Where the action is in the Dallas housing market.

The Dallas housing market is as lively as a Las Vegas gaming table, with the ante increasing daily in relation to spiral-ing inflation and rising construction costs.

If you are a seller, don’t worry; you’re holding a pat hand. Somebody will eventually come within five percent of your asking price. There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.

If you are a buyer, however, you need to know your options. Where you buy can make all the difference. But if you make the right choice, you can start your own game in one of the hottest parts of town.

First, decide what type of buyer you are. Do you want to turn a quick profit on a new or fairly new house or are you more interested in long-term investment? Do you want an established neighborhood or the excitement of one in transition? Are you willing to pay a substantial premium to send your kids to the Highland Park schools or are lot size and modern conveniences more important?

Right now the best buys on new houses are offered in a corridor bounded on the west by Midway Road, on the east by North Central Expressway, on the south by Forest Lane and on the north by the Red River. This corridor encompasses such magic names as Highlands of Mc-Kamy, Bent Tree, Preston Trail, Preston Bend. Preston Creek, Park Preston, Forest Creek, Royal Park, Prestonwood, Brookshire Park Estates, Hillcrest Manor and Northwood Hills. Homes in the golden corridor start at just over $100,000 and top off at $350,000, with appreciation running as high as $1,000 a month.

Another area felt by many to be almost as hot lies east of North Central, south of LBJ, west of Skillman and north of Piano Road. New houses here range from $80,000 to $200,000 and are found in such additions as Royal Highlands. Oak Highlands, Moss Farms and Forest Meadows.

If you are inclined to nurture an older, pre-owned house along its way to respectability, you have several areas with excellent investment potential to choose from. Older structures can either be remodeled or demolished, with new structures taking their places. Most of the tear-downs are taking place in the Park Cities, where buyers seek a prestigious address and good schools above all. Why else would they pay $70,000 or more for a 50-year-old 3-bedroom, I-bath frame house when the same money would buy a newer brick 3-2 farther north?

For the buyer who likes to gamble a bit and work a lot. the Lakewood and East Dallas neighborhoods hold excellent potential, especially over the long run. Proximity to downtown, distinctive architecture and the recent creation of historical districts all suggest a bright future for this part of town.

Condominiums and townhouses represent another buy worth considering. Originally thought of as a shelter for the “empty-nester” (a couple who has outgrown the need for a single-family dwelling), the condominium and town-house have become increasingly popular with single professionals and childless couples. If purchased in the right location, like behind the Preston Road/ Northwest Highway “Pink Wall,” the resale potential is tremendous. (One unit that sold for $32,000 less than three years ago went for $100,000 this year.)

Not all Dallas housing looks alike and the good deals have by no means been bought up. All you need to get in on the action (besides a fat bank account, in some parts of town), are some imagination, ingenuity and patience.

The Golden Corridor

Some of the most attractive new houses in the Dallas area are located in a corridor beginning at Royal Lane and going north, between Carrollton on the west and North Central Expressway on the east, to FM 544 (in Plano). Prices in the North Dallas corridor begin at $80,000 and peak at about $350,000.

The immediate investment potential of houses in this area is excellent, with some neighborhoods experiencing appreciation at the rate of $1,000 a month. Young executives transferred to Dallas for relatively short stays (3-4 years) find the corridor’s neighborhoods especially attractive. But the long-term investment potential is also excellent, since these houses lie in Dallas’ strongest direction of growth, which brings with it population, income, shopping centers, traffic arteries, country clubs and recreational facilities. Houses purchased near LBJ Freeway, Preston Road, Dallas North Tollway and Dallas Parkway extension have the greatest resale potential.

The highly rated Richardson and Piano School District serve the corridor, as do private institutions like Greenhill. (You may need to provide your own school transportation for awhile, however, as bus service is not always available.) Shopping is convenient, with Valley View Mall and various small centers nearby. Prestonwood Mall (still a year from completion) and the proposed Dallas Galleria should add to the variety of stores.

A second car is a virtual necessity. Commuters should assume a minimum of 30 minutes rush-hour driving time to downtown Dallas, but somewhat less to work centers along LBJ and Stemmons Freeways. The farther north you go, of course, the longer the driving time. This should be reduced, however, as Preston Road is widened and the Tollway extended.

Houses in the North Dallas corridor are near some of Dallas’ most popular country clubs, as well as Lake Grapevine and Lake Lewisville. Lake Texoma is about 80 miles away, and Lake Ray Hubbard, about 20 miles. Unfortunately, golf courses and tennis courts are rare – particularly north of LBJ Freeway – although Piano has excellent public recreational facilities. Nearby shopping centers offer a good selection of movie houses. Currently, the restaurant selection is limited, but this should improve as population grows.

In a nutshell, this area has long been the center of action in new Dallas housing. And there’s no reason for it to quit short of the Oklahoma border. The corridor is well on its way to becoming a mecca for the transferred business executive, who benefits from its high turnover rate and rapid appreciation.

Local realtors predict that new housing action will be particularly hot along Preston Road near FM 544. in the West Plano/Willowbend country, and in the area north of Bent Tree.

The Satellites

Promising satellite communities lie on either side of the North Dallas corridor: to the west, inside the Carrollton city limits; to the east, inside the LBJ Freeway between North Central Expressway and Abrams. Prices here begin in the high seventies, and peak at around $200,000.

The immediate investment potential of these areas is excellent, attracting a number of business transfers, as well as cross-town buyers seeking a new school district or a larger house. An appreciation of 10 percent annually can be expected, giving these houses a long-term investment potential that equals (or betters) those in the North Dallas corridor.

The satellite communities are served by Carrollton/Farmers Branch schools on the west and Richardson, Garland or Dallas schools on the east. All these systems provide bus transportation. Shopping is served by numerous existing centers, with new ones, like Richardson East Mall, to come. Residents generally need two cars, as in the corridor, although Park V Ride at Forest Lane and North Central is convenient for some east side residents. On the far west side, commuters to downtown may choose 1-35 (Stem-mons) or the Dallas North Tollway. East siders have North Central Expressway, Greenville Avenue or Abrams Road. A new north-south expressway, under consideration, may help this side of town.

Public recreation – golf, tennis, soccer- is in greater supply than within the North Dallas corridor. The western satellite communities have easy access to Lake Lewisville and Lake Grapevine, while the east side is near White Rock Lake, Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon. Entertainment and restaurants are easier to come by on the east side, which has access to Greenville Avenue. The west side currently has limited entertainment facilities.

In summary, both sides offer a wider variety of pre-owned houses than is available within the North Dallas corridor, and some extremely attractive newer homes. The transfers and cross-towners streaming into these areas may not reap quick windfalls, but steady appreciation seems guaranteed.

The Great Reawakening

Housing trends in the East Dallas/ Lakewood areas have no economic or sociological parallels in this market. A few preservationists on Swiss Avenue slowed the evident physical and economic erosion of the area; now, the downturn has been reversed and many older houses are being recaptured as residences for families – mostly young families. “I expect this trend to continue for another five years,” says one local realtor. “Then most of the bad streets will be gone.”

There has been some speculation by investors in these two neighborhoods. In the Park Cities, tear-downs and rebuilds are fairly common, but Lake-wood and East Dallas buyers have been concerned with renovation of existing structures. “In Lakewood you are buying a house, not an address,” explains one local realtor. “Each house is priced according to the distinctiveness of its architecture. You might have a home selling for $30,000 right next door to one selling for $60,000.”

Not that conveniences don’t count; it’s the mix of old and new that sells fastest in East Dallas. For example, the following ad appeared for a 56-year-old, 2-bedroom, 1-bath frame house with a 91-by-134-foot lot, priced at $44,500. “Swiss Ave. style interior behind a ’fool the eye’ exterior. High beamed ceilings. Ornate glass cabinet work. Big ’country kitchen’ features butcher block Formica. Yellow no-wax floor. New plush carpet.”

One broker, who has done considerable research in the area, has found that the asking price of older inner city homes has risen at least one-third over the past two years. “It’s the homeowner who sets the prices.” she adds. Another realtor says she has seen homes in the Hollywood addition, which borders Lake-wood, go from $30,000 to $40,000. even $60,000 in the recent past.

As a rule, the worse the condition of the house, the lower the price; but as activity on the block picks up. all selling prices will increase. Thus your home may experience impressive appreciation. No one knows for sure, but many realtors are assuming that in five years or so the typical East Dallas/Lake-wood home will be reselling for $80,000. Buyers may see the same thing happen here that has happened in the Park Cities.

The Prestige Neighborhood

If cost per square foot of living space is the standard, prices are higher in the Park Cities than anywhere else in the Dallas market. Older houses have gone for as much as $85 per square foot here, compared to $37.50 for a house of equal age in East Dallas. And there’s no shortage of reasons. The Park Cities are island communities; no new home sites will be developed, except by tearing down existing structures. The Highland Park Independent School District is acknowledged to be one of the best in the Southwest. Taxes are stable, and city services run smoothly. City government is conducted quietly, with the only noise coming around election time – if then.

All of these factors, plus some grand early 20th-century architecture, attract buyers to the Park Cities. Unlike those in the North Dallas corridor, however, the largest group of buyers moving to the Park Cities has already lived in Dallas for some time.

According to local brokers, prices paid recently for Highland Park houses range from about $1.5 million, for handsome old 3-story stone structure resting on a couple of acres backing up to Turtle Creek, to $65,000, for a 3-bedroom, 1-bath frame house on a 50-by-125-foot lot in a 50-year-old neighborhood.

The more expensive house probably got a coat of paint and fresh carpet from its new owners; the less expensive one was torn down and replaced by a new 2-story, redwood/brick single townhouse, at a cost of $200,000. Tear-downs are more and more common on the fringes of the Park Cities, where the houses are not as nice but the land values are still high. For example, at the east side of Dartmouth, a Highland Park street that deadends at the Katy Railroad tracks, only 3 of 10 houses remain in their original state. The others have been replaced by new houses with values of $225,000 or more.

The value of Park Cities real estate has already had beneficial effects on the Oak Lawn, Knox, Cole and Turtle Creek areas near Highland Park, where older homes and small apartment buildings are giving way to new townhouses in the $40,000-to-$60,000 range. Many buyers are single, middle-income men and women, ages 25 to 45, who make up about 55 percent of the Dallas market.

Another trend in the vicinity of the Park Cities is the conversion of 10- to 12-unit apartment buildings to condominium ownership. Most conversions to date have been limited to apartment communities of 60 or more units.


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