Everyone wants to move to Texas, what former President George W. Bush calls "The Promised Land."
And really, it is. Texas welcomed 400,000 new people in 2016, the largest population increase in the country. The U.S. Census says the state hit a total population of 28.3 million people between July 2016 and July 2017. Come the 2020 census, it will likely pick up additional congressional seats. Hence the blazing hot real estate market—all those people have to live somewhere.
About 60,000 people moved to North Texas between 2015 and 2016. By North Texas, I mean the 12 counties and cities that bubble out from the Dallas/Fort Worth (or, as Fort Worthians say, Fort Worth/Dallas) hub stretching over 9,286 square miles, the largest inland land area in the U.S. And it is spreading out like crazy: Frisco and McKinney were the fastest growing suburbs in the U.S. last year. That’s why acres of homes and apartments are exploding in former farm stops such as Frisco. American pioneers driving cattle north settled in the area around the railroad station in Frisco, which has seen its population grow from 6,000 in 1990 to almost 200,000 today. Priding itself as one of the Lone Star state’s most innovative communities, the mayor, Jeff Cheney, is a realtor. The city is even launching the states’ first free driverless car program this summer with a Mountain View, California company called Drive.ai. When asked why they chose to launch in North Texas over the Bay area, Drive.ai company reps said "less regulation, and the city bent over backwards to accommodate us."
That’s a familiar refrain. When I moved here from New York City more than 38 years ago, I was bowled over by the mild winters (we picnicked in January), entrepreneurial spirit, sunshine, trees and the big, beautiful homes. They were majestic, decorated to the nines like a non-stop feed of Architectural Digest, all for a fraction of the price of a Manhattan one-bedroom. Summers are hot, but either you leave town or cool the outdoors with misters and chilled swimming pools during July and August.
In case you, too, are considering making a move to North Texas, here are 12 things you should know:
1. Texans are big on home ownership. Of half a million households in Dallas, nearly 44% own their own homes.
2. The most expensive home in Dallas, the 25-plus acre Crespi Estate, sold last December for $36.2 million at auction. It was once listed for $135 million, when Tom and Cinda Hicks owned it. Hicks sold it to local banker billionaire Andy Beal, who also bought another signature Dallas property, the Highland Park estate of the late, great real estate developer Trammell Crow, for about $34 million (price tag was $46 million). Apparently not needing two multi-million dollar estates within a few miles of each other, Beal sold the Crespi. The Crespi estate backs up to the gated neighborhood of former president George W. Bush, on Daria Drive.
3. North Texas has rolling estate properties, and in some areas, you can still keep horses right in town–one horse per acre, please.
4. The housing options are diverse, from one-quarter to half-acre single family homes build in the 1950’s to townhomes and high rises across the vast “Metroplex,” which is as big as the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Fort Worth has elegant mansions built on oil fortunes; folks there are also restoring vintage 1920s bungalows. Price points in Fort Worth are a bit lower than Dallas.
Head north to the fast-growing Frisco-McKinney-Allen area, where Toyota USA chose to move it’s North American headquarters, and you can find swaths of newly constructed housing, much of it cookie cutter, but some of it uniquely contemporary, in planned communities. Example: MainVue Homes, out of Henley, Australia. But Frisco and McKinney’s hottest neighborhoods right now are vintage homes, all within walking distance to restaurants and boutiques.
Model home at Windsong Ranch in Prosper
5. North Texas has topography. It isn’t as flat as those scenes from "Dallas" would lead you to believe. In fact, the Texas Hill Country starts in the southern Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, just south of downtown Dallas. Grab a home like this mid-century modern, 2.2 acres, $1.9 million.
6. We rock the urban scene. Oak Cliff is home to one of the most successful organic development stories in the city, Bishop Arts in Oak Cliff. This former warehouse district, linked to Bonnie and Clyde, is home to the Texas Theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was hiding out. Bishop Arts is now an artsy-gritty hipster haven with farm-to-table restaurants, barbecue, artisans, shops and theaters with loud patrons and live music. Ditto the hipster West 7th district in Fort Worth, near TCU, surrounded by affordable, renovated bungalows, all proximate to Fort Worth’s famous museums.
7. Dallas is home to one of the biggest urban lakes in the nation, White Rock Lake. Mt. Vernon, the home built by oilman H.L. Hunt with reportedly the very first swimming pool in Dallas, overlooks this beautiful lake and can be yours for $17.5 million. (There is even a bowling alley.)
8. North Texans are crazy for the outdoor life. The Dallas Trail Plan has about 153 miles of diverse urban hike and bike trails throughout the city, some on abandoned rail corridors. There are plans for these trails to eventually connect. One of the most popular is the 3.5 mile Katy Trail that is a major part of the Uptown’s dense living success story.
The Museum Tower in the arts district of Dallas, Texas (Photographer: Ben Torres/Bloomberg)
9. Dallas is embracing high-rise living in a huge way. In the 1980s and ’90s, high rises were mostly limited to Turtle Creek Boulevard, with magnificent views of the city. As soon as Dallas healed from the ’80s real estate bust, earnest building began in Uptown and the newly-created Arts District.
The crowning architectural jewel skirting downtown, in the center of the Arts District, is Museum Tower, designed by Scott Johnson of Johnson Fain. Museum Tower is 80% sold out.
Now all eyes are focusing on Hall Arts Residences, the city’s newest 28-story luxury high-rise scheduled for completion in 2020. It’s the first residential development registered for WELL Multifamily Certification in Texas. That means building to mitigate unhealthy everything, doing everything humanly possible to “put a premium on environments that allow for one to breathe better, sleep better, and live better.” Of course, the developer, Craig Hall, owns a winery in Napa and is thus well versed in healthy living. In a city that once rolled up the sidewalks at 5pm, there are now about 4,500 people who call downtown Dallas home.
10. Dallas has a huge collection of mid-century modern homes. California may have its Eichlers, but Dallas has Ju-Nel, named for the daughters of the contractors who built them in the 1950s, Lyle Rowley and Jack Wilson. How to explain Ju-Nel homes? They embrace the open floor plan: low-pitched roofs, huge plate glass windows following the roofline, large rocks embedded in exterior walls, wood accent walls (so very early ’60s), and my Texas favorite: the Jack and Jill bathroom—one bathroom shared between two lesser bedrooms. These can be snapped up—they go fast—for less than $900,000.
11. The maverick, entrepreneurial Texas spirit is reflected in Dallas real estate developers, and there are some wild ones. From laying-cement to his Learjet, Mehrdad Moayedi is one of the largest land developers in North Texas. He is not only churning dirt in 83 communities, he recently bought and remodeled the historic Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown Dallas, and another ’50s relic, the Cabana Hotel. Zach and Aaron Ipour, immigrant brothers from Cypress, came to Plano in the ‘90s and started remodeling homes. Their company, Megatel, is now one of the top 10 developers in the region.
Dallas is home to two of the youngest developers to have ever rocked the venerable Urban Land Institute: Tony Ruggeri and Jake Wagner of Republic Property Group. Both are under 40 and running $7 billion in projects across seven states, many with award-winning innovation. Of course we have Ross and Ross Perot, Jr., the former who once ran for president. Their development firm, Hillwood Communities, is booming.
And newcomers: Recently I met Edwin Tatum of Detate. The former pro basketball player has an entirely new vision for developing highly contemporary homes in untapped parts of Dallas. I’m fascinated and will be watching.
12. With the population surge, Dallas homes are somewhat affordable, but getting pricier. Average price in the Dallas-Fort-Worth (DFW) area is currently about $228,00.When I first started covering real estate 15 years ago, it was about $185,00. According to Trulia, the median price of homes for sale in DFW was $356,999 in March 2018. But the market may be peaking. Some are forecasting slower or even zero home price growth in North Texas this year, though the uber high end is still rocking. Texas has no state income tax, but its property taxes are among the highest in the nation. Once upon a time you could deduct the full property tax bill but alas, no more: only up to $10,000 of it can now be deducted. Some realtors say that won’t make a spit of difference, others say it may force owners to downsize, leaving a glut of $1 million-plus homes in its wake. (A $10,000 county tax bill usually comes with a home of $700,000 or so.) So yes, I am worried about taxes and affordability, but there are still great values if you hunt for them. And that is exactly what I plan to do.