austin street center

If you’ve dreamed of vacationing in Taos, New Mexico, Crested Butte, Colo., or Destin, Flor., mark your calendars for a fabulous silent auction offering stays at three luxury vacation homes in those locations.

The No Place Like Home vacation home silent auction event will benefit Austin Street Center, a nonprofit that has provided emergency shelter, food, and clothing to the most vulnerable homeless men and women in Dallas for 30 years.

“By leveraging vacation properties owned by Austin Street Center supporters and friends, we will be able to provide a unique opportunity to both our donors and auction winners,” said Becca Leonard, development director at Austin Street Center. “Donors will generate much-needed funds for Austin Street at little to no cost to themselves, and attendees will have the chance to win a stay at one of many fabulous spots around the country—only their vacation will benefit the homeless here in Dallas.”


Long Cove LonghornsA precious family of three just “bought” some major water-front property over at Long Cove: Betty, Wilma, and Pebbles!

And even better news: they are expecting! 


339 Town East Blvd. ext

Here is a chance to live like you are getting away… without really getting away. You can do it on this amazing country estate in Sunnyvale that comes on 16 acres with a stocked pond, rolling terrain, and asses in the backyard.

Yes, asses, as in donkeys.

Oh and guess how much your total property taxes are? $8000 in U.S. dollars. That’s because 15 of the total 16 acres are ag exempt. Don’t you just love ranches?

This spread was built in 2002 and brings you a total ranch get-away feel about 20 minutes outside of Dallas. Located in Sunnyvale on Town East Blvd., you are far enough away to get away from traffic and airport noise, yet close enough that you won’t sit your butt in the car all day to get there. Technically, it’s 12 miles east of downtown Dallas. The spread is actually a donkey farm and mare hotel, home to one of the largest donkey breeding operations in North Texas. The acreage spreads across the pond to a barn with spacious living quarters above. The little donkeys — jacks and jennys — live in the far rear of the ranch. Horse/donkey facilities include a wash rack, six loafing sheds and pens, and a 3,000 square foot barn. Donkeys are pack animals used for draught work in transport or agriculture.  In developed countries like the U.S., sturdy donkeys are used to sire mules, to guard other animals on the ranch, and as pets. Donkeys can also pastured or stabled with horses and ponies, where they have a calming effect on nervous horses.

And they make terrific nannies: if a donkey is introduced to a mare and a foal, the foal may turn to the donkey for support after it has been weaned from its mother.

But all that nuzzling and nurturing is going on in the far back of this ranch. Back in the main house, you have an exquisite, high-end finish out in an energy-efficient stone structure. All windows are low-e, the standing seam metal roof will outlast the owners, and the home is wrapped with extra insulation which results in lower energy bills. The floors are hand-scraped rugged, the kitchen loaded with a farm sink, high-end appliances, walk-in wine closet, and Labradore Antico granite counters that I’m told are no longer available. I’m also coming over for Thanksgiving because the convection oven cooks a 17 pound turkey perfectly in 2.5 hours.


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The master is as jazzy as the kitchen, with a see-through fireplace, and a master tub inspired by the Four Season Las Colinas own jacuzzis: heated backrest, and heated air in the jets, and self-dry to eliminate icky tub jets. There is a television near the tub, and the huge glassed-in master shower is a steam unit. All that’s missing is the bar, which is actually a few steps away.


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Speaking of steps, the master is on the first floor. There are four bedrooms, three and a half baths. Three are down, one is up with full bath. Also upstairs over the three-car garage is a media room with surround sound that is like a private movie theater because it IS a private movie theater. Let it get as loud as you want — no one else in the house can hear that Star Wars battle.

How about grabbing your fishing pole and go catch you some black bass or croppy? Tell you what: this property is available for $1,275,000. Less than $1.3 million.

Bonus: a brand-new golf course will be practically next door. Last month, the Dallas city council approved construction of the 400-acre Trinity Forest Golf Course, a $20 million to $60 million new golf course on Loop 12 near Interstate 45 in southern Dallas. Dallas-based AT&T will become the new title sponsor of the Byron Nelson Championship in 2015, taking that role from Hewlett-Packard and bringing them to Trinity Forest to golf.

According to real estate experts, the new golf course development will drastically change the landscape in southern Dallas, and buyers are eyeing Sunnyvale more than ever.


339 Town East Blvd. overview

Happy Valentine’s Day!

T. Boone Pickens may be a legendary Texas oil and gas executive, and a huge force behind wind energy, but there are no windmills on his Preston Hollow estate in Dallas, Texas.  There are gardens, sculpted and manicured French gardens that will make you think you are in Versailles so much that “mais oui” will roll right off your tongue! He is now selling his Dallas estate in the heart of Preston Hollow for $7 million. And it is not listed in MLS. The home was built in 1996, but then when T. Boone and his wife, Madeleine bought it in July, 2005 for about five million, it was redone to the max. And I do mean the max. From a four bedroom home with a master on the first floor, it was taken to a three bedroom home with an expanded second floor master. In fact, the new master bathroom is so large it features a writing desk — what a splendid idea! The new master closet is larger than most starter homes.

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The 8215 square foot house home has terrific bones, designed by Dallas starchitect Wilson Fuqua and built by Jim Shaw.  In fact, I remember when this home was under construction as we lived nearby — it took almost two years. The gated Mediterranean estate features magnificent French gardens and dramatic outdoor entertaining areas, all designed by Paul Fields of Lambert’s, with crepe myrtle, rose gardens, fountains, statues, the experience almost musical, crescendo’ed by a huge sparkling pool and full 500 square foot cabana that looks inviting even on the dreariest of Dallas days. The grounds are just shy of one acre, smack in the heart of Alva Court. Somewhere on the property are also quarters for the housekeeping staff. Everywhere you turn, there is impeccable attention to detail and quality and the soft French interiors are so my cup of tea. To start, the custom designed iron and glass entry doors lead you to handsome antique French Quarter limestone flooring in the gallery and living room, forged iron grand stair railing with gold leaf detail, Waterworks and Sherle Wagner fixtures EVERYWHERE. The country type kitchen has vertical grain wood plank floors, and this home may well have been one of Ann Sacks’ best customers with the antique terra cotta tile backsplash throughout the kitchen. Get a load, too, of that La Corneu Chateau 150 60 inch custom range. There is architectural lighting to highlight great art everywhere. Three bedrooms, four full and several half baths, the original master is still down, making this a perfect home for empty-nesters.

Well, empty-nesters with a platinum retirement fund.

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Dan Nelson is a Dallas-based designer and president and owner of Vision Design, which he joined in 1991, was named President of in 1992, and then just bought the place outright in 2003. His roster of New York City and Dallas clients is a “who’s who” : The Crescent, The Mansion, Manhattan’s 21 Club, and some tony local clients, too, like Pat and Charles McEvoy (Pat is never NOT on the Best Dressed list thingee and and chairs almost every charity in town); Becky and Mike Casey, among others. Dan shared his second home with us, which he just returned from: 10 Park Avenue in New York City. “It was hotter there than it was here,” he tells me. I know — New York is a blast in the summer but it can be way hotter than Dallas with all that humidity. The pied a terre is about the size of a hotel room, and most of the furniture was created by Dan’s talented wife, Chipper. The artwork above the console is a Henri Cartier Bresson photograph. Home away from Dallas home is in a pre-war building (more desireable in NYC, they have more character) in the Murray Hill area and is about 450 Sq. ft. So small, in fact, it’s known as a “studio”.

“Works for me,” says Dan. And it works for me, too!

By the way Dan’s delightful wife (I cannot say better half, though he may) Chipper made all the tables and bathroom console in the co-op. Is she not amazing?

Fernando M. Alva was a dear friend. I had not seen him for about nine months, but on  Wednesday afternoon, May 9, I had a fleeting vision of him in my mind as I worked on a blog post. Call him, I told myself, call him later on today and connect.

I was too late.

Here is how I met Fernando: he wrote me a letter, typed actually, correcting information I had written in a magazine article on real estate that was inaccurate. Imagine that. I called him, asked for an explanation, asked to meet him for lunch. We became fast friends. Over the years I entrusted him with deeply personal thoughts, my home, aspirations and pain. He listened, reflected and never once let me down. I recall how incredibly well-written that initial letter to me was, a first impression that proved to be spot on as Fernando was a deeply intelligent, sensitive man. As I told him often, you have more empathy and insight than half the so-called geniuses I know.

He was born on August 14, 1980 into a loving family in El Paso, Texas. He graduated from the Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet School in 1999 and moved to Dallas to attend the University of Texas at Dallas. Soon after, he enrolled in Champion School of Real Estate and graduated in 2003, obtaining his Texas real estate license. He immediately joined with  Keller Williams, first the North Dallas office, then Turtle Creek, and began a life-long career in residential real estate. During his tenure, he worked for Keller Williams, Laura Beasely Real Estate, Allie Beth Allman & Associates (Juli Harrison), Keith Cox (now with David Griffin Realtors), and most recently, Keller Williams agent Carol Blair. Fernando was also active in many Dallas philanthropies, notably DIFFA, where he took on fundraising in full force by creating program pages specifically for realtors, raised funds and volunteered for every aspect. He certainly had a flair for design.

“I was the director of DIFFA Dallas when I met Fernando for the first time,” says publicist Kayla Watts. “He was just getting involved in volunteering for DIFFA and took fundraising on full force. That was just the start of our friendship, over the years we kept in touch via email, text, Facebook, etc..Fernando was the ONLY person who understood what I was posting about when I talked about TED and how I wanted to be part of the program. He was the one person who understood so many things I said that really had a deeper meaning.”
Often, I reflect on what it is that makes some of us aspire to seek affluence, art, creativity, power, limelight or a passion for living cursorily packaged as “the good life”. Why do we want bigger and better, be it in real estate or an aesthetic pursuit? Fernando and I pondered this often.

“Why,” I would ask him, “why are we just not satisfied, and why do we not at some point just stop, just say OK, I’m happy here. I’m content. Why do we keep climbing?”

“Because that drive is what makes you get out of bed in the morning,” he’d tell me.

He was an excellent listener. Fernando loved wearing black, much as he loved his happy solitude as a child. A friend asked him once if he owned any color other than black. With a straight face, he said “yes”.  Asked if he ever wore it…”occasionally”.

Fernando re-confirmed his Catholic faith a few years ago, becoming more active both in his church and his beloved A.A. Fernando successfully conquered and understood addiction issues, and was an inspiration to many addicts who he helped become strong. For the last two years, he focused his energies on humility, his mother said, and giving to those in need, whether emotional, or physical. One time I was being a narcissistic brat, feeling sorry for myself, and Fernando told me the best cure was to go out and do something wonderful for someone less fortunate. It was a phrase I’ve taken to heart, repeated, and will never forget.

Fernando was one of the most generous and caring hearts in Dallas. He was pursuing a degree in interior design at El Centro College. Education was life to him. He took his nieces and nephews, who he considered his own, to movies, the theater and museums. As a child, he dragged even his big brother and sister to galleries and museums, always their cultural concierge.

“He wanted the best for his siblings,” says his mother, Gloria. “He wanted to always be a positive role model.”

Perhaps it is that striving drive for being the very best that finally chokes us in, wearies us.

“I felt your passing this afternoon,” wrote Amy Floca on his famous FaceBook wall. “I became so overwhelmed, and couldn’t understand my sudden depression. I now believe it to be my empathy.”

Fernando was connected to those of us he knew in this way.

He is survived by his grandmother, Estefana Villalobos, his very beloved mother, Gloria V. Sandlin, brother Orlando J. Alva and his spouse, Jessica Kuhank, a sister Veronica L. Alva, and four nieces and nephews who he treated as his own children: Alexis and Desiree Lozano, and Jakob and Jonah Alva.

Services are scheduled at The Cathedral Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine, 2215 Ross Ave, Dallas, Texas (75201) Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

“His last post on Facebook is about wanting it to rain forever,” says Kayla Watts. “It is full of so much more meaning, because the raining now is tears from everyone who is feeling his loss.”


Meet Richard Soto, owner/broker of  VIP Realty here in Dallas. Richard has an interesting story: he is an agent who spends more time on marketing and SEO than he actually does selling. That’s because Richard is an extremely tech-savvy agent, and he knows where his business comes from: the web. Whether it’s Dallas homes for sale, Fort Worth real estate or Dallas Condos, Richard always tries to maximize his listings’ SEO, he says: that’s job one!  In fact, our interview was conducted via video shot at Richard’s desk when he was down in Houston, then emailed me. Love it!

CD: So are you a native Dallasite or what…..

RS: You bet, born here in Dallas, right at Parkand Hospital.

CD: Where do you live? House or Condo? House style?

RS: We live in a home in Coppell, a traditional style home.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz

RS: You got it! I drive a Mercedes Benz.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

RS: Lavalita in Las Colinas. There are always a lot of kids there, all my son’s friends live there, and there’s always a 3 on 3 basketball game going on! There are lakes and a true family friendly environment.

CD: If you could move in Dallas, where else might you live — what other neighborhood?

RS: If I could move anywhere it would be Highland Park, great area and great neighborhood great schools. But living in Highland Park is very expensive.

CD: How the heck did you get started in Real Estate? Who’d you work for first?

RS: I got into real estate by default: I graduated from college, and could not get a job. Nobody was hiring. I met Mike Reese who works in Keller Williams in Frisco, he introduced  me to Jay Kinder out of Lawton, OK who  I hung out with him for a couple of days, thought it looked easy, Jay he was doing very well for himself was one of the nation’s top producers. I got back to Dallas and said, I think I’ll go get a real estate license.

CD: What’s your worst sales nightmare? Just worst transaction ever?

RS: We showed a client 80 different homes, they ended up buying a new home, new construction, but they didn’t put my name down because they assumed they would get a better deal by not paying me a commission.

CD: What’s your best/highest sale?

RS: A $3.5 million commercial shopping center

CD: Oh you do commercial too, that’s right. How quickly have you ever turned a house?

RS: Within 24 hours, contract signed, ink drying in 5 or 6 hours.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

RS: We did more than 250 real estate transactions last year.

CD: Not going to give out the volume, eh? Secrets to marketing a house?

RS: The secret to marketing a home is pricing it right. As we both know Candy, the only thing that really matters ultimately is the pricing of the home

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

RS: Become a marketing and SEO and consultant. I am passionate, I love SEO, but I don’t want to do anything else but real estate for the time being.

CD: What is your favorite place for a second home and why?

RS: Chicago, I really love Chicago, the skyline and the lake. Another would be San Diego: that 75 degree weather would sure come in handy when it’s 110 degrees in Texas!

I got the confirmation while skiing in Park City, Utah. Dallas listing agent Joan Eleazer with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s has confirmed that Champ D’Or, the 48,000 square foot Turbeville Road mansion up in Hickory Creek, near Denton and north of Dallas, French baroque castle meets Plano McMansion dream chateau, clearly the most outrageous home in Dallas, or rather, North Texas, will be auctioned off March 30.

Not sure yet what Champ’s reserve will be — that’s the “base price” that a seller agrees to sell for before the auction, so you don’t end up giving a $32 million property away for like $3 million because, let’s face it, we’d all want that! I need to dial up Pat Kirby at Grand Estate Auctions for Auction Review 101 — Pat just sold a home in Lahaina, Hawaii for $4.48 million. There were 13 bidders from Canada to Florida.  The home had been on the market for three and a half years!

Champ D’Or has been on the market since the day it was born in 2002, priced from $72 million to $35 million, depending on the land tossed into the deal, the market, or the owners’ whim. You could open a boutique agency with all the agents who have listed (and $$$ marketed!) Champ, the latest being Joan who was also, ironically, the first. The owners of the property are Alan and Shirley Goldfield, he the cellphone mogul, she the one who re-created Chanel’s Paris boutique in her master closet: it is outfitted with 18K gold doorknobs, a vanity with an antique chair purchased in France, a $30K custom gold chandelier, made in Florence, a custom iron railing modeled after the famed mirrored one in the Chanel store on Rue de Cambon in Paris, and a $10K custom area rug with the brand’s intersecting-C logo.

“When I built this closet, I tried to think of everything that I would need,” Goldfield told HGTV when they filmed the closet.

Champ has been on every media outlet that exists, too!

Full disclosure: I took Champ to Pebble Beach Concourse D’Elegance this summer, and it was the most talk-about home at the car show. Yes, it even turned the head of Jay Leno!

Champ D’Or is ten years old this year, and is probably the only 48,000 square foot house in the world that has never been lived in. The price includes, we think, the main house, a pool and tennis house, outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, adjacent lake, and up to 25 acres of beautiful treed property. Upon turning into the beautiful esplanade that leads to the front of the property, matching guardhouses direct one into the treed mega mega acreage. Beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained by trained staff even though the house is still technically vacant, the grounds offer vistas, including a 1½ acre lake to the west of the main house. There is a large garden room that may be used for year round entertaining which stretches across the rear of the home and opens to a veranda that can seat 450 people.

The east wing of the home is comprised of the men’s and women’s powder rooms (yes, plural) and an exceptional master suite. Here are the goodies in that suite: a breakfast bar, wet steam room, weight room and master bath with a two-story Chanel styled closet for her and equally lavish man’s closet, as well as a private hair salon. Off the master there is an indoor ionized lap pool.

On the second level there is a theater/media room with lobby and access via the east elevator. Then there’s the Wedgewood suite: a living area with fireplace, bedroom with breakfast bar, luxurious guest bath, and adjacent laundry room. A second suite has 2 bedrooms, each with a private bath, and is perfect for guests with young children.

The third floor has a lovely ballroom complete with men’s and ladies powder rooms (again, plural), a catering kitchen, and incredible storage. There is also a third floor suite with living room, dining room, full kitchen and 2 bedrooms with separate baths.

The lower level is comprised of a 2 lane bowling alley, full racquet ball court, garage which can house 10-15 cars, laundry room with commercial washer and dryer and sheet press, wine room, and gift wrap room. You could eat off the floor in that garage. There are two elevators in the home, 130 tons of heat and air, and an office area on the second floor of the library.

According to a great story in D CEO, one of my favorite magazines, Champ is “The Best Little Teardown in Texas”. A financial firm named The Stanford Group (heard of them?) once made a serious play to provide Goldfield’s company, Cellstar, $25 million in needed capital. Cellstar’s board refused to reply to the offer, and the deal never went through. Just think what might be happening to that house if they had accepted that moola. Alan Goldfield is a telecommunications billionaire, hence some also call this the House that Talk built. I’ve heard rumors that Mehrdad Moayedi, head of Carrollton-based property developer and investor Centurion American Development Group, who paid $4.55 million for the Stoneleigh Hotel, made an offer that the Goldfields found too low. Oh oh, I’m giving away my next story…