Sunday, December 16, 2012

North Texas housing supply at lowest point since 2000


 Paul Sakuma/The Associated Presss
North Texas home sales have been up for almost 18 months. 
A surge in November home sales has dropped the inventory of houses on the market in North Texas to the lowest level in more than a decade.
Area real estate agents last month sold 5,709 pre-owned single-family homes through their multiple listing service, up 18 percent from November 2011.
With the latest increase, home sales are up 17 percent for the first 11 months of 2012 compared with the same period last year.
This year’s strong sales have reduced the supply of houses on the market in North Texas to 3.9 months.
That’s the lowest level since the summer of 2000, according to figures from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.
While pre-owned home sales in North Texas have been rising for almost 18 months, housing analysts caution that the big increases won’t continue unless more properties are put up for sale.
“We can’t have the sales if we don’t have the listings,” said Dr. James Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center. “In some markets, the Realtors are desperately hunting houses for the clients to buy.”
The inventory of pre-owned single-family homes for sale has dropped below two months in some North Texas residential districts, including Coppell, Grapevine and Allen.
A six-month supply of houses on the market is considered a balanced inventory. And the month’s supply of homes on the market is now almost half what it was in North Texas in 2009.
Even with stronger demand, Gaines said, sellers have been reluctant to bring their properties to the market.
“Some of it is still the psychology of waiting for the market to get better and prices to get up where I want to sell my house,” he said. “The prices haven’t bounced back up that much yet, but they are getting there.”
In November, median sales prices were up 11 percent in November to $156,500.
Some of the biggest November price hikes were in Fairview (up 58 percent from last year), Northwest Dallas (up 52 percent) and Garland (up 33 percent).
“People are beginning to think that now prices are going up, they’ll list their house in the next six months to a year,” Gaines said. “But there is still doubt in the market from people who don’t have to sell.”
And some potential sellers may worry about finding a new house and getting financing.
“We hear that some people fear putting their house on the market because it would sell so fast there is no place for them to move to,” said Ted Wilson, with housing analyst Residential Strategies Inc. “They also worry they may have trouble qualifying for a new loan.
“The mortgage requirements are still very stringent.”
Buyers who can’t find a pre-owned house they like won’t find much inventory in new houses, either. The supply of finished, unsold new homes on the market in North Texas is very tight, Wilson said.
“The builders can’t get them built as fast as they are selling them, and their backlog keeps climbing,” he said.
Housing economists expect the current uptick in North Texas home sales and prices to carry over into 2013.
The outlook for December is another strong month for housing.
Pending home sales are up 15 percent from this time last year.
Dallas-Fort Worth area home resales
November pre-owned home sales and prices in North Texas and change from a year earlier:
Single-family homes
Condos/townhomes
Resales
5,709
18%
389
43%
Median price
$156,500
11%
$146,000
11%
Average days on market
74
-15%
83
-30%
Pending sales
4,845
15%
328
49%
Listed for sale
24,337
-19%
1,850
-25%
SOURCES: Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University; North Texas Real Estate Information Systems

Homebuilding is cranking up again in Dallas’ close-in neighborhoods


 David Woo/Staff Photographer
Francisco Izaguirre works for M. Christopher Company on a new home on a tear-down site in East Dallas. Homebuilders are again scouting East Dallas and other close-in neighborhoods for old houses they can tear down for new construction. 
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After a timeout for the recession and a housing crash, the rumble of bulldozers is starting up again in close-in Dallas neighborhoods.
Custom homebuilders are buying up old properties and knocking down small homes to make way for a new generation of houses in East Dallas, the Park Cities and North Dallas.
“It’s starting to come back, and it’s better than it was,” said builder Josh LeComte, who has recently bought a few lots for new homes in East Dallas. “Compared to the worst real estate crash in history, this is way better than that.”
LeComte Homes has a couple of new houses in the works in the Lower Greenville area and is looking for more deals.
“I’m getting some spec building loans,” he said. “If you can deliver value, then you can sell a house.
“It’s not like it was when people were paying whatever they could to get in a house.”
Since the top of the new home market in 2006, housing starts in North Texas have dropped by about 70 percent.
And while the business is improving from the worst of times in 2008 and 2009, the comeback is definitely measured.
For the 12-month period that ended this spring, builders started just over a dozen houses in Dallas’ M streets neighborhood. In the same period of 2006, there were 162 starts, according to statistics from Dallas housing analyst Residential Strategies Inc.
In University Park, there were about 48 home starts during the year ending with first quarter 2012. In 2006, there were almost 140 starts for the same period.
“We’ve heard some rumbling that the teardown market is picking back up,” said Residential Strategies’ Ted Wilson. “But it’s still pretty weak.
“There were a lot of custom builders who were crippled during the downturn.”
Residential Strategies estimates that about half of the North Texas builders shut down or went broke during the housing market downturn.
“A lot of the guys that were marginal players are gone from the market,” he said.
But buyer demand is definitely back in many Dallas-area neighborhoods.
‘Fresh demand’
With less than a 4-month supply of pre-owned homes on the market, builders in close-in neighborhoods are hoping to get sales by offering new product.
Rudy Rivas, one of the partners who owns M. Christopher Custom Homes, is purchasing old homes in East Dallas’ Lower Greenville and Lakewood Heights neighborhoods to build new houses.
Most of his planned homes will be selling for just under $700,000 — a step down from what many new houses in the area went for before the crash.
“There’s a huge new home shortage” in some Dallas-area neighborhoods, said Rivas, who also builds in suburban communities including Colleyville, Southlake and Allen. “If you are in the right area with fresh product, there is lots of demand.”
M. Christopher Custom Homes is expecting its starts will top 80 homes this year — about double what the company did in 2011.
The builder has bought about 10 lots in East Dallas and has a few houses already under construction.
“I started my company seven years ago, right before the crash,” Rivas said. “The crash occurred before we had a lot of stuff on the ground.
“I got there right before the sidewalk sale.”
Bargains are few
He’s building East Dallas houses that average about 4,500 square feet and trying to stay away from suburban designs.
“We’re trying to maintain the architecture of the area,” Rivas said.
However, with three-car garages and swimming pools, M. Christopher’s new houses are a far cry from the tiny 1920s and 1930s cottages they are replacing.
“We are giving people higher ceilings and more glass,” Rivas said.
Real estate agents say they are seeing more builders scouting the market for bargain buys — but there aren’t too many.
“Lot prices are not as high as where they were, but they are getting there fast,” said John Whiteside with Coldwell Banker Realtors. “Almost all of the smaller homes are in somebody’s crosshairs.”
But that doesn’t mean that mega-mansions are making a comeback, Whiteside said.
“The days of people buying huge houses with space they don’t need and have to heat and cool are over,” he said.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sale of Dallas’ City Lights project is OK’d by court order

Sale of the stalled City Lights project just east of downtown Dallas is moving ahead.
One of the country’s largest apartment developers has gotten the green light to buy the property along Live Oak Street thanks to a bankruptcy court order.
But there is still an opportunity for other purchasers to make a last-minute bid for the 6-acre development site.
South Carolina-based Greystar previously signed a contract to pay $15 million for the vacant City Lights land.
The U.S. Northern District Bankruptcy Court has agreed to look at competing bids for 60 days. But the court also said “the debtor’s determination that the contract constitutes the highest and best offer for the property is a valid and sound exercise.”
Matt Malouf, the general partner of the real estate firms that control the City Lights property, said Wednesday that he expects the sale to take place sometime in February.
The landowners have been working since 2004 to develop the high-profile tract.
Earlier plans for the City Lights development included a combination of apartments, condominiums and commercial buildings.
If Greystar goes ahead with its purchase, most of the property is likely to be used for urban-style apartments.
Greystar manages or owns more than 190,000 apartments in 20 U.S. markets The company represents more than 50 apartment communities in the Dallas area.
Greystar representatives did not respond to a request for details.
Landowner Margaux City Lights Partners Ltd. put the Live Oak tract under Chapter 11 protection in September. The lead partners in the project said the bankruptcy filing was made to settle disputes between the investors in the property.
The City Lights land is just two blocks from a DART light-rail station and a block east of downtown Dallas.
The tract was previously occupied by a jumble of old commercial buildings, which have been demolished over the years.
By STEVE BROWN Real Estate Editor stevebrown@dallasnews.com

Investor buys Arlington’s Six Flags Mall

Six Flags Mall opened in 1970. (DMN files)
Noble Crest Property Group said Wednesday that it has sold portions of the Six Flags Mall on State Highway 360 in Arlington to private investor  G. L. “Buck” Harris.
The regional shopping center was built in 1970 and is largely vacant.
Arlington-based Noble Crest says its client plans to remodel the old mall and will rename the shopping center Plaza Central.
“This was a fairly complex transaction that had many moving parts,” Ken Wimberly, Managing Director of Noble Crest Property Group, said in a statement.
Noble Crest said it arranged the sale to Harris of  363,000 square feet of the retail project on 25 acres. Brad Cruickshank of the Woodmont Co. brokered the sale.
The mall has suffered several bankruptcies and foreclosures and was sold to Noble Crest by a Corpus Christi lender.
Dillard’s operates an outlet center in the mall and Cinemark has a multi-screen theater on the property.

Engineering firm set to move regional office to downtown Dallas

A worldwide engineering and architecture firm plans to move more than 300 workers to a new regional office in downtown Dallas.
Jacobs Engineering Group is renting 81,000 square feet in the Harwood Center tower at Bryan and Harwood streets.
The California-based company will present its full plans for the operation at next week’s City Council meeting.
City officials will be asked to approve $300,000 in economic incentive grants to help pay for the office.
Jacobs has operations in two Dallas locations and at a building in downtown Fort Worth. The current Dallas offices are at 6688 N. Central Expressway and at 7950 Elmbrook Drive near Love Field.
The company has studied locations for a combined office for several months.
“Jacobs, being a major company, had a lot of different options,” said John Crawford, CEO of the economic development group Downtown Dallas Inc. “I’m sure the incentives played into it, but at the end of the day, it was a combination of things that led them to select downtown.”
With the construction of thousands of new residential units and new public-sector amenities, downtown Dallas has attracted renewed interest from office business tenants.
“We are getting to look at a lot more deals than we were several years ago,” Crawford said. “All of that is building momentum, with the amount of space we have down here and competitive and economic office rental rates.”
Jacobs Engineering representatives did not respond to requests for details about the pending move.
Jacobs would be one of the largest suburban office tenants to make the move to downtown Dallas in recent years.
The company has agreed to lease more than three floors in the 36-story Harwood Center at 1999 Bryan. The building was constructed in 1982 and is owned by Fortis Property Group.
Harwood Center is on DART’s downtown rail line and is four blocks from the Arts District.
The company plans to spend $2 million on its new downtown office, according to city of Dallas documents.
The city expects the Jacobs consolidation to result in more than $9.6 million in economic activity downtown over 10 years.
To obtain all of the economic grants from the city, Jacobs will have to locate 350 people in the new office during the next two years.
Based in Pasadena, Jacobs has more than 200 offices in 25 countries with about 60,000 employees.
In 2007, Jacobs purchased Fort Worth-based engineering firm Carter & Burgess.
By STEVE BROWN real Estate Editor stevebrown@dallasnews.com

Design firm behind NorthPark expansion hired to master-plan the 400 acres between Valley View Center and the Galleria

Valley View Center back in 1982, when its parking lot was always full
In October, the Dallas City Council signed off on spending $250,000 in public-private grant money to study redeveloping the 400 or so acres stretching from Valley View Center to the Galleria; said Mayor Mike Rawlings just before that vote, “This is a very important decision and strategy for the city of Dallas. It’s important work.” Now we know to whom that check will be written: Omniplan, the Woodall Rodgers Freeway-based architecture and urban-design firm responsible for, among other things, the NorthPark Center expansion, Galleria and Highland Park Village redos and various new buildings on the SMU and TCU campuses.
That announcement was made this morning by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, which will dispense the city’s economic development grant. The chamber has also set the date for the first of two proposed public meetings concerning the project: 6 p.m. on December 10 in the Westin Galleria Dallas’ San Antonio Room. The chamber, which at one time was in talks with HKS, says the plan should be finished by spring of next year.
Says the release:
The outcome of Omniplan’s efforts will be a comprehensive area-wide plan that will include land use, utility infrastructure, density, property mix, green space, transportation and other considerations for the long term redevelopment of those portions of the site that are, at present, underutilized. Tipton Housewright, princip 
 al with Omniplan, commented, “The Midtown District is extremely important to the future of North Dallas. Omniplan is very excited to partner with the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the City of Dallas, working together to create a new vision for this strategic district.”
                   
will recall, a big hunk of it — Valley View Center — is owned by Beck Ventures, which has proposed tearing down some of the mall. Or maybe all of it. Depends now on what Omniplan proposes and the city signs off on. Because, as the release notes, the plan “is expected to be used by the City of Dallas as reference for future planning, zoning, infrastructure and related issues that will foster future development within the area.                                         ”By 

Simon Property purchases new Grand Prairie outlet retail center

Shopping center developer and investor Simon Property Group said Wednesday
 that it has acquired full ownership of Paragon Outlets Grand Prairie in Grand
 Prairie.
The $100 million shopping center – which opened this summer on Interstate 20 –
 has
417,000 square feet of space and is anchored by tenants including Saks Fifth 
Avenue OFF 5TH, Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store, Coach, Cole Haan, 
DKNY, Hugo Boss, Kate Spade New York, J.Crew, Michael Kors, Nike and
 Tommy Hilfiger.
The project is fully leased and will be renamed Grand Prairie Premium Outlets.
The Grand Prairie retail center was a project of developer Paragon Outlet
 Partners.
Indianapolis-based Simon also bought full ownership in a Paragon outlet 
center in Livermore Valley, California.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“The projects have been very well received by merchants and shoppers, they
 are wonderful additions to our business, and they will be immediately
accretive to our earnings,” John R. Klein, President of Simon’s Premium Outlets
, said in a statement.
Grand Prairie and Livermore were excluded from the sale of Prime Outlets to
 Simon in 2010 before the Federal Trade Commission review of the acquisition.
 At the time, both were land awaiting development.
Paragon Outlets was formed by former Prime Outlet management and their only
 assets were the two future developments at the time. 
In addition to Premium Outlets, Simon previously purchased two other big outlet 
center operators, Chelsea and Mills.
With the acquisition of the new Grand Prairie center, Simon will own the three
 largest outlet centers in Dallas-Fort Worth including Allen Premium Outlets and
 Grapevine Mills.
In Texas, Simon also owns one of two major centers in San Marcos; four Premium 
Outlets, including one in Allen, and Mills malls in Grapevine and Katy. 
Staff writer Maria Halkias contributed to this report.                                                                                                                                                                     

Developers purchase key building site on Riverfront Boulevard in Dallas



The vacant property that just changed hands is at the foot of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on Riverfront Boulevard. 
A real estate group that includes Mockingbird Station builder Ken Hughes has purchased about 25 acres on Riverfront Boulevard at the foot of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
The vacant development site was acquired from lender PlainsCapital Bank, which foreclosed on the property last year, Dallas County deed records show.
Hughes and the investors have spent more than six months studying development plans for the property, which previously was earmarked for an apartment and retail complex.
“With that location right by the bridge, they got a heck of a good property,” said broker Tom Youngblood with Wicker & Associates, who marketed the land for the bank.
Youngblood said that his firm considered multiple offers for the property.
“We had a bunch of bottom feeders at $5 and $6 per square foot,” he said. “These buyers paid well over $10 per square foot for the land.”
Youngblood said the buyers still have to complete the purchase of a smaller 5-acre tract north of the bridge.
County records show that the property buyers include a Houston-area energy firm that is an equity partner in the deal.
Hughes has previously said that the land will mostly be used for apartments.
The previous owner was Irving-based developer JPI, which had planned to build an urban-style apartment and retail complex.
The land at one time was the site for warehouses and a rail yard.
It’s now just west of the Victory Park project and across the river from the new Trinity Groves restaurant and retail complex in West Dallas.
By STEVE BROW Real Estate Editor  stevebrown@dallasnews.com

Las Colinas office project in the works for site near I-635



Wilcox Development plans to open its Irving office building in 2014. 
Dallas-based Wilcox Development said Monday that it will build a speculative office project in Las Colinas.
The 135,000-square-foot, 4-story building will be constructed on 8.5 acres near the southeast corner of Interstate-635 and Belt Line Road.  Morrison Dilworth + Walls Architects designed the building.
The Wilcox Plaza at Las Colinas will be completed in mid 2014.
“We have wanted to develop in Las Colinas for quite some time. This site provides extraordinary access to D/FW Airport, various traffic arteries and a skilled labor pool," Bill Cawley, CEO of Wilcox Development, said in a statement.
Founded in 1996, Wilcox Development has built more than 5 million square feet of projects in Texas and Northern California.
Todd Ratliff of Cawley Partners is marketing the new Irving project.
By STEVE BROWN  Real Estate Editor   stevebrown@dallasnews.com