Gaynelle Henger

The luxury real estate brokerage business in Dallas just got even more competitive.

Last week, super-producing agent Gaynelle Henger, who had been powering the newly branded Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Preston Center office of 12 high-performing agents, turned in her resignation. Shocked, we all wondered where she would go next.

Yesterday, we found out: Gaynelle has joined The Collective Residential.

Gaynelle approached Collective founding partner Christy Berry, inked a deal, and she is now a Collective agent.

“The Collective Residential is a locally owned and operated boutique firm with a strong marketing program and a fresh, new brand. I really like what they are doing, where they are going, ” says Gaynelle.

“They understand what it takes to compete in this market,” she added. “Real estate is two things, marketing and customer service, anything else is distracting from that. And a local firm just really knows the market.”  (more…)

9925_Alva-3-575x383I have told you, but let me go on record again: yes, the market is hotter than hell and homes are selling in days, weeks, even hours. We have less than three months’ inventory. But that is for properties generally below $2 million, as Jennifer Miller pointed out last week. So it surprises me not at all that Tom Leppert and his wife Laura lowered the price on their Preston Hollow home to $4,999,999, a haircut of about $696,000 and some change.

The home, listed with former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem, Mary Poss, had been priced at $5,695,000.  Please note that the Lepert home also has a “keeping room”, just like our mysterious Monday Morning Millionaire.

Here is the description of the home using Mary’s own beautiful words:

“The estate home at 9525 Alva Court is another jewel in the portfolio of Dallas homes designed by the incomparable Robbie Fusch,” Ms. Poss says. “It is the fusion of grand elegance with extreme functionality. No detail has been overlooked in this 10,800-square-foot masterpiece built in 2002 in the heart of Old Preston Hollow.”

This stunning property features a slate roof, a stone exterior, an electric gate, a circular driveway and manicured landscaping.

 

Inside, massive timbers in the living and keeping areas set in 11-foot ceilings accentuate these spacious rooms and add to the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of the home.”

 

Yes, it’s true: Laura had a “Keeping Area” for Tom. I think every wife needs one!

“Designer appliances in the spacious kitchen make cooking for one or for a crowd easy, Ms. Poss says. Massive granite countertops highlight this natural gathering place. Two large dining areas are located at opposite ends of the kitchen. The extensive butler’s pantry and storage areas provide plenty of preparation and staging space.

 

Beyond the confluence of the downstairs living areas are the master suite, a guest suite and two offices. Adjacent to the large master bedroom is a multipurpose room that may be used as an exercise room, a reading room or however the new owners choose. Marble abounds in the master bath, which is accented by an overhead stained-glass window above the luxurious tub. A steam shower and two large designer closets complete this well-appointed bath.

The first-floor guest suite occupies its own wing for privacy and comfort. One of the twin offices features rich, wood-paneled walls; the other is conveniently located by the kitchen and offers significant storage space.

Views of the pool and the cabana are available from almost all of the home’s living areas, the master suite and the kitchen.”

Of course, the home is on a 150 by 245 foot deep lot, almost one acre.

 

“A state-of-the-art media room is on the second floor, along with a library, a game room and a second laundry facility. A large, covered deck overlooks the backyard. Three bedrooms, each with its own bath and loft, offer plenty of private living space.”

Now here’s the space where you know the rich, powerful Repubs have gathered and plotted and oh if those tree branches or even the grill could talk…

“For outside entertaining, a beautiful cabana with separate living quarters offers the perfect backdrop to the gorgeous pool and outdoor kitchen, all of which is surrounded by lush landscaping,” Ms. Poss says. “Four garages, a porte-cochere, a motor court and a circular drive provide ample parking for any number of vehicles on the property.”

Any number. This is really quite a home. We are talking the HONEYPOT of Preston Hollow, T. Boone Pickens up the street, Kelcy Warren not too far over on Park, but you have to cross Walnut Hill and go west to visit Mayor Mike. Or the Malouf Waterpark. It was on the market very quietly as a hip pocket with Eleanor Mowery Sheets, who sold the home to Tom and Laura, this maybe 2008 or 2009, winter. In my opinion, Eleanor wanted to sell the house more than Tom and Laura did. Once the Sheets’ IRS issues came out, I never heard any more about the house or her listing it but I do know Eleanor had arranged a Realtor event at the stunning house. Mary Poss confirmed to me last night — full disclosure, I had just walked off a plane with ears still plugged — that Laura Leppert has a background in real estate and was in fact an agent in Hawaii when she and Harvard-educated Tom met. So yes, real estate is in their romance! Where are they going? Mary has been showing them some downsized properties around town, with Laura virtually incognito. Like most of us with larger family homes, the Lepperts wish to downsize now that their children are grown. Maybe want a little more turn-key in case he decides to take another political stab. Interesting thing about we baby boomers downsizing from this glorious homes: where are we going to downsize? One builder has a solution we are personally taking a peak at.

 

 

I about died when I saw this Realtor ad on AOL Real Estate — of course it’s from a Canadian firm. The Canuks can just get away with more than we can when it comes to billboard advertising.

Or can they?

So I started thinking back to local ads I’ve seen from our Dallas agents. Who do you think has the best ad of them all? The craziest? My vote goes to Clay Stapp for his orange condoms strapped to a card — see for yourself!

So why do agents advertise themselves so dang much and what does it get them?

I am being interviewed by a guy named Mark Ellwood who is writing a book called BARGAIN FEVER:Why We’re Obsessed with Getting More for Less. The book will be published by Penguin-Portfolio, due out in April of 2013. Mark says that we Americans are OBSESSED with bargains. We are talking about the real estate connection, of course, and the lengths people will go to to get their homes sold. Mark says that 10 years ago, retailers sold just 15-20% of their inventory at some kind of promo price – today, that number is 40-45%. Put simply, sales of sales have more than doubled in a decade.

And don’t think real estate is exempt!

In another post, I’ll delve into this. But while I was answering some questions for Mark, I mused on how much trouble and cost Realtors go to to create a brand for themselves. They spend THOUSANDS. (He was amazed.) Are these costs passed onto the consumer? You betcha! Look at any vanity ad in a glossy magazine and know that the agent spent at least $3,000 to $5,000 for his or her hair, make-up, wardrobe, consultant fees, skin care, microderm, Botox, photographer, all this before they even swipe the credit card for their ad! I firmly believe this is what got Eleanor Mowery Sheets in trouble, among other things.

Mark asked me what agents spend their money on  — how much time do you have, I responded? Branding, ads, marketing their clients’ properties and it does not come cheap. Most agents tell me they advertise clients’ homes in print for the sheer sake of their clients, to appease them. They KNOW it does no good, they KNOW everyone is on line looking for real estate, but they still fall in line like good sheep and continue to waste more paper.

As for the vanity ads, I get it, branding. But how important will branding be when everyone in America is looking for a bargain — when buying real estate on sale is the norm?

America, says Mark, has transformed into a country where everyone has caught bargain fever.

Discounts happen more frequently and with deeper price slashing than even a decade ago: where once sales were used to juice traffic on certain days, Groupon and its ilk have made sales a daily concept. Discounts are no longer the exception, they’re the norm. It isn’t just blue‐collars who are budget‐watchers any more ‐ white collar execs from managers to CEOs are now deal chasing, too. In less than four years, the number of people who only buy clothes when they’re on sale has gone up from 16% to 23%, almost a quarter of the population. And among those earning $150,000 or more it’s accelerated even more ‐ from 10% to 20% (Salmon Research).

Does anyone really think it’s smart to pay full price any more? No, and you know it: the richer the client, the harder they will drive the housing bargain!

So I ask you, if this trickles down to real estate, which it will, why are agents spending thousands on vanity ads, hair and make-up other than the fact that — it’s oh so much fun?

The stunning Preston Hollow home of our former Mayor and brief senatorial candidate, Tom Leppert, and his wife, Laura, hits the market in about one minute. Of course I knew about this yesterday — actually, last week — when I was in Maine eating way too much lobster but Amy Curry got a quick post up while AA was telling me to shut down my electronic devices. (Wonder if Tom could do anything about that now that he’s endorsed Dewhurst? It’s unbearable to be unplugged for four hours!) What she didn’t tell you was how much: $5,695,000. And worth every penny. Listed by, and this should come as no surprise, Mary Poss, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem, of Ebby Halliday.

Here is the description of the home using Mary’s own beautiful words:

“The estate home at 9525 Alva Court is another jewel in the portfolio of Dallas homes designed by the incomparable Robbie Fusch,” Ms. Poss says. “It is the fusion of grand elegance with extreme functionality. No detail has been overlooked in this 10,800-square-foot masterpiece built in 2002 in the heart of Old Preston Hollow.”

This stunning property features a slate roof, a stone exterior, an electric gate, a circular driveway and manicured landscaping.

Inside, massive timbers in the living and keeping areas set in 11-foot ceilings accentuate these spacious rooms and add to the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of the home.”

Yes, it’s true: Laura had a “Keeping Area” for Tom. I think every wife needs one!

“Designer appliances in the spacious kitchen make cooking for one or for a crowd easy, Ms. Poss says. Massive granite countertops highlight this natural gathering place. Two large dining areas are located at opposite ends of the kitchen. The extensive butler’s pantry and storage areas provide plenty of preparation and staging space.

Beyond the confluence of the downstairs living areas are the master suite, a guest suite and two offices. Adjacent to the large master bedroom is a multipurpose room that may be used as an exercise room, a reading room or however the new owners choose. Marble abounds in the master bath, which is accented by an overhead stained-glass window above the luxurious tub. A steam shower and two large designer closets complete this well-appointed bath.

The first-floor guest suite occupies its own wing for privacy and comfort. One of the twin offices features rich, wood-paneled walls; the other is conveniently located by the kitchen and offers significant storage space.

Views of the pool and the cabana are available from almost all of the home’s living areas, the master suite and the kitchen.”

Of course, the home is on a 150 by 245 foot deep lot, almost one acre.

“A state-of-the-art media room is on the second floor, along with a library, a game room and a second laundry facility. A large, covered deck overlooks the backyard. Three bedrooms, each with its own bath and loft, offer plenty of private living space.”

Now here’s the space where you know the rich, powerful Repubs have gathered and plotted and oh if those tree branches or even the grill could talk…

“For outside entertaining, a beautiful cabana with separate living quarters offers the perfect backdrop to the gorgeous pool and outdoor kitchen, all of which is surrounded by lush landscaping,” Ms. Poss says. “Four garages, a porte-cochere, a motor court and a circular drive provide ample parking for any number of vehicles on the property.”

Any number. This is really quite a home. We are talking the HONEYPOT of Preston Hollow, T. Boone Pickens up the street, Kelcy Warren not too far over on Park, but you have to cross Walnut Hill and go west to visit Mayor Mike. Or the Malouf Waterpark. It was on the market very quietly as a hip pocket with Eleanor Mowery Sheets, who sold the home to Tom and Laura, this maybe 2008 or 2009, winter. In my opinion, Eleanor wanted to sell the house more than Tom and Laura did. Once the Sheets’ IRS issues came out, I never heard any more about the house or her listing it but I do know Eleanor had arranged a Realtor event at the stunning house. Mary Poss confirmed to me last night — full disclosure, I had just walked off a plane with ears still plugged — that Laura Leppert has a background in real estate and was in fact an agent in Hawaii when she and Harvard-educated Tom met. So yes, real estate is in their romance! Where are they going? Mary has been showing them some downsized properties around town, with Laura virtually incognito. Like most of us with larger family homes, the Lepperts wish to downsize now that their children are grown. Maybe want a little more turn-key in case he decides to take another political stab. Interesting thing about we baby boomers downsizing from this glorious homes: where are we going to downsize? One builder has a solution we are personally taking a peak at.

Oh and don’t ever let anyone tell you Tom Leppert does not have great financial management smarts: he and Laura bought 9525 Alva Court back in 2003 and yes, Eleanor Mowery Sheets was their agent. Paid $3,850,000. They get anywhere near asking, which in this low inventory market is entirely possible, that’s nearly a two million dollar profit after living in the joint for nine years. That will cover at least half of what he spent on his campaign.

I would really like to see what this man can do in Washington, truly.

UPDATE: Confirmed with Allie Beth Allman. She is listing Mt. Vernon (not yet in MLS) at a sales price of $29,500,000.

Breaking news. This is NOT CONFIRMED yet with Pierce or Allie Beth, but I’ve been burning the phone lines asking. I just saw a press release come across my screen indicating that Allie Beth is once again listing Mount Vernon, the beautiful, stately, historic Dallas estate on White Rock Lake built by oilman and Dallas icon H.L. Hunt and owned by John and Teresa Amend.

On the market AGAIN you say? Yes, there is quite a bit of scuttlebutt not only to the estate, but the sales history. Flash back to 2008 when the Dallas Morning News first reported that the Hunt estate was up for sale. Think asking price was $50 millionish. ( no kidding!) The News was told that it would be listed by Eleanor Mowery Sheets. Then, the News had to recant that story because, as it turns out, Mt. Vernon was NOT listed with EMS. (The Sheets’ PR agent at the time, Keith Nix, told me Nicky Sheets had told him it was their “hip pocket”. But they were having all those tax issues, etc. etc. please let’s not go there.) Here is the link to the recant but it won’t go anywhere because of the DMN paywall. Then last April, 2010, we heard that Mt. Vernon was listed with Allie Beth for $32.5 million, making it the most expensive house on the market at the time and ever in Dallas.

Well, it was on the market, but then it was off. The reason was quite simple as Teresa Amend told me herself: she wanted the home for their son’s wedding. We were so happy for that wedding because last fall, the Amends generously handed Mt. Vernon over to Glenn Close for a magnificent event to raise funds for what will be her signature work, Albert Nobbs, a feature film adaptation of George Moore’s  Irish short story of the same name.  (Full disclosure: Glenn is related to us through marriage.) Glenn said when she played the role of Albert off Broadway twenty years ago, she felt a connection that never left her. The story, she said, blind-sided her, and it will blind-side everyone who sees it.

“It’s a story about what people do to survive,” she told me, “About what faces we put on to survive… and there’s an element of redemption.”

Nobbs will start rolling in November in Dublin, Ireland, and also stars Amanda Seyfried and Orlando Bloom. The bulk of the funding for this movie came from Dallas, and it all started right there at Mt. Vernon.

While there may only may be a handful of Dallas rich who could afford to buy Mt. Vernon, I suspect it might be an out-of town billionaire moving to Texas for our economy and lack of a state income tax. The home also beats out Troy Aikman’s $24 million Highland Park wonder at being the priciest piece of dirt in town. My guestimate: $28 million. Never mind that DCAD has it appraised around $11 million: John Amend is in real estate!

The Press release:

January, 1938, legendary oilman H.L. Hunt moved into the neoclassical Georgian home built in 1930. Additions during the six epochal decades of the Hunt family included air conditioning, one of Dallas’ first residential swimming pools, pool house, tennis courts, guest house and garage. Ever the visionaries, the Hunts planted specimen live oak and pecan trees, that continue to provide grace and splendor to the property all these years later.

Current owners John and Teresa Amend began total and meticulous renovation of the main house and outbuildings in 2000, completing the extensive project in 2002. With the vision of creating an unmatched versatile site for entertaining on any scale, a new two story guest house and showroom garage were also built. And in 2004, a spectacular bowling center was added on the grounds.

The warm and inviting fourteen room manor comprises approximately 10,500 square feet plus a 2,700 square foot basement with controlled wine storage, large laundry area, and an expansive storage area, served by the mansion’s elevator.

A few feet north of the main house, the charming 4,200 square foot two-story guest house has a media room, separate wine tasting and dining room on the first level, four bedrooms with baths and full kitchen on the second floor.

Adjacent to the guest house, is a 5,000 square foot air conditioned showroom garage and event venue. Styled as a carriage house and designed with cathedral ceilings, this event center features scored, stained and buffed concrete floors, with capacity for 16 vehicles or seated dining for 250 guests as well as two collapsible and removable NCAA glass basketball goals. Upon completion of the estate renovation in 2002, the Dallas Historical Society hosted a black tie seated dinner in the new carriage house, where members of the Hunt family shared their memories of Dallas’ most famous home.

West of the main house, a wide stone walkway leads past the lighted tennis courts to a 1,200 square foot pool house. The shared patio has an outdoor kitchen with grill, large fireplace and professional wood fired Renato pizza oven.

Next to the pool house is the incredible 5,000 square foot bowling center, among the largest, private professionally equipped centers in the nation. Built with guidance from the Brunswick Corporation, this fabulous entertainment venue has four regulation lanes, state of the art automatic pin setters and electronic scoring, multiple flat screen televisions, and a digital photo-booth. Additional amenities include two Enomatic four bottle Argon gas wine dispensers and a Touchtunes digital jukebox, currently with over 500,000 songs available through a concert hall quality sound system – two firsts in private residential installations. Over 400 events have been held in this popular and unique venue.

Following its inaugural opening event in 2004, Dallas retail legend Neiman Marcus sought permission to feature the unique bowling facility as the exceptionally exclusive and highly publicized “His and Hers” gift in their famed Christmas catalog. Neiman Marcus then chose Mt. Vernon as the host site for its spectacular Christmas Wish Book launch event.

The pool area, with an expansive limestone deck, is another fabulous picturesque setting for entertaining or relaxing. Bordering the pool site are a putting green, limestone fireplace and a romantic gazebo.

“The original Mount Vernon in Virginia is the most popular historic estate in the United States,” said Ms. Allman. “This larger replica is among Dallas’ and Texas’ preeminent estates – and rightfully so. Many tales from the nation’s mythological oil industry originated within these walls.”

The current owners’ enduring commitment to tradition and quality means that essential elements of the original structure remain, including foot-thick concrete walls, marble fireplaces and murals, while daily comfort is assured with technology and amenities for the next century. With its majestic unobstructed view of landmark White Rock Lake, the setting and tradition are irreplaceable.

My daughter and son-in-law in Mt. Vernon's bowling alley

So just who all lives in Westlake — or rather Vaquero, the toniest of the luxury developments out there off Dove Road? Glenn Beck. Mark Charles Teixeira. Chuck Greenberg. Jonas Brothers fam — Kevin and Danielle moved to LA last October. Ben Crane, K.J. Choi, Todd Hamilton (was leasing but closed on his house one month ago), plus Tiger Wood’s ex- golf instructor Hank Haney. Lots of baseball celebs: Vernon Wells, who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, is building a 15,000 -plus square foot home, as is the ex-CEO of Exxon-Mobile. Vanessa Swarovski, heir to the famous crystal family, is the owner of the home Glenn Beck is leasing. Matthew Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe lives there. Who have I forgotten? Justin Leonard, whose home was Realtor Eleanor Mowery Sheets’ first listing in Vaquero.

Justin Leonard lived here

Kevin & Danielle Jonas

Mark Teixiera's place

Glenn Beck aka Swarovski's

As headlined this morning, the Turtle Creek home of Braden Power is under contract. Pending inspections and all other contractual goodies, Lee Bailey, freshly ex-wife of restaurateur Ed Bailey, will acquire the beautiful but (according to some) controversial Turtle Creek palace on March 25. I spoke with Braden yesterday: the buyer, should the contract go through, is talking to both Sherry Hayslip, whose husband, Cole, designed the home, and Trisha Wilson about helping her fill it with furniture. Also Braden had recently covered the famous pool in the foyer to help move the house, but Lee apparently wants it back! This is a huge kuddo for listing agent Doris Jacobs, who just got the listing from co-Allie Beth powerhouse Erin Mathews,¬† and listed the home for $7.9 million. Which is interesting because Erin had it at $6.9 back in August, and I’m told the sales price was fairly close to asking or in-between the two. I sure had fun in that master bath back when Eleanor Mowery Sheets had the listing. This home has had as many agents as it has had swans in the back yard. Oh the stories I could tell…

Oh yes — Braden says not true about a lot of things said about his house, including that one black swan killed the other — neighbors found it all washed up down the creek.

Update: I spoke with Doris, who had asked me to keep mum about the sale ’til closing. Was really happy to hear that she had listed the home a couple years ago and had brought the buyer, Ms. Bailey, in way back then. Just goes to show you how persistence pays off!

Texas is a non-disclosure state, which means that if I do not want the world to know how much I paid for my home, I can keep that news quiet if I so choose. I do not have to tell the MLS or the Dallas County Appraisal District. The last known listing price of the home goes into the computers for the world to see. The refrain from one of my old favorite commercials, “only her hairdresser knows for sure”, holds true. (Substitute Realtor for hairdresser.) Of course, when the Appraisal District appraises my home for the last listed price in MLS, but I paid less, I will fight tooth and fingernail with whatever proof I have. So come this spring, we’ll get closer to knowing what Eleanor and Nicky’s home really sold for, unless a commenter out there wants to share the knowledge with us.

“Z sales” are making sales price reports essentially ineffective. We had the Case Shiller report yesterday from Standard & Poors, and we were all quite depressed. Dallas, the poster child of a healthy real estate economy, saw an overall 3.1% decline in home prices over last year. This was, of course, across the board.  And the economy is supposed to be getting better because we bought more for Christmas the holidays?

Even Bloomberg editors seem to be on Prozac. (Maybe not: EMS’s home is sold.) Just wait ’till banks unleash those foreclosures they held back due to “robo-signing”. Again, with the exception of some lower-priced neighborhoods, North Dallas — and Texas — and Austin — will not be hurting too much because our foreclosure rate is under control. Our foreclosure rate is under control because we cannot borrow too much against our homes.

But how can we trust Case Shiller with all those non-disclosed sales?

Am I advocating for undoing non-disclosure? No way. Not as long as we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and fund our schools that way.

I just thought it quite ironic that the home of one of the city’s most successful real estate agents finally sells, and sells for far less than originally listed, and remains anonymous.