Note to self: never wear white or Pucci when you are standing next to four gorgeous women, three of whom are Virginia Cook agents! I believe the prerequisite for being a Virginia Cook agent is to be shapely, blonde and beautiful. Or a curvy, gorgeous brunette like Jolene Crawford, who kept us blonde babes at bay! One of my favorite peeps in the whole wide world is Diane Duvall-Rogers who gathered us at the Dallas Country Club, newly nipped and tucked with a $60 million facelift,  this week for lunch in the newly-finished Ladies Lounge!  And take a look at those chairs!

We talked state of the market, and Virginia told me it’s hot hot hot. Four reasons: buyers waited for three or four years and there are now way fewer homes on the market. The stock market has left a lot to be desired, many investors would rather put their money into real estate where we may have some inflation. Interest rates are so dang low you can trip on them — lower, says Virginia, than they were during the Great Depression: get a 15 year note for 3%, one point higher for a 30 year.

It’s also an election year, says Virginia, so both parties are trying to pump it up. But the biggest problem, she says, remains our lack of jobs in the USA: one of every ten Americans is out of a job. Can’t buy a house or get a mortgage without a job.

We solved the world’s real estate problems where they usually get solved: in the Ladies Lounge. Then I grabbed my trusty camera to get you some great shots of the DCC’s $6o million renovation:


The clubhouse is breathtaking, one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. It’s English Tudor all right, but I felt a smattering of Querencia in Cabo on the interiors, with an almost haute Colorado feel — think The Timbers Club at Snowmass — but a distinct Scottish frosting of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle. As far as the green turf, I turn to Mike Hiller of EscapeHatch Dallas who is to golf what I am to real estate. Here’s what he said about the course, which was designed by Scottish-Americana golf course architect Tom Bendalow in 1912. The new course renovation began in 2010 and was masterminded by John Fought:

“When John Fought completes the course renovation at the prestigious Dallas Country Club this fall, the 18-hole layout will possess the character and charm of a vintage Donald Ross design.”

The Dallas Country Club was established in 1896. Hiller says the course is practically “new construction,” and the 18-hole layout will remain as a par 70, lengthened modestly to approximately 6,600 yards. The media’s been mum on that little property tax skirmish last year: looks like they settled at $36,406,010. I’m told the clubhouse just re-opened this spring, and it looks nothing, nothing like the old one where I recall many Tripper dances on that hardwood dance floor.

Oh PS: This is something I haven’t seen. In the ladies powder room, each stall is equipped with an emergency switch above the crema marfil walls and floors in case a member becomes ill or needs assistance. That is a true caring touch for members and really, better than the security available in most homes.

Robbie hosted Briggs Freeman’s annual awards luncheon at the Dallas Country Club on February 29. Look at these tip top producers:  Lindy Mahoney, Becky Frey, Claire Dewar, CEO Robbie Briggs, and the Eleazer Team. Behind her, Becky’ has a shiny award that reads “Over $35 million”. Sold, that is!

Doris Jacobs was named Allie Beth Allman & Associates #1 Top Individual Producer for 2011 out of 300 agents (!!!) at last week’s Awards Banquet at the Dallas Country Club! And may I add: here are two of the most beautiful women in Dallas real estate!

photo by Dallas Morning News David Woo

I may have told you that the Dallas Country Club sued the Dallas County Appraisal District earlier this year, claiming that the District has over-valued its lush 118 acres, which, as we all know, are located in a neighborhood of blue chip homes. The case is pending. DCAD put the value of the Dallas Country Club’s property over there on posh Beverly Drive at nearly $13.8 million, up about ten million dollars from a $3.5 appraisal last year. Sure got their attention. DCAD figured that with DCC’s new $27 million renovation, the land might be a bit more valuable, right? DCC did what every non-profit, non-tax paying blue-blooded American club aimed at keeping its dues low would do: it sued the Appraisal District.

In fact, the DCC, like most commercial property owners, has been suing to lower taxes for ten years.

The Dallas Morning News earlier this month reported that, (subscription req.) through an open records request,  DCC has shaved more than $15 million off the value of its Beverly Drive property during the past decade through court settlements in SIX lawsuits.

Yikes! The current lawsuit is DCC’s seventh. In each lawsuit, guess what happened? The appraisal district backed off its original value and agreed to a lower amount, reducing the club’s property tax bill. For those who do sue, it’s a battle worth fighting.

But what the article didn’t tell you is this: most of the land that DCC sits on could never be used to develop multi-million dollar Highland Park homes: it’s on a greenbelt.

I checked with veteran property tax consultant Don Walker, who’s firm, Donald C. Walker & Associates, Inc., has been going to bat for homeowners and private clubs for years. He told me about the greenbelt. He also told me lawsuits are fairly typical in the state of Texas on commercial properties as well as golf courses.  Thousands of lawsuits are filed each year as a remedy for excessive values after an ARB hearing.  Quite simply, most property owners are interested in minimizing their taxes, and in Texas lawsuits are the only way to accomplish that. Hec, one year even I sued. Walker’s firm currently represents Bent Tree, Northwood, Preston Trails, and Prestonwood, and has filed 2011 lawsuits. 

As far as valuing the real estate of  private country clubs, confusion reigns, says Walker, like knowing that DCC sits on a greenbelt that cannot be developed. So, who would buy it? Generally, private clubs don’t sell for their real estate value.  If a sale occurred, a large part of the sale price would be attributable to membership fees and monthly dues.  And those items are generally considered “business value” and are NOT assessable as real estate. 

“Remember,” he told me, “you are attempting to value just the real estate, not the business entity.”

In the Dallas Morning News piece, an “outside expert” from the Aassociation of Appraisal Districts was quoted as saying that recurrent lawsuits show “that the process of determining property values is highly subjective and is more so in Texas than most other states.” No duh:

“Texas is one of very, very few states that does not have some form of disclosure of property sales prices,” said Sands Stiefer, president of the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts. “If we had the data, we would be able to come up with a much more accurate value.”

We’ve had this discussion before on DallasDirt: Texas is a non-disclosure state. When you sell a property, buyers can “Z” out the selling price to keep DCAD from taxing on the full sales price. Without the sales price reported, Texas appraisers determine land values using whatever data is available, often last listing price.

That tends to work against homeowners with average priced homes, say under $1.5 million, and in favor of commercial property owners. Why? Because there are more lower-priced properties to use as comparisons. And many million dollar property sales are non-disclosed. As for commercial, virtually every commercial property owner has deep enough pockets to sue over values. And when you sue, DCAD tends to settle because of the sheer volume of the lawsuits. In fact, the News reports that the number of protests over residential property in Dallas is declining, from 69,693 in 2002 to 53,093 in 2011, while the number of protests by commercial owners is on the rise. Commercial protests have increased from 20,298 in 2002 to 24,390 this year.

That is actually interesting, because values went up significantly from 2002 to 2008. Last year, of course, was a down market, most Dallas homes have depreciated in value.

This I did not know: the Texas legislature launched a pilot program to put more appraisal disputes into the hands of administrative law judges, rather than district courts, for properties valued at $1 million or more. Not sure if this will be available in Dallas County, but it is available in 11 Texas counties. The goal is to remove some of the costs associated with protracted legal battles, at least for appraisal districts.

The rumor was rampant in Dallas Real Estate circles last winter that Angelina Jolie, Brad and all the kiddos had leased this house — 3911 Beverly Drive — for the weekend while in town for the Super Bowl.  If so, someone ought to ring up Mr. and Mrs. Pitt and tell them the place is now even more of a bargain. The Dave Perry-Miller listing is reduced from $7,995,000 to $7,500,000. Hot dang! The home is also open on Sunday, July 10 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. No wonder it’s a hotbed of rumors, 3911 Beverly is beyond wonderful! There are 8 bedrooms, 7.3 baths, 9 living areas, a huge four car garage plus everything you could ever need in 12,250 square feet. Added plus: the home is on a giant 78 foot wide, 225 foot deep lot. Even more, it overlooks the Dallas Country Club, so the backyard seems to go on forever. 

It may also be the only home on Beverly large enough to hold that Jolie-Pitt brood!

There are four grand stories total that commence with a Sunset Boulevard-quality dramatic spiral staircase, but never fear clacking the Loubies on those steps: there’s an elevator that serves each floor. Of course there is total fancy-pants, whole-house networking, rare marble and granites, wide-plank hardwoods and hand-chiseled limestone floors.

Built in 2010, the home is rather energy-efficient, including 19-SEER air-conditioning and super duper insulation. In winter, you could almost heat the house by lighting all five — yes, 5! — fireplaces. This is also a family-friendly home, though there are five balconies (one to match each fireplace?). Location has a capital “L” here: the home is on a coveted block of Beverly with only three houses, so the Dallas Country Club and Lakeside Park are within walking distance.

On the ground floor: the library,  great room with hidden screen and projection system, and formal and informal dining areas. Any Dartmouth grad would want this island kitchen boasting Olympian Danby granite countertops direct from Danby, New Hampshire, a six-burner Wolf gas range, a Sub-Zero, and Wolf double convection ovens. Do not forget there is a lower level, a veritable entertaining mecca: billiards room, exercise room, a home theater, a living room, a wet bar and wine room with tasting area. The second level also has a den, plus a guest wing with living, dining, kitchenette. The master is on the second floor and has great views of the DCC.  Knock-out bathroom includes jetted tub, dual steam shower and expansive closets. The guest suite is on the third and top floor, with a sitting area, a balcony and the best fireworks views in town. Or the country, for that matter.

When  I checked it out, it appears that Brangelina et al did NOT stay at this home, though a source did tell me he had seen a lot of Secret Service types around the place SuperBowl week. The house is owned by Catherine T. and Robert C. Karlseng, he being a very big real estate attorney in town. 

The rumor was rampant in Dallas real estate circles last week that Angelina Jolie, Brad and all the kiddos had leased a house on Beverly Drive for the weekend while in town for the Super Bowl. This house. The home is a Dave Perry-Miller listing at 3911 Beverly, listed for $7,995,000. I checked it out and it appears that Brangelina et al did NOT stay at this home, though a source did tell me he had seen a lot of Secret Service types around the place. The house is owned by Catherine T. and Robert C. Karlseng, he being a very big real estate attorney in town. I think the house is gorgeous and think it would be a GREAT deal for Angelina and Brad — there are 8 bedrooms, 7.3 baths, 9 living areas, a four car garage for when those kiddos start driving, and 12,250 square feet overlooking the Dallas Country Club. And for God’s sake, how much would a house like this cost in LA?