Dec 25, 2009

A Special Christmas Picture For All Americans…Along With A Christmas Comparison

A Special Christmas Picture

I came across this picture, of George Washington crossing the Delaware, quite by accident the other day.  I didn’t do anything with it; after all, what do you do with a picture like this? Then it came to me very early this morning.  This is a Christmas picture; an intensely important Christmas picture, if you’re an American.  At least it should be.

This very special Christmas Picture is very different from most Christmas pictures you see, as there are no Christian icons, no Santa Claus, no elves and no Christmas trees.  It is, however, Christmas.  Although most Americans have a vague awareness of George Washington crossing the Delaware, their consciousness is that of a story from folklore, rather than something that really happened.  But it did really happen.

Not only did it really happen, it happened on a bitterly cold, ice covered Christmas morning more than 200 years ago.  George Washington, along with hundreds of volunteers, crossed the Delaware River, many in tattered clothes, during the American Revolution to insure the establishment of these United States.  The move was heralded for centuries as a watershed moment in our Revolution.

So I have published this picture, a Christmas picture, for all Americans.  So we all remember.  I ask all Americans to remember that the men in this picture, Washington included, were willing to sacrifice everything for the good of the country they were fighting to establish.  I also ask you to compare the men in this photo, our forefathers, to those who purport to lead our country now.

Compare to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who just two weeks ago headed to Copenhagen with two – one was apparently not adequate – private jets for an historic convention on global warming.  Comrade Pelosi apologized for America and tried to give away hundreds of billions of American taxpayer dollars to the rest of the world because of the mess we’ve made.  And I thought the $30,000 taxpayer dollars she spent this year outfitting her office with fresh flowers was bad.

Compare to Harry Reid, who has played Lets Make A Deal for the last several weeks in an effort to pass socialized medicine in the Senate.  At least Harry knew what it took to motivate his fellow democratic Senators: bribes, pay-outs and the most massive earmarks in history.

Compare to Senator Ben Nelson, who would never vote for the healthcare bill because of publicly funded abortions; unless you pay him $100 million.  Compare to Senator Mary Landrieu, who was completely on-board with the healthcare bill, especially since she procured $30 billion in special entitlements for Louisiana.  And, let’s not forget Joe Lieberman, that bastion of integrity from Connecticut who wouldn’t vote for the bill, until he was paid off.

Compare all of our leaders from 2009 to those men who were willing to sacrifice everything on December 25, 1776.  In 2009, the most outrageous leader of them all, the man who promised transparency in government and legislation free from lobbyists and earmarks, is vacationing for ten days in Hawaii.  That’s a great deal different from George Washington’s Christmas.

Oh, and please don’t forget that the events depicted in this famous Christmas painting, took place shortly after a Tea Party.

Scott Schaefer 


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Oct 2, 2009

Dallas Home Prices Firm in Latest Case Shiller Study Decline of 1.6% is Smallest in Almost Two Years

Dallas home prices fell by the smallest percentage in almost two years in the latest housing market snapshot.

DFW prices were down only 1.6 percent in July from a year earlier in the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.

And local home prices were up from June to July, the fifth consecutive month of increases. The July figure is also the highest point in the home price index since last September.

The small annual decline in North Texas home prices is a big improvement from earlier in the year, when the Case-Shiller index showed that prices were falling by more than 5% from 2008.

The just-released data is more proof that home price declines bottomed in North Texas in early 2009.

"The rate of annual decline in home price values continues to decelerate, and we now seem to be witnessing some sustained monthly increases across many markets," Standard & Poor's David Blitzer said Tuesday in the report. "These figures continue to support an indication of stabilization in national real estate values."

Analysts are keeping an eye on how the housing market reacts later this year when a popular federal home buying tax credit expires.

Nationwide home prices in July were still 13.3 percent below where they were a year earlier. But the index has been higher for three consecutive months, a strong indication that home prices have bottomed out.

US home prices are still almost 30 percent below their peak in mid-2006.

In the DFW area, July home prices were about 4 percent less than they were at the top of the market here in June 2007.  The Case-Shiller numbers add to growing evidence that the worst of the North Texas home price shakeout is over.

So far in 2009, the median home sales prices have dropped only about 2 percent in the residential sales industry's Multiple Listing Service.  And the Case-Shiller decline estimate is even less.

"That's really saying prices are flat," said David Brown, who heads housing analyst Metrostudy's Dallas office. "That's a very small number."  This while some areas of the country are still seeing big home price reductions.

In Las Vegas, prices were down 31.4 percent in July from a year earlier, according to Case-Shiller. Values dropped by 28 percent in Phoenix and 24.6 percent in Detroit.

Case-Shiller tracks the prices of typical single-family homes in each metropolitan area. The index does not include condominiums and townhouses. It only covers pre-owned properties – no new construction. The Case-Shiller researchers compare sales of specific properties over time.

Plano Texas, Dallas’ affluent northern suburb, is faring even better, of late.  Analysis prepared by Altos Research which are updated daily, shows trend lines in the Plano housing market with declining inventory and increasing median prices.  Lexington Luxury Builders provides these Plano Housing Market Charts for the convenience of our readers.


Original Article reported by STEVE BROWN | The Dallas Morning News

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Sep 25, 2009

Download a New Brochure for the Luxury Townhomes at Lexington Park at Rice Field in Downtown Plano


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Sep 24, 2009

Texas Housing Markets Forecast Nation’s Most Stable

CARY, NC (Local Market Monitor) – Five large Texas cities and ten smaller ones are among the nation's top markets when it comes to expected home price performance, according to Local Market Monitor’s latest Home Price Forecast.

Among the largest markets — those with populations exceeding 600,000 — Dallas|Plano|Irving, Fort Worth|Arlington, Houston|Sugar Land|Baytown, San Antonio and Wichita Falls filled five spaces on the ten-slot list of cities with the best expected performance in home price over the next year.

The same survey of the smallest US markets revealed ten Texas cities were tops, tied with other cities across the country. These were Abilene, Amarillo, Brownsville-Harlingen, College Station–Bryan, Corpus Christi, Killeen–Temple–Fort Hood, Laredo, Lubbock, Texarkana and Waco.

The study predicts local market behavior over the upcoming 12 months in over 300 markets, identifying those that are stable and have opportunity for growth.


Texas To Lead Economic Recovery

SAN ANTONIO (San Antonio Business Journal) – The four major Texas metros will be among the first in the nation to recover from the recession, according to a nationwide forecast by IHS Global Insight.

San Antonio and Austin will lead the way, bouncing back to their prerecession job levels sometime next year, predicts the Lexington, Mass.–based economic forecasting firm.

Houston and Dallas–Fort Worth are among eight other metropolitan areas predicted to recover by 2011.


Sep 16, 2009

Economy and Housing Prices in Texas Rank Highest

Texas cities and metropolitan areas boast the strongest economies in the United States, according to a just-released analysis by the Brookings Institution.

In a second-quarter comparison which analyzed the economies of 100 US cities, Austin Texas ranked first, Dallas–Fort Worth ranked fourth and El Paso sixth.

Houston's economy, ranked ninth in the comparison, but ranked first among cities with the biggest increases in home prices. In Houston, home prices jumped 4.9 percent over the last year.

In ranking cities with the strongest home prices, third-ranked DFW had a 3.8 percent increase in home prices, while tenth-ranked San Antonio had a 3.1 percent increase.


Sep 3, 2009

DFW airport OKs $1.5B facelift program

lexingtonlogo-iphone Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport reported Thursday that its board approved the first major expenditure tied to a $1.5 billion-plus terminal development program that will renovate Terminals A, B, C and E at the airport.

The terminals, which opened with the airport in 1974, are slated to be part of a project that D/FW considers an important mechanism in keeping the airport top-tier in terms of service and technology.

The board approved a $20.75 million package for preliminary design work on the terminals’ renovation. URS Corp will handle the design.

The entire project is expected to cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, with D/FW expecting to pay for the renovations through bond sales, available capital and other sources.

The project will include makeovers of passenger areas and the replacement of electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems, as well as telecommunications upgrades.

“While they have served us very well, our four original terminals are 35 years old now, and their internal systems need replacement,” said Jeff Fegan, CEO for the airport. “The renovation of these terminals is critical for the airport's long-term outlook, because this project will keep D/FW highly attractive to customers and cost-effective for airlines well into the 21st century.”

Construction is expected to begin as early as 2011 right after Super Bowl XLV, which will take place in Arlington. Terminal A will be completed in 2014, D/FW said, with the entire project slated for a 2017 end date.


Dallas Mayor Considering Senate Run

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert did not rule out a run fur the US Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, when asked about it at a commercial real estate function Thursday.

"I'm just trying to get through the week," Leppert said, when asked whether he plans to seek the seat.

He again declined to rule out a bid when the Dallas Business Journal asked him about the possibility after the function, saying only that he "feels good about what the city has accomplished."

Leppert, speaking to commercial investment association CCIM, said he expects a wave of corporate relocations to Dallas, as companies consider ways to cut costs in the post-recessionary environment.

"During a recession, everyone is hunkering down, so usually relocation is the last thing you look for," he said. "We're going out and selling Dallas by saying part of the restructuring of companies is bringing costs down," and Dallas' low-tax, pro business environment can help companies achieve the savings they are looking for.
"When we see a recovery, I think Dallas will be very well positioned," he added.

Leppert counted a reduction in crime and implementation of green construction standards among his successes in his first two years in office. The mandatory green building requirements, he said, "position Dallas as a leader" on environmental issues and is important to fight the perception that the city is behind the curve in that area.

The mayor vowed to not raise the tax rate. "When you've got that stable tax rate, it sends the message that this is where we want business to be," he said.

Leppert also said the upcoming construction of a deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway will be a big step for the city: "The best part is the strategic hole that it fills, connecting downtown Dallas with Uptown and the Arts District."

Although we don’t know who the rest of the field of candidates may be, Leppert is certainly not a bad candidate…and his candidacy or election would likely be good for Dallas and the Metroplex.

Sep 1, 2009

Housing Market Update | Plano Texas

Isolated reports, from around the country and even from Western Europe, are beginning to filter in which suggest that the worst of the housing market is behind us and that it has, in fact, begun the process of recovery.  It is unlikely that the mainstream media will report good news, such as this, as it isn’t in their nature.  While the nationwide housing market is certainly important, of significantly more import are conditions of the local housing market. 
The below charts, compliments of Altos Research LLC, present data about the local – Plano Texas – housing market.  As is easily noted, the market in Plano is substantially improving.  The charts are updated regularly.

 Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

  Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research



 View Scott Schaefer's profile on LinkedIn

Jul 30, 2009

Brand New Homes For Rent in Plano

1 Lex 256Lexington Luxury Builders announced today that an entire phase of new luxury townhomes at Lexington Park in Downtown Plano is now available for lease. The Heritage Townhomes at Lexington Park are extraordinary new, energy efficient homes in a human scale, new urban neighborhood in Downtown Plano, Texas.

Located just two blocks from the Downtown Plano DART light rail station, Lexington Park is part of the Downtown Plano Transit Village. These new homes in Plano are Energy Star Certified and are certified by the NAHB as green built new homes for enhanced energy efficiency and environmental protection, extremely rare qualities in rental properties. Additionally, each of these new homes achieves the standards required for the EPA Indoor Air Quality Package.

Interior FeaturesExterior Features
Neighborhood InfoArea Information
Aldridge FloorplanEngineering Features
Barnett FloorplanMurphy Floorplan
Pembroke FloorplanGreen Features
Harrington FloorplanNeighborhood History
Area MapInterior Photos
Exterior PhotosDowntown Photos
Community PhotosAvailability+Pricing

The homes at Lexington Park range in size from 1,658 to 2,351 square feet, with monthly rental rates of $1,350 to $1,995 per month. Contact Scott Schaefer at Lexington Luxury Builders 214.369.4900 for complete information or to schedule a property visit.

Barnett Floorplan at Lexington Park

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Jul 19, 2009

Texas Overshadows All Other States in Building Energy Star Homes

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program of the number of Energy Star homes being built has been recently released. In 2008, Energy Star has maintained about the same market penetration that it had in 2006, approximately 36%. However, the volume of Energy Star homes built dropped from about 60,000 in 2006, to just over 40,000 in 2008, most notably due to the overall slowdown in the housing market. No joy in Mudville with these statistics.

There is, however, good news locally. As is the case with almost all real estate related statistics, of late, Texas now builds more Energy Star homes than any other state. In fact, there are more Energy Star homes being built in Texas than the next six leading states combined. In 2006, Texas only surpassed the next three leading states. More silver lining news from flyover country: about 1/3 of all Energy Star homes which are built in the United States are built in Texas. Funny, I’d have expected much more participation from the blue states? And the Energy Star Trend in Texas is continuing.

To quantify this into numbers we can all understand – without using trillions in the discussion - builders in Texas have saved resources which are equal to removing 20,000 vehicles from the road, more than 100,000,000 pounds of coal and have saved more than 30,000 acres of trees. All while saving consumers more than $18 million on their utility bills.

Once again, it’s good to be in Texas. And, ladies and gentlemen, Texas is good for the environment.

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Jun 30, 2009

Where Are the Healthiest Housing Markets in the Country in 2009? And Yes There Are Some

Builder Magazine, in conjunction with Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, debuts its metric for determining markets with the best and least potential. Virtually every housing market was down last year. But a close look at the numbers reveals that some markets have outperformed others during the last four years and are likely to continue to do so this year.

When the housing market begins to recover, it will be the healthy markets that lead the parade. While the healthiest markets have many things in common, the one single thing that the healthiest of healthy markets all have in common – at least the item of commonality I most like – all of the top markets are in Texas.

The list below is reprinted from Builder Magazine Online. To compile these lists, we analyzed the top 75 housing markets in the country. We ranked them based on population trends and job growth, perennial drivers of housing demand. We also examined what’s happened with home prices; many of the healthiest markets have managed to hold the line on home values. And finally, we considered the rate building permits, which may be the single best ongoing indicator of builder confidence in a market. We combined all these metrics to produce a score for each market. Here are the top 5, in reverse order.

#5 Dallas, Texas

2008 total building permits: 26,145

In a year when building permits declined by 35% nationally, the Dallas market only experienced a 9 percent drop. With a Metroplex population of more than 6.3 million, Dallas was the third largest home building market last year, as measured in permits pulled. Employers in Dallas, a popular place for corporate relocation and expansion, added 42,000 jobs last year, a growth rate of 2 percent. Existing-home prices have held steady, falling a paltry 3.4 percent in the last year. Interestingly, the face of residential construction has changed dramatically in Dallas in recent years; 58 percent of the activity last year was in multifamily, compared to a five-year average of 23 percent. The relative stability of the market, though, wasn’t enough to prevent Wall Homes from filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. On the other hand, former Meritage co-CEO John Landon recently started a new Dallas-based home building company. Present market conditions aside, outstanding buying opportunities are available in the Dallas and Plano housing markets, like Lexington Park at Rice Field a new urban community in Plano being developed by Lexington Luxury Builders.

#4 San Antonio, Texas

2008 total building permits: 10,261

San Antonio is another Texas market that is still adding jobs, about 18,000 last year. A city of more than 2 million people now, its population is also growing, at a 2.8 percent annual clip through last year. Existing-home prices are barely declining in San Antonio, down less than 1 percent in the last year, to an affordable median price of $152,800, 25 percent below the national average of $200,500, according to the National Association of Realtors. The upper end of the housing market was hurt recently when AT&T announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters to Dallas.

#3 Fort Worth, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 10,388

Fort Worth, always operating in the shadow of higher profile Dallas, nevertheless can currently claim to have a slightly healthier housing market, based on its employment growth, relatively strong permit activity, and inexpensive housing. Now the 14th largest home building market in the country, Ft. Worth’s builders pulled 10,388 permits last year, roughly two-thirds of them single-family. That may be half as many as 2005, but many other major markets showed much sharper drop-offs. The relative strength of the Fort Worth market in recent years stems from its ties to the oil and gas industries, which has fueled above-average job growth. The metro area added 17,300 jobs last year.

#2 Austin, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 14,250

Nine years ago, during the tech bust, some builders felt that Austin was too crowded and left. The bloom is back on Austin’s yellow rose now; it moved up the leader board to become the sixth largest home building market last year. Job creation explains the move. While other markets lost employment, Austin added 17,400 jobs last year, 2.3 percent growth rate. It helps that Austin is home to both a major university, The University of Texas, and the state capital. Existing homes cost a little bit more in Austin than other Texas markets, roughly $188,600, but that’s still below the national average. Also, Austin is one of the few metro areas in the country where median prices actually rose in 2008--2.7 percent. Amazingly, Austin now generates more home building activity than Chicago, which has six times more people.

#1 Houston, Texas

2008 Total Building Permits: 42,697

They like to do things big in Houston. Now the metro area, home to more than 5.8 million people, can lay claim to being the largest home building market in the country, with 42,697 building permits. The market is still benefiting from an influx of population and jobs and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Employment was up 2.5 percent last year, representing the addition of an incredible 65,000 jobs. Home building activity in Houston has only fallen 31 percent since 2005. Also, existing-home prices rose in Houston through the first three quarters of last year. They finished the year at a median of $151,600, even with the previous year. Roughly one-third of the home building action is in Harris County, followed by Houston proper and Fort Bend County. One of Houston’s largest builders, Royce Homes, shut down last year, and Kimball Hill, one of the biggest builders in Texas, closed its doors this year after it failed to find a buyer.

It’s a wonderful list…if you’re in Texas.

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Jun 25, 2009

Will Green-Built Homes of the Future Solve Our Energy Problems, What Will They Look Like? It Appears That Most Are Destined to be Very Unusual, While Some Look… Downright Traditional

What will the energy-efficient house of the future look like? The Wall Street Journal recently ran an extensive article which speculates about this very subject, much of which is repeated below. While it is an excellent piece, some of the ideas discussed in the article as possibilities ran to the absurd, note some of the examples.
imageFuturistic homes may have gardens on their walls or ponds stocked with fish for dinner. They might mimic trees, turning sunlight into energy and carbon dioxide into oxygen. Or perhaps they will be more like chameleons, changing color to suit the weather and healing itself when damaged.
Those are a handful of the possibilities that emerged from an exercise in futurism, in which the Wall Street Journal asked four architects to each design an energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable house without regard to cost, technology, aesthetics or the way we are used to living. This mission, of course, ignores many of the responsibilities typically borne by architects.
They didn’t want to design anything impossible or unlikely, thus limiting what would likely have been more extreme design examples. Instead, the architects were asked to project technology that might be possible in the next few decades. The participating architects came up with houses that are edible and others which mimic trees. So much for eliminating the unlikely.
image A fresh look at the way homes are designed is overdue, especially when you consider the impact houses have on the environment. Buildings use tremendous amounts of energy, approximately 40% of the energy used in the country along with generating 40% of the green house gasses,according to the US Energy Department. They also cause the equivalent greenhouse-gas emissions.
That people are beginning to understand this impact goes a long way to explaining why the green building trend is exploding; even as the economy struggles and home-building is the weakest its been in generations. So, green building is trending up, but will green homes help solve the energy puzzle? The WSJ article provides a gander into the future.

Out on a Limb

home-grown"I'd love to build a house like a tree," says architect William McDonough of the Charlottesville, Virginia firm William McDonough + Partners. And that's what he set out to do here.
The surface of his house, like a leaf, contains a photosynthetic layer that captures sunlight. Unlike today's solar panels, which are often pasted above a roofline, these are woven into the fabric of the exterior. They heat water and generate electricity for the home -- and create oxygen for the atmosphere, to offset carbon produced in other areas of the home.
The appeal of ultrathin, integrated solar panels goes beyond convenience. Solar is plain ugly and off-putting to many homeowners, something McDonough calls the "potpourri of miscellany stuck on our roofs." Unseen solar arrays, especially ones that create hot water, will be a "breakthrough from aesthetic perspective, which is a huge issue," he says.
As for the rest of the design, McDonough envisions a sleek, curved roof with generous eaves to provide shade, which lowers the heat load in summer, thereby reducing the need for energy-hogging air conditioning. The roof also insulates and provides an outdoor garden. More details are contained in the WSJ article.

The Reptile House

connecting-people-natureIf the previous house is a tree, this one is a lizard, whose skin is among its most important features for survival. Cook + Fox's house has a "biomorphic" skin that reacts to the weather, turning dark in the bright sun to insulate the house from heat and turning clear on dark days to absorb as much light and heat as possible.
The façade also captures rain and condensation to fill the home’s water needs much like a desert-dwelling lizard rolls drops of dew from its nose to its mouth. The house of the future will look toward nature's way of solving problems as much as it looks to technology, a concept called biomimicry. "You need to view a house as a surface area for life, as opposed to a thing to be power-washed," he says.
What's more, toilets and washrooms are separated, serving more people with less space. Making a house that's more conducive to work is important for energy efficiency because it eliminates driving -- and thus reduces energy consumption. Refer to the WSJ article for additional details.

Meals at Home

cook-fox-houseRios Clementi Hale Studios cheekily calls their concept the "Incredible Edible House." Come on. Really? This somewhat fantastical design seems to be as much about the future of food production as architecture. The façade is slathered in a vertical garden that includes chickpeas, tomatoes, arugula and green tea. Step outside in the morning and harvest your meals. The plants both nourish the inhabitants and provide shade and cooling, absorbing heat better than a wall made of wood, brick, stucco or glass.
Los Angeles based Rios Clementi Hale has a reputation for innovative designs. Its best-known works include the angular red, ochre and green-striped campus of the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles.
But the plants aren't the only striking feature of the design. At three stories, the edible house is also more vertical than the typical suburban home, a nod to the importance of building dense, urban-style houses in order to reduce energy use. A rooftop reservoir collects water and keeps the building cool; rooftop windmills generate energy.
The house is also put together in an intriguing way: It's made of three prefabricated containers stacked on top of each other that can be moved on a trailer if the mood fits. This method exists today, but it's not used very much, since homeowners associate prefabrication with lower-end homes. But the benefits for lowering energy use are substantial. The standardized construction in prefabricated homes reduces defects that can hamper energy conservation. And it's easier to ship prefabricated parts, which means reduced fuel use for deliveries. Read more in the WSJ article.

Learning From the Past

Looking to the future isn't the only way to be innovative. The house from architect Steve Mouzon, of Mouzon Design in Miami Beach, Florida, uses tomorrow's technologies while mining ancient techniques to reduce energy use.
For instance, solar paneling built directly into the roof and façade provides electricity and hot water. But the house also employs a "breeze chimney," an architectural tool used by the ancients, as a kind of old-school air conditioning. The difference between the air pressure in the chimney and outside causes hot air to flow out of the chimney stack and cooler air to enter through windows and doors.
"It must make sense first," says Mouzon, a so-called New Urbanist architect who believes in traditional designs that emphasize pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. His house "isn't trying to do wild and wacky things with roof shapes or wall shapes but a good sensible building that is highly lovable. It is inventive where it needs to be."
Like Rios Clementi Hale, Mouzon sees the house as a source of food. He would add "melon cradles," an invention he says he thought up for this project, to allow heavy melons and other vegetables to grow vertically up the sides of his house.
Another of his innovative ideas would require Americans to do more than just feed the goldfish bowl: He would install tilapia pools in a "kitchen garden" to provide fresh fish to the homeowner. It's among the most energy-efficient ways to raise animal protein, Mouzon says.
But the most important order for Mouzon is to make the house compact. "The smaller thing you can create, the more sustainable it is." In fact, that's something that all four of our architects agree on: Americans need to learn to live in smaller spaces if we are going to make an impact on the environment. Now we know at the very least that these particular architects have no intention of fostering classical designs.

Classical, Traditional Homes Offered in the Alternative

As an alternative to these rather extreme designs, Dallas homebuilder Lexington Luxury Builders has conceived and built Lexington Park at Rice Field a new urban neighborhood of Green Built Homes in Downtown Plano Texas.
Lexington Park at Rice Field by Lexington Luxury Builders
I have a slightly different angle on the future of green building and sustainable design, and mine is decidedly simpler than any of those mentioned above. I’m going to build sustainably designed, green-built homes that look precisely like any other home in the marketplace. I think that Americans absolutely love the idea of buying energy efficient, green built homes, but they are horribly afraid of those homes looking…unusual. Or even downright funky. Green built homes don’t have to look funky or unusual. In fact, they needn’t look any different than any other home, and I believe that the green building movement will meet much wider acceptance when designers and builders reach this conclusion. This is what our green built homes look like. Visit Lexington Park at Rice Field to learn more. The Heritage Townhomes at Lexington Park are now available for purchase from $249,000 and for lease with rental rates ranging from $1,350 to $1,995 per month.
Scott Schaefer, CEO of Dallas homebuilder Lexington Luxury Builders is a Certified Green Building Professional
Excerpts from The Green House of the Future - by Alex Frangos

Jun 1, 2009

New-Home Inventory Falls Further in March | Lexington Luxury Blog

The number of newly built, single-family homes on the market declined for a 23rd consecutive month in March as builders focused on working through the inventory of unsold homes, according to new-home sales data reported by the US Commerce Department.


The inventory shrank to 311,000 units, which is a 10.7-month supply at the current sales pace.

“Builders are doing a great job of thinning the supply of unsold homes and positioning themselves for a slow but steady housing recovery,” noted NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. “The March numbers are a welcome sign that the market is stabilizing as some of the best home buying conditions in a lifetime are drawing consumers off the fence and back into the market.”

The latest government data indicated that new-home sales in March remained virtually on pace with a relatively strong, upwardly revised figure from the previous month. Sales were reported at a seasonally adjusted, annual rate of 356,000 units, which was off just 0.6% from February.

Things are even better in the Dallas Fort Worth market. DFW ranks second in the nation in new home sales and starts.

“In line with NAHB’s forecasts, we continue to see evidence that the new-home sales market is bottoming out as historically low mortgage rates, attractive home prices and incentives like the newly created $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit spur more interest among consumers,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

“That’s particularly true in the West,” he said, “where a 15% gain in March can be attributed in part to California’s implementation of an up-to-$10,000 tax credit for buyers of newly built homes — which, when combined with the federal first-time buyer credit, creates a sizable inducement to purchase.”

Regionally, new-home sales activity was somewhat mixed in March, with the two largest markets posting the best results. The West registered a 15.1% gain, while the South held even with the previous month’s improved sales pace, the Midwest posted a 7.8% drop and the Northeast experienced a 32% decline.

Story Excerpts from: New-Home Inventory Falls Further in March | Lexington Luxury Blog, New-Home Inventory Whittled Down Further in March

May 12, 2009

Dallas Business Journal Report: Foreclosure auctions spur price declines


US metropolitan areas are reporting lower median existing home prices, due to a high level of foreclosures and short sales, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors.  According to the report, released Tuesday, the median sale price in Dallas dropped 4.7 percent to $135,700 in the first quarter of 2009, down from $138,000 during the same period last year. 

Screenshot Dallas Business Journal The NAR’s report says only 18 major metropolitan areas reported price increases. The remaining 134 of the 152 surveyed reported price decreases.  The national median existing single-family home price at the end of the first quarter was $169,000.  Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, says homeowners should not be too worried about the impact of foreclosures and short sales.

“Traditional homes in good condition have held their value much better, so owners shouldn’t be overly concerned about median prices,” McMillan said in a statement. “Most sellers can expect a good return if they’ve been in their home for a normal period of homeownership and haven’t excessively tapped their equity.”

During the first quarter, NAR says nationally foreclosures and short sales accounted for half of the completed transactions.

Related News: National, local home sales prices tumble          Foreclosure auctions spur price declines.  Dallas Business Journal


Apr 30, 2009

Where are the Best Cities for Job Growth? Hint, a Whole Bunch Are Right Here In Texas


Over the past five years, Michael Shires, associate professor in public policy at Pepperdine University, and I have been compiling a list of the best places to do business. The list, based on job growth in regions across the US over the long, middle and short term, has changed over the years--but the employment landscape has never looked like this.

In past iterations, we saw many fast-growing economies--some adding jobs at annual rates of 3% to 5%. Meanwhile, some grew more slowly, and others actually lost jobs. This year, however, you can barely find a fast-growing economy anywhere in this vast, diverse country. In 2008, 2% growth made a city a veritable boom town, and anything approaching 1% growth is, oddly, better than merely respectable.

So this year perhaps we should call the rankings not the "best" places for jobs, but the "least worst." But the least worst economies in America today largely mirror those that topped the list last year, even if these regions have recently experienced less growth than in prior years. Our No.1-ranked big city, Austin, for example, enjoyed growth of 1% in 2008--less than a third of its average since 2003.

The study is based on job growth in 333 regions--called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data--across the US.  Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

The top of the complete ranking--which, for ease, we have broken down into the two smaller lists, of the best big and small cities for jobs--is dominated by one state: Texas. The Lone Star State may have lost a powerful advocate in Washington, but it's home to a remarkable eight of the top 20 cities on our list--including No. 1-ranked Odessa, a small city in the state's northwestern region. Further, the top five large metropolitan areas for job growth--Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Dallas--are all in Texas' "urban triangle."

The reasons for the state's relative success are varied. A healthy energy industry is certainly one cause. Many Texas high-fliers, including Odessa, Longview, Dallas and Houston, are home to energy companies that employ hordes of people--and usually at fairly high salaries for both blue- and white-collar workers. In some places, these spurts represent a huge reversal from the late 1990s. Take Odessa's remarkable 5.5% job growth in 2008, which followed a period of growth well under 1% from 1998 to 2002.

Of course, not all the nation's energy jobs are located in Texas, even if the state does play host to most of our major oil companies. The surge in energy prices in 2007 also boosted the performance of several other top-ranked locales such as Grand Junction, Colorado., Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodoux, La., Tulsa, Oklahoma., Lafayette, La.

Looking at the energy sector's hotbeds, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Another major factor behind a city's job offerings is how severely it experienced the housing crisis. There's a "zone of sanity" across the middle of the country, including Kansas City, Mo., that largely avoided the real estate bubble and the subsequent foreclosure crisis.

Still other factors correlating with job growth--as evidenced by Shires' and my current and past studies--are lower costs and taxes. For example, the area around Kennewick, Wash., is far less expensive than coastal communities in that same state, and residents and businesses there also enjoy cheap hydroelectric power. Compared with high-tech centers in California and the Northeast, such as San José and Boston, places like Austin offer both tax and housing-cost bargains, as do Fargo, N.D. and Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

College towns also did well on our list, particularly those in states that are both less expensive and outside the Great Lakes. Although universities--and their endowments--are feeling the recession's pinch, they continue to attract students. In fact, colleges saw a bumper crop of applicants this year, as members of the huge millennial generation, encompassing those born after 1983, reach that stage of life. More recently, college towns have emerged as incubators for new companies and as attractive places for retirees.

Specifically, the college town winners include not only well-known places like Austin and Chapel Hill, but also less-hyped places like Athens, Ga., home of the University of Georgia; College Station, Texas, where 48,000-student Texas A&M University is located; Morgantown, W.Va., site of the University of West Virginia; and Fargo, the hub of North Dakota State University.

Democratic states are glaringly absent from the top of the list. You don't get to a traditionally blue state--in a departure from past years, Obama won North Carolina--until you get to Olympia, Wash., and Seattle, which ranked No. 6 among the large cities.

But political changes afoot could affect the trajectory of many of our fast-growing communities--and not always in positive ways. It's possible that the Obama administration's new energy policies, which may discourage domestic fossil fuel production,could put a considerable damper on the still-robust parts of Texas and elsewhere where coal, oil and natural gas industries are still cornerstones of economic success.

By contrast, the wind- and solar-power industries seem to be, as of now, relatively small job generators, and with energy prices low, endeavors in these areas are sustainable only with massive subsidies from Washington. But still, if these sectors grow in size and profitability, other locales that have not typically been seen as energy hubs over the past few decades may benefit--notably parts of California, although Texas and the Great Plains also seem positioned to profit from these developments.

Another critical concern for some communities is the potential for major cutbacks on big-ticket defense spending. This would be of particular interest to communities in places like Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia where new aircraft are currently assembled. Over the years, blue states like California have seen their defense industry shrivel as the once-potent Texas Congressional delegation and the two Bushes tilted toward Lone Star State contractors.

These days it's big-city mayors and big blue-state governors who are looking for financial support from Obama. Northeast boosters are convinced more money on mass transit, inter-city rail lines and scientific research will rev up their economies. Boston--No. 16 on the list of large cities and a leading medical and scientific research center--could be a beneficiary of the new federal spending.

The most obvious winner from the recent power shift should be Washington, D.C. The Obama-led stimulus, including the massive Treasury bailout, has transformed the town from merely the political capital into the de facto center of regular capital as well. Watch for D.C. and its environs to move up our list over the next year or two. Already the area boasts one of the few strong apartment markets among the big metropolitan areas in the country, which will only improve as job-seekers flock to the new Rome.

Yet Washington is an anomaly, because most of the places that stand to benefit from this unforgiving economy are ones that are affordable and therefore friendly to business, reinforcing a key trend of the last decade. It also helps regions to have ties to core industries like energy and agriculture, a sector that has remained relatively strong and will strengthen again when global demand for food increases.

Some areas have attracted new residents readily and continue to do so, albeit at a somewhat slower pace. Over time this migration could be good news for a handful of metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City, which ranks seventh among the big cities for job growth, and Raleigh-Cary, N.C., which was No. 1 among large cities last year and No. 8 this year. Over the last few years, these places have consistently appeared at the top of our rankings and are emerging as preferred sites for cutting-edge technology and manufacturing firms.

Below these winners are a cluster of other promising places that have already managed to withstand the current downturn in decent shape and seem certain to rebound along with the overall economy. These include the largely suburban area around Kansas City, Kan., perennial high-flyer Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Greeley, Colo.--in part due to their ability to attract workers and businesses from bigger metropolitan centers nearby--as well as Huntsville, Ala., which has a strong concentration of workers in the government and high-tech sectors.

In the end, most of the cities at the top of the lists--whether they are small, medium or large--have shown they have what it takes to survive in tough times. Less-stressed local governments will be able to construct needed infrastructure and attract new investors so that job growth can rise to the levels of past years. If better days are in the offing, these areas seem best positioned to be the next drivers of the economic expansion this nation sorely needs.

by Joel Kotkin 04/13/2009