Photo courtesy Charleston's TheDigitel via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Charleston’s TheDigitel via Creative Commons

DFW rents were 6.2 higher last year, averaging $919 per month, but demand still soared, with North Texas leading the nation in apartment rentals, and vacancies at a 13-year low, according to new real estate research from Zillow and MPF Research.

The increased rent translated to an extra $600 million paid to landlords last year, Zillow reported. For North Texans, that meant a median increase of $35 a month, higher than the nationwide rate of $26.

Rising rents are nothing new, said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries.

“Over the past 14 years, rents have grown at twice the pace of income due to weak income growth, burgeoning rental demand, and insufficient growth in the supply of rental housing,” he said. “This has created real opportunities for rental housing owners and investors, but has also been a bitter pill to swallow for tenants, particularly those on an entry-level salary and those would-be buyers struggling to save for a down payment on a home of their own.”

For 2015, expect more of the same.

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I bet big builders like Lennar Corp., Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton, and Pulte Homes are breathing a collective sigh of relief. According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing starts are up — way up, as a matter of fact — from November 2011.

According to the report, privately owned housing starts are up 21.6 percent year-over-year for November 2012. Housing completions for November are up 16.1 percent over last year, too.

Pair that with a very optimistic column from Dallas Morning News business writer Will Deener. Housing stocks for some of the nation’s largest builders have grown by leaps and bounds over 2012.

“Shares of D.R. Horton, Toll Brothers Inc., Lennar Corp. and other housing stocks are now up more than 50 percent since the year began,” Deener writes in his Dec. 16 column. “These stocks rallied in anticipation of better times in the sector, and that time has apparently arrived. By almost every measure, the housing sector is finally returning to the land of the living.”

We’re hearing that sales of pre-owned homes in many areas of Dallas are up, and that several enclaves are actually seeing home sell for over list price!

So what do you think, is it finally time to tip a glass and celebrate a recovering housing market?

When Barneys New York came back to NorthPark Center in 2006, they made a huge splash with an equally splashy ad campaign. Folks were anxious to have the un-self-conscious luxury retailer back in Big D. It showed the rest of the world that our fair city was on our way back up.

While it appears that Dallas has one of the healthiest real estate markets in the country, and our state has no shortage of millionaires and billionaires, and yet, we’re losing our Barneys?

As Dallas Biz Journal reporter Steven Thompson notes, Barneys was acquired earlier this year by Perry Capital. Does the new owner have something to do with the two-story NorthPark anchor closing?

While NorthPark Center officials say something “exciting” is planned for that huge space, Barneys will be missed. Why do you think the store is closing?