Another one of those inane magazine surveys, but this one is a hoot and really ought to be one of Rick Perry’s talking points: according to Men’s Health magazine, three of four major Texas cities are in the top ten list of America’s most sex-happy cities. That is, these are the cities where people appear to be having more great sex than others, determined by looking at condom purchasing rates, buying of sex toys, birth rates (the whoopsie factor) and STD’s (gross). The top Texas cities on the list are Austin, number one, Dallas, the number two spot in fact, and — this is really amazing — Arlington, seventh. Must have something to do with the Rangers. Or maybe the Superbowl last winter.

Most of the top sex-happy U.S. cities are in the south, where the most unhappy sex cities (they don’t buy condoms, sex toys, get preggers or catch STDs) seem to be in the northeast. I’ve lived in the northeast. Not surprising. I am surprised, however, that sunny California did not make the top ten. Could be that despite that “peace and love” exterior, Californians are really quite an uptight, messed up bunch who spend way too much time stressing in traffic which decreases fertility rates, among other things. At least Texans are smart enough to use condoms, which indicates that whoever is having sex in the Lone Star State must be under age 45. Studies show the dumbest age group when it comes to condom use are Baby Boomers over age 45 who think because they no longer have to worry about pregnancy, they no longer need to use condoms. That’s why STD rates have more than doubled in this age group! Triple gross!

I propose another reason: we have better master bedrooms in Texas.

Fun Perry visit to Bootjack Ranch

Update: At that Vail meeting with Kelcy warren et al, The Daily Beast is now reporting that the Koch brothers compared President Obama to Sadaam Hussein.

He is picking up money like crazy. On the Perry bandwagon now apparently is energy billionaire Kelcy Warren, he of pipeline magnate Energy Transfer Partners, and owner of one of the  most expensive homes in Dallas: 5323 Park Lane. The former home of Joyce and Larry Lacerte has entertained, among others,  former President George W. and Laura Bush,  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jaap van Zweden, Prince Edward,  Caroline Rose Hunt, among others, plus feted countless Dallas charity galas and pre-galas. 5323 was listed in 2008 for $45 million, then was lowered to just under $40 million. ( Zillow, in it’s infinite wisdom, had it “zestimated” at $26,063,000. Funny.) Warren snapped it up for just under $30 million-ish, and asked for an outside appraisal.  Seller’s agent was precious Ralph Randall, Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. The buyer’s agent was Rosie Waters of Allie Beth Allman and Associates, who is married to football legend Charlie Waters, who I believe works or worked for Mr. Warren.

In late June, the Wall Street Journal reports,  lucky ducks Rick and Anita Perry hopped on Kelcy Warren’s private jet to travel from Mr. Warren’s ranch in southern Colorado, Bootjack Ranch, to Vail, where Mr. Perry spoke to a conservative forum sponsored by Charles and David Koch. Warren, who is a savvy real estate consumer, bought the 3500 acre Bootjack in April 2010 for $46.5 million, or almost half the asking price.

Then there’s Harold Simmons, who gave Perry $1.1 million. But Perry’s biggest contributor to date is home-builder Bob Perry — more on that in a future post. Now here is something that caught my eye and kind of blew me over more than the wind this Labor Day weekend: four of the nation’s ten top income-producing markets for REALTORS are in Texas. In other words, these are the top markets where agents stand the best chance of making a good income selling homes. This should all but guarantee Perry the vote from the National Association of Realtors, and if his campaign is smart, they will pick up on it and promote the hell out of it whether it has anything to do with Perry or not.

Look at this: top ten markets for higher agent income. Number one,  Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. OK, no shocker that agents here do well, really well. They average 5.1 sales per agent in a year for an annual average sales volume of $1.54 million. Median sales prices are $290,000 as Seattle etc. homes are not so cheap. But look at market number two: Arlington/Fort Worth, Texas: 8.3 sales per agent for annual sales volume of $1.17 million. That’s on lower priced homes, too, like $144,000 ish a pop. What made me blink was that of this top ten list, FOUR markets are in Texas. Next Lone Star stud was San Antonio-New Braunfels, 4.3 sales per agent for annual volume of $675,833 on homes that average $158,163. Next up is Dallas-Irving-Plano, at 3.7 sales per Realtor with annual sales volume of $635,661 on homes that average $175,000. And there is one more Texas market where agents do well — yep, that’s Austin-Round-Rock-San Marcos with 3.2 sales per Realtor, $611,660 annual sales volume on average home prices of about $203,125.

In case you don’t click over to the source story, the other markets were Pittsburg, Nashville, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Denver and of course Seattle, which I mentioned first. So basically, Texas and the rest of the non-sinking world.

Vaquero, in Westlake


“In London, you’re only a somebody if your phone’s been hacked.”

There was a fund raiser for Rick Perry last night at The Fairmont, and a darling Brit snuck in from The Sunday Times of London. Her name is Christina Lamb, she’s the Washington Bureau Chief of The Sunday Times, and a brilliant, seasoned, dynamo reporter who has been embedded in three wars — Afghanistan, Iraq and Zimbabwe.  I’m sure a Rick Perry fundraiser at The Fairmont was a piece of frosted cake compared to dodging land mines.

“Sometimes I get worried people might shoot me for photographing their homes,” I offered up to this veteran writer who has actually slept with troops. Like on the ground, no marble, no Kallista.

Yes, tough beat covering real estate in Dallas. Just like a war zone.

Anyhow, I got a call from Christina’s assistant, Tim Fitzgibbons, in D.C. on Friday as Hurricane Irene was blowing in. He told me she was on her way to Texas to do a story on Rick Perry and Texas real estate. Would I take her around and show her the lay of the land? She wanted to see Westlake “where all the rich people live”. You bet! She wanted to see how great our economy was, the platform RP is using to surge to the front of the polls.

So I fetched Christina and off we went on an adventure to Westlake, to Vaquero, where we got in (I told you, she was a war correspondent) and toured all. She was amazed at the size of the homes, the consistency of design and the turrets. People must really love turrets here, she said. I know, I said, bet you feel right at home seeing all of these. Everyone in Texas wants an English castle, I said (biting tongue hard).

They look more like they are from Normandy, she said.

Best convo was talking about her employer, the Sunday Times of London, owned by Rupert Murdoch and the good sister to that naughty News International who hacked all those phones for scooping stories.

The word in London, she said, is that you’re only a somebody if your phone’s been hacked!

We chatted about the repercussions, the stiff competition in the London press — 12 newspapers, yikes, and how the U.S. news more online, and the proliferation of blogging. (No kidding.) Seems Murdoch is paying everyone he hacked $100,000 pounds so, just like any huge liability settlement in the U.S, everyone there now wants to have been hacked.

Rick Perry, here’s a hint: check your phone.

I was in Pebble Beach last week, and everyone in California kept asking me about Rick Perry. He is the California Republicans’ hero because of our strong Texas economy. In fact today, I think he’s leading in the polls. While in Cali, I recalled a story I wrote last summer about Perry’s real estate deals, a story which is bound to crop up. It all began with this article in The Dallas Morning News about a real estate flip. Or how  “a series of professional courtesies and favors helped Perry buy a lot at the toney Peninsula at Horseshoe Bay, the “Pebble Beach” of Texas,  for $139,000 below market value and sell it for $350,000 above market value.” Bloomberg coughed up much of the same stuff last week.

Just like any rich guy, the guv made some good real estate deals, probably based on some info from his friends. And commissions are always negotiable between parties in Texas.

Here’s what I think went down in Horseshoe:  the developer, Troy Fraser, probably gave Perry a good deal at $300,000 for the “cheapest” lot on the block so he could flaunt Perry’s name to influence other buyers to sign on the dotted. That’s the way the game is played. In Pebble at our booth, one of the developers asked me to help find celebrities in Texas who he will basically give second homes to so they can come down with their entourage. The hope is folks in the entourage will buy property. That’s how entourage rules work — celebs get freebies, minions pay. Buyers tend to flock to where the rich and famous roost.

Horseshoe Bay is indeed the Pebble Beach of Texas. The Hill Country is right to the west, and Lake Lyndon B. Johnson is loaded with boats and jet skies and mega million dollar homes. Horseshoe Bay is one reason why, last year, Forbes listed Ilano County as one of the top five U.S. places where, based on IRS data, the rich are moving.

What’s the beef here?

Critics say Perry didn’t buy these properties as a squeaky clean consumer. He had pre-existing relationships with parties of the transactions, which may have given him a leg up.

State officials are bound by a set of ethics standards the rest of us aren’t.

“Public officials have a responsibility around conflicts of interest to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” Thomas Donaldson, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School business ethics professor who hasn’t reviewed the transactions in detail, told Bloomberg.

Perry’s place as governor or even President does mean he could potentially find himself in a situation to sway a decision or do a favor in return for parties, in this state or others. Critics say one of the sacrifices state officials make when elected to an office is to give up the ability to make normal transactions off of contacts.

Perry buys an upscale lot for $300,000 in 2001, Sleepy market, totally pre-boom. In fact, pretty scary market conditions post 9/11. He then sells it to a willing buyer for $1.15m in 2007 for a tidy profit — top of the boom before the Bear Stearns Lehman Brothers fiasco.  Then the buyer tried to flip it fast for $2.65 m — no go, and then he got caught when the real estate bubble burst. Horseshoe Bay real estate is not moving like it was in 2007. Perry was smart to get out when he did. Did he know John Paulson?

Then, in 1995, Perry has a big name attached to a real estate transaction: Michael Dell. A lot he purchased in August, 1993 was sold for a gain of $343,000, according to his tax returns. Dell needed the land for his company to access public sewer lines. Mike Toomey, a former Republican state representative, lobbyist and buddy of Perry, was given power of attorney to complete Perry’s purchase of the land. Toomey also served as Perry’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2004.

As much as it pains me to say it, Perry’s real estate timing was perfect. Maybe the same guy giving him real estate advice is telling him to run for the Oval office?

Maybe he relied too heavily on friends, but is it illegal for the governor of Texas to make a shrewd real estate deal?

I also seriously doubt  Alan Moffat is the only man in the nation who bought property in the heyday with a slightly inflated bank appraisal. In 2007, remember, we thought the party would never end.

Then there’s the commission Perry did not pay:

Perry did not pay a real estate commission on his sale to Moffatt. Mitchell said the waiver of the fee was a favor to Moffatt. The fee, typically 6 percent of the sales price, could have amounted to as much as $69,000.

About the only part of this whole piece that I found fishy — or at least really stupid on Perry’s part — was the lawyer he had appointed who didn’t charge him for appealing the appraised property’s value with the Llano or Burnet Appraisal District. I mean, she wasn’t even a real estate lawyer:

Perry asked attorney Colleen McHugh to handle his tax appeal. A corporate labor lawyer from Corpus Christi, McHugh had just been appointed by Perry as chairman of the Texas Public Safety Commission.… McHugh was not compensated for the appeal because Perry had paid her $2,850 for earlier work on the property purchase.

That appeal, says the News, kept Perry’s value at purchase price level while he owned the property. Let’s get real: raise your hand if you volunteer to raise the appraisal on your home just so you can pay more in property taxes. Meantime, he did do the state a favor: when he sold that parcel for $1.15m. Moffat probably coughed up way more cash for property taxes.

Here’s Roger Staubach’s Horseshoe Bay pad: