Broken tree trunk

We know that Icemaggedon doesn’t discriminate between homes it hits, and while you may have worked tirelessly to get your listing ready for MLS, a downed branch or broken limb is a huge issue when it comes to showing a home.

So, what should you do as a Realtor if one of your listings was hit hard by our recent history-making ice storm? Harold Spiegel of Preservation Tree Service says that you shouldn’t do a thing — let a trained arborist handle it.

Pear tree split“Potential buyers are looking for big mature trees, but the key is a healthy tree,” Spiegel says. He recommends homeowners partner with a Certified Arborist to help them achieve this goal. “Tree work should be completed only by those trained and equipped to work safely in trees, because your home’s value depends on it.”

Of course, just like our last catastrophic ice storm, tree companies will litter neighborhoods with flyers and business cards, but Spiegel warns that not all tree trimmers are created equal.

“There are many individuals with no more than a truck and a chainsaw who sell themselves as ‘tree care professionals’ or ‘arborists,’ ” Spiegel adds. “They’ll tell you they can take care of your trees and happily take your money; only to leave you with what translates to a butcher job and trees that will most likely succumb to decline from poor treatment.”

To avoid these “tree fakers” as Spiegel calls them, follow these tips:

Always ask for ISA Arborist certification numbers for staff they say is certified. Will one of their certified arborists come inspect the trees beforeany pruning work or treatments are performed? Are they accredited and insured? If they damage your property, will they be responsible, or will you? A logo doesn’t equal legitimacy. Nor does simply calling oneself an expert.

If you are trying to sell your home, Spiegel recommends you prioritize tree care and pruning, especially after an ice storm, because this is important to curb appeal and a huge selling point. “Trees add value to the property, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower heating costs in the winter, and provide food for wildlife,” Spiegel said. “Homes with healthy mature trees also sell faster.”

Of course, when weather like Icemaggedon hits, firms with trained arborists and tree-trimming experts are often backlogged with customers, especially in areas with tons of mature trees like East Dallas and the Park Cities. Patience is important, Spiegel says.

“Don’t let anyone come in with a chainsaw,” he warns, “because they could cause irreversible damage to the structure of the tree, leave it susceptible to disease, and even harm the curb appeal and beauty of the tree, which will cost the homeowner money.”



Paigebrooke Fireplace 2You know how some folks make fun of those who build build huge homes with multiple fireplaces? Why do you need multiple fireplaces in Dallas, they jeer, it never gets cold here.

Yeah, right, and we never are without heat, are we?

There’s a reason for fireplaces, and the folks in these homes know that too well. They are warm and cozy right about now WITHOUT HEAT whether in their living room, family room, kitchen, trophy room, breakfast room, master bath taking a bath (you could heat the water over the fireplace, of course) hot tub (assuming somehow you could get that hot and bubbly without juice, maybe through a gas heater) or outdoor patio.  Why? Because these homes have a minimum of 8 fireplaces, and a few have nine — Mount Vernon over by White Rock Lake, and Paigebrook, my favorite home in the world out in Westlake. By contrast, Champs D’Or, which sold at auction last year, only had 7 fireplaces in 36,630 square feet of living space. Clearly, 7 is not enough but that did include a fireplace in one of the powder rooms, which guests would have appreciated during the Icepocalypse.

Perhaps that’s why it took so long to sell Champs — not ENOUGH fireplaces!

In California, you can no longer even build a fireplace, at least not in a new home, though I am sure the Silicon Valley elite find ways around this.

So here we go: to keep you warm today in case you are one of the 20,000 still waiting for juice to kick on your heat. Homes across the area with 8 or 9 fireplaces to keep you toasty, from Fort Worth to Flower Mound (lots of fireplaces up there) to Dalworthington Gardens in Arlington.

Read fast, before the natural light goes down…

Mt Vernon fireplace4409 West Lawther drive, aka Mt. Vernon, has nine fireplaces. See here how you could hang in the family room, read by the fire and even shoot pool if you lived here. This is, of course, the famous home of firsts in Dallas built by H.L. Hunt on the shores of White Rock Lake.

Mt Vernon ext

Now asking $19,000,000 (reduced from $29,000,000) this home has 10,511 square feet and enough fireplaces to survive any heat loss in the formals, master bedroom, and outside patio. The only thing I’d worry about is the cars in the 16-car auto concours and I cannot recall seeing a fireplace in the bowling alley. Ah well, that’s why there’s antifreeze!

5504 St Andrews extSt Andrews fireplaceNext on our list is an amazing house in Plano at 5504 St. Andrews Court, reduced from $5,875,000 to $4,950,000. How have I not seen this place before? Listed by Cindy O’ Gorman (of course, she has the BEST listings!) this pup has 8 fireplaces in 13,001 square feet.  Six bedrooms, six full and three half baths. It is, Cindy says, a masterpiece in European design, exquisite workmanship, and state of the art technology. It is tucked onto a private cul-de-sac lot with panoramic greenbelt & lake views from most rooms. There’s a wine cellar, elevator (oops that won’t work without juice), art galleries, and both upper & lower level sun decks that won’t do us any good today, will they? The walls are custom plastered walls, the floors are wood, limestone, & marble flooring, the kitchen is commercial to-die-for, and the outdoor living area has a saltwater pool, full kitchen and of course a fireplace. Note to owners: move that ceramic vase, get you some firewood!

Watagua fireplaceThen there is Watauga in Bluffview, off Midway. I have been meaning to write up this home for quite some time, it is one of my “O” homes! Giving it a once-over here because I have toured it and there is too much to cover. Suffice it to say: 13,713 square feet, six bedrooms, six full and three half baths, and eight fireplaces including one in the fabulous exterior kitchen pavilion. See here, take a bath by this fireplace and you will be all warm and toasty. It’s $7,500,000.

I really cannot wait to show you this home. Hint: it was built by a radio news personality. Stay tuned… don’t touch that dial…

More to come, must make this quick lest the Blogging Gods get irate… and I need more hot coffee…




We’ve been displaced from our home in Casa View Haven for going on four days now. Our little corner of East Dallas lost power around 4 a.m. on Friday, and while we thought we could tough it out that evening, we ended up doing a white-knuckle commute to Forney, where our in-laws live. A trip that usually takes no longer than a half-hour took about an hour and a half on Friday afternoon, considering the snail’s pace we drove to negotiate icy bridges and 18-wheelers stopped on the shoulders. We saw cars and trucks in ditches, some getting rescued by tow trucks and fire engines, and more than a few devil-may-care-type drives being humbled by the icy roads.


Since then, we’ve been without power for 81 hours or so. (Side note: Our Great Pyrenees mix, Horsby (above) does not seem to mind the cold at all.) For the duration of that time, we’ve been relying on reports from our fellow neighbors who are either made of stronger stuff than we, or don’t have 2-year-olds, who have stuck it out in the cold and ice. The Casa View Haven Neighborhood Association has really come together during this time, with neighbors offering a warm bed to those who would otherwise turn into ice cubes overnight, hot meals, and even helping find animals who were spooked by the storm. The consensus among residents, though, is that service has been ridiculously slow to our area. Calls and texts and emails and web messages to Oncor have resulted in little to no service to our Zip code — 75228 — the largest in Dallas.

Considering the number of downed power lines and fallen trees in our neighborhood of post-war traditional homes, you’d think response time would be faster. And yet, a neighbor posted that a power line that has been buzzing on the ground in her backyard has still not been addressed. She’s finally decided to call 911, hoping that firefighters or emergency responders can help address the dangerous conditions.

It wasn’t until last night that we started to see trucks labeled “Alabama Power” in our area. If you’re keeping track, that’s about 64 hours after most of our neighborhood (including our home) lost power. We bought some of them coffee to help sweeten the deal to perhaps expedite our power restoration, but they were gone just about as fast as they arrived. They told us they were trying to figure out who would be working on our outages, and they were shooting to have power restored by midnight. Obviously, that didn’t happen.



We saw a few more Alabama trucks this morning, and even an Oncor truck, but still, no power. Even more galling is that Oncor’s text system keeps reporting some customers’ power as “restored” when those residents can tell you through chattering teeth that nothing could be further from the truth. What we’ve heard from some workers is that there were a lot of branches over lines that should have been trimmed, and when the perfect storm of winter conditions arrived — Hello, Cleon! — those branches crashed on the lines, resulting in massive and widespread outages.

Our neighborhood would have to agree. We’re still reporting outages to Oncor, every hour, on the hour, employing the “squeaky wheel” strategy. Here’s hoping we’re back in our own home, safe and warm, this evening. Until then, we’re hiding out in the Casa Linda Starbucks and other warm places that can keep a 2-year-old busy considering that his preschool — along with all DISD campuses, Fort Worth ISD, and pretty much all urban districts save for Garland — is closed. We definitely have a case of cabin fever.

Do you have power? What has been your experience from winter storm Cleon? And are you seeing crews working in your area? Sound off!