Real Estate Story

In Texas, anything below 80 degrees is practically long-sleeve weather. So this week’s lows in the 50s have us thinking about winter. (Fall is actually the best time to do home winterizing because temperatures are comfortably and you’re not rushed.)

Winterizing your home doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are 7 tips that are free or low-cost. They’ll save you a bundle on your home heating bill and get your house ready for the coming months.


Real Estate Story
Photo: Kirk Flippin

If the walls of a former meth lab have not been painted, heavy-duty degreaser can clean away toxic chemicals and make a house habitable. But if chemicals have been sealed under a coat of paint, replacing the sheetrock is the only option. Photo: Kirk Flippin

Kirk Flippin has seen some pretty sad situations in his line of work.

Flippin is the owner of Texas Decon Environmental Services, a New Braunfels-based waste cleanup company that addresses methamphetamine lab cleanup as one of its specialties. He once stood in front of a house in Grapevine, Texas, and threw out a little girl’s toys, clothes, and dolls while she watched, heartbroken.

The family had unwittingly purchased a house used as a meth lab by a former owner and the girl’s possessions were contaminated by toxic residue.

It’s not the only time Flippin has found himself in that sort of position: “I have thrown away all of a family’s personal belongings because they were contaminated,” he said.

Between 2004 and 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported 2,349 meth “incidents” in Texas, including labs, dumpsites, or chemical and glassware seizures, and that’s just those discovered by law enforcement. But meth lab cleanup is not big business for Flippin in Texas because there are no laws in place requiring homeowners to clean their house if it has been used as a meth lab.

“When you go to sell a house, on the real estate disclosure form, there’s a question about if it has been used for production of methamphetamines—the homeowner is supposed to tell you,” he said. “But if the house is foreclosed and owned by a bank, the bank does not have to tell you, and a mortgage company does not have to tell you, even if they know. And if the homeowner is the person cooking the meth, they’re not likely to tell you [on the disclosure form].”

This can be a massive problem for unsuspecting homeowners, and can result in big health problems, decreased property values, and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to take care the toxic mess.

Two years ago, Flippin spoke to lawmakers in Austin about implementing legislation, but nothing happened.

“It can’t be so difficult because 27 other states have regulations in place and we could just copy what they do, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t draw much attention,” he said. “The innocent people, the homeowners, they become the victims. They can’t even live in their house unless they spend a whole lot of money.”


Real Estate Story
Jane McGarry sold her gorgeous West Fort Worth hacienda in July and plans to build a new, smaller version nearby.

Jane McGarry sold her gorgeous West Fort Worth hacienda in July and plans to build a new, smaller version nearby.

“I just closed on a West Fort Worth lot a couple of weeks ago,” said North Texas TV legend Jane McGarry, who now blogs at “I am drawing up floorplans for the new house right now and I hope to build a smaller, less expensive, low-maintenance version of my Westover Hills home I sold in July, the perfect baby boomer ‘down-sizing’ house.”

Jump to read our Q&A with McGarry for “Tell Me Your Real Estate Story.”



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 …


Real Estate Story


We love hearing from our readers, and nothing makes us happier than emails from folks who are moving to Dallas who tell us what a valuable resource is for their home search. We’ve heard such wonderful stories from buyers and sellers and folks who are relocating about how this here little website helped them navigate the real estate landscape of North Texas.

So we were just beaming when Brian Feitcher, VP of National Sales at Fusion Logistics, sent us this note:

“Just wanted to send a quick note to let you know how much I love your site!  I am in the process of moving to Dallas from Philadelphia and have been checking your site multiple times a day for the past few months.  Love the new layout and the multiple daily updates.

Just bought a home in Briarwood and we’re excited to move down to the big D!”

Of course, we had to ask Brian to tell us his real estate story, and he was kind enough to share! Jump to find out more about Brian’s home search and his big move to Dallas:



(Portrait: Joe Garcia)

Full disclosure: I’ve known Jenna Kujawski (pronounced: KEY-os-KEY) since our days at Texas A&M University, and we’ve kept up with one another as we’ve both gotten married and had our first kids.

Jenna, now pregnant with her second child, is currently celebrating with sparkling cider as her family moves into their brand new home on the range in Franklin, Texas, just outside Bryan-College Station. It’s a dream home come true for Jenna of Lazy K Designs and her family, who live on 28 acres known as the Lazy K Ranch. Jenna and her husband Brady bought the acreage soon after graduating from A&M, with the goal of one day building their dream home – a home perfect for raising a family and teaching small town values. After 7 years, that dream is now a reality.

Read more about their real estate story after the jump!

Brady and I met while attending Texas A&M, and even before we were engaged, we would always talk about our dream home. I’m sure every couple has this conversation at least once while dating, but if you know me, you know that I don’t just have dreams; I have plans and goals. Plans and goals that I intend to achieve.

So after we were married in the fall of 2006, it was time to put our plan into action. Most young married couples get their first jobs and buy a starter home, but investing in a $150,000 home in Bryan-College Station didn’t make sense for us. No, our plans required a different approach.

We knew we wanted to stay close to Aggieland; it’s our alma mater, and as a communications and marketing professional, it afforded me the opportunities to advance my career. We also knew we wanted space – I had grown up as part of a farming and ranching family in El Campo, Texas, so I was used to living in the country, taking care of animals, and having room to roam.

Land was fairly easy to come by at the time, but location was extremely important to us. Even though we were just months into our marriage, we were making long-term decisions based upon our future. We wanted to be in a small town we could envision raising a family; we wanted a reputable school district; we wanted a realistic commute; we wanted a community with which we could be a part; we wanted a place where we could see ourselves grow old.

And we found it in 28 acres outside of Franklin, Texas, a rural community known for it’s high-achieving schools, and with a relatively short 35 minute drive to Bryan-College Station. And as an added bonus, a few of my college friends had married into the Franklin community, so we would even know a few people. We closed on the Lazy K in the spring of 2007.


Since building a home wasn’t financially feasible at the time (or the right move to make), it made sense for us to try to live as cheaply as possible so that we could begin to save for our dream home. Since we knew this living arrangement would be temporary, it made sense to invest in temporary housing. So we found a used double-wide mobile home that we moved onto the property. It wasn’t anything spectacular, and we spent day and night for the first two weeks renovating it so that it was livable. Even though things seemed stressful at the time, it was one of the smartest decisions we could have made.


As a planner, I always had it in my mind that we’d be building our home within 5 years. Well, if life has taught me anything, it’s that ultimately I’m not in control. I had my first daughter in the summer of 2011 and changed careers in order to be closer to my family, which set us back some in our plans. Looking back, it was probably smart to postpone the home-building process a bit; it gave us time to continue to pay off a large portion of our land, our mobile home, and our two vehicles.

In the early spring of 2013, exactly 6 years after starting our lives on the Lazy K Ranch, the time seemed right to take that leap of faith. Keep in mind that Brady and I have always done lots of planning before beginning any process, and this was no different. In fact, Brady had drawn our house plans himself, starting completely from scratch. We had already talked to a loan officer to make sure that the house we had drawn on paper was a house we could actually afford. We had almost finalized our builder. Things were falling into place.


We broke ground in early June 2013 on what I would call a typical ranch-style home. Early on, we had decided to downsize from a two-story house since we had the room to build a large single story, and I do not regret that decision. Not when you have little children. Even though this was our dream home, we still had to be smart in how expensive a dream home we would build. So we agreed on what we would compromise on (marble, porches, ceiling height) and made certain we were on the same page about what we were not willing to compromise on (kitchen, limestone, gabled entrance, outdoor kitchen, layout).


And here I am, a little over 7 months later, enjoying my morning coffee on my new beautiful front porch, watching the sunrise over the treetops. My now 2-year-old daughter is still sleeping in her big girl bed in her new room, and my sweet husband is sitting next to me.

I want to pinch myself to make sure this is real because I feel like I’ve spent most of my life talking about “one day building our dream home,” and I’ve never dreamed what it would be like to actually live in our dream home.

master-bd2 master-bath1

And now I’m getting to live my dream. And all the sacrifices and decisions we both made years ago have been worth it. Because this home is more than a building — it’s a place where I will get to raise my growing family, throw fantastic summer birthday parties, entertain family and friends, host a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, and barbecue on the back porch while we watch our Aggies play … and win.

But for now, I’ll just sit next to my husband, holding hands and sipping our coffee, excitedly talking about what’s next in our future together.

To see the building process of Jenna’s Lazy K home, follow jennak04 on Instagram using the hashtag #lazykhome.

laundry-mud-room1 treehouse


D’Andra Simmons hopes you’ll get a glimpse at her and Jeremy Lock’s personalities when you tour their incredibly chic Highland Park contemporary during the Armstrong Bradfield Preschool Association Homes for the Holidays Home Tour.

The eclectic two-story modern has an open floorplan with a global vibe injected with a shot of old-Hollywood glamour. And Simmons, founder of the Hard Night Good Morning line of cosmetics, knows a thing or two about glamour. The 6,600-square-foot home is both a home base and a showcase for these two world travelers. Lock is an award-winning war photographer, and Simmons, who admits she feels more relaxed on safari in Africa than anywhere else, have assembled their collections in a way that reflects their travels and tastes.


“A lot of contemporary homes are choppy, but right when you open the front door you can see right through the home to the pool and on to the backyard,” Simmons said of her home, 3501 Lindenwood. “I wanted flow and openness and room to breathe.”

And that’s exactly what she got in this custom home, completed in 2011. The huge windows and tall ceilings give this home warmth from light that reflects off of the gorgeous pine wood floors and soft museum-style paint. It’s like a blank canvas for Simmons and Lock, an empty gallery to showcase their treasures collected from across the globe and throughout history.


Dotted with animal skins and African art, as well as icons and statues from Asia, you’ll also find walls and rooms filled with Lock’s photographs. The images, taken in Mongolia, Haiti, India and other far-flung locales, are striking and evocative. They offer a look inside Simmons’ and Locks’ travels, history, and personalities, that’s for sure.

Take the incredible Jeffery Bigelow acrylic four-poster bed in the guest bedroom. The vintage bed is a whimsical and glamorous piece, suiting D’Andra’s personality to a tee. There’s also a huge gate from a Tibetan Buddhist temple used as a headboard in the master bedroom, evoking the couple’s well-traveled pedigree and global tastes.


In fact, 3501 Lindenwood, designed by Marc McCollum, was on the AIA Dallas Tour of Homes earlier this month, so Simmons and Lock are ready for the ABPA home tour. What they really gained was watching the reaction tour-goers had to their home, which does a stunning job of bringing outdoor elements inside through balanced composition.

“I was here the whole time to see people’s reactions. We travel a lot, so it looks like the United Nations. It’s very artsy and personal,” Simmons said. “They really saw our personalities shine through, that it was a warm, relaxing environment.”


It’s a place to put your feet up and get cozy, Simmons added. “Our lifestyles are very comfortable, which is unlike a lot of contemporary homes.” We definitely agree.

Of course, she is glad to have the opportunity to support the Armstrong Bradfield Preschool Association, which provides funding and programming for Armstrong and Bradfield elementary campuses inside Highland Park ISD. The home tour, ABPA’s main fundraiser, has contributed more than $40,000 to help improve instruction and teacher retention.

“I feel kind of guilty, living in this great school district and not having kids to send to the schools!” Simmons said with a laugh. “If I can do this to give it a little boost, that’s great, that’s what we’ll do.”

You can buy tickets to the Dec. 6 ABPA Homes for the Holidays tour from ABPA members, at Tom Thumb stores, or online at



(Photos: Jeremy Lock)