Is Dallas likely to get Amazon’s HQ2?

Right when you think that we’ve talked it absolutely to death, the Wall Street Journal had to go and breathe life into the corpse of the Amazon HQ2 story. But wait! Do all of these fancy pie charts mean what we think they mean? Is Dallas proper about to get the crown after finding ourselves at first runner up too many times?

According to the numbers (I’m not great at math, so I’m going to trust them a bit here), the big draw for Big D is all business — available labor, low taxes, and relatively affordable cost of living (for now, at least). Big points for meeting Amazon half way with college population and cultural fit (Dallas County is blue, y’all). But when it comes to fiscal health, we got low marks.


IHOTW 4337 WestwayIf you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we kind of like us some vacation homes. In fact, we are doing the happy-dance over at SecondShelters: vacation-home sales in the U.S. are rebounding. The National Association of Realtors tells us sales rose 10 percent in 2012, after tumbling — no make that, free-falling — 56 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Well, it’s all coming back big time. I had lunch with Phillip Day, who is marketing the beautiful BahaMar in the Bahamas, and he told me sales are really picking up, especially with foreign buyers in the international resort areas. They are paying cash.

Hawaii is totally hot and almost back to pre-recession madness. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hualalai Resort, which is half owned by fellow Texan and Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell, sold more second homes and lots in 2013 than any year since 2007.

And even the Journal says prices are back, too, up 24 percent, making up almost half of what they lost:

“I expect close to double-digit gains in second-home prices this year,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He thinks primary homes will appreciate by only about 6%.  The median sales price for a vacation home in the U.S. was $150,000 in 2012, up 24% from 2011, according to the Realtors association. The increase reflects greater sales of higher priced properties. Their pricey amenities range from movie-screening theaters to wine cellars, private boat docks and golf-cart garages.

Still, you have to pack and get to a second home, so why not live in the Hamptons year-round, 24/7, right here in Highland Park? Fresh to the market is this beautiful new home built by Jennifer Duncan Designs, 4337 Westway,  that caught my heart over at Mathews/Nichols. David Nichols tells me Lloyd Lumpkins is the architect; he was with Robie Fusch before he went out on his own. I am so in love with that back yard — totally makes me feel like I’m on vacation in Maine — I may just go camp out!

4337 Westway foyerThe 8,960-square-foot home has a Highland Park address but more than 146 feet of frontage with a gorgeous backyard, pool, outdoor fireplace, and screened porch with electronic screens that come down at the touch of a button to create an entire outdoor room protected from the elements. Did I say Highland Park? Yes, that means Highland Park Schools. Enter to floor-to-ceiling white paneled walls, coffee-colored hardwood floors, beautiful crown moldings and windows, windows, windows. There is an incredible kitchen with all the trimmings: marble countertops, deep sink, abundant storage with Bosch, Sub-Zero appliances and a Wolf range with pot filler. Adjacent is a walk-in pantry, and a breakfast room that opens to the den. Also on this floor, and very smart: a guestroom in the opposite wing with full bath that could be a master should you want or need one downstairs. This one has a walk-in closet, a soaking tub, and a shower. Then there is the study with the adjacent “hide the mess” office across the hall.

4337 Westway kitchen 4337 Westway LR 4337 Westway his bath 4337 Westway her bath 4337 Westway bedroom 4337 Westway laundry roomUpstairs is the master suite with a ginormous bathroom, separate his and hers closets, soaking tub, steam shower and laundry facilities. There is another full-service utility with sink down the hall. Up here, too, three lovely bedrooms complete with window benches, built-ins, and en-suite spa baths.

I like the 12-foot ceilings down and 10-foot ceilings up — that is the trend: not too high, not too low, but just right. Also trending: the clean-lined finish-out throughout the home.

The home is about as walkable as you can get: located between Highland Park Village and the stores at Lomo Alto, you can leave the Porsches in the three-car garage and hoof it off for groceries or a latte.

I love it! Second home style for your first for only $4,950,000. I am sure the good folks at Inwood Mortgage will tell you that’s very smart investing…

4337 Westway back 4337 Westway porch

5818 E University extI love this story because the guy in the WSJ photo is working in a coffee shop in St. Charles, Illinois, on the Fox River Valley where I grew up. He had two years of college and dropped out, for whatever reason with $14,000 of debt, and now the Wall Street Journal is using 26-year-old James Roy as a poster child for the tough life the Millennials face: it takes kids today to age 30 before they earn a median-wage income of about $42,000. Back in 1980, kids at age 26 were hitting $42,000 a year. That $42,000 is apparently a marker of independance from mom and dad. NA-BY263_WORKFO_G_20130929194421

About a third of adults in their early 20s work full time, a proportion that rises to about half of adults in their late 20s. The labor-force participation rate for young people last year declined to its lowest point in about 40 years, according to the report:

-The decline in employment among young people mirrors a drop among the broader population. The share of U.S. adults who work peaked at nearly 65% in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and has trended downward ever since. An aging population explains part of the decline, but even workers in the prime of their professional lives are less likely to work today than a decade ago.

-In recent decades, the U.S. has seen a gradual outward shift in people’s professional lives: Americans today tend to start work later and continue working longer than in past generations. A decade ago, a boy in his late teens was twice as likely as a man his grandfather’s age to hold a job; today, the teen is actually less likely to be working.

-For young people, the delayed entry into the world of work is partly a reflection of the recent recession, but it is also driven by long-term trends, including more jobs that require advanced skills and fewer high-paying factory jobs that required little more than a high-school diploma, the report found. The “new knowledge economy” has spawned more internships and bite-size credentials as a result.

More than any age group, the Millennials have taken a lick from the Recession: between 2000 and 2012, the employment rate for people ages 21 to 25 dropped from 84% to 72%. Young men experienced an even steeper decline, from 80% to 65%. For those without post-secondary education, it’s worse: dropping from 66% to 53%, while the peak unemployment rate for young African-Americans’ AFTER the recession reached 30%, double that of young whites.

So of course, how are these people going to afford a house? It sure is not going to happen in the large metropolitan areas, and we know that many Millennials move back home with mom and dad.

And is that really so bad?

Of course, one of the good things about our economy in Dallas is our well-priced homes, making home ownership available to more Millennials… and long as they are not mired in student or other debt. More education has traditionally been a plus in future earning potential, but the high cost of higher education today is making many young people reconsider the priciest private college educations and studies.

Of course, look at this FHA approved, one level, updated,  2 bedroom, 2 full bath condo within walking distance to Central Market on Lovers lane, LA Fitness and less than a mile from SMU. The condo is on the second level, has assigned covered parking and a laundry room within the unit for a washer and dryer. There is also a large covered patio overlooking the beautiful courtyard and pool below. Listed with the darling Tony Nuncio, at Dallas City Center, asking $109,000 and that’s not too shabby for a Millennial!  5818 E University LR 5818 E University Kit 5818 E University master 5818 E University bath 5818 E University 2nd bed 5818 E University pool



Bamboo-forest,-natural-light-1Yes, it grows like wild and you either hack it yourself or hire someone to do it, but I never thought I’d see the day when a township, any township, made it illegal to grow bamboo or fine you when it invades your neighbor’s yard. Apparently running bamboo, a variety that, when left unchecked, can leap from yard to yard like an STD, can damage home foundations and crack concrete, not to mention gardens. The canes can grow 40 feet tall. According to the Wall Street Journal, several communities on Long Island have passed ordinances to curb the plant, and a Connecticut state law takes effect in October that will make property owners liable for removal costs and damages if the bamboo spreads to their neighbors’ land.

Last May, Malverne, L.I.  passed an ordinance banning the planting or growing of bamboo. Violators could be fined up to $350 or be subject to up to 15 days in jail.

Jail? For growing bamboo?

The Mayor of the Village of Malverne says this is a serious issue.

According to the Journal, “running bamboo differs from so-called clumping bamboo, said Logan Senack, Connecticut invasive plant coordinator at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. The clumping variety grows in clusters, and the bamboo canes remain close to the parent plant. The roots of running bamboo spread laterally several feet from the parent plant, enabling the plant to spread farther, he said.”


Jesse Neider for The Wall Street JournalPriscilla Weadon of Westport, Conn., examines an area of her garden that has been overrun by bamboo.

“Bamboo is native to Asia. Records of when bamboo was introduced in the U.S. are spotty, but it may have occurred in the late 19th century, by plant collectors and gardeners, said John Thompson, a member of the advisory committee of the National Invasive Species Council. Americans eventually began planting bamboo for its ornamental qualities and for extra privacy it provided yards.”

I’ve got bamboo, wonder if it’s running or clumping. Sound like a question for our landscape guru, Harold Leidner!

DollarBillFanThis caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal last week: “more than half of all homes sold last year and so far in 2013 have been financed without a mortgage, according to an analysis by economists at Goldman Sachs Group.”

According to the analysts, 20% of all homes sold before the housing crash were “all-cash” sales, or around 30% of sales by dollar volume. But that has changed dramatically over the past seven years. Now the all-cash share of home sales has more than doubled, increasing by more than 30 percentage points.

Where did they get their numbers? Goldman scrutinized home sales figures from the Census Bureau and the National Association of Realtors and mortgage-origination data from the Mortgage Bankers Association and Lender Processing Services.

This explains why home sales have jumped over the past two years despite more hoops to jump through to become qualified for a mortgages, and the declining mortgage application index. Today Wells Fargo reports laying off 2300 employees due to increases in mortgage rates, which are stymying re-fis.

Who is making all these cash purchases? Investors, foreign buyers, and wealthy homeowners that likely do not want to go through the hassle of getting a mortgage. Some are downsizing to smaller homes equity rich before closing on a sale. Others are loving real estate as an investment more than the stock market. We sure know how lending standards have tightened up since the housing bubble. Banks now scrutinize borrowers’ tax returns and bank statements to verify their incomes and the source of their down payment, and the self-employed have been targeted.

I know of a lot of cash deals in Dallas, tell us what you are seeing on the real estate streets.


hpfountain-533x400Highland Park is hot. Don’t you love how the rest of the world is suddenly paying attention to Dallas? Our economy is great, and our real estate market could not be better. We may have some quirky politicos, and some of us OD on the decorating with the three T’s: turrets, trophies and tusks. But we are Texas, the rough-tumbling, independent, do-it-your-way state. I had heard that the Wall Street Journal sent a reporter down to Dallas to check out our real estate a week or so ago. That reporter was Alyssa Abkowitz. We are friends on Twitter. I was told she originally came down to research the Oil baron’s story — how “the shale-oil boom in the Lone Star State has created a different kind of gusher: oil executives flush with cash looking to buy luxury real estate.”

Oh we know that story well, don’t we, all too well.

Alyssa apparently wanted to talk with Trevor Reese-Jones, but he prefers to remain private about his (significant) real estate holdings.  She spoke, instead, to Mark Molthan, custom home builder extraordinaire of Platinum Custom Homes, and discovered Highland Park:

Along a lush stretch of Preston Road, where manicured lawns gently roll down to a lake, three of Dallas’s most prominent businessmen own estates in a row: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has a 14,000-square-foot spread, real-estate mogul Harlan Crow, whose home is valued by the Dallas Central Appraisal District for over $24 million, and investor John Muse, who owns a nearly 25,000-square-foot mansion.

Scott Womack

Muse estate by Scott Womack

Yeah, well then there’s Trevor and Gerald Ford and a whole lot more.

She also spoke to a slew of high end realtors from the tip-top, including Christine McKenney, Jennifer Miller (both with Dave Perry-Miller) and David Nichols of Mathews-Nichols, of Allie Beth Allman. Christine says it’s not yet a seller’s market at the $3 million level and above. $3 million-plus range is still a buyer’s market, but “you can’t get enough listings” in the sub-$2.5 million market. Alyssa also wrote that when the real estate market turned south, do did Highland Park prices:

Like many affluent communities, Highland Park, which experienced a decline in prices during the downturn, has seen a surge in sales volume in the last 18 months because of pent-up demand and dwindling inventory.

I actually disagree. The dips, if any, were minimal. I call Highland Park and University Park Blue Chip Real Estate because in bad times, it holds value, in good times it appreciates like hell. I will give you a perfect example: my builders tell me lots are getting more expensive in Highland Park. Builder Jerry Stark has two spec homes going up on Hanover, and one of their homes I was peeping in last week near Boedecker was already under contract. Taylor Stark told me they had not even taken pictures of the home, because it went under contract so quickly.

Alyssa goes on to say that Highland Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“In 1906, developer John Armstrong bought 1,326 acres from a group of investors for $276 an acre. He asked Wilbur David Cook, who had just designed Beverly Hills, Calif., to plan a neighborhood with 20% of the land used as park and green space.”

Expensive dirt, yes, always, but also idyllic. Not sure if it’s 10 degrees cooler in Highland Park come August due to it’s “altitude”, as John Armstrong once advertised, but we know Highland Park definitely has another kind of altitude: upscale. Ray Washburne, who is one of the owners of Highland Park Village, told Alyssa he made HPV upscale but also retained the small-town feel. He kept on Deno’s the cobbler, HPV movie theater and the circa 1936 The Village Barber, where Mayor Mike Rawlings gets his hair cut.

Says Mr. Washburne: “It’s like you’ve gone to Mayberry when you walk in.”

I saw Ross Perot last week at The Cobbler in Preston Royal, just as nice as can be. Hey Alyssa, when are you gonna come back and profile Preston Hollow?

Buy a bigger house

More and more homeowners are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and as the downward trajectory of the housing market turns upward, they are also seeing missed opportunities.

Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, says in a Wall Street Journal interview that national home prices are up 7.2 percent annually and that most homebuyers regret not buying a bigger home when the getting was good.

In Dallas, with our super hot housing market, you’ll be lucky to find a home at all. With a brisk market turning agents and sellers to hip pocket listings, I’m sure we’ll see more growth in the months to come.

Norman Brinker’s Dallas Mansion

All we hear is how print is dying, but the Wall Street Journal plows ahead. The smarty pants at the Wall Street Journal announce a significant beefing up of global (and all) real estate coverage beginning this Friday. Oh and guess what: it’s going to be on mobile and the ipad, too.  Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones & Company and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, says what I have believed for years: “We all like to think of our home as a mansion, even if it is a humble abode, and we all have the license to aspire, so we have created Mansion to be the home of both aspiration and real estate realization.”

Agents have told me the Journal is one place they get a lot of mileage from with print advertising but oh boy is it ever pricey!

Serious House Pron coming up — herewith is the press release about “Mansion” — the Journal’s new :



Friday Journal Section to be Renamed; Showcase Expanded Arts & Culture, Sports

NEW YORK (Oct. 2, 2012) – The Wall Street Journal will debut a new weekly section covering the global luxury real estate market on Friday, Oct. 5. To serve a global audience, “Mansion” will appear as a stand-alone section in the Journal every Friday in the U.S., with select content appearing each week in the Journal’s Europe and Asia editions. Relevant content will also be presented across’s Chinese, Japanese and German-language editions.

Along with additional features and coverage on, all Mansion content will be available via the Journal’s universal app for iPhone and iPad.

“The mantra for real estate has always been location, location, location – the location for the most intelligent, original, trustworthy and insightful journalism on prestige property is now The Wall Street Journal,” said Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones & Company and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. “We all like to think of our home as a mansion, even if it is a humble abode, and we all have the license to aspire, so we have created Mansion to be the home of both aspiration and real estate realization.”


Mansion will offer in-depth stories from a global team of journalists, including property-focused coverage with industry statistics and a focus on high-end financing; luxury real estate topics from iconic buildings and renovations to investments associated with those projects; distinctive neighborhoods and properties around the world; unique views from select residences and more.

Buoyed by the Journal’s existing staff of real estate reporters as well as a newly formed dedicated team for Mansion, led by editor Emily Gitter, recurring features include:


  • The Market: A data-driven look at a sector of the luxury market;
  • House Call: A notable person recounts a real estate adventure;
  • Private Properties: High-profile transactions and property news;
  • The Balance Sheet: A profile of a renovation project;
  • Who Lives Here: An in-depth profile of a building or iconic block, the notable people who live there, the history and recent noteworthy sales;
  • Inside Story: A profile of a prominent individual home;
  • Portfolio: A look inside the real estate portfolio of a well-known person;
  • Jumbo Jungle: How to finance a luxury home now;
  • The Trade: The business of buying and selling; real estate brokers on the rise; trends in marketing homes and more;
  • Foreign Correspondent: A guide to buying homes overseas, with a look at the quirks of the particular local real estate market. will also unveil an enhanced experience on Friday at, the Journal’s portal for property coverage. A dedicated page for Mansion will have all slideshows, including House of the Day, as well as videos and articles exploring the world of high-end homes. WSJ Live will also offer a daily segment focused on real estate as part of its Lunch Break show. In conjunction with launch, Wall Street Journal real estate reporter Lauren Schuker Blum will host a chat Friday at 1:30 p.m. EST on to discuss how the luxury-home market is being redefined.

Complementing Mansion, The Journal will continue to cover real estate news and features in its national news pages, the Greater New York section as well as Personal Journal and WSJ. Magazine.

In addition to the launch of Mansion, the current Friday Journal section in the Journal’s U.S. edition, which previously featured real estate coverage in addition to arts, will now focus on arts, culture and entertainment, showcasing the Journal’s expanded coverage of these areas.Renamed “Arena,” it will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic Joe Morgenstern, a leading team of television and theater critics, and the Journal’s growing arts staff’s reporting on movies, music, television, books, art, and new media. The Journal’s sports coverage, currently part of Friday Journal, will also appear as part of Arena.

Mansion will be included with Arena as a single section in some U.S. markets.


A number of advertisers across multiple categories have recognized the opportunity Mansion presents to target the Journal’s affluent and influential audience. Launch advertisers include Coldwell Banker; Extell Development Company; LandVest; Luxury Portfolio International; NetJets; New York Design Center; Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate; Related Companies; Sheldon Good & Company; Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, LLC; Stribling Marketing Associates; and Sub-Zero and Wolf.

“We know our audience is already well-versed and interested in the high-end real estate market, and Mansion provides advertisers the opportunity to speak directly to that audience with a proven affinity for real estate and the subjects and trends surrounding it – from investment to renovation to design,” said Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer, The Wall Street Journal.

“Today’s consumers are demanding a single source for all the latest intelligence on the world’s luxury real estate markets. The new section delivers this in a timely, consistent and trusted way, providing critical insights into the globe’s most far-reaching markets,” said Wendy Purvey, chief marketing officer, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC. “With the Sotheby’s International Realty® network’s expertise and global presence, The Wall Street Journal is an ideal outlet for educating buyers and sellers on the latest industry trends and showcasing the most extraordinary property available today.”

“We are thrilled to support The Wall Street Journal’s newest section and see it as an exciting way to share our brands’ stories about food preservation and great cooking results with new readers,” said Michele Bedard, vice president of marketing for Sub-Zero and Wolf. “Our work with The Wall Street Journal has been integral to the engagement of readers and consumers that are as passionate about design and cooking as we are at Sub-Zero and Wolf and look forward to the same with the addition of Mansion.”