for over four years. And yet I met so many great people. It was a wonderful experience. It paid off with great referrals and new listings. I worked with David Griffith, Betty Abio and Henry S. Miller. After Coldwell Banker bought Henry S. Miller, I looked for the right home for myself and joined Allie Beth Allman after careful analysis. At the same time, I took a look at my bucket list and realized I needed get on the stick.

 CD: Sounds like you were!

Karen: Like most women, I had put a lot of my dreams and desires on hold waiting for “Mr. Right” to somehow make it all happen for me. I realized that if I wanted a horse, some land, to learn photography, to travel to Europe, collect art or anything else on my list, I needed to start doing it NOW myself.


Karen Luter's horse drops in to her East Texas second home for a family visit. Pictured: Son Bryan Luter and three of her five grandchildren.

Karen Luter’s horse drops in to her East Texas second home for a family visit. Pictured: Son Bryan Luter and three of her five grandchildren.

Over time, I’ve turned myself into the man I always wanted to marry! I go to art shows in Basel, Switzerland; I own six horses, 2 longhorns and a miniature donkey. I’m having a blast! And real estate made that all possible for me!

CD: Um, you need to write a book or at least become a motivational speaker! Where is home for you in Dallas?

Karen: I live in “Luterville!” My kids and grandkids have taken over a huge portion of the Northern Hills Neighborhood. To me it is one of the best neighborhoods in Dallas. It is a beautiful, quiet conservation district with a serene vibe. It is west of the Katy Trail, east of Turtle Creek and north of Fitzhugh. We love it.


CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Karen: Not powerful enough! I need something big enough to pull three horses in a trailer. Not to mention dogs, grandchildren, fishing poles and dry cleaning – often all at the same time! I have an Escalade. Besides I love Cadillac. I used to drive a BMW but found I like the ride better in a Caddy.

CD: Sounds like you have a second home somewhere…

Karen: I bought a large parcel of land in East Texas for a steal at $86,000 and built a house on it. By myself.  I’m out there all the time with my animals.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Karen: Working onsite were my best sales collectively. It was a lot of volume but very satisfying. I helped build a community that lasted. In the ’90s that was not very common and I’m very proud of that.

CD: If you ever left Luterville, where would you go?

Karen: I can’t imagine leaving. We love it here. I like nearby Arrowhead and Stonebridge Drive.

CD: What have you learned in 40 years of selling?

Karen: Don’t skimp on the preparation. I’m very visual with a very critical eye. I’m like Leona Helmsley detail-oriented. I thoroughly examine a home with my sellers and make the house looks spectacular before we list it. We de-clutter, stage, clean, paint – whatever is needed to get it the best it can be. I also prepare the buyers by having them completely pre-qualified for a loan. I educate them on value and what they should look for in a new home. It takes time but it is worth it. My best client is a well-educated one, one who reads this blog!

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Karen (with her beautiful smile): I have the life I want – I don’t need an encore.

01/03/13 9:00am

Mark CainMark Cain is known as one of the most hardworking and caring real estate agents in the business, certainly in North Texas. Voted one of the “Best Realtors in Dallas” by D Magazine readers for 9 years in a row, he has closed millions, over $25 million in volume sales alone in 2012. He is a consistent top-producing agent at Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. His impressive list of accomplishments includes the title of “Best Son Ever,” according to his Mom for a very special Mother’s Day surprise. We nabbed Mark (it was hard) for a quick holiday interview to learn more.


CD: Where are you from?

Mark: I was born in New Jersey, but consider myself a transplanted native, or a “Reborn Texan” as Candy puts it. I love the Dallas area and have lived here for more than 35 years. My family moved to North Texas from Metairie, Louisiana when I was a young boy (after only a brief nine-month stint there). For the majority of my early childhood, however, we lived on a farm in Ohio. I loved living on the farm as a kid and have many fond memories of that time. We had a zillion acres (it seemed like to me), and my siblings and I would run and play for hours on end. The house was big and white, with tall white columns across its broad front porch. We had a large barn, a pony, some chickens, and miles of acres of gardens. My Dad was an executive with Marriott and was transferred many times during his tenure with the company. That’s how we came to Dallas. My father passed away in 1980 at age 43, and my mother decided to stay here to raise her eight children on her own.

CD: Eight children? Well, someone knows how to share. How did you get into real estate?

Mark: All my life I’ve been interested in architecture and residential homes. As early as second grade I toured open houses. One summer, when I was about twelve or thirteen, my mother worked as an assistant to an agent who was representing an entire neighborhood development. There were three model homes for buyers to view, which I loved touring as each one had its own personality and all were immaculately clean and beautifully furnished. On top of that, the agent drove a brand new Cadillac with power windows and a sunroof. I remember thinking, “Now that’s what I want to do!”

In college, I started working for a market research company as a means to earn money for my tuition and books. In July 2001, after 15 years in the industry, the company I was working for closed its doors in Dallas.

I took a few months off, but then decided to follow my passion and I enrolled into the Real Estate Career College in Dallas and got my license. I discovered I had a knack for the business, and my corporate experience fit hand in glove with real estate. By the end of my first year in the business I was a Top-10 office producer, and have been a consistent top-producing agent ever since.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Mark: I recently sold my house in Lake Highlands and purchased a three-story contemporary townhouse in Uptown, designed by award-winning architect Ron Wommack. I’m still getting settled in, but I love my new space with its high ceilings, walls of glass, and outdoor sky deck.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Mark: No way! I’m a BMW man. I’m on my third one. I’ve had two 7-Series, and currently drive a 528i. I “downshifted” (pun intended) as a result of the economy. I love the way BMWs drive. My next car will be either another 7-Series, or perhaps an X5.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Mark: With so many beautiful and interesting pocket neighborhoods in Dallas it’s very hard to choose. Obviously, I live in Uptown and enjoy its energy and proximity to shopping and restaurants. I like the urban feel here too. I’m also a huge fan of Preston Hollow and the Park Cities where I sell a lot of homes. But if I were to move somewhere else, it would be either Devonshire or Bluffview. I love the quaint cottages and big lots in Devonshire, and I’m attracted to the hills and tall trees in Bluffview. In either place, I’d like to build a new contemporary home that maximizes the lot and its views.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Mark: In 2007, I sold a $15 million estate property in Preston Hollow, which is the highest sale so far of my career. This past year I sold an $8 million new construction estate home, also in Preston Hollow. In both of these sales I was the listing agent, but I have also represented many buyers in the multi-million dollar price range.

CD: What was your hardest or worst sale?

Mark: The hardest transaction for me was heart-wrenching. A young mother, whose husband had abandoned her and their two young boys, wanted a three-bedroom house with a window in the kitchen that overlooked the back yard so she could watch her boys while they played. She was in a very difficult financial situation, scrambling to provide for her family and give her boys a sense of security. I knew the right home would make a huge difference in their life, and worked hard to find a house that met her needs on a very modest budget. It took a while, but we found it. I negotiated a new roof with the sellers and got her into the house. The buyer and her sons were absolutely radiant in their new house, and it meant so much to me that I was able to help them with a new start on life. It is most certainly one of my most gratifying transactions.

CD: Even more than your Mom’s story? Didn’t I read something about it in the Dallas Morning News?

Mark: Being able to buy my mother a house was certainly the most gratifying of all. When my father died of cancer in 1980, Mom was a widow with eight children at age 41. She managed to go back to school, get her teaching degree, and raise all of us on a shoe-string budget. I have enormous respect for her, and owe her so much for all that I am. In 2005, with some help from my brother Matt (who lives across the street from Mom’s house in Frisco), we decided to give back to her just a little of what she had given to us all these years. The surprise could not have been executed better, with the majority of my siblings and their families in attendance. Except for me, Matt and Matt’s wife, no one else knew about the surprise. We gave Mom a small box containing a note about her surprise — a new house and the key inside. I wish you could hear the giant eruption of astonishment and joy! We all walked across the street where a catered Mother’s Day lunch was waiting for us in her new home. I think that has to be the absolute best day and proudest moment of my life so far.

CD: Wow! You are definitely in the BEST.SON.EVER Hall of Fame! I guess I don’t have to ask you which is your favorite second home!

Mark: True. It is my only second home right now. Someday, I’d like to buy a beachfront home in Florida and a mountain cabin in the middle-of-nowhere Colorado.

CD: How quickly have you sold a home?

Mark: Sometimes within hours. I had one property in Preston Hollow where we had three full-price offers with incentives on the first day. The incentives included a week’s stay at a luxury resort, $2,000 above the highest offer, and an “as-is/no repairs” offer. That’s the one the seller chose, and we closed quickly with no repairs.

CD: What have you learned about selling?

Mark: Dave Perry-Miller has been a wonderful mentor and an exceptional example for me. He lives by a simple motto when it comes to real estate which is “What would be best for the client?” If you ask yourself that question, the answer will always be clear. I also think in terms of what I would expect from me if I was my Realtor, and try to meet or exceed my own expectations.

Every transaction is different, as every person, situation and home is unique. Following my listing client’s goals and objectives, I build a marketing plan customized specifically for them. I understand the power of advertising, and my corporate experience helps me determine the appropriate reach, frequency, venue, and target market strategies to employ in order to maximize exposure for my client’s properties. My reputation as an honest, fair, and easy-to-work-with agent gives me an advantage when working with my buyer clients. Often in multiple-offer situations my contract will prevail because of the positive working relationships I have with area agents and brokers.

Finally, I understand and respect that the client is the decision maker. My job is to provide my clients with sound guidance and informed counsel from which they can make the best, most educated decisions.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Mark: I’d open an advertising agency for realtors. I really enjoy marketing properties.


12/11/12 10:00am

Newlywed and recent Cox School of Business grad Kari Schlegel Kloewer has a lot going on. A lot! Although still in her 20’s, Kari is already an accomplished Realtor. She and The Perry Allegra Schlegel Real Estate Group closed over $38 million in luxury home sales this year and she was named Best of 2012 Realtors by D Magazine. Consistently one of the company’s top producers, she has worked her way up to Senior Vice President of one of legendary agencies in Dallas, Allie Beth Allman & Associates which just achieved its first $1 Billion (yes, with a “B”) year for a single office. In fact, we are panting just trying to keep up with Kari.

CD: Where are you from? 

Kari: I was born in London, Ontario Canada, but my family moved down to Dallas when I was about a year old. I consider myself a Canadian-Dallasite.

CD: How did you get into real estate?

Kari: I graduated from SMU and got a marketing job in the corporate world. Two of my friends became Realtors. We’d go to lunch and I’d be so envious because they seemed like they were having such a fun time. I’ve always loved real estate. I’d go to open houses for fun on the weekends. After a couple of years of pining, I made the switch and joined Allie Beth Allman. I’m much happier now and I’m thrilled to have Allie Beth Allman as a mentor. I’ve learned so much from her and feel incredibly lucky.

CD: You just got your MBA from SMU in May. Why go back to school?

Kari: My Bachelor’s was in Business Administration – with an emphasis on marketing – and I felt that getting an MBA would make me even more useful to my clients. I learned a lot about real estate investing and marketing that will help me sell houses as well as market myself and my group.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Kari: I’ve lived at the W Dallas Victory Residences for the past five years or so and I love it! I’m close to everything, I have a great urban life and I can walk to restaurants, the American Airlines center and all the arts and entertainment downtown. The city has changed so much in the past five years. I wish I’d taken “before” and “after” pictures. I’ve seen the Perot Museum of Nature & Science and Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge spring up in front of my eyes from my balcony.  I recently posted some pictures on my blog of the current views from my balcony.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Kari: How did you know?!? (laughs) I guess it is the ultimate Realtor car because it is so comfortable for driving clients to look at houses. I have a Mercedes CLS 550.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Kari: I grew up in Preston Hollow and love it. The parks, the lovely old trees, the shopping, the beautiful houses and the excellent schools make this area my favorite for selling. I love my high rise life at the W but would definitely consider Preston Hollow or the Park Cities if we wanted a house in the future.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Kari: In 2011 Allie Beth and I represented the buyers for a house that was listed for $9 million. Just this year I represented the sellers on a $7 million home. It was very challenging and interesting. Selling a luxury home in that price range requires careful marketing and I learned a lot from the experience.

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Kari: About a week or so.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Kari: My team closed about $35 million in 2011 and have sold $38 million in 2012 so far.

CD: What have you learned about selling that makes you so successful?

Kari: As a new realtor, you are trained to think of selling real estate as a transaction. There’s a lot of focus on getting the details and paperwork right and understanding how real estate works. What I keep in mind, however, is that to the customer, this is an emotional experience, not just a financial transaction. They may be buying their first home as a couple or selling 30 years of memories. Their feelings need to be honored and celebrated throughout the process.

To me, real estate is about relationships and having fun. While I love looking at houses, it is the relationships with people that I’ve developed along the way that really make this a satisfying career. Some of my close friends today were once clients.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Kari: It is hard to imagine doing anything else, I love real estate. It has so much variety and daily surprises it is a very exciting career. If I really had to change for some reason, I guess I’d be a personal shopper – there would be very little learning curve!

CD: Do you have a second home?

Kari: Not yet. My family has a vacation home in Canada and we love to go there every summer as a group. My husband Troy proposed to me on the beach up there. When we decide to buy our own second home, it will probably be in California. I love the weather and laid back lifestyle. CandysDirt will be the first to know!

11/28/12 9:00am

Dave Perry-Miller — his name is now on a luxury real estate boutique company. He has been honored innumerable times as one of Dallas’ top-producing agents, and is a leader in sales of million-dollar properties. With more than $800 million (wowzers!) in sales and 850 satisfied customers, the Wall Street Journal ranked him #27 in sales in the United States in 2006 and as having the most million-dollar residential sales in Texas. For 30 years, Dave has sold many of Dallas’ most significant homes, including Frank Lloyd Wright- and Phillip Johnson-designed properties. His reputation with home buyers and peers in the industry globally is stellar and growing as he recently returned from an international sales conference in Europe. He often represents multiple generations of buyers and sellers in the same family.

Though his name is on the door — Ebby Halliday bought his company in 2007 —  Dave is still an agent at heart and loves to share his passion for architecture, art and design with home buyers, sellers and even other agents. We caught up with him recently to learn just how he does it.

CD: Where are you from? 

Dave: I came down to Dallas in 1980 from Virginia when I graduated from Washington and Lee University where I studied architecture.

CD: Considering that George Washington funded that university, I imagine there was a lot of great architecture to study! Did you plan to be an architect?

Dave: (laughs). No, I’m too dyslexic for that – my buildings would probably all fall down. But I love architecture and selling real estate lets me see a lot of architecturally interesting homes.

CD: Why did you come down to Dallas and how did you get into real estate?

Dave:  I had friends down here from college and had visited the previous year. Sixty days after I’d established my residency, I got my real estate license and nearly starved to death. At one point I gave my watch as collateral for $12 worth of gas. I was four days out from my first closing. Luckily, I didn’t know any better and I sold a number of expensive homes in Lakewood right after that, including Ray Hubbard’s estate which was the most expensive home in Dallas at the time. I never looked back from there.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Dave: For the past 20 years I’ve lived in a 1930’s colonial revival cottage in Bluffview. It was designed by Henry “Coke” Knight – the same architect who designed the Museum of Fine Art in Fair Park.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Dave: It depends on where I am. I have two vintage Mercedes Convertibles that I drive when I’m visiting my homes in Palm Springs and Tucson.  I drive a Jaguar XJR here in Dallas and I have a Jeep Wagoneer that I drive when I’m in Nantucket.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Dave: Obviously I love Bluffview and I’m a huge fan of old Highland Park and old Preston Hollow, but if I were younger, I think I’d move to Kessler Park. It has such great energy and I love the restaurants and shops that are popping up there. The houses are interesting on these beautiful huge lots with old trees.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Dave: Besides the Hubbard estate which helped me get established, the two houses I’m the most proud of were the Frank Lloyd Wright and Phillip Johnson homes. They were in disrepair and in danger of demolition. I was able to sell them to preservationists who have restored them to their former glory and they are magnificent. I hate to think Dallas might have lost two such treasures.

CD: What was your hardest or worst sale?

Dave: Hmm. I guess I’d have to say Candy Evans’ house. It was like herding a cat to get the deal done. And she had seller’s remorse at closing! She’s always running around. I loved the house and Candy. We laughed a lot and are still friends 10 years later.

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Dave: We often find a buyer before the house even goes on the market – a few hours basically.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Dave: Although I still sell a few properties myself each year, my associates do a lot of the leg work nowadays. I referred out over $100 million to them last year.

CD: What have you learned in 30 years of selling?

Dave: I tell my agents, “Selling is a mindset.” If I can sell multimillion dollar properties at the age of 23 while living in a $325-a-month apartment eating Ramen noodles, so can they. Customers don’t care if you have expensive houses or cars they only care about what you can do for them and how professionally you do it.

I always looked at my career as a profession, not a transaction. I was in it for the long haul so building relationships was very important to me. I enjoy people and try to bring some fun to my relationships. For example, a client of mine crashed his Porsche 10 days after he got it and was upset. I wrote him a “get well” card from my Jaguar to his Porsche which made him laugh at the situation.

I knew early on that I needed to brand myself and distinguish myself from the competition – just like we do with the houses we sell. I carved out my niche of selling architecturally interesting luxury homes right from the beginning. It fit in with my love of architecture, art and design and it fit with who I am as a person. The most successful agents I see have built businesses that reflect who they are as people as well as professionals.

Most realtors don’t get that. They don’t know how to brand themselves and it holds them back in more than one way. Not only are they not memorable, but a prospective seller will naturally wonder “if he can’t sell himself, how is he going to sell my house?”

I also tell them that if all else fails, get a dog.  I use my dog Tucker as a courier and business development program for my business. He comes to the office with me about four times a week and has helped me find new sellers. He’s very charming. OK, maybe not all dogs are as talented as Tucker, but they all will run right up to a new person and make friends without a moment’s fear or hesitation – a great skill for a salesperson.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Dave: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can only imagine doing it somewhere else like Palm Springs. I’ve sold three homes there already without meaning to in the neighborhood where I have my second home.

CD: How many second homes are we talking about here? And were you part of the inspiration for SecondShelters?

Dave: Quite possibly, you’ll have to ask Candy! A friend of mine told me once “Dave, you can’t go anywhere for six hours without buying a house!” I have too many second homes – which wouldn’t stop me from buying another one if I fell in love with it. There’s the 1920’s Spanish Colonial in Tucson; the 1890 Victorian in southeast Arizona that used to be a B&B; my 1960 Bungalow in Palm Springs which was designed by Rick Harrison – the same architect who designed the Palm Springs airport; and my 1930’s beach cottage on Nantucket Island.  While I have them rented out most of the time, I love to visit often. Each one has furniture and decorations that suit the period and style of the house and neighborhood.

11/13/12 9:00am

The Branch Team was recently named as Top Residential Real Estate Producers in Dallas by D Magazine. The dynamic duo of Tom and Gina Branch were recognized for closing more than $15 million in sales in 2011. Tom and Gina go way back to DallasDirt days with Candy.  We chatted recently with Tom Branch for updates and to find out more about their special approach to real estate sales.

CD: Where are you two lovebirds from? 

Tom: I was a military brat born in Paris, France. I’ve been on the move pretty much ever since including 21 years of military service before I left. Gina is a native from South Texas. She left the state briefly for a job in Tennessee and came back as soon as she could. We love Texas and have no plans to leave.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Tom: We live in the far North Plano neighborhood of Ridgeview Ranch which is a master planned golf community.

CD: Cool! And you drive a… let me guess, a hybrid Mercedes Benz???

Tom: Nope! We have two cars – a smart car that is wrapped in our advertising and a Volvo S60. The smart car makes people smile when we drive up. We had one of the very first in the Dallas area and it was an immediate hit. People come over to look at the car all the time. We’ve found it to be a powerful and fun marketing tool for our business.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Tom: It is hard to pick a favorite. Of course we love Ridgeview Ranch, but we’re also big fans of Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney, Twin Creeks and Fall Creek neighborhoods in Allen. There’s so much going on in these neighborhoods and they are growing like crazy.

CD: If you could live anywhere else in the Metroplex, where would it be?

Tom: After our kids are gone to college, it would be fun to try high- rise living in the Turtle Creek area of Dallas. There’s a new and exciting vibrancy to the downtown area and it would be great to walk to restaurants, shopping, movies and cultural events.

CD: How the heck did you get started in Real Estate?

Tom: After I retired from the military, I knew I wanted to use the sales skills I’d developed as a recruiter. I spent time in the hospitality industry working with Hilton Hotels. I realized that the key to success for Hilton and other great hotel chains is to provide a consistency of experience for the customer. Travelers appreciate the service they get and they know what to expect so they choose Hilton hotels again and again. Hilton carefully manages its brand and performs consistently.

I took these principles forward with me when I decided to go into business for myself. I got into residential real estate through a friend who had an independent agency in Allen. In 2005, we launched Realty Revolution LLC and grew it quickly to 35 agents. For the next four years we specialized in short sales. We even wrote a book about it for our customers called Avoiding Foreclosure – The Field Guide to Short Sales.  In 2009, Gina and I sensed a shift in the industry. We wanted to get out of management and back to selling so we joined RE/MAX Dallas Suburbs. Our production tripled that first year.

We sensed a change was coming again in 2010 and that our market was rebounding which is when we re-focused to more traditional sales. Short-sales are only about 10% of our business today.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Tom:  We don’t measure our success in terms of commissions earned. One of our most memorable sales was an older lady who was displaced during Katrina.  She was 76 years old and we helped her purchase her first home. It was a wonderful experience and we became good friends.

CD: What was your hardest sale?

Tom: I don’t have one particular sale that stands out as the “hardest” or “worst,” but I will say that during our days of short sales we learned that the smaller the transaction, the harder it seemed to be. It not only took just as much work as a large transaction, we often had double the trouble with the bank to get it done.

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Tom: We’ve gone from listing to closing in 8 days – especially recently with the furious rate of sales going on up here in Collin County.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Tom: Last year we sold around $15 million. This year we are on track for $18 million. I always find answers to questions like that misleading. What is really meaningful to most small business owners – and other realtors – is how much of that did we keep? Gina and I set up our business practices consistently – just like Hilton – from a customer perspective, and efficiently from a business perspective. So many people get into real estate looking to make commissions without a real understanding of how a business works and how they can keep more of what they make. We wrote a business book about it called Achieving Rock Star Status.

CD: Just the two of you? Wow. What are your secrets to marketing a house?

Tom: We’re planning to hire an assistant in 2013, it is getting to be a lot! Selling a house is a beauty contest. We prepare our sellers and don’t put the house on the market until it is 100% ready. We hire a professional to stage their home and a professional to photograph it. We teach our sellers how to show their own homes because we recognize that people will stop by unexpectedly or that we won’t be there before the prospective buyer shows up. It is small stuff like “turn on all the lights before you leave,” but it makes a difference. By the time a home is listed, it is completely ready to be viewed which is good because many buyers won’t wait even a day for the open house if they’re interested in a house. Our sellers’ homes look terrific and sell fast.

We are sophisticated users of the Internet, especially CandysDirt.com,  and make sure our homes with their beautiful pictures show up everywhere a buyer might look to conduct research, too.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Tom: Be a photographer. Gina would love to be a full-time author.

CD: Not like Paula Broadwell, we hope. Where is your second home?

Tom: We have a condo in Las Vegas which we enjoy a lot. The only reason we can afford to keep going there for vacations is because we budget our gambling money and stop when it is gone. We’re thinking about something on the water for our next vacation home.

CD: Oh boy, I know you’ll have Candy knocking on that door!

11/07/12 12:00pm

CandysDirt.com talked recently with Ben Jones, Senior Vice President for Allie Beth Allman & Associates, which markets luxury properties primarily in the Park Cities, Preston Hollow and Lakewood areas.

The 20-plus year real estate veteran has his own team, Ben Jones Real Estate Group. He is one of the most sought-after agents in the Dallas area and thought we’d find out more about him.

CD: Where are you from? 

Ben: I came to the bright lights of Dallas from the small West Texas town of Abilene.  I went to Baylor University.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Ben: I have a mid-century Dilbeck in Lakewood. I like the architecture of the neighborhood, it is a good location for getting around Dallas and the people are laid-back and friendly. Of course I like being so close to White Rock Lake.

CD: We hear that you are almost as hot for cars as you are real estate?

Ben: Guess you can say that. My father restored antique cars, leaving me a collection that I enjoy.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Ben: Despite the stereotype of all successful realtors driving Mercedes Benz, I’d like to say I’ve only had my Mercedes for the past two years! I really love my 1955 T-Bird, which my father bought for me when I was 6 years old.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Ben: If I could afford it, I’d live in Greenway Parks. I appreciate the green spaces that can probably never be duplicated again in Dallas, the historic architecture of the homes and the strong sense of community.

CD: How the heck did you get started in Real Estate?

Ben: When I was in college, my frat brother’s mom was one of the top producers for Ellen Terry. She sold a lot in Highland Park and had a car with a cell phone in it. I found the glamorous life of a Realtor very appealing!  In 1985, I started my career with Merrill Lynch’s residential division and quickly worked my way up to their Fine Homes team. After a couple of years there, I joined Abio & Adleta for 10-12 years. I stayed with Betty Abio when the team split up. After Coldwell Bank bought out the company, I looked for a new team, working briefly with Keller Williams and Virginia Cook before landing at Allie Beth Allman & Associates where I’ve been for the past five years.

CD: What’s your best/highest/coolest sale? (You’ve really BEN everywhere!)

Ben: One of my most memorable sales was selling the house of and bringing the buyer to actress Angie Harmon and her husband, New York Giant Jason Sehorn.

I’ve sold two different acreage lots on Lakeside Drive – one of them twice – that were amazing sales.

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Ben: I’ve had contracts in my hand in 24 hours.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Ben: When I moved to Allie Beth Allman I doubled my annual production the first year.  My team currently sells $50-$60 million a year.

CD: Secrets to marketing a house?

BJ: I don’t know about “secrets,” per se. My team of dedicated, proficient and highly experienced agents work hard to kick ass.  We match our clients to the perfect home for them and build relationships that last for decades. We take good care of them and they remember us later.

Many of my clients refer me to their friends and family, and they come back to me whenever their home needs change. Just to give you an idea, one of my first sales from more than 20 years ago came back to me recently to buy another home. I have another client who has completed her 10th transaction with me!

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore career you’ll…

Ben: Own a vineyard in Napa Valley and make wine.

CD: Where is your second home?

Ben: I am currently looking for a second home in the Santa Fe area. I have a friend with a vacation home outside of Florence, Italy, that I visit often. If I ever own a home outside the country, it will be near there.

CD: You are also quite the chef, and you once prepared an elegant lunch for a famously persnickety food expert?

Ben: She’s so famous… that I cannot mention her name. Well, OK, you can.

CD: You cooked lunch for Martha Stewart, and she liked it?

Ben: She did.


10/23/12 10:00am

I sat down recently to talk with Becky Frey one of Briggs Freeman’s top sellers and a 30-year veteran of the real estate scene. An athletic, outdoors person, Becky is quick to tell you all the reasons she loves living in Dallas — an enthusiasm she shares with her customers when she matches them to their dream homes.

Where are you from?  I came to Dallas from a small town of about 7,000 people in Arkansas.  I was an excited young student at SMU who found lots of reasons to stay.

Where is home for you in Dallas?  I love my home in Devonshire. It is a traditional home with an eclectic mix of antiques and contemporary art and furniture.

And you drive a … let me guess, Mercedes Benz? My three dogs and my cat who thinks she’s a dog need lots of room when we travel, so I have a Mercedes SUV. Plus, I compete in triathlons so I need room for my bike, too. Oh … and my family!

What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why? Devonshire reminds me of a small town with its mix of houses big and small, its streets lined with huge, old trees and parks. It is a friendly neighborhood where you quickly know your neighbors. I enjoy walking over to Inwood Village for a movie, dinner or shopping. SMU and the Park Cities are nearby — and it doesn’t hurt that I can walk to the office!

If you were to move in Dallas, where else might you live? I enjoy the White Rock Lake area for many of the same reasons I love Devonshire — beautiful trees, a mix of home sizes and prices, lots of parks for the dogs, and bike and hike trails for me.

How the heck did you get started in Real Estate? I’ve been selling one thing or another since I was a little kid. I used to knock on doors to sell stuff, and I helped my father out at his hardware store. As a student at SMU, I was working retail and one day an agent for Ellen Terry came in to return something.  Before she left, I sold her a lot more.  She was so impressed with my salesmanship, the next day she came back and said, “I want you to meet Ellen Terry.”

I learned so much from Ellen over the years. I was with her until the mid 1980’s when I moved to Phoenix. I worked for Merrill Lynch Fine Homes and was an asset manager for the Koll Company where I over saw office, industrial and medical buildings. I came back to Dallas in 1990 and worked with Ellen Terry again and then David Griffin. I was on my own for a while and now I’m with Briggs Freeman. I love real estate. After more than 30 years, it still excites me.

What’s your best/highest sale? It is hard to say. I know you are asking about the money, but the best sale for me is about the homebuyers.  I have a young couple right now who are pregnant with their first baby and they are so excited to buy a home! This is what keeps me charged. I love to play matchmaker and find THE home for my customer. It is very important to me that the house match the buyer. When they say “It’s so perfect! It’s just what we were looking for!” then I feel incredible satisfaction and happiness. And that is my best sale … until the next one.

How quickly have you ever turned a house? A few hours. I’ve sold quite a few before they ever went on the market. When I understand what the buyer wants, and have a match in hand, it can go very fast.

How much did you sell last year? I’m on track to have my best year ever this year and last year was my previous best year. I have closed more than $400 million in sales since I started my career.

Secrets to marketing a house? I have a preparation process that I walk my sellers through that helps make sure the house is ready to sell. In addition, we have a marketing process for each house that makes sure the house gets maximum attention. The real trick to success in real estate, though, is being able to match the home buyer to the house and that comes from intuition and understanding people.

If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll … One of the goals on my bucket list is to be a school crossing guard. I would have a blast with the kids on their way to and from school. I’ve been a part-time personal trainer at the Cooper Aerobic Center in the past and would love to do that again. It would be fun to be a home builder one day.

Where is your second home? Right now we are looking for one in Crested Butte, Colorado. We love to fish, hike, bike, and play golf. Crested Butte is perfect for that. It was recently named one of the “10 Best Towns in America” by Outdoor Magazine.  When we close, we’ll send you a picture for Second Shelters!