If you’re looking for a Dallas high-rise home so you can get as far off the ground as possible, be prepared to shell out big bucks or live in close quarters. 

In parts one and two, I outlined how Dallas has relatively few high-rise listings, and because of a lack of new high-rise construction, Dallas isn’t going to have a lot more buildings anytime soon. In this final installment, I break the 133 active units and 11 units under contract and analyze them by what floors they’re on. 

The distribution under the 20th floor is fairly even between 21 and 29 units in each category. For those interested in units above the 20th floor, inventory drops off because a lot of high-rises are under that height overall. Once you’re into the 30s, you’re pretty much at Museum Tower, which might be out of your price range.

But even more than height, the most important buyer criteria revolves around the unit size and overall cost (mortgage, HOA dues, insurance, and taxes). A studio on the 20th floor doesn’t help someone looking for a two-bedroom unit.

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As Dallas becomes more dense, high-rises should become the choice for more residents. The problem is that Dallas isn’t really building for-sale condo high-rises outside the ultra-luxury market. As noted in part one, there are currently just 133 high-rise condos on the market by my count – that’s it from $159,000 to $9.2 million. That’s not a lot of inventory.

The Stoneleigh, Ritz Residences, and Museum Tower may be where the money is, but it’s not where normal people are. As I’ve noted before, Dallas hasn’t built a big, mid-range high-rise in 20 years and it’s not because there isn’t a market. It’s because there is no financing.

And that’s different. When The Renaissance was built in 1998, it wasn’t luxury. Similarly, when 3883 Turtle Creek went up in 1963, it was planned as HUD housing. Preston Tower’s 362 units have always been affordable. All of those projects knew that cost containment came at scale. In addition to Preston Tower’s density, Renaissance has 603 units while 3883 Turtle Creek has 373. The closest in recent memory was the 75 units in The Cedars’ Beat lofts in 2007 – a relatively small project in a then transitional part of town.

I covered those condo buildings in that most-reasonable strata of high-rise living. Units ranged in price from the $150,000s to $700,000. In that range, you were almost certainly in the sub-2,000-square-foot range (perfectly fine for nearly everyone).

From here on out, it’s bonbons and champagne as we look at what you get when the sky’s the limit.

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Dallas hasn’t been a great high-rise condo town when compared to other cities. It seems like Dallas builds a lot of high-rises that come online the day before there’s a huge recession. Many old-timers connect high-rises with recessions as financially troubled properties hit the skids when storm clouds circle. Their touchpoint is the 1980s S&L scandal-driven recession that hit Texas unmercifully hard.

And while it’s true that high-rises took a bigger hit even in the latest recession, the difference was single-digit. And when the economy came back to life, so did high-rises – often with a vengeance. One Turtle Creek high-rise is trading at triple its recession low.  Even had I not renovated my lowly Athena condo, it would have still risen by 75 percent in the six years I owned it.

This is all to say that condos are pretty much as resilient as single-family. Which is good considering Dallas, like the rest of the planet, is becoming more urban. In 2015, the US Census reported that on average, 62.7 percent of US residents lived in cities with Texas reporting 65 to 75 percent urbanization. The Census further reports that 39 percent of Texans live in its top 20 cities – in a state with 41 cities over 100,000 residents. The United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects say 82 percent of US residents live in urban areas. While there is a 20-point disparity here, likely driven by definitions of “urban,” it’s still a lot.

We all know Texas, and specifically Dallas, is growing rapidly – Texas is one of nine states that account for half of the US population. We also know that a lot of our new arrivals come from markets that are more high-rise markets – e.g. California and New York – and their money goes further in Texas.

What do high-rise buyers have to buy?  Not a lot…

If you total up all the high-rise condos (buildings above 12 stories) for sale at this minute in downtown, Uptown, Victory Park and Turtle Creek, there are 133 by my count.  There are an additional 11 under contract. For reference, The Warrington at 3831 Turtle Creek has 132 units in total. That’s right, the sum total of high-rise buyers’ options would all fit inside one building.

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FLW Rogers Lacy 2

Having run around a lot of high-rises in Dallas over the years as a potential buyer, open house voyeur, and CandysDirt.com roving reporter, people ask me what I think of “X” building. With that in mind, here’s my list of the top Dallas high-rises in different categories.

1. Best Unbuilt high-rise: Rogers Lacy Hotel

Long before I moved to Dallas, I saw the Rogers Lacy Hotel images in a 1985 book about architect Frank Lloyd Wright titled, “Treasures of Taliesin: Seventy-Seven Unbuilt Designs” by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer.

The 64-story mixed-use building was to have housed a hotel on the first nine floors before transitioning to a stepped-back high-rise column containing residential condos/apartments.  Wright didn’t think much of Dallas summers or its 1940s cityscape and so the glass exterior was to have been double-thickness with translucent insulation between the panels.  This way, light was transmitted without having to see the outside.  Some panels were moveable and some were operable windows, but the general “face” of the building was towards the interior where an amazing atrium was to have been. Lush plants and interior-facing windows offered what Wright thought were the best “views” of Dallas.  The building was never built because during negotiations to convince oilman Rogers Lacy of the daring design, Mr. Lacy died.

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Single Senior Men: You May Never be Lonely or Hungry Again

Single Senior Men: You May Never be Lonely or Hungry Again

In last week’s second of three articles on high-rise demographics, I wrote about Dallas’ youngest high-rise populations. I noted that in those younger buildings, there were usually high rates of non-homestead owners – some as high as 75 percent. I think non-homestead ownership is worth noting because, in addition to owner age and worth, it gives an idea about how these owners react to changes.

Owners claiming a home as a second shelter (subtle, eh?) may be more likely to support (or at least not block) building improvements because they’re less likely to be constrained by wealth (or a lack of it). This may differ from investment/rental property owners who are managing a spreadsheet and are more likely to have a cautious mindset (while still acting to protect their investment).

In Dallas’ oldest high-rise populations, non-homestead ownership is much lower – 13 to 29 percent to be exact. The other difference is building age. The “oldest” of the young buildings were built in the 1990s whereas the “youngest” old buildings was 1984’s Claridge with the overwhelming majority built in the 1950-60s.

In fact, the only buildings from the 1950s-1960s first high-rises not included in the oldest category are those that support a much higher average for non-homestead, rental units. This means the true age makeup of ownership for Preston Tower, “21,” and Turtle Creek North is obscured. I say that these buildings have a high percentage of rentals (versus second home owners) because they have smaller, cheaper units that are easier for smaller investors to purchase.

As of this writing, four of six MLS listings at Preston Tower are rentals. This equates to 67 percent of listings – and that’s just the MLS, other rentals are surely available via other avenues. At “21” the rental listings equal 50 percent.

So where should whist-playing buyers go? How about frisky widowers desiring the pick-of-the-litter of older paramours tussling over who delivers the first “welcome” casserole with a breakfast chaser?

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SoCo Urban Lofts at 1122 Jackson St. has one of the highest ratios of young residents.

SOCO Urban Lofts at 1122 Jackson St. tends to attract a younger crowd compared to Wyndmere.

In the first part of this series I wrote about how unit prices, resident age and income are data points for high-rise buyers to consider before purchasing their castle in the sky. The reason for these calculations is to better understand if a building matches a buyer’s philosophy. Of course this information doesn’t produce a complete picture. It’s also incumbent on any buyer to meet with the building manager of any high-rise under consideration to understand the personality and finances of the building. But much like employment references where many are non-committal rather than honest, it may require astute reading between the lines.

Younger buyers may be more open to change, maintenance, and improvements. But they may also have economic constraints the further away they are from peak-earning years. Meaning that buildings with high proportions of owners in their 20s and 30s may suffer from the same economic paralysis as buildings with majorities in their 70s and 80s. The difference being the younger building will WANT to do new things but can’t.

So, how do you find a building with a sweet spot age range? Jump for more.

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Census Age Distribution Dallas

This is the first of a three-part series on high-rise demographics. In this first part, I’ll cover how resident age, personal finances, and cognitive decline form an intersection that should help buyers better understand a high-rise. These factors are certainly in play in all neighborhoods, but the communality of high-rises makes them more acute. After all, when talking about single-family homes, a neighbor’s leaking roof has no impact on your home a block away.

According to the US Census, the age distribution in Dallas is such that 62 percent of residents are in their home-buying years. The remaining 38 percent are under 24 years old and, aside from trust fund babies, unlikely to be buying real estate.

In Dallas, 9 percent of the population is over 65 years old, empty (or never) nesters with many looking to downsize from suburban family factories to a smaller, more urban, lower-maintenance existence. It’s the “oh crap, the kids are gone – I need SOMETHING to do besides Applebee’s and a movie” syndrome. Otherwise known less charitably as, “the skid mark to Sparkman.”

And then there’s the largest demographic with ages ranging from 25 to 64. This is a big bucket ranging from “starter home” to “forever home” to “next forever home” to empty nest downsizers. Being the largest and most mobile, it’s also the most active in terms of buying and selling.

Since leaving college 30 years ago, I’ve lived in nine homes in five states, (ten/six, counting my second home). All except Dallas were forced career moves. That kind of movement places me clearly above the average (but you suspected that all along, right? 🙂 ).

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