AF 2017 - Main 1

How real estate agencies operate is undergoing a fundamental shift. What began decades ago with neighborhood-centric mom-and-pop agencies were aggregated into city-wide, all-service agencies. Local brokerages, have, in some cases, grown over time into large national and global brands. The internet age has further changed things, adding largely online-based agencies to the mix.

In many walks of life, large conglomerate operations have begun breaking down. Agribusiness is being chipped away by the organic movement that’s given rise to artisanal “this” and heirloom “that.” In part, it’s being driven by a generation dissatisfied with one-size-fits-all products and services.

More darkly, we are witnessing the effects of a fearful society. Alliances and protections put in place after WWII — everything from trade to vaccinations — are fraying. Too dark?

Anyhoo, over the past 18 months I’ve noticed a shift away from larger brokerages and towards boutique real estate operations focusing on very specific niche markets. Some are agencies-within-agencies (within agencies again at times like a matryoshka doll). I’m concerned that at some point the niche becomes so small that it’s impossible to be successful.  But I suppose that’s for time to tell.

In the meantime, I’ve noticed more of these niche agencies being quietly launched. And you know me…let’s talk about them.

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Dallas cougars

Prepare: It’s not just bobcats and coyotes in North Texas. We’ve got a large population of cougars, too.

Everyone is abuzz with the coyote and bobcat sightings all over town, from Plano to East Dallas. These are the new most feared words in North Texas:

“You need to know that a coyote has been spotted out here tonight.”

Several house pets have been killed, and homeowners are alarmed that the coyotes are becoming, well, BOLDER:

In an academic paper for Purdue University, (Robert Timm, a University of California wildlife specialist), outlined several warning behaviors that sound like what we’ve been seeing in East Dallas in the last couple months: an increase in coyotes seen on the streets or in yards at night, coyotes killing pets and especially daytime appearances of coyotes.

Coyotes schmoyotes. Now there’s a different, more fearsome animal you’ll see much more of in North Texas: Cougars.

They are independent, strong, beautiful women of a certain age with definite luxe real estate leanings—full marble master baths with book-matched marble not only on the floors and counters, but up the wall to keep those claws sharp, and a keen (green) eye for style: it’s celadon, dammit, not teal.

Kitchen with dual sinks are a must for visiting South American pumas. Handscraped hardwoods are her floor of choice (doesn’t show scratches), and she will not sniff a house without ensuite baths and at least three powder rooms (gotta check on the sleek looks). 

Most out on the prowl are harmless, though they are crepuscular. A college student jogging in Preston Hollow after dusk was recently picked up by a PH cougar driving a black S-Class who insisted he get in her car, and let her take him home to protect him from the wild coyotes roaming the streets. He didn’t know who to fear more. He succumbed, and she dropped him at his door without a scratch.

Others, have not been so lucky, especially with the mid-cities cougars who have exhibited irrational, aggressive behaviors, such as trapping 18-year-olds.

We’ve talked to several concerned businesses and homeowners alike around DFW to find out where these cougars are most likely to be spotted, usually crouching, and gauging just how dangerous they are. (Only 20 people in North America have been killed by cougars between 1890 and 2011, including six in California.) Seeing them in the wild—like at the recently sold Waggoner Ranch—is such a thrill! We have no doubt some will soon be seen at the Crespi Estate/Walnut Place and also down at the former residence of Margaret and Trammell Crow. (Margaret is watching, you cats!)

Truth be told: their coats are to die for.

Just be careful if you’re a 20-something man with big guns. These cougars are bold, confident, devour real estate, and are dressed to kill.

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Popular real estate networks HGTV and DIY could be in hot water legally.

Popular real estate networks HGTV and DIY could be in hot water legally.

Popular real estate and renovation cable TV networks House and Garden Television (HGTV) and DIY Network shuttered operations today in the wake of recent FCC legislation and a class-action lawsuit from appliance manufacturers.

The chilling and sweeping legislation by the FCC, bans the words “charm” and “character” (among others) from the nation’s airwaves. It also expands beyond words to include visuals and gestures. For example, stenciling cloying words and phrases on walls is now unbroadcastable as is televising images of vessel and farmhouse sinks.

“We had to do something to protect the English language from collapsing into the trite and overused vocabulary propagated by these television shows,” stated FCC chairman Tom Wheeler at a press conference. “These programs are seen worldwide and do a disservice to the variety of the English language and the reputation of the United States. Frankly, it was an embarrassment we failed to correct with reality TV a long time ago,” he continued.

Gestures are a completely new category that some say shows the FCC has run amok. TV shows are now banned from showing homeowners forming a “hand-teepee” over their nose when seeing the “reveal.” Fines will reportedly be doubled if the teepee is followed by fanning (crocodile) tear-stained eyes.

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This has got to be some sort of a Texas State Fair related joke. The Dallas County Commissioners apparently want a new attraction, a 21st Century version of the famous Ferris Wheel at Fair Park, in downtown Dallas. They want to construct a huge rotating obervatory in Founders Plaza, to sit on top of the parking garage built under the plaza in 2008. Supposedly engineers for the plan say it can be supported. The “huge rotating observatory” enthusiasts says this is what cool cities like London and Paris, maybe Vienna, have.

OK, so we have no money for basic city services, we had to cut services and raise taxes  last year. Remember September ’10 when the Dallas City Council voted 8-7 to increase the property tax rate by more than 6.5 percent to fund millions of dollars in street maintenance, park upkeep, recreation center programs and a host of other services? Just last month, the Dallas County Commissioners approved a pared-down budget for next fiscal year that has no tax increase in it, but chopped more than 150 positions, popped higher health insurance fees on employees, and offered no pay raises. The $486 million operating budget for the 2012 is 1.6 percent smaller than the current budget.

Remember the bond forfeitures? Dallas county has failed to collect millions in unpaid court judgments, never bothered to assess interest on forfeited bonds, and then charges bondsmen way cheap rates (compared to neighboring communities) for court fees.

But we need a Ferris Wheel?

This is the United States, not Europe, in the 21st century where, if someone is injured on this 21st Century contraption, they sue the city.

This is just ridiculous and I urge everyone to voice their opinion. How will this contraption make downtown Dallas a better place to live? Improve real estate values? It won’t. Better transportation, parking, not so many dang one-way streets, and planning will.

So fess up, this was really an early April Fools joke, right?

Thank God: Commissioners still need approval from the city Landmark Commission. That phone number is 214.670.4538. Speak up now, or we’ll be paying more in taxes for this thing come 2012.