A Texas National Guardsman carries a residents from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense).

As the rest of the state watched helplessly as first Hurricane Harvey’s winds, then water, wreaked havoc on the coast of Texas and Houston, something else began circulating — a warning about a change to state law regarding weather-related claims on homeowners insurance.

House Bill 1744 was signed into law May 27 by Gov. Greg Abbott. Billed as tort-reform legislation that would reduce the opportunity for insurance fraud, some now say the law may very well get its first stress test in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.


We begin our week by telling friends and relatives in South Texas how very, very sorry we are for the destruction they are experiencing. Harvey the Horrible is filling Houston with water. Five deaths have been reported. More than 1,000 people have been rescued from the flooding while the city of Houston has responded to 56,000 9-1-1 calls since late Saturday. And at least 50 Texas counties south and east of us have been declared disasters. People are being pulled from cars, like this. 

Friends tell me they are basically stuck at home — “army choppers in the air, roads flooded and closed.” Mayor Turner says they have had an unprecedented amount of water, coming in at three to four inches per hour. First it was 44 inches predicted, then 50, which is more than four feet of water! Streets, businesses and homes are filling with water and damage is going to be in the billions, as much as $10 billion. For most people, the destruction will be worse than previous storms where most damage came from wind, which is covered by their homeowner’s insurance. Flooding generally is not.

The images are terrifying. And Houston’s bayous are overflowing and they are filled with critters: fish, alligators, and snakes. 



Denton made Kiplinger's list of the top 10 towns you'll want to live in.

Denton made Kiplinger’s list of the top 10 towns you’ll want to live in.

I’m sure Augusta, Ga., is really nice and all, but do you really want to live there? Isn’t it a better place to visit?

That’s why Kiplinger’s broke down it’s well-known list of “cheapest cities to live in” and spawned it’s list of “cheapest cities you want to live in.”

That’s a pretty significant distinction, although several cities on the former list made it on the latter.

The cheapest places to live aren’t necessarily the best places to live. Cities with super-low living costs can suffer from high unemployment, poverty and a lack of services. So while cost of living is an important consideration in choosing where you settle down, it’s equally important to gauge the strength of the local economy and the job market.

With this in mind, we set out to identify the most inexpensive cities where you would actually want to live, based on economic health and affordability. We started with the 100 cheapest cities in the U.S., based on cost of living, and then whittled the list down to the top 10. To do so, we required that each city have below-average living costs, high household incomes relative to the cost of living, and an unemployment rate that’s below the national average. It’s not all work and no play, however. We also looked for places that offer residents access to fun, low-cost things to do. Cities with populations below 50,000 didn’t make the cut.

While the cities are diverse in make-up and location, we’re happy to report that several Texas towns made the list, including Round Rock, Temple, Denton, and Corpus Christi.


4425 Highland DriveWe have talked plenty about Troy’s twin property purchases in the Park Cities. But who bought his Larry Boerder-designed home on Highland Drive?

They would be a MORENO, MICHEL B & TIFFANY. Deed transfer date is July 9, 2013. Now I have heard there was one other buyer lined up, so much that Troy actually called the movers and told everyone to get into action, he was moving (into a house on Lakeside)! But that deal fell through because the almost-buyer wanted more of a basement to park his vast collectible auto collection. This was right around the time Troy took the Highland home, listed for $14 million, out of MLS.

Mike morenoThen came the Morenos!

Anyhow, googling around I see that Michel Moreno is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Green Field Energy Services. Looks like he’s from Lafayette, Louisiana. Originally from Cuba. Don’t know how long he’s lived in Lafayette , but he purportedly played baseball at USL for a while in college. Pretty darn good looking dude and just in his early 40’s. Green Field is an oil and gas services company for the fracking industry and has concentrated its hydraulic fracturing efforts in the Permian Basin in West Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale in southern Texas, and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Here’s what the company website says:

“GREEN FIELD ENERGY SERVICES has become this innovator for alternative fuel and technology, by learning from those before us and creating a better and more responsible energy future for those who come after. We are in the beginning of a new era in energy, where advancements in hydraulic fracturing can open doors and give America an independence its never had before.

But just Sunday, Green Field filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, hoping to reorganize its approximately $500 million in outstanding debt — about the same amount it lists in assets.

Leslie Turk of ABiz in Lafayette has the whole scoop:

“The man with the Midas touch, whose business deals almost always seem to end up in a heated court battle, might need to pull a rabbit out of his hat to get this venture out of bankruptcy.”

I spoke to Leslie, and she confirmed that the guy with the Midas touch is Mike Moreno.

Moreno is apparently a Realtor’s (and real estate blogger’s) dream. He likes to buy homes, big homes, multiple homes, and live the high life. Leslie tells me Moreno owns several multi-million dollar homes, including one at 2307 River Oaks Boulevard in Houston, and one stunner in Lafayette, LA, in an upscale neighborhood called River Ranch:MorenohousephotoLafayetteLA2

That Lafayette home is stunning.

But you should see the Moreno’s Houston mansion: 11, 236 square feet, five bedrooms, eight full and three half baths, a stunning Italian estate located on toney River Oaks Blvd. The home was built in 1951 but has been totally updated with gourmet kitchen, custom cabinetry, grand formals, marble-y master with dual  baths, custom closets, elevator, Lutron lighting, copper gutters, pool, spa and fountain, summer kitchen, apartment quarters and an exercise room. The home was listed for $7,900,000:

2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston 2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston foyer 2307 River Oaks Blvd kitchen 2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston master 2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston master bath 2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston pool 2307 River Oaks Blvd Houston rear

Gorgeous! Moreno also owns a gorgeous thoroughbred and the steed, named Moreno, is racing in this weekend’s $5 million Breeders Cup.

moreno-2013According to a source in Lafayette, Moreno also “has a major yacht and plane”. Well, duh! He also owns several companies and created a restaurant in Dallas near the Quadrangle, JoJo Eating House and Bar, featuring chef Laurent Poupart who was once his personal chef. According to the brilliant Teresa Gubbins at CultureMap, Dee Lincoln is “taking over the restaurant”.

He has certainly looked at a lot of real estate in Dallas. My LA sources tell me Mike Moreno is well-liked in southwestern Louisiana and is the kind of guy who always manages to make lemonade out of lemons in his business dealings. Once or twice he’s had a company in trouble, but pulled his way out. Once a company was “saved” by a hurricane.

It appears this bankruptcy is going to add some folks to the unemployment list, but I’m told Green Field was a company already in trouble when Moreno bought it in 2011. He, along with a group of investors, purchased the Hub City Industries in 2011, re-named it Green Field, and increased the manufacture and use of turbine equipment in the field. Since 2011, Green Field has expanded from 75 to more than 500 employees companywide, with operating districts in Lafayette, Texas and Pennsylvania.

Leslie writes “it’s unclear how many of Green Field’s 355 people at 14 facilities throughout Texas and Louisiana have been laid off. An ABiz source with information about its local operations says about half of the roughly 40 office staffers in Lafayette lost their jobs.” And the story is apparently just beginning:

The Wall Street Journal reports that of its Chapter 11 filing Sunday in Wilmington, Del., Green Field had $255.9 million in bond debt, an $80 million credit facility owed to Shell (the national newspaper points out that Green Field argues in court documents that Shell failed to perfect liens securing this debt, which the WSJ believes is a hint that a potential court fight could be in the making) and $98.6 million in trade debt. Green Field lost $74.6 million last year and $81.4 million so far this year.

Is the guy who bought Troy Aikman’s house taking on Shell Oil? Wow.

Sounds like Mike Moreno is the perfect new owner for a famous former quarterback’s mansion!


I feel like some House Porn Candy (I’m trying to go on a diet and stick with Candy instead of Porn) and when I saw this home at gorgeous Cinnamon Shore last weekend, I seriously said — I’m selling everything and moving in. Squatters rights, whatever. What is it about being at the beach that just calms, soothes, and makes you feel like nothing in the world at all matters but those gorgeous blue(ish) waves and sea froth? Cinnamon Shore is a gorgeous development about five miles of Port Aranas that captured my heart. If you’ve ever been to or seen Seaside, Florida, you will see that Cinnamon Shore is almost a clone. And there is nothing wrong with cloning something that works. Seaside was a planned beachfront community that is one of the biggest success stories in the U.S.

But this house!

This is a beautiful 4,000 square foot home with five bedrooms, a bunk room, five and a half baths and two master suites — so two couples could share ownership and even be there at the same time. The interiors are spectacular and made me fall in love with a Mustang Island designer interior named Susan Castor whose work puts the real Seaside interiors to shame. There is shiplap siding, tongue and groove all whitewashed or painted white; white oak plank hardwood floors; what they call “morning kitchens” and I call “beverage bars” in both masters — maybe that’s a phrase the Baptists prefer! There is an elevator and two laundry rooms, and scads of outdoor porches to catch the Gulf sea breeze where folks never shut the windows so they can hear the surf. And hear the surf you will from this property because it overlooks the dunes with a view full of the beach from every single room. Really, $2.2 million for a giant, brand spanking new beachfront house?

Who needs Prozac? All you need is a house at the beach!

This is what I’m talking about: have you ever seen a more perfect place to keep and organize all your fly fishing gear? Just walk out the door to the dock, and leave your waders at the door!

Fly fisherman, you have to see this second home to believe it. And then you won’t believe the price. Seriously, you are going to call me a liar. You know what? I think I’m going to make you guess. First of all, it is owned by a friend who happens to be a bachelor and had a photo shoot for MAXIM Magazine there all day Saturday, the day I visited. (I’ll post those pics when they are ready.) Pretty girls aside, fishermen and lovers of the sea (and birds) will delight in this 4,000 square foot beauty built by a totally OCD physician who overlooked every detail with surgical precision, including insulated concrete construction so utility bills are almost zero. 4,000 square feet, three bedrooms, three and a half baths, a spa master bath with a fireplace, triple tub, double rainfall shower and steam room that puts, sorry to say, Braden Powers/now Lee Bailey’s bathroom to shame (and there’s a shower outside, too!). The gourmet kitchen is as beautiful as it is functional: AGA stove, double dishwashers, space and storage, and there are beautiful spacious formals and open living room.

But go downstairs, via stair steps or elevator, and here’s where the real living begins. There is a huge glass wine cellar,¬† a¬† study and bedroom, and an amazing fly fishing gear room lined with black Corian countertops and walls designed to hold about 60 fly rods and all the flies, perfectly organized. There is a sink to clean the fish, drains in the concrete floor, and a door to get outside. Plus the walls are all cedar and still fragrant though it was built 2 years ago. Walk out that door and you have a selection of boat docks because the home is on a canal with breathtaking views of Corpus Christi and the waterway bridge. The home has extensive waterfront, and get this: a light that illuminates the canal for night fishing. A few steps up is an infinity edge pool/spa that falls over a wall, creating a lush backdrop for a lower level entertainment area. Located on North Padre Island only minutes from Port Aransas and 35 minutes from Corpus, this would be the perfect second getaway home for fishing enthusiasts a short flight from Dallas/Fort Worth, 8 hour drive, in an area that is becoming very hot for second homes. VERY HOT: New Port Dunes Golf Club is Port Aransas’ new “World – Class” championship links course, designed by Arnold Palmer and managed by Kemper Sports . New Port and Beautiful Cinnamon Shore are about ten miles away.

Here’s what I’ll tell you about the price: it’s dramatically reduced, more than $500,000, but less than $2,000,000. Motivated seller, check. How much is it? You tell me!

Heading to visit Cinnamon Shore on Mustang Island in Port Aransas. Taking a ten a.m. Southwest flight and packing light… see you at the beach!