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Figures show Texas’ economic recovery continues

AUSTIN – According to the Texas Quarterly Housing Report released yesterday by the Texas Association of Realtors (TAR), Texas homes maintained their value in first quarter 2011. This despite a decrease in sales volume, indicating that economic recovery continues in Texas.

“While Texas has not been untouched by the recent economic downturn as indicated by the decrease in sales, it is encouraging to see home prices hold their value in the first quarter,” said TAR Chairman Dwight Hale.

In the first quarter, the median price of existing single-family homes increased 1.3 percent to $143,300 compared with first quarter 2010. During the same period, the volume of home sales was 40,192, 7.3 percent less than the previous year.

“In evaluating the first quarter of 2011, we must remember we’re comparing it to the first quarter of 2010,” said Dr. Jim Gaines, research economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “That time period included March, which was one of the most heavily government-stimulated months of the year by the homebuyer tax credit. While we expected sales to be down given this anomaly, we expected the decrease in the sales volume to be much greater, suggesting that the market is performing well despite the absence of tax credits.”

Texas had 7.5 months of inventory in the first quarter, compared with 6.8 months a year ago.

“Texas is still performing considerably better than other states in terms of maintaining balance between home inventory and demand,” Gaines said. “Combined with the fact that Texas has maintained strong property values, this indicates that the market is absorbing foreclosed and other distressed properties without experiencing harmful excess supply.”

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report is issued four times per year by the Texas Association of Realtors with multiple listing service data compiled and analyzed by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. To view the report for 2011-Q1 in its entirety, visit

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Housing shortage?

Was at the Greater Dallas HBA luncheon this last week to hear Steve Brown of the Dallas Morning News speak. He drew a good crowd as always. This was my first time to hear him in person, pretty funny guy. Well the meat and potatoes of his presentation was we are headed for a housing shortage which made me smile. Its something I have been saying for over a year now. Yes we still have an 8 month supply of existing homes and yes there is some shadow inventory as well that will enter the market at some point. Its just that you see very little new construction going right now and most of that is custom builds. As new companies continue to relocate here and the companies here continue to grow where are the people going to live?

Mr. Brown predicts a good summer and fall selling season.
This  is a large part of  the reason we decided to start a spec home about a month back. It should be completed at the end of June and I think the timing will be right. I know my phone has been ringing a bit more lately which is a positive sign.

Will keep you posted.

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Goverment Relations/Rally Day

Went to Austin a couple of weeks ago with about 100 plus builders from the greater Dallas HBA. In Austin we were met by approximately 2000 more builders from around the State. We were all there representing the Texas Association of Builders commonly known as TAB. We were there to discuss the current legislation session with our representatives. I was able to sit down and have a 30 minute conversation with State Representative Jim Jackson of district 115. What a wonderful person, very kind and a good listener. It was a long 15 hour day however very worth while. It was very interesting to get a glimpse of how things work in Austin.

Jim Jackson and Michael Turner

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Appraisal Institute Launches ‘Green’ Valuation Program

About time!

It seems that the appraisers have finally decided to get on board with new building protocols. According to the link below, the appraisal industry is making efforts to educate its members on the value of “green” and the building of high performance homes. This is not unlike the new “green” fields available now in most Multiple Listing Service listings (see: The Green MLS Tool Kit).

One of the main issues the appraisers have had is that there has been insufficienct sales data to support (or quantify) the value of high performance home building. The appraisal industry, as a whole, is built on a business model that is high-volume and low margin. There are no incentives for them to take any risk and push the envelope on a home appraisal. So, in some respects, I can understand why they haven’t given any value to the new types of building technologies. “Show me the money” ala Jerry Maguire, right?

It appears that the appraisers are starting to wake up to the fact that more houses are being built in this style. Whether being driven by market forces or the changing municipal codes, “green” and high performance homes continue to make up a large(r) portion of the new home market. I applaud them for learning more about what constitutes a high performance “green” home. It’s an educational process that needs to also include realtors, and, most importantly, the general public.

Source: Appraisal Institute Launces “Green” Valuation Program

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Classic Urban Homes – our plans for the current year

So we’re a little late in working on our new year resolutions – but we’ve got legitimate excuses! We completed and closed three homes from late January to late February, had a couple of successful open houses, travelled to Austin as part of the HBA Rally Day (and got to discuss issues with a Texas state representative), and so on. We’ve had a yellow legal pad all filled out with our ideas for the new year, but just haven’t had the time to record it electronically. So, here goes:

1) We’re going to introduce two new recurring topics – “From the builder’s corner” and “From the designer’s corner.”

The builder’s corner will be covered by Michael and will cover a range of topics from current activities (Rally Day) to tips and tricks Michael has learned from his multi-decade experience as a builder.

The designer’s corner will be covered by Michael’s lovely wife, Jane, who works closely with all our clients to provide design ideas during the architectural drawing phase as well as assisting clients with their product selection. Jane will be writing about things that provide a little inspiration to her that she’d like to share.

On an on-going basis, we will also be posting what we’ve always written about – whatever strikes our fancy! I enjoy critically examining the finance/economic side of our business like the Case-Shiller reports and banking and appraisal issues and will turn that same eye to developments in the “green” side of building as well. We are committed to building in a way that makes sense for the way we all live. That means both the “green” in your pocketbook as well as being “green” and building and designing high performance homes. Being “green” means different things to different people, and we enjoy discussing and refining what it means to us and to our lucky homeowners.

2) Gather data on the energy use of our existing homes. We have gotten several non-solicited comments from our current homeowners that they can’t believe how low their electric and gas utility bills are. This is great feedback for us. In some ways, the science of high-performance home building is tough to prove. It’s easy for us to tell potential clients that a house will save them money because we built it a particular way, but, unless we have documented proof of that, most people just nod their heads politely and ignore it. The facts are clear – there are simple things we can do to the design of your home to save you money operating that home. Well, sort of. If you keep your house like an igloo in the summer and a sauna in the winter, we can’t help you with that.  We can only design the house to perform well, it’s up to you to operate it in a responsible manner.

3) We’re also going to be updating our Facebook page more often. What do you mean you haven’t “liked” Classic Urban Homes on Facebook? Get on it! And share it with your friends as well! We’ll be posting picture updates and things of that sort more often over there.

4) Finish updating our main website! We’ve been working on making behind-the-scenes changes for a while. We’ll have a better platform to showcase our homes. Time to knuckle down and get it done.

5) Find some undiscovered parts of town! There are so many fun little niches in this city like Forest Hills and Lakewood. We want to build your house in all of them!

6) Continue our education! One of the most overlooked parts of being a successful building company is continuing education. We have made it a high priority to continue learning and, most importantly, practicing what we learn. Building science changes all the time – there are always new and better ways to do things. Sometimes they’re more money, sometimes they’re less. Sometimes the benefit from doing something is huge. Those are the things we want to know about!

7) Continue your education! One of the reasons we have this blog is so that our potential customers can really see what we’re about and what we stand for. The simple fact is that there are plenty of good home builders in Dallas. It’s up to us to tell you why we think you should use Classic Urban Homes to build your next home. Once you’ve got an idea about what you think we’re all about – we’d love for you to call our other homeowners so they can tell you what they think. There’s no better research that you can do than to call references. We’ll gladly given them all to you – homeowners, bankers, and vendors. You should know that we build good houses, are financially strong, and pay our bills on time. We will be here to support the warranty on your house – something we seriously doubt all builders will be able to do.

So there it is – our plans for the year. Along the way, we’d like to build a couple of homes for some new clients. We’re deep in conversation with multiple people now, so so far, so good!

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Comment from a home owner….

Classic Urban Homes got an unsolicited email the other day from a recent remodel client of ours. It fell right in line with a project I have been planning to work on. First, their comment:

Mike, Thought you might be interested in this. Our heating bill is less this year at 3000sf than it was last year at 1472 sf and this year was a lot colder. Speaks highly of the windows, siding and insulation.

We’ve made great strides over the past several years in learning new and improved techniques in the area of “building science” and I think the above comments just proves that out.

So, my idea! Taking the idea from some of the leading “green” builders in our industry, I am going to put together a review and analysis of all our previous homes energy usage. Not cost, but usage. My focus will be on comparing how much gas and electricity the houses uses versus what we put in it. All our homes have been meausured by an energy rater and receive a HERS score, but that will only be one data point.  I want to see empirical data on how all this interacts.

Now, of course, some numbers might be way off if you cool your house to igloo temperatures in the summer and sauna temps in the winter, but I still want to see it. So, be on the lookout. I hope to find some interesting information to share!

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A very busy start to the new year!

We’re super busy with final finishing touches on two great custom built homes but wanted to share a couple of updates with you.

First off – our stunning contemporary home at 8627 Midway will be open to the public this Sunday, January 23rd. The homeowners have graciously allowed us to open the doors to invite anyone who would like to come see it. The home will be open from 1 to 5pm. Come meet the builder, Michael Turner, and get a personal tour! Pictures to follow soon – the weather has not been very cooperative! Click here for more details.

In the meantime, he’s a quick rendering of the project!

Secondly, we recently got back the energy report on our house at 4806 Stanford. The home scored a 61 on the HERS scale! The HERS score is a government measure of the energy efficiency of a home. Without going into too much jargon, a home built to standard building code would score a 100. Every 1 point decrease indicates that the home, as designed, would perform 1% more efficiently than the baseline home. So…this Stanford home was built to be nearly 40% more efficient than a home built to code. What’s more amazing to us is that the owners didn’t go crazy with energy efficient add-ons like foam insulation, etc. This is proof to us that Classic Urban Homes’ continued focus on smart energy efficient design has really paid off. We are eager to monitor the energy use of the home this summer to see what the bills are!

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Public Service announcement: Thirteen things your burglar won’t tell you

Classic Urban Homes says stay safe this holiday season. Here are a few things your not-so-friendly burglar won’t tell you:

 1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
  2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
  3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..
  5. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
  6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.
  7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
  8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.
  9. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
  10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
  11. Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
  12. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
  13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at http://www.faketv/
  1. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
  2. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
  3. I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.
  4. I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
  5. I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
  6. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.
  7. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.
  8. If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

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2010 AIA Dallas Tour of Homes

If you have some time this weekend, you should consider going to the fourth annual American Institute of Architects Dallas Tour of Homes. The homes are open this Saturday and Sunday, November 6th and 7th from 10am to 5pm each day. Tickets for all eight homes are $25 each. More information can be found here: Dallas Tour of Homes.

Classic Urban Homes makes an effort to check these houses out every year – there is always something interesting to see. This year, the tour includes homes in Urban Reserve and Kessler Woods Court as well as one of our favorite neighborhoods – Forest Hills.

Hope to see some of you there!

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Working on updating the site!

After many months, we are soon to be live with an updated blog site here and at our main home page at Classic Urban Homes. Most people won’t notice any changes on the main site – but we’re working with some great people at Ovrflo Media to make it much more functional. They’ve been great to work with and we highly recommend them.

Thanks for sticking with us!