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Six months has gone by fast for me writing about vacation homes for SecondShelters.com. What have we been covering? Beach, lake, ranch, and mountain abodes, among other destinations of interest to North Texans. Year end is a time to look back and reflect. What are the top spots for vacation homes for DFW residents?

Gas up the virtual jet and click to see highlights; we’re taking a tour of some of our favs…

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Alys Beach

All photos courtesy of Alys Beach

News from Alys Beach, the stunning Florida Panhandle luxury home and vacation rental community inspired by the traditional architecture of Bermuda: a new phase of custom three- and four-bedroom rowhouses is scheduled for construction with an estimated completion date of Spring 2019. The new project, called Clermont Courts, mimics the design of Caliza Courts, the first phase of rowhouses offered at Alys Beach, which sold out in two weeks when its marketing opened in 2014.

It’s no wonder, really. Located off Highway 30A in South Walton County, on a bluff overlooking the Gulf Coast, Alys Beach is unique in its gorgeous architecture, a modern rendition of the Spanish Colonial-Baroque styling found in Bermuda and Antigua. Structures in the community feature white stone walls, antique cypress wood, and private courtyards. Charming shaded walkways and bike paths connect residents to the Town Center and posh amenities spread throughout 158 landscaped acres. Residents and vacation guests enjoy 1500 feet of white sand beachfront, an uber-chic beach club, amphitheater, swimming pools and restaurants, extraordinary fitness facilities, and lush parks and nature trails.

Alys Beach

The Clermont Courts rowhouses will be the most compact of the Alys Beach residences, which also include free-standing villas and compounds valued at up to $6 million or more. Here’s a look at the plans for the custom townhouse designs, along with photos of a similar Caliza Courts home to give you a visual of what’s in the works, and the amenities in the community. (And, psst! Should you want a rowhouse that’s available now,  the home we’re using for illustration is a pre-owned property that’s now listed for sale.)    (more…)

Alys Beach

All photos courtesy of Alys Beach

A beautiful beach off the Gulf Coast in Northwest Florida, a luxury home and vacation rental community with well-planned urban design, gorgeous architecture and knockout amenities — this venue is simply stunning.  

Alys Beach, off Highway 3oA in South Walton County is unique among planned residential developments in its striking architectural style, inspired by traditional homes of Bermuda and Antigua, it is reminiscent of Spanish-Baroque style but modern, with white stone walls, antique cypress wood,  and lush landscaping.  

Designed by the award-winning firm behind Seaside, Alys Beach sits on a bluff which affords glorious views of the Gulf. The 158-acre town is bounded by 1500 feet of white sand beachfront, and bordered on the north by a verdant 20 acre nature preserve with walking and biking trails through the wetlands.  

Alys Beach

It’s property that’s unique and well worth viewing … (more…)

89 Watercolor BoulevardThis week is spring break for a lot of peeps, and we know that a hefty slice of Dallasites and North Texans have invaded the Beaches of Walton County, Florida, those picture-perfect white sands along Highway 30-A in the panhandle of northwest Florida.

And after October, we might just re-populate the place.

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The 60th annual Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance was this past weekend in Pebble Beach and loaded with celebs. Second Shelters had a booth along with Dream Garage USA in the Retro Auto tent, and we had a blast. Jay and Company walked by last Thursday afternoon for the VIP walk-through, and he eyed the properties I represented: Alys Beach, The Preserve at Flathead Lake; The Residences at the Ritz Carlton, Dallas for Kyle Crews, Allie Beth Allman & Associates; Champs D’Or for Briggs-Freeman, Dallas; FirstLight The K Club in Ireland; Martis Camp in Lake Tahoe; Kukui’ula in Kauai, Hawaii; Costa Baja  in La Paz, Mexico; Wilder on the Taylor Crested Butte, Colorado. All primo first-class properties either I or a trusted friend has experienced first-hand, and you will hear lots more about them here on SecondShelters.

Jay is such a class act — he said he remembered me from last year (right!) and actually came back to our booth with a lady friend on Sunday. Collectible cars and luxury properties go together like Moet and Baccarat. And recession, what recession? When it comes to these cars, money is no object. (In fact, I’m told the cars do even better when the stock market is iffy because collectors know the values.)  Gooding & Company, the official auction house of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, sold more than $78 million in collector cars at its Pebble Beach Auctions on Saturday and Sunday. A two-day sale of unprecedented results for the leading auction house, Gooding & Company achieved a $13.6 million increase from last year’s auction with 19 world records. The king of the Pebble Beach Auction Week was crowned on Saturday night when Gooding & Company sold the iconic 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype for an extraordinary $16.39 million, commanding the new worldwide record for a car sold at auction. Then on Sunday evening after the Concours d’Elegance when the sensational Whittell Coupe, a bespoke 1931 Duesenberg Model J, sold for $10.34 million, a new world record was established for a Duesenberg as well as an American car sold at auction.   

How many celebs were there? Jay, Arnold, and crooner Sheryl Crow. Gooding & Company’s Sunday auction reaped even more with the record-breaking $143,000 sale of Sheryl Crow’s 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL benefitting the Joplin Schools Recovery Fund. We were treated to a special appearance by Crow, who rode in the car as it was presented on stage, showing her full support by including the last limited-edition Sheryl Crow Signature Artists Gibson guitar, concert tickets and a photo opportunity with the very fortunate new owner.

Do you find it impossible to get anything done in Dallas in August? Let’s face it: everyone in town has taken a hike. And do you blame them? I’d much rather be at the seashore in Maine, on the Gulf Coast at Alys Beach, even down at Cinnamon Shore (which opens a new coffee house next week) in Port Aransas, in Colorado, in Pebble, in Montana, God even in Santa Fe.

I’d much rather be there than stay here just to earn a tee shirt that says “I survived the Heat Wave of 2011.”

But the very best place to be in August is really Pebble Beach, and I’m heading there this week. Ellen Terry is already there, Joe Kobell’s home is there while he sells Dallas real estate to pay for it.

Which is rare, because there’s usually not much real estate action in Dallas in August. Historically, since 1950, August and September have ranked among the worst market months both in terms of volume and average. Residential real estate sales also fall off sharply in August because school starts earlier than ever, and parents with kids make up a large percentage of buyers. In fact, everything is “off” in August. Commercial real estate sales are down because lenders and lawyers alike have flown the hot coop — what better excuse to postpone a loan than 110 degrees? Lawyers hate to set trials in August, witnesses are hard to find, and who really wants to try a case before a judge who is steaming about his A/C being on the fritz? Who would really want a jury of even their friendliest peers in August? Who’d want surgery in August? If I’m going to have to wear a girdle on my hips or boobs, I will darn well wait ’till October when it cools off.

Dallasites have been escaping the heat of August since before air conditioning, just as New Yorkers and New England escaped to the Cape, the Hamptons and Maine. Remember The Seven Year Itch? (One of the strongest drivers of the second home market is sending mom and the kids away so daddy can “play”.) Do you know that Little Forest Hills and many of the bungalows that surround White Rock Lake were second homes for Dallas residents? Following World War II, and the advent of air travel, affluent Dallas families began travelling to either coast to escape the heat and return invigorated and far cooler just as the triple digits began to drop. There was the late Clint Murchison Sr. and Sid Richardson who bought the Del Mar race track in California near La Jolla. At the time, Murchison was married to Ginny Long (Ginny Linthicum) and he named his private jet (a DC-3) The Flying Ginny. In fact, until about a year ago there was a La Jolla Bank over on Northwest Highway. La Jolla knew the money in Dallas was so good it came to us! Regen ( Horchow) and Jeff Fearon ultimately bought Virginia Linthicum’s house

So who goes where, then and now?

La Jolla: The horsy Dallas set can still be found near the Del Mar track. The Strausses (Ted, Bob, Helen and occasionally Rick and Diana), the late Lupe Murchison, late Ginny Linthicum and her sister Jodie Biddell, Bob and Margaret Folsom, banker Gerald Ford, investor Clay Querbes and his wife Molly, Alfred and Nancy Ann Chandler (formerly married to the late Dr. Buck J. Wynne Jr.).

Napa Valley: Investor Craig Hall and Kathryn. Former Dallasites Keith and Cheryl Hughes started with a second home here, now a thriving vineyard, and then moved in permanently.

Carmel: Ellen Terry, Susan Key, The Hoaks, the Gene Phillips who have a magnificent home or two on Seventeen Mile Drive. Designer extraordinaire Trisha Wilson has an amazing home in Pebble Beach.

Santa Barbara: Harold and Annette Simmons. The Pearcys. Also Oprah. Also Bill Gates who has a home near Rancho Santa Fe.

Santa Fe: Everyone. Ralph Randall, investor and arts patron Vince Carrozza, Rosewood Corp. executive Steve Sands, Mark Shepherd (retired chairman of Texas Instruments), Plato Karayanis (once general director of the Dallas Opera), Bruce Calder, businesswoman Mary Lide Kehoe, DMN society columnist Alan Peppard and his wife Jennifer, furniture executive Jay Smith and wife Elizabeth (an oil heiress).

Texas Hill Country: Steve Bartlett, me, and just wait ’till I get down to Horseshoe Bay!

Aspen: Everyone. Real estate developer Daryl Snadon, Jim and Betty Vandeveer, Jacque Wynne, Richard Rogers (son of Mary Kay Ash), Dr. Leonard Riggs and his wife Peggy, Frank Crossen, Darlene and Baron Cass, Steve and Terry Casey, Bob Utley (chairman and CEO of First Southwest Holdings) and his wife Ann. This is also, of course, where the Wylys ranched and where we tragically lost Charles Wyly last week.

Bootjack Ranch

Crested Butte: Lewis and Janet Shaw to their new fly-fishing nirvana, Wilder on the Taylor. I also hear developer Herb Weitzman has an 8,000 square foot home there that I yearn to be invited to. Oh, last time I was at the Crested FBO I saw Kelcy Warren’s jet — Bootjack Ranch.

Colorado Springs: A stream of regular Dallasites like Alinda and Jim Wikert join Margaret Hunt Hill and the Hunt family at the Garden of the Gods or just book several weeks at the Broadmoor. Several new developments going on in this area, too, some by Al Hill III.

Chautauqua, New York: Karen and Kevin Crowder

Montana: Flathead Lake, near Kalispell: Dallas Addison and partners are developing an amazing property on the shores of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the western U.S. overlooking the peaks of Glacier National Park, limited to 12 Founder participants at $750,000 with future sites to be priced between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 for the land alone.

Idaho: Coeur D’Alene: The Club at Blackrock has been taken over by the owners, but local folks are still heading up here like Rick Gray and Susie Swanson of Dave Perry-Miller.

Maine: Kennebunkport. Blowing Rock. The Bush clan. We go to Drake’s Island.

North Carolina: I hear a lot of Dallas folks are building beach homes here. Like to know who?

The Hamptons:Dr. Joanne Stroud, John Marion and Anne Windfohr Marion, an oil and ranching heiress. (The Marions stay at their big house in the Hamptons in July and their big house in Santa Fe in August).

Nantucket:Jeff and Nancy Marcus, investor Doug Wheat and wife Laura. The Horchow clan, including Roger, wife Carolyn, daughter Regen and her sister and brother-in law Lizzie and Dan Routman, Rand and Karen (formerly Rainwater) Watkins, Plack and Cissy Carr, George and Christine Spencer and a gaggle of the Fort Worth Schutts (Pat and Jack} family that includes (off-Schutts) Jim and Martha Williams and former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy (via a marriage to Emily Schutts). They’re joined by Tom and Linda Taylor (Tom handles the billionaire Bass family’s money. He used to move his entire outfit to Nantucket- as in a lucky handful of Taylor traders and analysts working every day in front of their terminals just like in Fort Worth, only in Nantacky.

Dave Perry-Miller has had a home in Nantucket for years. He also has homes in Palm Springs, Bissbee and Tuscon, Arizona, and a farm in Pennsylvania.

Dave said he got to share his Tuscon back yard with a tribe of skunks who took up residence earlier… they are now happily trapped and released.  Neighbors include Linda Rhonstadt and a house two doors down where Elizabeth Taylor lived in the 50s after Mike Todd’s tragic plane crash. Cocktails in the ‘hood back then must have been a blast!

In fact, Dave usually spends part of the summer in Nantucket but had to cancel two trips this summer to stay in hot Dallas… His payoff: more than $30 million sold and an $8 million contract pending I am so dying to tell you about…  guess you have to pay the bills sometime!

DPM's Tucson villa

Let’s face it: if you had to pick the most suffering, beat-up child in this real estate mess, it would be the second home market. This is probably the worst time ever for the second home market because most areas overbuilt during the boom, priced too high, and are now left with inventory. Getting a mortgage on a first home is hard enough, and investors are now limited to 7 mortgages including your homestead under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines.

Now if you have cash on hand, that’s another story and you will command great pricing. Except, of course, in Aspen. AOL RealEstate called on ERA Real Estate to create a list of five lesser-known vacation hot spots where you can still get a good buy in a first rate location. It may not be Aspen or Pebble Beach but if your checkbook is not a bottomless pit, here’s where you should bebuying: Boseman, MT; Cape Cod, Mass; Lake Erie; Siesta Key, Fla; Virginia Beach, Va.. I will add that I would buy in a heartbeat (and have friends who have bought) a well-priced home in Port Aransas, Texas; anything in the Fort Walton/Panama City area like Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, Watercolor and Seaside, though Seaside is getting a little worn; the Carolinas are on fire; southern coast of Maine; Lake Tahoe Martis Camp; the Texas Hill Country and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho where the house bargains are too good to be true. And I cannot rave about Bozeman enough. Or the plethora of high end fractionals out there. Check out the slide show, and I’ll be posting homes from all these areas.

Where would you buy a second home if you were in the market?

Sean Payton has a home on one of my favorite beaches, Watercolor, near Panama City Beach, Florida. Here’s his yummy house  — I was there, once. Sean is super generous with his beach house and this weekend it was loaded with football celebs who got an impromptu game of “7 on 7” touch football going on the beach that got a lot of buzz and onlookers.

“It got so competitive to where the whole beach was watching,’’ Payton told SportsNOLA.com Saturday. “A highlight for me was my son Connor caught a touchdown pass from Romo. No, he didn’t spike it; he knows better.’’

Fun. ‘Course this leads to more speculation that Payton has such close ties to the Cowboys. In March, he moved to Vaquero. Payton was the Cowboys assistant coach in Dallas from 2003 through 2005, and has only has two years remaining on his contract in New Orleans. Watch for more Dallas Cowboys to be buying beach homes on the Florida Gulf Coast. Tony and Candice, check out Alys Beach!