Texas Assoc Realtors Int Buyers 2

Of all the international purchases in America, 12 percent of buyers from abroad purchase in Texas, according to the 2014 Texas International Homebuyer Report from the Texas Association of Realtors. Those buyers accounted for a total of $11.06 billion in sales between March 2013 and March 2014, the report says, making the great state the third most popular market for international buyers.

“The Texas housing market is not only strong in sales volume, but in its diversity,” said TAR chairman Dan Hatfield. “The demand for Texas homes stretches around the world. International homebuyers increasingly view Texas homes as a good investment, and as our economy has grown, so has the number of international homebuyers in our state.”


Now here’s an idea for a solution to the Museum Tower/Nasher glare crisis, and it comes right out of one of the hottest spots in the world: Abu Dhabi. Get this: solar rays in this desert town can heat the outside surface of windows up to 90 degrees Celsius — um, folks that is 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That would not just fry grass, it would zap it! But smart architects in Abu Dhabi have figured a way to shield the glass in their buildings from the sun, with a series of computerized screens that keep the buildings cool, reduce glare and still allow diffused natural light.

They are not louvres, and they are not shiny!

The inspiration came from an ancient Arabic design tradition called “mashrabiya,” or latticed screens commonly seen in Islamic architecture, that diffuse sunlight and keep buildings cool without blocking light.

Of course, that is the whole point of Museum Tower’s uniquely engineered curved glass windows, to keep interiors temperate and reduce energy. Unfortunately, the glare is allegedly making Museum Tower’s sustainability the Nasher Sculpture Center’s hot spot.

The Abu Dhabi building’s architect, Abdulmajid Karanouh, says his mission was to not allow the sun to land directly on the skin of the Al Bahar Towers, causing overheating and glare.

GLARE! That’s our problem here!

So a high-tech shading system was inspired by “mashrabiya,” but brought into the 21st century with computerization. It wraps around most of the 25-story buildings’ sides, with the screens arranged as an array of fascinating, repeating geometric patterns. They are computer-controlled to respond to the sun’s movement. They unfold like an umbrella when the sun hits them, then fold back up closed when it passes, or after the sun goes down.

The parts of the building that are not affected by sunlight glare are unshaded by the screens, or butt naked. Using this method, Karanouh says the buildings require less artificial lighting and 50% less air conditioning.

This article is interesting in what it teaches us about the complexity of sustainable glass buildings, something we have learned in Dallas with our own Museum Tower. And the lessons come out of hot-as-hell United Arab Emirates, which is not exactly a leader in combating climate change.  But, they are trying. Al Bahar Towers (which house the mashrabiya) were built with tops tilting to the sun, to eventually become solar photovaltaic panels. However, they found that desert dust and sand make the supposedly energy-saving panels actually less practical: even a thin layer of dust can reduce their efficiency by nearly half. Then another complication and challenge: proper maintenance of the panels (so you can capture the sunlight) means regular cleaning using water jets pumping fresh water, a scarcity in an arid climate, and wasteful.

It’s like rinsing out the plastic for recycling: what are we really saving?

But this also gave me another though: if dirt and dust reduce the panels efficacy, maybe the problem we have right now is that Museum Tower’s windows are just too darn clean! Let them get a little dirty and we won’t need a mashrabiya or louvres or anything!

I think this is a cool solution worth looking into, and it would kind of “marry” two energy cultures if it worked. What a great way to turn a mistake into a positive.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta was in town last week for the Tate Lecture Series at SMU, and as he spoke, light rays were beaming in my head when he said that in medicine, learning takes place through mistakes.

As a physician’s wife, I know exactly what Dr. Gupta means. Someday I want to write a book called “The Dustbusters.” No one wants those fly-in-the-ointment malpractice attorneys to hear this, but mistakes are made in hospitals DAILY and, as Dr. Gupta said, they are discussed and thrashed out in closed-door meetings. But it is through those mistakes that doctors and researchers learn how to treat and cure. It’s how medicine evolved in the first place, the reason why you cannot apply normal business guidelines to medicine. It’s an ART.

Sustainable building is also an art in its infancy. We are still in the problem-solving process when it comes to green building. We build a building that is 100% air tight so it retains heat or cold air and reduces energy costs to near zero; next thing you know, we learn the environment is making the homeowner ill because all homes need some circulation.

We build tall, reflective buildings designed to keep the interior units in a carbon neutral energy use mode, windows specially made to filter searing western sun and seal out air leaks. Turns out the glass that reduces energy consumption and reduces a few hundred carbon footprints unfortunately casts searing glare on the sculpture garden next door, destroying (they say) delicate art and landscape.

What we need to do is stop the screaming and blaming, and start the solving. Not only will we learn from our mistakes, but we might give Dallas a leadership role in sustainable architecture problem solving that might even nab us a prize.

Tourism is up in Hawaii, which is a very good sign for Hawaiian real estate. The number one reason buyers purchase a vacation home in any location is because they love it. It goes like this: visit the location, love it, feel like you never want to leave. This is the point where buyers start perusing the real estate and actually, finally, pulling out the checkbook.

More private planes from Mexico flew into San Antonio in 2010 in the biggest jump since the city was authorized to clear immigration for international travelers, and this means cha ching for housing sales in the Alamo City. That’s why I am kissing this plane.

Preliminary data from the city’s Aviation Department shows that almost 4,000 Mexican-owned private aircraft cleared customs at San Antonio International Airport last year, a 52 percent jump from 2009 and almost double the number from 2008.

San Antonio officials say the booming private air traffic is largely due to an increase in cross-border business and a rise in the number of people who own second homes in the Alamo City, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

In 2008, San Antonio received permanent port of entry status from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so private aircraft from Mexico can clear customs in San Antonio rather than having to stop at another checkpoint in, say, Houston or Dallas..

The increase is good business news for San Antonio, and Jose Luis Garcia, the aviation department’s marketing manager, says this goes beyond shopping.

“They have second homes here or are looking to buy homes here,” said Garcia. “It’s a tremendous opportunity. We need to keep working on developing it because other cities are doing it too.”

30 people who resembled the likes of these chaps were thrown out of a palatial home on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, one of Britain’s most expensive streets. They had been squatting in the former home of of a London TV director that is now on the market. British squatters apparently now use the internet for tips on how to make an empty, secured home squatter-friendly, thanks to a site called¬†¬†Advisory Service For Squatters.

In the U.K. you can apparently take up residence in an empty property if the home is not secured. Not sure if you must cover the taxes, as well, but this might be one super economical way to find a second home.

In Roatan and in La Paz, Mojitos. I am a huge Mojito girl, and love them best made with fresh mint and lime. I thought Victor’s muddled Mojitos were the best I’d ever tasted, created at Bite on the Beach in West Bay, Roatan –great restaurant — and he sent me home with the recipe and a bag of Honduran pure cane sugar. (Carrying a bag of white powder home from Central America did make me a little nervous, have to admit, but never come between a girl and her Mojitos.) But at Costa Baja in La Paz, I had another delicious Mojito and learned they pureed fresh pineapple in with the mint, lime and sugar.¬† What do you like to drink when you relax at home? Anyone making homemade eggnog this year?

For more ideas, check out You+Media’s new Mixology 101.

A 14 year old boy — a child — was arrested by Mexican authorities for beheading and cutting the genitalia off several cartel victims on behalf of the drug cartels. And he was heading for the U.S., arrested while boarding a bus for Tijuana, en route to visiting his mother in San Diego.

News like this is what is hurting the heck out of Mexico’s tourism and second home real estate market.

The second home market in Mexico is hurting, and headlines like the one out today are not helping. Seven people, five Canadian tourists and two hotel workers were killed at a five-star resort on the River Maya at Playa del Carmen, near Cancun, on Sunday. At least fifteen others were injured when a gas leak exploded in a maintenance area beneath the 672 room Grand Princess Riviera Hotel. The dead include a 33 year old Canadian real estate agent celebrating his honeymoon in Mexico; he was in the hotel lobby getting coffee for his bride, who, with her daughter, escaped injury. One guest reported smelling methane gas but, like most of us, ignored it because well, honestly, sometimes parts of Mexico do have that swampy smell. This leak may well have come from a nearby swamp under the hotel in numerous underground limestone caverns. The blast took out the hotel’s reception area and today, everyone is grateful that it didn’t occur later when hundreds of people might be checking in.

Playa Del Carmen is considered one of the safer parts of Mexico, and this appears to be a natural tragedy, NOT a drug cartel explosion. Still, I have always been wary of staying in those uber huge hotels — 672 rooms! — worried that a guest might smoke or fall asleep with a cigarette.¬† That’s one of the reasons why I love vacationing in smaller boutique hotels or private homes.