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Where to get the best real estate deal in Dallas
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FINDING A GREAT HOUSE for the money is a little like locating the prize in a box of Cracker Jack. The prize exists, and you can secure it, but you have to make a series of decisions and compromises first. Do you open your Cracker Jack box from the bottom? Do you shake it gently from side to side? Likewise, real estate prize-finders weigh the possibilities, make gambles and sacrifices. Some of the best residential deals near Dallas are the furthest from town. Some of the prettiest houses are nestled in the poorest school districts. Houses with the greatest appreciation potential are sometimes in borderline-to-bad neighborhoods.

Ask real estate developers where the undiscovered, underpriced residential areas of Dallas are, and they’ll tell you about their newest subdivisions all of which are vociferously advertised in the Sunday newspapers. “Anywhere we build is a hot area,” says the sales director of a local developing firm. But major subdivisions are not as much hot as they are new to a city that is simmering. In other words, our whole Cracker Jack box is filled with prizes, and virtually any piece of housing you can buy in Dallas is worth your investment. Some realtors believe that Dallas County is going to be the next Marin County, California, the site of crazy rate-of-appreciation leaps. The task to undertake then is to find the prize among prizes, the hottest spots of a very sunny sphere.

“This is the next corridor,” says Inner-City Real Estate agent Larry Davidson as he forms a V-shaped wedge with both hands and presses the sides of his palms on top of a Dallas map. His fingertips touch the northern tip of Garland and the southern end of Mesquite. If Dallas’ downtown were the center of a clock, Davidson’s hands would point to 10 minutes after four.

Land and housing developers seem to agree that this eastward angle cradles some of Dallas’ best residential deals. The zealous northern movement past Richardson and Piano may ease up, they say. Transportation into downtown has been a problem, there’s little land left to develop up there, and housing is high (83.6 per cent of the residences sold in Richardson during the first quarter of this tight-money year were between $80,000 and $139,000). “The North Dallas-corridor syndrome is not at all wrong,” says custom home builder Mike Mahaffey, “and there will be more growth in the area. Piano will plug along, but I think better deals can be found to the east. Mesquite is the place that’s going to be hot for the next few years.”

“I’d say anything within two miles of Town East Mall off LBJ Freeway in north Mes-quite should be considered a real good deal,” says Larry Peebles, a vice president of Crow Development. “We became heavily committed there after we gave up going further north up Coit Road.”

Mesquite encompasses some 34.3 square miles of rolling terrain, 15 miles northeast of downtown Dallas. Up until recently, Mesquite was zoned for large, expensive homes, Mahaffey says. “The councilmen out there have loosened up a bit, so Mesquite is now a better area for home builders and smaller home buyers.”

If your income allows you to buy a $79,950 house, (which is about the median price paid for a house in Dallas) you can get a four-bedroom, two-bath, six-year-old house with a swimming pool and covered patio on a 60- by 120-foot lot in Mesquite. For the same price we found a two-bedroom, one-bath, 25-year-old cottage in Highland Park (a good buy considering you could pay that much for a lot in that enclave suburb) or a 50-year-old house on McCommas in East Dallas with floor furnaces and rickety window units.

You can find other $79,950 four-bedroom deals in Duncanville and Cedar Hill, two suburbs with their own school districts southwest of downtown, but houses have been somewhat slow to appreciate there, realtors say, and these areas are less likely to take off with a twin-engined roar of thunder.

“I think we’ll be building on the southern shores of Lake Texoma before anything south of Dallas really goes,” Mahaffey maintains. Nevertheless, good buys are waiting to be sold south of Dallas. In Cedar Hill, just 16 miles from downtown, our $79,950 buys a four-bedroom, three-bath house with a 12- by 24-foot sun deck, and covered patio on a 77- by 150-foot tree-shaded lot.

Other residential buys are abundant in Lewisville, Carrollton, and Coppell, all suburbs to the northeast. Getting into downtown on Stemmons Expressway can be more trouble than the house is worth, but if you work off of west LBJ Freeway, these communities are comfortable and ideal.

Some hot spots from the recent past are beginning to get priced past their potential. The Skillman-Abrams “Hollywood” area near Lakewood is rife with overpriced doll houses, some of which are sorely in need of leveling or repair. You can find a beautiful house in this area, but you’re not apt to get much of a deal. The “golden corridor” and Dallas North Tollway areas are now priced out of all but wealthy hands. Overlooked buys get discovered; they don’t stay reasonably priced for long.

The only remaining areas near town being bragged about by area specialists are Buckner Terrace, far west Garland, and north Oak Cliff. Buckner Terrace (bound by Buckner Boulevard, Easton and Garland roads, south of Northwest Highway) has good buys in the $80,000-and-up range, according to East Dallas realtor Hugh Feagin. Other realtors recommend the western tip of Garland because it fortuitously falls within the affluent Richardson school district. And Oak Cliff has some of the prettiest terrain and lowest priced housing in the city, according to Dr. Robert Harvey, chairman of SMU’s real estate department.

Nevertheless, all eyes this year seem cast to Mesquite and east as far as Rowlett, Sunnyvale, and Rockwall (24 miles away from downtown and on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard). “It just makes sense to buy over that way,” says Larry Davidson. “There’s no land in any other direction left to squeeze.”

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