hpfountain-533x400Highland Park is hot. Don’t you love how the rest of the world is suddenly paying attention to Dallas? Our economy is great, and our real estate market could not be better. We may have some quirky politicos, and some of us OD on the decorating with the three T’s: turrets, trophies and tusks. But we are Texas, the rough-tumbling, independent, do-it-your-way state. I had heard that the Wall Street Journal sent a reporter down to Dallas to check out our real estate a week or so ago. That reporter was Alyssa Abkowitz. We are friends on Twitter. I was told she originally came down to research the Oil baron’s story — how “the shale-oil boom in the Lone Star State has created a different kind of gusher: oil executives flush with cash looking to buy luxury real estate.”

Oh we know that story well, don’t we, all too well.

Alyssa apparently wanted to talk with Trevor Reese-Jones, but he prefers to remain private about his (significant) real estate holdings.  She spoke, instead, to Mark Molthan, custom home builder extraordinaire of Platinum Custom Homes, and discovered Highland Park:

Along a lush stretch of Preston Road, where manicured lawns gently roll down to a lake, three of Dallas’s most prominent businessmen own estates in a row: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has a 14,000-square-foot spread, real-estate mogul Harlan Crow, whose home is valued by the Dallas Central Appraisal District for over $24 million, and investor John Muse, who owns a nearly 25,000-square-foot mansion.

Scott Womack

Muse estate by Scott Womack

Yeah, well then there’s Trevor and Gerald Ford and a whole lot more.

She also spoke to a slew of high end realtors from the tip-top, including Christine McKenney, Jennifer Miller (both with Dave Perry-Miller) and David Nichols of Mathews-Nichols, of Allie Beth Allman. Christine says it’s not yet a seller’s market at the $3 million level and above. $3 million-plus range is still a buyer’s market, but “you can’t get enough listings” in the sub-$2.5 million market. Alyssa also wrote that when the real estate market turned south, do did Highland Park prices:

Like many affluent communities, Highland Park, which experienced a decline in prices during the downturn, has seen a surge in sales volume in the last 18 months because of pent-up demand and dwindling inventory.

I actually disagree. The dips, if any, were minimal. I call Highland Park and University Park Blue Chip Real Estate because in bad times, it holds value, in good times it appreciates like hell. I will give you a perfect example: my builders tell me lots are getting more expensive in Highland Park. Builder Jerry Stark has two spec homes going up on Hanover, and one of their homes I was peeping in last week near Boedecker was already under contract. Taylor Stark told me they had not even taken pictures of the home, because it went under contract so quickly.

Alyssa goes on to say that Highland Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“In 1906, developer John Armstrong bought 1,326 acres from a group of investors for $276 an acre. He asked Wilbur David Cook, who had just designed Beverly Hills, Calif., to plan a neighborhood with 20% of the land used as park and green space.”

Expensive dirt, yes, always, but also idyllic. Not sure if it’s 10 degrees cooler in Highland Park come August due to it’s “altitude”, as John Armstrong once advertised, but we know Highland Park definitely has another kind of altitude: upscale. Ray Washburne, who is one of the owners of Highland Park Village, told Alyssa he made HPV upscale but also retained the small-town feel. He kept on Deno’s the cobbler, HPV movie theater and the circa 1936 The Village Barber, where Mayor Mike Rawlings gets his hair cut.

Says Mr. Washburne: “It’s like you’ve gone to Mayberry when you walk in.”

I saw Ross Perot last week at The Cobbler in Preston Royal, just as nice as can be. Hey Alyssa, when are you gonna come back and profile Preston Hollow?


Of course this Wall Street Journal article by Alyssa Abkowitz doesn’t tell you and me anything new. We’ve known for weeks — if not months — that high-end homes in Dallas are flying off the shelves faster than Realtors can list them. It’s driven the resurgence of the hip-pocket listing, too, as newly wealthy or recently transplanted millionaires move to Dallas.

Abkowitz did a great job of quoting some of the big names in the luxury home scene, such as Platinum Series Homes builder Mark Molthan, Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s chief Robbie Briggs, and sought-after designer Barry Williams. The Park Cities and Preston Hollow get name-dropped along with gated communities in Fort Worth.

Of course, there’s a dissection of luxury homes and communities in other gas-rich areas such as San Antonio and Houston. It leads me to wonder, though, with so many municipalities on the fence when it comes to fracking, are we reaching the gas boom’s peak?

What do you think?