Real Estate Story

The holiday sales slump is well known in real estate. People get busy with shopping, parties, and festivities, and put off their home-buying decisions so they won’t have to move in this busy season.

For hard-working Realtors, this lag time can be frustrating (plus it hits the pocketbook!). But could our remarkably robust market and unprecedented low inventory offset the traditional sales lag this year?

We talked to some seasoned real estate professionals to get their take on the market, and what they do to boost sales from November to January.

“This year, I am actually putting five new listings on this month, which is very odd for this time of year,” said Britt Lopez, a Realtor with Dallas City Center Realtors. “We see many investor buyers this time of year—I think because they are trying to get their money into a project before the end of the year for tax purposes.”

Lindsay Thomas, an agent with Russell Trenary, Realtors, said she’s watching the market with curiosity to see how the unusual demand will affect sales.

“It will be interesting to see if there truly is a big lag this holiday season since inventory is still so low,” she said. “But yes, typically during the holidays, real estate transactions slow down a bit and therefore it’s extremely important to market your properties. However, the same marketing tactics used during slow times should be used year round. I think you should always put forth the max effort with every client at every time of the year.”

Mark Manley, an agent with Virginia Cook Realtors, said he’s having a different experience this year.

“Sales do tend to slow down—thankfully, I haven’t had that experience so far at the end of this year,” Manley said. “I do several things that I think help me—first and foremost, I answer my phone when it rings and I have had agents actually say they were shocked someone answered…It’s not customer service if you don’t answer the phone. I also call people back almost immediately when possible but always within 24 hours, or sooner.”

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Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate that focuses on Oak Cliff. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate who focuses on Oak Cliff, champion the idea of small business ownership to rebuild communities. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson thrives on shaking up standard ways of thinking about development in Dallas.

After he sold the historic Belmont Hotel five months ago, a bellwether renovation and restoration project that put his name on the map in 2005, he got right back to work doing what he does best.

“I took all the money from the hotel sale, and we invested it into more ugly properties to turn around, every penny of it,” he said.

Those “ugly properties” are in south Oak Cliff, around South Polk Street and South Beckley Avenue, and Anderson is ready to perform microsurgery.

“With microsurgery, you go into an area that has good bones, like Elmwood southwest of Bishop Arts, and you start by buying one property and fixing it up or building one small building and making it into a good retail or residential space,” he said.

He’s one of the original Dallas pioneers of urban “gentlefication,” moving into distressed neighborhoods and slowly redeveloping in an effort to reduce crime, create harmony, and build community.

This is radically different from gentrification, which usually forces out low-income residents with high-income folks seeking the next hip place. Gentlefication helps long-term residents take back their neighborhoods, stabilize property values, and build safe communities for their families.

It’s also different from what Dallas is doing with its Grow South plan, Anderson said.

“The mayor’s Grow South plan is nothing but superficial marketing—it has no sustainable wealth-building characteristics,” he said. “Find the one deal that has changed somebody’s life that lives in South Dallas. It’s typical Dallas thinking: the rich people in Dallas think it’s got to be big; it can’t be good unless it’s big. Yet all the special places we love are small.”

Anderson is a self-proclaimed “hard-core new urbanist,” spreading his message of gentlefication with his company Options Real Estate, which specializes in southern Dallas County.

“Owner-occupied neighborhoods is really the message I have for gentlefication,” he said. “The only way they can get in and own is to get in early…I’ve got so many of these kind of business success stories, everything from pet stores to call centers and yoga studios to insurance offices and restaurants, all kinds of people that own their own buildings now, not to mention the housing.”

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John Backes and Candy Evans at a January RealTech event in Deep Ellum. Photo: Candy Evans

John Backes and Candy Evans at a January RealTech event in Deep Ellum. Photo: Candy Evans

Tuesday night, 200 people gathered at RealTech Dallas for a big announcement for Dallas real estate professionals.

John Backes, a young real estate entrepreneur and innovator, is launching Texas’ only real estate technology accelerator this fall. The MOTIVE Accelerator Program will fund selected commercial real estate (CRE) technology start-ups, as well as provide mentoring through a program oriented around customer and product development. The program is accepting applications for its first class to launch this fall.

“Dallas is the best place in the world to innovate at the intersection of real estate and technology,” said Backes, MOTIVE Partners President (we will be profiling him here on CandysDirt tomorrow, so be sure to check back!). “Two of the top five real estate CRMs are based in Dallas. RealPage is here. CBRE Innovation Lab is here. JLL [Jones Lang LaSalle] tech group is here. Trammell Crow is here. Dozens of startups are here. Dallas real estate tech is one of the great untold stories of our city.”

MOTIVE will fund up to 10 selected commercial real estate technology start-ups each year, investing approximately $40,000 in each venture. Applications are open now, on a rolling basis, with increasingly active interest from both start-ups and industry veterans.

“We really are interested in the best teams, reflecting what is important to us: intensive focus on the lean entrepreneurial process, a strong and cohesive team, a give-before-you-get mentality, and strong desire to change the built environment,” said Backes.

Applicants for the MOTIVE Accelerator Program will be asked to supply detailed information on their organization’s founders, who their target customers are, and what problem their products will solve. They must also provide details on how they are organized and what existing funds are in place.

Acceptance into an accelerator is a huge boost for entrepreneurs, and these organizations have been growing steadily in the last five years. Forbes found more than 200 accelerators when ranking the best for 2015. Research mentioned in the article found that accelerators can increase early stage capital in a region by 13 times, and serve to attract more entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors.

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Jane and Daniel Cheek

Jane and Daniel Cheek with sons Ike (1) and Abe (3). (Photo: Maryam Salassi)

I got to know Jane Cheek and her cute little boy, Abe, when she was teaching a toddler art class in East Dallas a little over a year ago. This talented stay-at-home-mom, a former art teacher, came up with the cutest ideas for crafts for our little buggers. When she and her husband, Daniel, bought a home up in Royal Highlands Village, I adored watching her transform their three-bedroom semi-detached into a gorgeous property. She managed to do it just months after having her second little boy, Ike, too.

Now with two boys and another bun in the oven, Jane and Daniel Cheek are moving back to their hometown of Raleigh, N.C. Our loss was some other homebuyer’s gain, as their adorable home was snapped up in a matter of days, all due to the brilliant marketing of Keller Williams Elite agent Vicki White.

Read on for their real estate story …

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‘Nother new thingee here on CandysDirt: Tell me Your Real Estate Story. Your home is your Castle, whether it’s $90K or $9 million. How did you find it? What’s the tale behind the sale? Inquiring minds at CD would LOVE to know!

Back in 1993, my soon-to-be husband and I bought a 1600 square-foot house in North Garland near Buckingham and Jupiter. After living in a basement in Queens, New York, living in a real house was thrilling to me. We both worked in the Telecom Corridor, and the home was about three miles to our respective offices. The house was on a cul-de-sac and had these great big trees. At around $84,000, our monthly payments were $880 a month. I was thrilled on every level – new house, new fiancé, new, bright life!

My husband, on the other hand, was terrified about paying the mortgage, even though it was less than we were currently paying in rent. He was so sick he nearly threw up at the closing and had to sit outside with his head down for a few minutes. This tells you what you need to know about us – Tom is the steady, reliable one. I’m the excitable entrepreneurial one.

We thought it was going to be our starter home (ok, I thought that) and that we’d be on to a bigger, better deal in five years. Life is never what you think. When Worldcom laid everyone off, Tom was unemployed/underemployed for two years. We were sure happy that our mortgage was only $880 a month. With the time on his hands, Tom remodeled part-time – including our house – and so we were happy to stay there. Once the Starbucks opened nearby, I had everything I needed.

We probably would never have left that house except — we adopted a teenager with special learning challenges. We found a great school for him in Dallas Academy, but the commute was horrible – one hour roundtrip to pick him up. So, when President Obama had that special housing incentive in 2010, we went for it. Despite the tough marketplace, we had a contract on our house before our first open house! I credit Tom’s incredible remodeling skills and our amazingly beautiful and functional garage. (That’s the photo – wish it was wider.)

We also found our new 1950’s mid-century modern in the Lake Highlands area serendipitously. It wasn’t on the market yet, either. They were having an open house just for the neighbors and I gate-crashed. The previous owners were an architect and graphic designer. They had opened up the house to the studs for their remodel and it was fantastic. In an interesting twist, they were moving because they had just adopted a daughter and the house was too small for three kids. I call our house the dollhouse because it is much smaller than our previous house (and only a one-car garage!), but we love it. East Dallas is fantastic. I’m in love with the trees and green spaces, the lake and the fact that our son can ride his bike to school. The roaming coyotes and occasional lost chicken make it interesting. My husband wasn’t even nervous when we signed this mortgage even though it was twice as much as before. I guess he had more faith in our ability to pay than last time – or else he was too tired from packing up 17 years of stuff.

Cynthia Stine, Publicist, Haley Brand Intelligence