Photo courtesy Plano Parks and Recreation

Which North Texas cities made the cut for Niche’s best places to live list? How did Texas fare in a ranking of best (and worst) states to retire in? How is Texas trending in foreclosure starts? We have all this and more in this week’s roundup of real estate news. (more…)

home sales

(Graph courtesy Zillow)

Foreclosure starts are up locally, Dallas-Ft. Worth market continues to significantly outperform all other cities in the state when it comes to home sales, and several local cities and towns are among the top places in Texas to live.

We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s roundup of real estate news. (more…)

1704 W Colorado

We do not think that 1704 West Colorado, the Oak Cliff home of Ken Row (and at one time, Sergio Remirez), is hitting the auction block tomorrow, or next month, though we know a lot of people looking for quarters under the seat cushions to buy this amazing historical estate. Robert Wilonsky over at The Dallas Morning News  got people more excited over the weekend, and gave us even more background on the stunning, 90 year old home — turns out it was built by James Binford and quite a party house even back in the day:

Best I can tell from our archives it was built by one James Robert Binford in 1925; according to our archives it was quite the party house even then. A March 1, 1929, headline reads “Mrs. J.R. Binford Entertains With Tea,” and merely lists some of the 300 guests in attendances, among them women all the way from …New York City.

As Jennifer Mitten notes in the comments, Mrs. J.R. Binford was Estelle Zang — daughter of early Oak Cliff developer John F. Zang, the boulevard’s namesake.

We had reached out to the owner of the home, Ken Row, right after we saw the story in The Advocate. He said he was a pretty shy guy and also  “I think we should wait to see how this movie ends… I think you can see from the facts available..this has been a calculated decision … I’m impressed you bird dogged me here.”

Ken directed us to his attorney, Dax Richards, who told us the house would not be on the auction block and that when the story came out, it wouldn’t be quite as salacious as we might be hoping. (Dang!) He was out of state and asked us to wait a bit, which we did, but we kept circling the story. I was intrigued by some other things the owner, Ken, whom I have heard is just one of the nicest people you could ever meet, had to say — (more…)

Mortgage loan

By Jon Anderson

No, I didn’t dig this out of my 2008 file drawer.

According to RealtyTrac, March 2015 saw an 11 percent jump in foreclosures across the U.S. compared to February. That translates into 152,147 homes rocketing down the chute to foreclosure and the loss of people’s homes in the first quarter of 2015. In the nearly 8 years since the housing bubble popped, apmid a white hot market, people are still losing their homes to foreclosure at staggering levels.

And then there’s Detroit: actively depopulating its own city by issuing as many as 62,000 eviction notices this year to homeowners delinquent on their property taxes. It’s being called an eviction “conveyor belt” that will effect one-seventh of Detroit’s remaining population. This, after the 2008 tidal wave of 250,000 people forced out of the city, leaving behind tens of thousands of their homes. The news of Detroit’s rebirth may have been exaggerated.

These are people who managed to hang on to their home through the worst recession in 80-years, only to lose it now.

So what’s the National Association of Realtors’ response? Why to spend $7.7 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2015 for the Mortgage Choice Act (and complain about rising flood insurance premiums). As benevolent as “Mortgage Choice” sounds, its goal is to weaken the regulatory “burdens” on residential mortgage lending.

Side note: Doesn’t every piece of legislation, PAC/SuperPAC, and fringe group sound benevolent these days no matter now evil it is?

The Mortgage Choice Act passed the House of Representatives on April 14. NAR is not alone in its support, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Home Builders and the Real Estate Services Providers Council Inc. (shockingly, all groups who make money directly or indirectly from mortgages).


2142 Kessler Parkway Front

So, what can you get for a cool million in Dallas? The Motley Fool asked that question last week, and came up with 2142 Kessler Parkway, a luxurious North Oak Cliff house we previously featured as our Inwood Mortgage Home of the Week. When we featured this three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home last July, it was on the market for $967,000. Today it’s listed, as the Motley Fool column writes, at $998,000. The more recent listing with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s Kate Mote, is 3 percent higher than the July 2013 listing price.

The house is spacious, comes with a pool, and is genuinely very, very nice. But with an asking price of $998,000, you don’t get quite the same bang for your buck as you would in other cities, like Miami or Phoenix.


Jenni Stolarski has flipped some amazing properties in North Oak Cliff.

Jenni Stolarski has flipped some amazing properties in North Oak Cliff, including this one at 806 N. Windomere.

We were intrigued by a story from Bloomberg News citing RealtyTrac figures reportedly showing a nationwide decrease in flipping:

Home flipping, in which a buyer resells a property quickly for a profit, is on the decline as U.S. residential price gains slow and foreclosures dwindle.
Almost 31,000 single-family houses were flipped in the second quarter, representing 4.6 percent of U.S. home sales, RealtyTrac said in a report today. That’s down from 6.2 percent a year earlier and the smallest share since the first three months of 2012, when prices bottomed after the crash, according to the Irvine, California-based data company, which defines a flip as a property sold within 12 months of purchase.

Of course, I had to consult the two best “flippers” I know to see what the local perspective is on flipping. First I got in touch with Jenni Stolarski of Briggs-Freeman Sotheby’s. Stolarski does high-end flips in Oak Cliff, producing some of the most gorgeous homes I’ve ever seen. One of the most recent ones was an amazing Tudor transformation that was awash in marble and chrome. Total jaw-dropper.


Shopping for a home can be nerve-wracking. When you’re actively looking for a home, most often you’re dealing with a deadline, a budget, and an unrealistic wishlist. It’s hard, trying to make concesssions with your spouse and trying to compromise on what is a need and what is a want.

Our home search was no different. We knew what we wanted in a home (at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage, a sizable backyard, an address inside the city limits and a low price) but it took a long time to refine those points. And this was in a time before good real estate photography was a must for agents!

I kept imagining myself as one of those super-picky clients on HGTV’s House Hunters, when I should have been looking at things more like the clients in Property Brothers.

After about a million and a half showings (thanks for being patient, Ken Lampton!), we found the perfect little fixer-upper in East Dallas. Even after signing and initialing out lives away (OK, 30 years), I kept up the search. Only this time I wasn’t dealing with deadlines, budgets, and a second opinion.

Looking for houses when you’re not looking for your house is immensely liberating. It also helps you glean inspiration from what other homeowners are doing to build equity (even sweat equity, but we won’t go there!) and make the most of their investment.

So even five years into our 30-year mortgage, I’m keeping the home search alive.

Do you have a unique real estate story? I want to hear it! Email me at!

Steve Brown moderated the big numbers guys: Stan, Lawrence and David

I have just returned from the “Mile-High City” where they have altitude, medicinal marijuana and a pretty decent real estate market. I was at the annual National Association of Real Estate Editors conference where, for four days, we nutcakes who obsess about real estate lived and breathed it 24/7, consuming information. And alcohol. The main take-away: enjoy that drink. Significant declines in the number of homes for sale in many U.S. markets, and fewer foreclosures (or foreclosures on hold) are boosting the country’s battered housing market. I spoke at length to two of my favorite economists, Stan Humphries of Zillow, and Mark Fleming from CoreLogic, who gave me this zippy summary up in the hospitality suite of the Brown Palace Hotel:

“We are all mules in the barn. But the U.S. is the best-looking mule in the barn.”

In other words, the whole world is a mess. Forget Greece, said one expert, we need to watch Spain and Italy, who have much larger economies. Ripples overseas could smack out this seemingly recovering market. But don’t despair too much because the Europeans and South Americans and Chinese are coming over here and buying our real estate. If you live in Florida or Vegas, in fact, and you rent don’t be surprised to find out you have a foreign landlord.

This will come as no shocker: Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, told us inventories are falling — now down to 2005 levels nationwide, and home listings in certain neighborhoods across the country are starting to be in short supply, as we well know. There are about half as many homes on the market today as there were in 2007, or 1.8 million homes currently listed for sale on In 2007, there were a whopping 3.1 million. Our North Texas inventory is down about 40% and oh how we feel it.

Then we’ve got fewer foreclosures — Yun said the number of potentially distressed inventory that will come on the market has been thinned out. Hope he’s right: Yun is so positive that light beams radiate from his face. Others say we may get a reality check in fall, when more distressed properties appear, or if Europe becomes FUBARed.  Currently, previously foreclosed homes and short sales accounted for about a third of U.S. home purchases in 2011. Yun predicts they will be a 25 percent share this year, but only 15 percent in 2013.

Nationally, about one-third of homes are underwater. Not so in North Texas. Zillow says that about 21% of the home re-sales here are from buying foreclosures. Snap them up: the National Association of Realtors is forecasting a 3 to 5 percent home price increase nationally for 2012. But it could be higher, the universally sunshine-y Yun said. He predicts a 10 percent price appreciation. The median price of North Texas homes is already up by almost that amount — 9 percent higher in May than a year earlier, according to the latest statistics.

With sales and homebuilding picking up, David Crowe, top economist for the National Association of Home Builders, predicts that Texas housing markets will be more than 70 percent recovered from the crash by the end of next year.

There is so little inventory:  Nationally, builders are constructing only about a third as many houses as they did before the recession thanks to tighter credit. Single-family home starts are likely to rev up to about a “modest” 19 percent across the country this year.

Here in D-FW, only about 3,000 finished new homes are sitting empty.

Recovery mode, yes, but do not think we are going to shoot this recovery straight up. Stan says the recovery is likely to be in stair-steps rather than a straight line up, “price spikes, followed by plateaus.”

We may even backslide, and And conditions will depend on the area. I sure hope someone over at Case-Shiller is reading this, because these experts made it very clear that more than ever, real estate is a local story you absolutely cannot generalize even within the same dang zipcode.

Humphries said: “Housing markets have become really hyperlocal.”

The biggest dilemma will come from the folks who are underwater, or who owe more than their properties are worth. They have no financial incentive to cure a lousy investment.

“We’ve always expected negative equity to cast a long shadow,” he said.

Ah, but you Texans were smart, Mark Fleming told me: your state saved your butt, actually learned some lessons from the 80’s. He was talking about how we smacked limits on those home equity loans. In fact, I told him, I remember when you couldn’t even get a home equity loan in Texas. He smiled. Yes, he said, turns out maybe 100% home equity loans were not such a good idea. Just ask the folks in Phoenix.

I told him that Danny Faulkner just died, he of the I-30 condo flipping fame game. Maybe we should have told him thank-you.