Susan Halsey

Susan Halsey

Incredibly tragic news for Fort Worth’s business and real estate community. Word comes from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that one of Cowtown’s biggest boosters, Susan Halsey, has succumbed to cancer. We are heartbroken to hear about this terrible loss, and our thoughts are with Halsey’s friends and family.

If you’re not familiar with Halsey, this paragraph from her obituary really speaks to how dedicated she was to the Fort Worth community:

But beyond the high-dollar deals, Mrs. Halsey felt so strongly about Fort Worth and its commercial real estate community that when leaders with the Real Estate Council in Dallas asked her more than a decade ago to a meeting to talk about how they could tap into the Fort Worth brokerage community, she returned to Fort Worth, called on some high-powered leaders and single-handedly started the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth. Today, the organization has more than 350 members focused on public policy issues.

What an amazing woman and professional. She will be sorely missed.

New House under Construction

Recent reports show that new home sales are at their highest since 2008, while prices of existing homes are up year-over-year.

New home sales are up 17 percent from the same time last year, according to Residential Strategies, and new home starts are up 11.4 percent, too, at 6,511. Builders are trying to keep up with demand while also trying to keep new homes affordable for buyers, according to a story from Steve Brown:

“Start activity remains strong as builders maintain healthy sales backlogs and are working to reestablish depleted speculative inventory,” Residential Strategies’ Ted Wilson said in the report. “Robust job formation, in combination with tight housing inventories, has kept builders optimistic about sustained new housing demand.”

Rising new home prices have caused a slowdown in sales for some buyers.

Since 2007 the median price of a new home in North Texas has increased $69,000 – 33 percent – to $275,000.

“Affordability continues to be a primary concern for new home builders,” Wilson said.

“Many are anticipating that at some point down the road, interest rates will increase, and they want to ensure that their housing prices are still within reach of the consumer.”

Additionally, a new report from CoreLogic shows that the Dallas-Plano-Irving area is posting an 8.5 percent increase in home price appreciation according to the firm’s most recent HPI.

“Home prices continue to rise, albeit more slowly, across most of the U.S., ” said CoreLogic CEO Anand Nallathambi. “Major Metropolitan Areas such as Riverside and Los Angeles, California, and Houston continue to lead the way with strong price gains buoyed by tight supplies and a gradual rebound in economic activity.”

In Texas, that means we’re holding steady at our return-to-peak price levels, with no major increases. With new home construction up, a positive outlook for investors in several niche markets, and with prices still on the rise, are you optimistic about the Dallas/Fort Worth real estate market going into Q4 2014?

4258 Altura Front

Let’s head west to Fort Worth this morning, where we’ll find an incredible modern home that has fantastic museum-worthy interiors and has some huge windows overlooking the heavily treed lot.

This home at 4258 Altura Road in the Westcliff neighborhood is an amazing 1980s modern that feels so fresh and open. It has aged so well, and with a few updates it can be a post-millennium stunner. It’s just south of TCU and north of Interstate 20, a fantastic location for anyone who wants to live inside Cowtown and close to tons of great shopping and amenities.

4258 Altura Hallway 4258 Altura Living

Designed by architect Emory Young, this home was constructed to take advantage of the change in elevation on this more than 1 acre lot. The result is a tree house-like feel, with huge floor-to-ceiling windows with views of treetops and blue sky.

It’s serene, really, and considering the condition of this home and the size of the lot, it’s priced exceptionally well — $1.695 million with Suzanne Burt of Burt Ladner Real Estate. Besides excellent design, you get five bedrooms, four full and one half bath, and more than 5,500 square feet.

4258 Altura Kitchen 4258 Altura Dining

Besides the views, I love the courtyard like patio and pool, which you can see from the expansive kitchen and breakfast area. Really, this home has so much light from the windows and transoms that you’ll hardly ever need to flip a switch! It has tons of storage, too, so you don’t have to clutter your floors or walls, and there’s a three-car garage as well.

4258 Altura Master 4258 Altura Master Bath

The master bedroom is huge at 21 x 20, and features huge windows and a separate sitting area, including a fireplace. The layout is great, with built-in storage and desk at an angle from the bed area, which means you can leap from your slumber at the moment of inspiration and bang out the next chapter of the next great American novel without waking your partner. The master bath will need some updating, but considering the size and location of this home, any updates will pay off significantly in the future. I can imagine tons of marble and a cool contemporary soaking tub (and maybe even an oversized steam shower!) in this master bath, which has even more fantastic views, thanks to the adjoining balcony. Imagine coming from the bath on a warm day and having a little air dry out there? Perfection.

4258 Altura Deck 4258 Altura Backyard 4258 Altura Pool Twilight

Outside, well, this backyard is a dream. You can either enjoy a soak in the pool and spa, or enjoy the views from the deck. What do you think of this modern home in Fort Worth?

3608 Overton Park Front

One of my guilty pleasures is this hilarious Tumblr blog “Catalog Living.” It follows the life of Gary and Elaine as they live in their Pinterest-worthy surroundings that are often so perfect they’re absurd.

Absurdly perfect is how I’d describe this gorgeous remodeled traditional in Fort Worth’s Overton Park subdivision. This neighborhood is so sought after that I would be stunned if 3608 Overton Park was on the market for more than a month. This beautifully remodeled six-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home is listed by Virginia Cook Realtor Jeff Anderson for $1,085,000. Sure, it looks unassuming from the curb, but this home is packed full of “WOW!” from the entry on through.

3608 Overton Park Entry 3608 Overton Park Dining 3608 Overton park Den

This home is just stunning, and as you click through the slideshow, you’ll notice that this home, which has just some ridiculously cool finish-out, feels like pages from a catalog. I could totally imagine Gary and Elaine leaning over the kitchen island, tasting the souffle Elaine just pulled from the commercial-grade oven. Or perhaps Gary is watching the Rangers rout the Mariners from his loggia, where he’s got a top-notch outdoor kitchen.

3608 Overton Park Kitchen 3608 Overton Park Breakfast

And consider the rather plush life Gary and Elaine’s rugrats live, what with their space-themed playroom and made-for-sleepovers bunk bed room. With the pool and treehouse in the backyard, they’re probably the envy of the entire neighborhood. Add that this home is right next to a park and it just turned into a home more perfect for a family than any house ever featured in Leave it to Beaver.

3608 Overton Park Bunk Beds 3608 Overton Park Playroom 3608 Overton Park Pool

Seriously, though, the attention to detail in the finish-out of this incredible home is nonpariel. I love the cabinetry in the kitchen, the beautiful light fixtures with Edison bulbs throughout the living area, and the master bath rocks one of the coolest cast iron sinks I’ve ever seen in my life. That vanity just makes my millennium. Swoon-worthy and then some, right?

3608 Overton Park Master 3608 Overton Park Bath

You’ll also adore the sixth bedroom, which is a guest suite above the pool house. It’s above a living area just off the kitchen that has a separate entrance. Perfect for your 20-something that has flown back to the nest before finding their wings. Just be prepared if they aren’t ready to leave after a few years. You might have to change the locks!

3608 Overton Park Backyard 3608 Overton Park Sunroom 3608 Overton Park Sunroom bar 3608 Overton Park Guest

Really, the only downside I can think of to this home is the lack of covered parking or garages. Still, as Anderson’s listing tells us, with a half-acre lot, there’s plenty of room for you to find a spot to park your Land Rover.

Such a beautiful property! What do you think?

 

6 Billion

You can rely on Ebby Halliday Realtors to bring home the bacon, that’s for sure, as the 68-year-old North Texas real estate powerhouse landed a record $6.4 billion in sales for 2013. As you soak in that huge number, consider that many economic forecasts show at least 9 percent growth in sales for the region in 2014, too.

Ebby Halliday Companies, which includes luxury brokerage Dave Perry-Miller and Associates, is the 12th-largest real estate firm in the nation with 1,500 agents. So this landmark sales level is testament to hard work and tenacity, as well as the Dallas/Fort Worth area’s strong economy, said Ebby CEO Mary Frances Burleson.

“Sales records of this magnitude reflect the exceptional performance of our more than 1,500 associates,” Burleson said. “We are so pleased to recognize their professional accomplishment and success – they are the reason the Ebby Halliday Companies lead the North Texas real estate market.”

Ron Burgert, Ebby CFO, credits the North Texas economy for the incredible rebound our area has experienced saying, “2013 sales at the Ebby Halliday Companies are a testament to the growing strength of the North Texas economy, our company’s conservative, yet pro-active management approach during both positive and negative economic cycles, and to our industry-leading Associates who are known far and wide for serving our clients with the upmost professionalism.”

Congratulations Ebby and Dave Perry-Miller agents! Here’s to even more shattered records in 2014!

downtown fort worth at sunset, texas

Trulia’s Chief Economist, Jed Kolko, isn’t necessarily infalliable, but he does have an interesting perspective more often than not. His views on the broader economy are often spot-on, though, which really puzzles me on his recent forecast for 2014 that says increases in home values will slow next year, and that many of the markets posting big increases in 2013 will grow stale.

But don’t write off North Texas entirely, as Fort Worth made Kolko’s list of places to watch for 2014. Why didn’t Dallas, Austin, Houston, or even San Antonio make the list, but Tulsa, Okla., does? Kolko explains (emphasis added):

Why are so many of the high-profile markets of 2013 missing from our list? We ruled out markets that were more than a little overvalued according to our latestBubble Watch, which eliminated most metros in Texas and coastal California. We also struck markets with a large foreclosure inventory (thanks for the data, RealtyTrac), like most of Florida. Our 10 markets to watch, therefore, should have strong activity in 2014 with few headwinds.

Interesting… I don’t know if many sellers in Dallas would consider the market overvalued, but considering what’s for sale and how brisk the market is moving, I’d say the increases in overall value would be more of a correction from being previously undervalued.

Still, Kolko had a list of trends to watch that rings true with what we’ve been saying for the past few months. Chief among them is that buying a house will become more and more unaffordable for Americans. Kolko also prognosticated that the home-buying process would become “less frenzied,” that 2013 will be the year of the repeat homebuyer, and how much prices slow will be more important than when they slow and where. Finally, Kolko says that renters will turn more to urban apartments than any other option — good news for the people who’ve constructed all those swanky buildings in Uptown and converted buildings in the downtown area.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!

 

Dillow Fire

(Photo: Glen E. Ellman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

So, file this under “Interesting Circumstances”: The 100-year-old Dillow House on the grounds of Texas Wesleyan University caught fire last night and is a pile of steaming ash right now. If you are expecting the folks at TWU to be all beat up about it, well, you’ll be waiting a while.

You see, there was quite a controversy about this home. TWU wanted to demolish it, but Fort Worth preservationists were fighting to keep the historic structure standing. But after last night’s two-alarm fire, Fort Worth Fire Department’s spokesperson is calling the Dillow House a “total loss” according to the Star-Telegram:

John Veilleux, a university spokesman, said school security officers reported the fire. The Dillow House is on Texas Wesleyan’s campus.

“When we first found out about the fire, our concern was for the safety of the firefighters battling the blaze and the surrounding neighborhood,” Veilleux said. “It looks like it’s a total loss. It’s destroyed. No one wanted to see the house burn down.”

Veilleux said he was told fire investigators would be at the property sometime today to try and determine the cause. He said he didn’t think the fire would stop the lawsuit that was filed earlier this year.

Jerre Tracy, Historic Fort Worth’s executive director, said her heart sank when she saw the Dillow House this morning. She said she was hoping to today talk to Art Brender, the attorney representing the nonprofit, to determine what impact the fire will have on the suit.

The longer historic properties sit vacant, the risk for something happening goes up, Tracy said.

“I felt really sad for everyone involved,” Tracy said. “Vagrants are always attracted to empty buildings. Fires happen. It’s always an issue.”

I’m not saying that there’s a conspiracy afoot, but it does tickle my brain. And yes, the longer a structure is vacant, the more likely it is that squatters will move in. I wonder if someone tried to get cozy with a few logs on one of the home’s less than well-maintained fireplaces and ended up burning the whole dang thing to the ground.

6607017619_a745a7f30a_z

 

(Photo: Dangr.Dave via Flickr)

Still, I wonder if Historic Fort Worth can still file suit on preserving a property, and thereby trying to close loopholes in the city’s historic preservation ordinance, even if the home isn’t in any condition to be preserved … What do you think?

briggs freeman logoI told you a few weeks ago that Sotheby’s International sued Briggs Freeman, one of it’s own franchisees, due to the beefs of another one of it’s franchisees, Williams Trew Real Estate Services of Fort Worth. Turns out the judge did not grant Sotheby’s a temporary restraining order last month.

Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater threw out Sotheby’s request for a TRO “Because plaintiff has not shown that it faces a substantial threat of irreparable harm between the time its TRO application was filed and when the court can address its preliminary injunction application, the court denies the application. The denial of the TRO application does not suggest a view on the merits of plaintiff’s pending preliminary injunction application.”

Anyhow, I guess Williams Trew decided to take matters into their own hands: On Friday, the 13th of September, Williams Trew Sotheby’s International Realty of Fort Worth filed suit against Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty of Dallas and Robbie Briggs. The beef is tortious interference — WT says Briggs has interfered with Williams Trew’s contract with Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC.

williams true

The lawsuit, filed in 348th Tarrant County State District Court, seeks actual and punitive damages and a permanent injunction barring certain business activity. Here’s what WT founding partner Martha Williams told the Fort Worth Business Press:

“Competition in the marketplace is fine so long as it is conducted lawfully,” said Martha Williams, a founder of Williams Trew in a news release. “We were forced to file this lawsuit due to Briggs Freeman’s refusal to acknowledge Williams Trew’s contractual rights with Sotheby’s International Realty.”

Here is Robbie Briggs response:

Robbie Briggs Statement Re: Williams Trew SIR v. Briggs Freeman SIR Tortious Interference suit