Clifton

Artist Bruce Greene’s bronze sculpture, titled “On the Banks of the Bosque,” the centerpiece of Heritage Plaza in Clifton, Texas

So your family wants a vacation home in the country, but peace and quiet are just not enough for you — you require art and social outlets built around it to feed your soul, even in a rural retreat.

Take heart. There’s a North Texas place not far from Dallas-Fort Worth that just might fill the bill. The thriving community of Clifton, Texas, has cultural amenities galore and is easily accessible to townies, lake house and ranch owners in the area.

Pre-eminent in the vibrant little town is its art scene. Click below for the story of how Clifton became such a creative nexus, and see a nifty little waterfront home on Lake Whitney available to satisfy the soul of art lovers looking for a weekend getaway spot with cultural treasures.  (more…)

Aerial

Because really, who doesn’t love Paris? If trans-atlantic travel just will not fit into your busy schedule, the gorgeous ranch at 632 County Road 43400 in Paris, Texas, just may be the perfect locale to get you and the family out of the hectic city. This property is so much more than a vacation home, it is truly an estate. Located on 22 sprawling acres complete with a six-acre lake, attention to detail abounds on this stately compound.

Gated entry with stained concrete circle drive.

Gated entry with stained concrete circle drive.

Designed with friends and family at the forefront, the main house is absolutely built for entertaining. Featuring three living areas, the kids, teens, and adults can all have their own space. No fighting over the television here! MainLivingArea

FamilyRoomSecondLivingArea

It’s hard to say what kitchen you’ll like more – indoor or outdoor? Both spaces are state-of-the-art with Subzero and stainless steel appliances.

MainHouseKitchen

OutdoorKitchen

The crown jewel of this property is really the outdoor space. The property has an astounding total of seven (yes, seven) fireplaces, including one outside, and a firepit for marshmallow-roasting lovers.

FirepitOutdoorFireplace

The sparkling 60-foot saltwater pool is overlooked by a cozy outdoor seating area, perfect for sipping cocktails and watching the sunset.

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OutdoorLiving

One of the major standouts of this outstanding property is the choice of both the 1,800-square-foot carriage house or the newly constructed 2,000-square-foot guesthouse for lodging. The simpler carriage house is perfect for kids or teens, while the guesthome features a stone fireplace and full master suite.

Carriage House Apartment

Carriage House Apartment

Guesthome

Guesthome

This peaceful, quiet property is such a gem, it is not to be missed. The ultimate in private family compounds, this ranch is just waiting for your friends and warm summer nights.

Your new weekend paradise is offered for $1,098,00.00 by Ebby Halliday Realtor Dee Evans.

“…You could say goodbye to everyone and retreat to your land, hunkering down and living off it.” – Jeanette Walls, Half Broke Horses

Kathryn Roan 1Kathryn Roan is an Ebby Halliday Realtor focusing on farms, ranches, and equestrian properties. Kathryn lives in Poetry with her 7 horses. Contact Kathryn at Kathryn@TexasEquestrianProperties.com

Ocean condo kitchen at Costa Baja in La Paz, Mexico

Open doorways from second master bath suite to bedroom

Latino homes love open spaces: Costa Baja, La Paz, Mexico

Dallas Real Estate is changing. Several years ago, my cousin and his wife moved his parents into their home. It was a bit unsettling because I thought my aunt and uncle needed their own space. Turns out my cousins, who live in Florida, were way ahead of me.

With more Hispanics buying homes in Texas and across the U.S., builders and Realtors are noting a sea-change of differences in the kind of homes they buy. And the way they buy: 30% of Hispanic real estate purchasers did not use a realtor. And 40% of home buyers in U.S. are now Hispanic.

Realtor Oscar Gonzales of the Gonzales Group and Scott Caballero of the San Antonio Board of Realtors cited many statistics last week at the National Association of Real Estate Editors “state of the market” conference to illustrate an increasingly Hispanic domestic real estate market, not just in sunny San Antonio but everywhere. Did you know that Hispanics have moved in droves to Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia? Caballero evoked a recent Harvard University housing report claiming 40 percent of all new minority households created within the next 10 years across the U.S. will be Hispanic. Developer H. Drake Leddy, President of the Presidian, which is building San Antonio’s Vidorra and many hospitality properties in Mexico, told me of a fortress-like private community under construction north of San Antonio near The Dominion. It is owned by a group of well-to-do Monterrey families who fled the prosperous city after the tragic shootings there at The American Foundation School last August, another in a string of violence that has terrorized Monterrey and many border towns.

“You have to understand,” Leddy told me, “Think of what would happen if a shooting occurred at St. Marks or Hockaday. These parents are trying to protect their children.”

Does this mean you might have to be bi-lingual to sell your home? Maybe. Home builders and anyone hoping to appeal to this market will definitely make some changes, since Hispanics tend to have larger families and buy a different type of housing. For one thing, they treat their elders with respect, invite them into their home (as my cousins did), and don’t toss elderly parents into nursing homes. The profile of the customer coming through the door is definitely changing.

(Meantime, my son gave me a sign that reads, “be nice to the children: they select the nursing home”.)

Gonzales said new homes will increasingly be tailored to Hispanic wants and needs, which include open floor plans and dual master bedrooms for live-in grandparents. Kitchens are big enough to hold multiple cooks, must have gas ranges to cook tortillas, and nannies have small bedrooms that resemble walk-in closets, some right off the laundry area. Others have small third car garages that serve as the nanny’s room — nothing super fancy for the help. Latin and Hispanic families also like large front porches where friends can gather, quite opposite to the traditional suburban home with a rear-entry garage where you seldom see your neighbors. And the entire home is built for the convenience of two families living within. I noted, for example, that the homes at Costa Baja in La Paz were build with duo-masters, each with small kitchenettes, and exterior doors so the residents of one master could come and go without disturbing the rest of the family. Builders and developers clearly need to accommodate the multi generational family.

When there’s a market, there’s a way. Both speakers said lending practices are under development to enable undocumented workers to obtain financing for home purchases. Sort of puts the mentality of places like Farmer’s Branch, Texas and my once home town of Elgin, Illinois that tried to pass a law not permitting more than one generation to live in a house, in perspective. The Elgin law got thrown out.

As I’ve said previously, the U.S. market is benefiting from the instability of countries around us: capital flight. Foreign buyers from nations with troubled currencies or unstable societies, such as Mexico and Venezuela, are buying U.S. real estate to move away from violence in their home countries or as investments. They highlighted Texas, Los Angeles and Miami as hot markets for these international buyers. San Antonio has all but become a second home market for affluent Mexicans.

Trulia recently reported that bargain-basement Florida is currently the most popular state for international real estate shoppers, where buying a second home is seen as a secure investment. The Miami market in particular has seen a boom in home sales, boosted by foreign buyers, and was one of only five U.S. metro areas to experience more sales in May 2011 than May 2010, according to the RE/MAX May 2011 National Housing Report.

“It’s The Housing, Stupid.” What I hope someone writes on a wall somewhere in the White House.

Now that there is a pay wall at the Dallas Morning News — I do subscribe — I will try and give you a weekly re-cap of real estate news and a look/see at what our local market is doing. Let’s call it Good News/Bad News. Because, as we all know, just because the sky is falling in Maryland, it may not be here in Dallas. Here’s a piece I wrote on AOL, eager to show the world that housing is not blanket-ly bad. Because if you read the headlines Monday, you may have wanted to go back in bed and pull up the covers for another five years. Yahoo News: “Home Sales Tumble”. The National Association of Realtors says home sales tumbled 9.6 % and are at a 9 year low, which I guess is better than a ten year low.

“The housing market is still very depressed and a major drag on the economy, especially household net worth,” said Chris Christopher, a senior economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Economists had expected a decline of only 4 percent, but 9.6 was greater than even the most pessimistic forecast in a Reuters survey of 53 economists. And it is making Dr. Doom  Bob Shiller almost look like an oracle.

And what good will an improving labor market be if plunging house prices keep upsetting economic stabilization?

Someone sure needs to plaster this sign at the next convention, Democratic and Republican: “It’s The Housing, Stupid.”

Thanks to continued downward pressure from foreclosures, NAR said the median national home price dropped 5.2 percent in February from a year earlier to $156,100, the lowest since April 2002.

“If the price declines persist, even with the job market recovery, that could hamper recovery in the housing market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s trade group’s chief economist.

And that ticks me off because average homes sales actually increased over the last six months in five major Texas metropolitan markets — Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth — according to the Federal Reserve. I don’t care how much it bites elsewhere, there are signs of life in the Lone Star state that keep getting beaten down by the national doom drum.

Good news: that rise in Texas home sales comes for the first time since the expiration of the home buyer tax credit. And more good news: looking at January numbers, Texas home inventory is down, says the Federal Reserve. Back in December, it would have taken eight months to sell off all the inventory in the state. In January, that time frame fell to 7.7 percent. Experts say 6 months is a normal market and it looks like Texas real estate is inching closer and closer to normal.

As for foreclosures, it almost seems like they’ve taken a vacation in some Texas markets. Foreclosure filings in Dallas/Fort Worth were down 16 percent for April — foreclosure filings have to be posted a month ahead, so April’s numbers are now out. For the first few months of 2011, Dallas foreclosure filings are 4 percent lower than this time, last year. And that is significant because last year we were still euphoric on the first time home buyer’s credit.  Foreclosure filings were also down 20 percent in Collin County, and an area hit hard by foreclosures.

But George Roddy isn’t calling it Miller Time just yet. What still plagues is the high number of troubled loans across the state, and fallout from the foreclosure crisis is going to take a long time to wade through. More jobs would be the biggest help of all.

“Until a significant number of workers are absorbed back into the workforce,” says Roddy, ” we won’t see foreclosure postings decline.”

Bad news: the number of upside-down homes is up. Even though foreclosure postings are down, we are seeing a sharp increase in the percentage of residential postings in an upside-down position. The percentage of foreclosure postings on upside-down homes jumped 29 percent. A year ago April, only 21 percent of Dallas area homes were upside down.

You know what that means: The original mortgage amount exceeds the current value of the property. So the homeowner can not sell the home for what is owed on the mortgage and often, neither can the bank left toting the note.

Good news (kind of): CoreLogic recently estimated that 12 percent of Dallas homeowners owe more than their mortgages are worth. That is about half the nationwide rates of negative equity, and can be attributed to Texas law which limits how much a homeowner can borrow against their home. Me, I was perfectly happy when we couldn’t borrow squat against our homes.

Finally, I wonder when this administration is going to make some positive noises about home ownership. Isn’t it interesting that one of the hottest markets in the country is D.C?

This is Adrian Beltre. Third baseman for the Texas Rangers. Born in the Dominican Republic. He is selling this California home, as I mentioned to you earlier in the week, and he and his adorable wife are house-hunting in — where else — Vaquero. (Update: My friend the RealEstalker, a.k.a. Mama,  tells me that Bradbury, where Adrian’s Cali house is on the market for $19 million big ones, is one of the most expensive communities in the country. It is also surrounded by toilet bowls. If you are ever looking out there, take toilet paper.) But here, that agent- to- the- stars, Allie Beth Allman, has been toting the darling couple around town all week. Allie Beth, as you may recall, is the agent who found former President George and Laura Bush their home over on Daria Drive. Here’s one of the glorious homes the Beltres may have been gazing at in Southlake, but I hear they have their hearts set on Vaquero. Tons of inventory out there, like the Jonas Brother’s home. Or this one, one of my all time favorites, because the lines are so clean.