Nicky and Eleanor’s House: The Irony of the Z Sale

Texas is a non-disclosure state, which means that if I do not want the world to know how much I paid for my home, I can keep that news quiet if I so choose. I do not have to tell the MLS or the Dallas County Appraisal District. The last known listing price of the home goes into the computers for the world to see. The refrain from one of my old favorite commercials, “only her hairdresser knows for sure”, holds true. (Substitute Realtor for hairdresser.) Of course, when the Appraisal District appraises my home for the last listed price in MLS, but I paid less, I will fight tooth and fingernail with whatever proof I have. So come this spring, we’ll get closer to knowing what Eleanor and Nicky’s home really sold for, unless a commenter out there wants to share the knowledge with us.

“Z sales” are making sales price reports essentially ineffective. We had the Case Shiller report yesterday from Standard & Poors, and we were all quite depressed. Dallas, the poster child of a healthy real estate economy, saw an overall 3.1% decline in home prices over last year. This was, of course, across the board.  And the economy is supposed to be getting better because we bought more for Christmas the holidays?

Even Bloomberg editors seem to be on Prozac. (Maybe not: EMS’s home is sold.) Just wait ’till banks unleash those foreclosures they held back due to “robo-signing”. Again, with the exception of some lower-priced neighborhoods, North Dallas — and Texas — and Austin — will not be hurting too much because our foreclosure rate is under control. Our foreclosure rate is under control because we cannot borrow too much against our homes.

But how can we trust Case Shiller with all those non-disclosed sales?

Am I advocating for undoing non-disclosure? No way. Not as long as we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and fund our schools that way.

I just thought it quite ironic that the home of one of the city’s most successful real estate agents finally sells, and sells for far less than originally listed, and remains anonymous.

I almost did not post this foreclosure, and while I have some issues with the kitchen — what in bejesus were they thinking with those wood cabinets, all beach house kitchens need to be white! — and the master bath looks like it might get you a good bash on the head if you get in after a few too many Mojitos, I will fix said issues for that Bay view right from the porch. (Not giving up the Top Shelf.) Mix me up a pitcher of anything with booze in it, rustle up some cheese and Carr’s wafers, and let’s enjoy the sunset. One acre, across from beach, 2420 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, garage and bonus room with bath. Bank-owned at $252,000.

OK, painting party on Saturday — that green gives me indigestion! But man oh man, let the bank throw in some Sherwin Williams and camel hair brushes, I am so signing on the dotted for this number.

My Love Affair With Mama, a.k.a. The RealEstalker

I was in L.A. recently, and all I wanted to do was hang out with Mama, a.k.a. The RealEstalker. I fell in love with Mama the first time she referred to a fancy pants house as a “big-ass” mansion. Laughed so hard I cried and just about wet myself, or maybe I did. But it was more than professional respect: Mama has a way of looking at these homes, these ridiculously huge homes that no one really needs, but, like a God-awful wreck on the freeway when the Medi-copter swoops down, we just have to look. I mean, I have to look, and that is why being with Mama — actually, Mark — is like being with my twin. Or alter-ego. I had this discussion at a holiday par-tee Saturday night in a home I know Mama would rip to shreds: who the hell wants to see Trailer Park House Porn?

Mama is the original House Porn Queen, I’m just the Texas helping.

When she wrote about Dallasite Phil Romano’s house I almost exploded with laughter. Oh baby, I thought, if you could only see the real thing! This was December/January of 2007/2008, and DallasDirt was relatively new. Phil’s listing agent got wind of what I had posted, well, not posted, but linked to. But no one in Dallas real estate at the time understood linking or blogging or even who the RealEstalker was.

Mama, you were ahead of your time. A true House Porn pioneer.

The agents were angry. How dare someone make fun of one of their listings, how dare I dare to endorse this daring dare of making fun of a listing. Well, I wasn’t. I was reporting it. How dare I dare to not ignore it?

The internet had not sunk in, yet.

Remember when she said, “Preston Holler is one of Dallas’ finer and most expensive neighborhoods where many of the swank streets are lined with mansions that make Beverly Hills look like the damn ghetto.”

Well honey, I don’t know about that, your Bev Hills is pretty darn swanky. Why even the parking meters were decorated with holiday ribbons, so festive.

What was that you said? Oh. Oh yes. We don’t have parking meters in Preston Hollow.

We have chauffeurs!

All I want for Christmas is a beach home in Florida. Seems I’m not alone. Elin Nordegren Woods is also on the lookout, but she has a slightly higher budget than I do — about $4,000,000. And she is looking, I hear, on Jupiter Island, a sleepy little quiet island with 516 condos and only 18 buildings. And guess who lives there, too? (Like 20 minutes away.) Prices on Jupiter, I’m told, are not as soft as they are in Miami, Naples and God’s Got-Too-Much-Sun-Waiting Room, Fort Meyers. Elin is looking at one of the newer buildings on the island, built in 1998, with just 24 homeowners and a staff that pampers like the Ritz. It’s called the Carlyle.

The Carlyle is really the cream-of-the-crop on the island, sits on the land’s highest point, and sports 270 degree views from each unit. You want terrific sunrises and sunsets? You will have them every day, in every room. To the east are spectacular sunrise views of the Atlantic, to the west are unforgettable sunsets of the Intracoastal, and the north offers views the length of Jupiter Island as far as the eye can see.

Maybe Elin will be able to see as far as Tiger’s new compound?

Elin has seriously toured The Penthouse at The Carlyle, according to sources. The penthouse offers the ultimate in scenic views plus a 3,000 square foot rooftop sky patio, which is just unbelievably fabulous for entertaining.

Besides 4000 living square feet of stunning upgrades such as floating limestone floors and David Aultz (Palm Springs contractor) spherical and triangular ceilings, views, and even includes a 3-car garage and has its own boat dock and cabana bath available.¬†All included in an asking price of only $3,990,000. (If not, I’d make them throw it in.) Really, not bad for being right on the water. I may want to check out Jupiter Island!

What Do You Drink at Your Second Home?

In Roatan and in La Paz, Mojitos. I am a huge Mojito girl, and love them best made with fresh mint and lime. I thought Victor’s muddled Mojitos were the best I’d ever tasted, created at Bite on the Beach in West Bay, Roatan –great restaurant — and he sent me home with the recipe and a bag of Honduran pure cane sugar. (Carrying a bag of white powder home from Central America did make me a little nervous, have to admit, but never come between a girl and her Mojitos.) But at Costa Baja in La Paz, I had another delicious Mojito and learned they pureed fresh pineapple in with the mint, lime and sugar.¬† What do you like to drink when you relax at home? Anyone making homemade eggnog this year?

For more ideas, check out You+Media’s new Mixology 101.

Robbie Briggs: Real Estate is Global, Baby, Global

I caught up with charged-up Briggs Freeman CEO Robbie Briggs for the low down on his new deal with Sothebys. After all, that was all any of us talked about last night at Duxiana. Did Robbie sell out? Is he retiring? What’s the story– inquiring real estate minds want to know all. Well, here’s the deal: last week Robbie and some BF agents were showing homes to 25 very wealthy Chinese citizens along with Mayor Leppert. They want to buy homes, In Dallas. Then there were the New Zealanders who came in to Big D on a private jet, looking at real estate. The point is Robbie Briggs gets it: real estate is going global, and he wants to position Briggs Freeman to be ready for it. So he just invested in more exposure for Briggs Freeman by relinquishing the firm’s Christies Great Estates affiliation and buying into Sotheby’s International Realty.

Did I say buy in? Yes, Robbie made an investment in his company’s future. From now on there will be a fee to Sotheby’s on every BF transaction so that BF can basically “have a guerilla for a partner,” says Robbie. What he means is that Sotheby’s takes those hefty fees BF pays¬†on each transaction and puts them to work developing state of the art technology, computer systems and websites designed to keep BF competitive not just in Dallas, but everywhere, and to bring in those referrals from folks who recognize the quality of the name. BF will have access to a 9000 member company. And here’s how BF listings have already changed: Any home $1.5 million or over goes into an E Gallery shown in every single Sotheby’s office IN EVERY COUNTRY.And get this: all of BF’s graphics have been translated into 15 languages with sales prices posted in 15 languages. And as for language, does anyone speak Mandarin?

“I’ll soon be looking for agents who speak different languages,” says Briggs.

(To be continued)

How To Sell Your Home Faster: Between the Sheets, Buy This Bed

Have you ever in your real estate life had clients zero in on an item in a home that sold the home faster than you could think? I am always looking for a unique real estate story, especially anything about selling a home faster for the most in this market. (This vacation home advertises the Duxiana to pull in renters.) I met Serena Cole, owner of Duxiana Dallas, over in my favorite neighborhood haunt of Preston Center, and she told me that a Duxiana bed actually, truthfully, recently sold a house in 75230.

You have got to be kidding me, I said.

These are not what I’d call cheap beds.

Readers consistently give these mattresses high quality, high price and high service votes. A Swedish design,¬†the Dux Bed claims its fame from the huge multiple of springs in each mattress: 4000 springs compared to the up to 900 springs found in conventional queen-size mattresses.This allows you incredible firmness and softness so that your spine is straight and not bent. And each bed is custom-fitted to the buyer’s sleep preferences by inserting cartridges into the main mattress: firm, extra firm, soft. The cartridges are interchangeable and couples can create their own, so just because your husband wants ultra firm doesn’t mean your side has to be that way.¬† A queen size will run you from $6,500, but should last you 50-plus years. The top cushion pads can be replaced every 7 to 10 years for about $1,000. So you can drop $5000 on a high end bed every 7 to 10 years, which is how often you should change your mattress,¬†or get a Duxiana.¬†

Serena told me that when the buyer, who was also a Duxiana Fan herself ‚Äì I guess there‚Äôs rather a fan club ‚Äì saw the bed, they immediately zoned in on the¬†the quality of the bed and deduced that the homeowner must have had similar standards for everything they put into the house. Something to the effect of “if they put their money into this kind of quality, we feel secure they built a solid house.” So they bought it. And this was not all that long ago; in fact, it was within the year 2010 just about the time the first time homebuyers credit was getting hearted up.

If these guys had a Duxiana, something tells me they may not have been first time homebuyers.

Now I am not telling you to run out and buy a Duxiana bed just to impress your buyers… but think about it. Real estate and beds are a natural fit, especially in this town. They are made for each other. So much of what happens in real estate happens under the covers…  or between the sheets!

Just like a great piece of blue chip real estate, a Duxiana lasts forever: at least one realtor has told me that her back pain disappeared after the first night she spent in her Duxiana. Another person told me his grandmother has a 75 year-old Duxiana –he’s hoping to get it in her will!

You may have heard the news from Steve Brown that the toney, boutique-y firm of Briggs Freeman has affiliated as a franchisee with Sotheby’s International Realty. That this happened, that Robbie gave up his Christie’s Great Estates affiliation to make this change, tells you how tough this market really is. Smart move for Briggs Freeman. But I spoke to a gentleman Sunday night who did not meet with Robbie for his second home needs, chose another venerable Dallas firm, because he wanted more exposure to Dallas high net worth peeps. Now Briggs has even MORE exposure to those kind of folks!

Here’s what this means a few things to you the consumer:

1. Competition is getting fierce in our local real estate market.

2. Tough markets like this one separate the men from the boys, and smart boys will do what they must to stay afloat.

3. Briggs is having a tough time squaring it’s nurturing, boutique-y feel outside of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. Ebby, Allie Beth and Virginia Cook are gaining market share. Recall David Griffin just moved his boutique firm over to Virginia Cook.

4. We will see more agents depart the biz and head for the comfortable waters of a regular pay check: Brett Gray has left Dave Perry-Miller to return to Weber-Shandwick.

5. The wagons are circled: the latter half of 2010 has been a tough one for agents, but they have been warned by Dr. James Gaines over at Texas A&M to eat their Wheaties for the spring market.

Update: My email message to Robbie Briggs got stuck in my outbox all day long. I’ll have an interview with him tomorrow. Please note this is a consumer-oriented blog trying to get reader’s attention, kind of like a bratty kid. Hence the title of this post. Do we care that Briggs Freeman is now a Sotheby’s franchise — hell yes! This is very big news for Dallas as well as Briggs Freeman. We are becoming a more important real estate market daily — stay tuned!