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We were so bummed when the Armstrong-Bradfield Preschool Association’s annual Homes for the Holidays Home Tour was shut down due to the ridiculous weather from Icemaggedon on Dec. 6. It was the first time in the tour’s 15-year history that it was canceled.

There were some AMAZING homes slated for the 2013 tour, including D’Andra Simmons’ gorgeous contemporary in Highland Park, which we profiled. It is just phenomenal, and does an excellent job of showing off an incredible collection befitting world travellers.

“We want to thank all of the home owners and the preparation they did to make their beautiful homes ready for the tour,” said home tour chairs Suzi Ellis and Claudia Williams.

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However, despite the difficult decision Ellis and Williams made to cancel the tour, the fundraiser was still a resounding success. ABPA managed to raise $78,000 to principals Skip Moran and Chris Brunner of Armstrong and Bradfield elementaries.

“It was really hard to decide not to hold the tour given all the work that had gone into being ready – especially from the home owners who were so willing to offer up their homes,” said co-chairs Ellis and Williams. “We couldn’t believe that in the same week the temperatures went from 70 degrees to sleet and freezing rain.”

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Still, the gift will be appreciated by the Highland Park elementary schools. ABPA has managed to raise more than $400,000 for Armstrong and Bradfield since its inception in 1998.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to gift $78,000 to our elementary schools given the extreme weather situation we faced this year,” said ABPA president Tracy Wallingford.  “We look forward to a sleet-free home tour in 2014, and hope everyone will come out once again and enjoy our community’s beautiful homes, while helping support our schools.”

 

We’re looking forward to it, too!

Azle News Front Page

 

Photo: WFAA

As Azle residents stormed a meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission yesterday demanding a moratorium on wastewater injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking), commissioners gave no indication of halting the practice that homeowners blame for the recent spate of earthquakes in their small Tarrant County town. Here’s a quote from Nicholas Sakelaris’ coverage of the hearing:

Many called for the oil and gas companies to be held accountable for the earthquake damages at their homes.

“Contractors don’t build our homes to withstand earthquakes,” one speaker said.

Another speaker said, “We don’t know if there’s any damage to the actual slab on our foundation because we have carpet. But I’m sure there probably is. Who would have ever thought we would need earthquake insurance?”

It’s frustrating for homeowners, who say that the earthquakes have rattled the town for months, causing damage to foundations, leaving cracks in drywall, creating sinkholes, spooking livestock, and disturbing what is often a peaceful and sleepy suburb near Eagle Mountain Lake.

While the commission decided to bring in a seismologist to study the earthquakes that clock in around a 3 on the Richter scale, there is little else they plan to do, leaving Azle residents to wonder how they can protect themselves against the damage these quakes are causing.

Oil Drilling Misgivings

 

Photo: AP

According to an article on insurance underwriter website Property Casualty 360, many insurers have been scared away from offering coverage for properties near fracking wells.

One of the most overlooked facts about fracking is that the process has been used in commercial applications since 1949. Over more than six decades, the U.S. has led the way in developing technology to stabilize and streamline the fracking process.

Yet, of the leading insurance companies, only a select few have begun underwriting oil- and gas-drilling-related risks. This slow adoption has led to a shortage of capacity in the oil- and gas-drilling insurance market, strangling investors’ appetites for risk and artificially slowing the rate of growth.

Why aren’t more insurers offering coverage for fracking risks? There’s a range of reasons, but what most insurers do not understand is that fracking is no different than other highly specialized, highly technical industries. Insurers have the opportunity to provide risk management and safety techniques that will help ensure the implementation of best practices and ultimately control claims costs.

If you’re depending on your homeowners policy to take care of your home following an earthquake, think again. Earthquakes, much like floods, aren’t covered. However, because earthquakes tend to be rare in Texas, coverage for earthquake-related damage is a relatively inexpensive add-on to most homeowners policies according to the Texas Department of Insurance. It has yet to be seen, though, if coverage rates in areas near fracking sites such as Azle will be more expensive.

Have you considered buying earthquake coverage for your North Texas home?

5020 Park Lane extGet out your pens, folks, here is another market bellwether: 5020 Park Lane. On the market for 2.5 years. Could be because the seller listened to her psychic, not her trusted agent, when it came to pricing and set the price for the 1.12 acre lot at $3,595,000 and launched the listing when Mercury was leaving retrograde.

When she finally opened her ears, along came a buyer who sat down beside her after her agent whispered $1.8, baby, $1.8.

And then, cha-ching.

Sets a new high for acres, because even though there is a 3074 square foot ranch home on this lot, the value is in the dirt.

This is in chi chi Sunnybrook Estates, where Rachael Dedman built an 18,392 square foot mansion on 4.14 acres that DCAD has valued at more than $10 million. Tony Visconti has a magnificent mansion going up on a prime DeLoache lot that should be north of $12 million when complete. And the mansions, they just keep on coming… no matter where Mercury is dancing.Rendering5020 Park lane rear

 

 

5020 Park Lane extGet out your pens, folks, here is another market bellwether: 5020 Park Lane. On the market for 2.5 years. Could be because the seller listened to her psychic, not her trusted agent, when it came to pricing and set the price for the 1.12 acre lot at $3,595,000 and launched the listing when Mercury was leaving retrograde.

When she finally opened her ears, along came a buyer who sat down beside her after her agent whispered $1.8, baby, $1.8.

And then, cha-ching.

Sets a new high for acres, because even though there is a 3074 square foot ranch home on this lot, the value is in the dirt.

This is in chi chi Sunnybrook Estates, where Rachael Dedman built an 18,392 square foot mansion on 4.14 acres that DCAD has valued at more than $10 million. Tony Visconti has a magnificent mansion going up on a prime DeLoache lot that should be north of $12 million when complete. And the mansions, they just keep on coming… no matter where Mercury is dancing.Rendering5020 Park lane rear

 

 

Swananoah Front

Homes priced at $1 million or more are moving like hotcakes in Texas, according to the 2014 Texas Luxury Home Sales Report from the Texas Association of Realtors. The figures, assembled using data from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, show that every Texas metro area posted double-digit growth in luxury price ranges.

Dallas posted a 22 percent increase in luxury home sales for the period between January and October 2013, the report shows, with Austin posting a whopping 55 percent increase (no wonder Trulia is calling our capital city way overvalued). Houston came in second with a 46 percent increase in luxury home sales, and San Antonio posted an 18 percent increase.

“Data from the Texas Luxury Home Sales Report shows that million-dollar homes are playing an increasingly important role in the Texas housing market,” said Dan Hatfield, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. “The housing slump is behind us and as Texas’ economy and population continue to accelerate, we’re going to see increasing development and demand in larger, higher-priced homes with luxury amenities.”

So, what’s driving the increase? It’s mostly thanks to the influx of high-paying tech jobs in Austin, and in Houston it’s likely due to oil and gas wealth moving into the area. For Dallas, a brisk job market driven by a healthy financial sector, as well as oil and gas wealth, could be fueling the luxury real estate market. The increase in sales definitely shows appreciation, though, and it makes you wonder just how many of these $1 million-plus properties are second homes or even investments.

“It’s common for luxury homes to have a significantly longer sell time and higher housing inventory than the average home simply because the pool of interested homebuyers is so much smaller,” said Jim Gaines Ph. D., and economist with the Real Estate Center. “However, this data still indicates strong demand, particularly in Austin, where homes of $1 million or higher are close to 10 percent of all active listings and are selling in less than six months, and in Houston, where housing inventory is only 7.4 months.”

Here’s the Dallas-Fort Worth market breakdown from the report:

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 809 luxury homes were sold between January and October 2013. Luxury home sales made up 1.1 percent of the total housing market and experienced a 22 percent increase in sales compared to the same period in 2012. This is slightly higher than the 19 percent year-over-year increase of the Dallas-Fort Worth housing market as a whole. As of October 2013, there were 922 active luxury home listings, 4.1 percent of all active listings on the market. The housing inventory for a luxury home was 11.4 months, 8.4 additional months than that of the Dallas-Fort Worth housing market at large.

 

 

 

Hamtons Home Bitcoin

This Hamptons home can be yours for $799,000, or 1,445 in Bitcoin … wait, that’s 1,444 in Bitcoin … no, it’s 1,445. Yeah, 1,445.

While the value of Bitcoin, an alternative currency launched in 2009, is still wildly fluctuating, the novelty isn’t.

But this listing, a Southampton, NY, cottage owned by Phillip Preuss, isn’t the only property where the owners are testing the waters with alternative currency. Take this mansion in Las Vegas’ exclusive Spanish Trail neighborhood, which is marketed for $7.85 million, or 14,190 in Bitcoin.

Spanish Trail Home Bitcoin

So, is this a marketing ploy, or do these sellers really think that accepting payment in alternative currency will get them the buyer they seek? From the WSJ story:

“There might be international buyers, or a younger computer whiz who came into a little bit of coin overnight,” says Mr. Preuss, who is 42 and originally from Germany. “I’m expanding my buyer base.” Mr. Preuss, who works in international equity sales, has a small investment in the currency, having purchased about $100 worth of bitcoin in June, an investment that has appreciated significantly since then.

Because a bank is not involved, fees for bitcoin transactions can have fewer fees than traditional bank transactions, which Mr. Preuss says he also found appealing. With no underlying mortgage on the home, Mr. Preuss says he’d most likely hold onto the bitcoin if someone were to use the virtual currency to purchase his home. “I believe in the longevity of bitcoins,” he says.

It remains to be seen whether bitcoin sales will take off in real estate.

“I think at this point it’s nothing more than a marketing technique of getting eyeballs to a website, which can help sell a property,” says Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel. “I don’t take this very seriously, but it certainly catches your attention.”

And this from the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

bitcoin“The advantage is that we’re expanding our market and adding some notoriety,” said [homeowner Jack] Sommer, who’s looking to downsize now that his seven kids are grown and have moved out.

[Bitcoin merchant Julian] Tosh agreed that bitcoin could open Sommer’s home to a global audience.

“There are a bunch of people who have bitcoins, and they’re dying for a place to spend it,” he said. “If you increase awareness of potential buyers, you could tap into new markets.”

I am more likely to agree with the appraiser, Jonathan Miller, who considers it a marketing technique. But in the long-run, I’m really interested to see what the implications are when you buy a home with Bitcoin. Will that affect appraisals? Credit history?

What are your thoughts?

GREATGULF-TURTLECREEK-SEMIAER-FINAL_V2And here is an artist rendering of those fabulous terraces… smallest unit will be 3400 square feet and price is private, upon request. You know what they say if you have to ask…Ltd Edition 2505 Turtle Creek 12111_Suite_Terrace04_HR02

 

5433 Falls exteriorThis has long been one of my favorite “Honey Pot” homes, as I watched it being built day by day when we lived down the street on Park at Holloway. I believe it was completed in 1999, a year before I built my own dream house. I always loved the way they captured the most out of the voluptuously treed corner lot – we are talking Hollow Way and Falls Road, capiche? — with the drive way and angled port-cochere. And I loved that when when we were all hauling Leuders stone up from the quarries in the Hill Country, these folks opted for brick. The lot was probably one of the best in the Honey Pot, and I believe they cleared a ’50’s ranch for this home. You get a whopping 1.05 acres. Then the house has 7,151 square feet with five or six bedrooms, six and a half baths, four living areas plus a study plus a library — in other words, one room can be functional, the other “on display”. I get so sick of seeing these “studies” in all the homes I tour that are so dang perfect. Does anyone really work there? My “study”, a.k.a. office, is a mess because I have stacks of house brochures and notes all over the place, which is how real people work. But I digress: there is an upstairs den/media room, a warm kitchen that evokes a home in the Rockies, garage parking for 3 automobiles, more if you include the port-cochere.5433 Falls foyer5433 Falls living room 5433 Falls dining room 5433 Falls Family room 5433 Falls kitchen 2 5433 Falls kitchenInside, the hallmarks of a finely built home at the turn of the 21st century: high ceilings, thick moldings, walnut woods and Italian tile floors, gorgeous light fixtures and pretty hardware, curved corners. There is the standard foyer deal with grand staircase, custom iron balustrade, formal living room, formal dining room. Straight ahead and partaking of the outdoors is the huge family room with three sets of French doors overlooking the rear grounds. The ceiling holds majestic reclaimed beams. I love this: there is a large bar area with a 75-bottle SubZero wine refrigerator and a large wine storage vault nearby, which is how you entertain. I actually worry about some of these basement wine cellars: if guests over-imbibe, they might trip up the steps!

Now here is something you do not see in every $3.5 million dollar home: custom Christopher Peacock cabinetry, knotty pine, very Hamptons-like. This kitchen has it all plus a huge walk-in pantry, Dacor range with 6-burner gas cook-top and double ovens, built-in SubZero refrigerator/freezer, extra fridge and freezer drawers, one of those farm sinks that I just love, and an additional veggie sink with instant hot water to blanch those little carrots.

5433 Falls keeping room 5433 Falls libraryYou can tell this home is a close-knit family home. Why? The guest room is downstairs with full bath, and then the formal study (which also has a full bath) could be an additional bedroom, number 6, should you be Mormon or something. Or it could be a nice study for your guests to enjoy, or you! But the master is upstairs with three additional bedrooms; these folks wanted to be close to their kids. And the master is decked out with a separate sitting area, large spa bath with dual vanities, separate steam shower and jetted tub, water closet AND a bidet (I’m impressed: I have not seen many bidets as of late, are they still making them?)  and two huge separate closets, his and her’s.

5433 Falls master 5433 Falls master bathSo you have the children’s bedrooms and that den/media room on this floor, plus you have a second story library.

Of course there is an outdoor living component that is covered, a beautiful rock pool and spa, and that glorious wooded acre-plus lot that still has room for more sports development. In fact, the grass is so sumptuous I thought there was a putting green. Adding one is a piece of cake to do.

This home has what you should get when you drop $3.5 million — asking is $3,595,000: at least four living areas, three to four dining areas, bar and wine storage, at least a 3-car garage, media room and as many bedrooms as you need. In my opinion, this house has PLENTY: six bedrooms for FIVE kids and parents! And the flexibility of having that guest room down means it would be an easy deal to turn that into a brand-new downstairs master

Then too, there is this nice surprise: a Keeping Room off the breakfast area. You know how I adore a Keeping room.

5433 Falls rock pool 5433 Falls patio 5433 Falls rear yardAnd location, well, how can it get any better? New home construction in the area is going for $575. per square foot at least, this one is $502. and is on God’s Little Green Tree Acre. See why I think it’s a keeper?