Sold before hitting MLS

The North Texas real estate market is showing signs that it is getting stronger. Today everyone is reporting the good news, Steve Brown at The Dallas Morning News, and  Sandra Baker at the Fort Worth Star Telegram: pre-owned home sales in North Texas soared in February — up 27 percent from a year ago. That’s the biggest rise in six months. And last month’s increase was one of the largest gains the local housing market has seen in the last seven years. Meantime, the number of pending home purchases is increasing even faster: up a whopping 35 percent jump from a year ago.

What’s happening? The bottom feeders are out and biting. Housing analysts say that  consumers are feeling more confident about the economy, they are making moves to take advantage of sensible seller pricing and record low interest rates.

According to the North Texas Real Estate Information System, that giant keeper of transaction data, agents sold 4,649 single-family homes through their multiple listing service in North Texas in February..

So far in 2012, pre-owned home sales are up 20 percent from the same period last year in the more than two dozen North Texas counties included in the survey.

I told you about Claire Dewar selling Park Lane: Claire has had one of her busiest months ever, and thinks the Ginsburg home sale may be an indicator. Beckey Frey sold that architectural delight with glass floors at 3601 Euclid last year, closing more than $35 million worth of real estate in 2011. As people see and hear of big sales, they become increasingly confident. Kyle Crews of Allie Beth Urban says he is on a sales roll over at the Ritz, just closing a three bedroom unit, cash deal.

Then there’s Terrell Owens: two of his condos were slated for the auction block this past week. The 1-bedroom, third floor condo with a $360,000 loan made in 2007 was snatched up by the lender, JP Morgan Chase who bought the property with a $293,000 auction bid. But Owens did sell a Commerce Street townhouse which had also been scheduled for foreclosure on Tuesday. So you see? Baby steps.

James Gaines over at the Real Estate Center, Texas A&M University thinks this may be a spring anomaly. We’ve finally bottomed, he says, but the recovery will be slower than this for all the year. And do not forget that sales of pre-owned homes in North Texas are still down about a third from when the market peaked in 2007.

Prices are edging up, slightly: prices looked up by a scant 1 percent in February from a year ago. Gaines says prices are flat. But that could change. There is this little problem called lack of inventory. The number of homes listed for sale in North Texas was 22 percent less in February 2012 than in February 2011. There were 27,836 properties on the market, which is a five-month supply. Normal is considered a six month supply. Now we’ve got an opposite problem. With lack of inventory, prices could inch upwards. Already agents tell me they are getting multiple offers on properties. And some properties, in fact a LOT, are selling before they even hit the market.

4229 Bobbit

Let me tell you about 4229 Bobbit: $795,000. This home was snapped up before it could even hit MLS. The owners are known for fantastically remodeling homes, turning them into mid century museums, out of state buyers saw on the internet and bought.

Do you know the term Hip Pocket? It’s a home that is not formally listed but the owners would consider selling, maybe. When your house is for sale but NOT formally in MLS, the clock is not ticking as to how many days on market. There are tons of those right now. Agents are communicating like mad to each other looking for hip pockets, desperate for listings. Like this request from Dave Perry-Miller agent Christine McKenny:

“I have a buyer need in these general areas: Bluffview/Briarwood/​Devonshire/Greenway Crest/West HP/Perry Heights Areas up to $400K, 2-3 bedroom, min 2 bath, prefer garage, small yard, good condition, nice kitchen. Have seen all in MLS. Thanks!”

Why is there so little inventory? When the market plunged, only those who truly needed to sell — for financial reasons, or because they were moving to another city — put their homes on the market. The advice has been thus: if you don’t have to sell now, don’t sell. Wait out the market. Then, with lending tight and bank regulators ending stated income loans and making financing more difficult, fewer could qualify for a mortgage. So they are all leasing. In fact, I found a darling Devonshire home to write up, when I called, it was leased.

Another thing: the brokers are trying real hard to keep transactions within the company.

Then too, we have a lot of people moving to Dallas from out of state, like Sean Payton!







Word from the Fort Worth Star Telegram that Glenn Beck has settled on a location for his media empire: The Studios at Las Colinas. Nice, but not too close to his home in Vaquero. I was in the posh gated community over the weekend and asked how the latest famous Vaquero resident was doing: pretty low key. I’m told neither he nor Tania have not been out and about that much. Maybe been too busy shopping for studio space. He withdrew his bid for his first choice of locations, yee old Gateway Church building in Southlake, for his radio and TV studio facilities. Would have been a lot closer. So Las Colinas will be the home of GBTV, with a soundstage that will hold 500 people.

Wowzers. Where will they all park?

(Above) Typical home in Pebble Beach (NOT Palmeiro’s)

The Texas Rangers are going to be world champs for the second year in a row, I feel it in my bones! But Rafael Palmeiro, the Rangers former slugger turned real estate developer, might be wishing he could get back into the game and out of real estate. Palmeiro is now asking creditors in his bankruptcy case (says the Fort Worth Star Telegram) to give him five years to sell the 200 acres of undeveloped land near Grapevine Mills mall he had planned for a mixed-used development called Gardens of Grapevine.

Palmeiro’s creditors are owed more than $40 million, and $10 million of that is owed to Palmeiro himself, the “skin” he apparently put into the deal which has Branch Banking & Trust listed as the largest creditor at $19 million. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram,  Palmeiro negotiated loan extensions with three lenders last year, but in March, BB&T played hardball:

“BB&T “abruptly demanded $8 million cash to extend again,” and posted the property for foreclosure, pushing the development into bankruptcy, court filings said.”

Wow, that’s mean. Palmeiro and his wife, Mary Lynne, live in Colleyville. Stay tuned for the deets on that home. But they also own a home in in Pebble Beach, Calif., worth at least $10.5 million, they claim, which they say they will sell. (Hey, I know a great Realtor out there.) The Star-Telegram says they plan to make $2.5 million from the sale of the Pebble Beach property to make interest payments on notes until the Grapevine  property, which fronts Texas 121 and Farm Road 2499, sells, hence the request for five years until the market turns around.

I did some digging in Pebble Beach, where I spent a week this summer at Concours D’Elegance. My sources tell me the Palmeiro Pebble pad is about 6,700 square feet, a stunning 1920’s Mediterranean complete with a wine cellar, three car garage, pool and guest house. It was originally priced at more than $12 million, but they snagged it in 2008 for $8,500,000. It may well be worth $10.5 million, but how do they expect to sell it in this market — and California real estate is not exactly flying off the shelves — for more than they paid in 2008? That’s a real head-scratcher.

Of course, my sources there do tell me that while the summer in Pebble was slower than my golf game, things have picked up.

Palmeiro is working to obtain liquidity: Gardens of Grapevine is under contract to sell 17 acres to Lincoln Property Co. for $6.9 million in February. And Lincoln has an option for another 17 acres. With luck and any sort of market turn-around, he could sell 192 acres to net as much as $46.3 million.

And more good news: a recent appraisal put the land’s market value at $55.2 million, up $2 million from an appraisal done a year ago, court filings said, as reported in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Very encouraging, indeed.

I love the way the Fort Worth Star Telegram started this story:

 “New-home sales in Dallas-Fort Worth continue to decline, according to the latest quarterly market report from Metrostudy, released Wednesday.”

Actually, I don’t love it. I think it stinks. Of course NEW home sales declined. Of course builders closed sales on only 3,505 new homes from April to June 2011, more than a quarter (26 percent) less than they closed second quarter of 2010. Remember this thing called the First-Time Homebuyer’s Credit?

Steve Brown didn’t do much better:

D-FW new-home market still losing ground from a year ago

Why do most reporters bury the good stuff, like the fact that home sales — I’m talking re-sales of existing homes — are up nearly 9 percent from the first quarter of 2011? And pending sales, said Metrostudy, were up 35% in May from a year ago.

I know why: because new home starts affect our economy more than re-sales.

Now if you want to compare everything to those days when the real estate world was on steroids, new home sales peaked about the third quarter of 2007.  A whopping 10,037 homes were sold. So anything done now in this recession is going to look extremely wimpy. And truth be told, DFW home starts are down a good 70% from that high. We are at a 15 year low in new home inventory, which is frankly amazing and I marvel at any home builder who is still standing. You can thank tighter lending practices and all the foreclosures the market is trying to absorb, but you can REALLY thank the recklessness of Wall Street. Builders cannot start homes without financing, and with higher down payment requirements, fewer builders can get into the game. Way fewer. 

But! The good news is that compared to first quarter 2011, home starts in the second quarter are up 18 percent, so says the folks at Metrostudy.

In fact, David Brown, director of the Dallas-Fort Worth office says it looks like first quarter 2011 may be the low point in home-building activity, you know, after those tax credits expired.

“We are beginning to see signs the housing market is slowly coming off the bottom after the drop-off in sales that began in May of last year.”

Inventory of finished new homes was 8,658, end of June 2011 which is down 25 percent from the end of June 2010, he said. But Brown says that if current job trends hold strong, if unemployment should fall, new home sales could pick up in 2012. The Catch-22 here is that building new homes creates jobs —    but you cannot build a home without financing. The estimated one-year local impact of building 100 single family homes in a typical metro area is an infusion of $21.1 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and government revenue, and 324 jobs. This according to the National Association of Home Builders. 


Here’s some Dallas and Tarrant County Real estate news you may or may not like. Entertainer Glenn Beck may be on his way to Texas, to actually live here. And what better place for the controversial, former Fox radio and television host, author, entrepreneur, and political commentator who hosts the Glenn Beck Program, and  Glenn Beck on Fox News Channel,  author of six New York Times-bestselling books, and founder and CEO of Mercury Radio Arts, to settle than the tony, upscale, and uber private gated community of Vaquero smack dab next to D/FW Airport? Sources have told CandysDirt that Beck has leased the $3,900,000 listed home of Jorge & Vanessa Piedra (she is a Swarovski heiress as in the crystal, he is a major league ballplayer who’s had some “issues” and was last with the Florida Marlins). The home they are renting is at 2208 Vaquero Estates Boulevard. The Piedra home has been on the market since August, 2009, and originally listed for $5,400,000. The price was lowered to $3,900,000 and then put in the rental pool for $20,000 a month, which is actually more than the original lease offer of $15,000. It’s that kind of market, I guess, where you lower selling prices but can increase the monthly lease. In fact, as of 6/26 the behemoth home was for lease for just 59 days where it had been on the sales market for 351 days. Jeepers!

Anyhow, here is what Glenn and his wife, Tania, are getting: 7904 square feet, four car garage, almost two acres of land (1.7ish), a Hill Country styled house, La Cornue stove, master retreat with a relaxation room, study, steam shower, limestone, hardwoods, travertine, 7 bedrooms, 7.5 baths, both sun and exercise rooms, a guest house with living, bedroom, bath, and of course a pool. And if he decides he likes it so much he wants to buy, seller financing is even available and Glenn, do get Vanessa to throw in some crystal. I’ll come negotiate for you!

Last April, Beck announced he would “transition off of his daily program” on Fox News. According to Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star -Telegram, Beck told our governor Rick Perry that he might move to Texas and might even run for governor. I heard yesterday that Perry’s senior staff is SERIOUSLY exploring the presidential opportunity, seeking money, and perhaps Beck’s presence in Texas might help? Beck did joke with Perry about incentives for moving his 150-employee strong company, Mercury Radio Arts, to Texas:

“I’ll move my company to Texas, but I need you to give me zero income tax — do you see what I’m saying?”

So what can I say besides welcome to Texas, Glenn and Tania Beck?

What do you say?

2208 Vaquero Estates Boulevard

Editor’s note: Your daffy RE reporter here was in such a hurry to post, I clicked on the wrong listing — corrected now, thanks to my eagle-eyed commenters. Keep me on my toes!

My sources started notifying me last night that despite the pouring rain, supporters of former President Bush were out at his home, and in front of the gates to Daria, celebrating the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden. They tell me it was a total party atmosphere and even the Secret Service were jubilant. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that President and Mrs. Bush were dining at Rise, the quaint French souffle restaurant in Inwood Village founded by the dynamic Hedda Gioia Dowd, who is also an ex-sister in law of Briggs-Freeman agent LeeLee Gioia. Former President Bush got a phone call from President Obama and he took off from dinner stat. Here’s a little glimpse of how the private life of George and Laura goes like now, except for the occasional interrupted dinner: another source texted me Saturday afternoon that Laura was at the Wisteria Outlet over near Love Field, buying linen table napkins. I mean, what a life: from marked-down napkins to the capture of the most marked man in the world.

If you are going to buy investment property, you want a place where your home/land etc. is going to appreciate, right? And we all know the messages received across most of the country is fat chance, bubba. Sure, real estate in (drowning) Phoenix and Vegas is so cheap you can buy a home once listed at $1.5 million for $500,000. But here’s the thing: what are you going to do with it? Lease it, OK, to who? Where are the jobs, where are the people moving in to work and lease from you. I told a client the other day, if you want to invest in real estate, at least buy in Texas where we have decent job growth, universities, and a youthful age demographic.

Now comes word that Fort Worth, Texas grew 38.6 percent in the last decade, beating the bejesus out of every other Texas community. Even Houston, which is not too shabby, and San Antonio, where I have had zero problems leasing a rental property — multiple calls per day. Here are the stats from the Fort Worth Star Telegram of the largest counties in Texas: Tarrant county is third, behind Harris and Dallas. The way I see it, I want to buy investment property where people are moving and working, so I may be looking for some good buys in Fort Worth. Holler if you see any.