Before I leave the Big Apple I must treat you to a little House Porn. This unit is small by Texas standards at 629 square feet, but perfect if NYC is your second home. You just don’t need a Sam’s closet in Manhattan; Duane Reade is a block away, they are open 24/7 and even have food. 

Here’s what you get: Phillipe Johnson-Alan Ritchie architects; smooth natural hardwood floors, Bulthaup kitchens with integrated appliances all in a smooth white enamel finish that cleans like a dream. Fisher & Paykel dishdrawer is great. I mean, I wouldn’t want to do a holiday dinner in this kitchen, but I did a couple nights of chili and it was a dream. A hall closet is loaded with a Miele (be still, my heart, I love Miele) stack washer and dryer, which is worth more than gold in this town. Brokers tell me that if you want an in-house washer and dryer in Manhattan, the lease is at least $3500 a month.   Negatives: the elevators open right into the units, which is actually way cool for schlepping your luggage in if you travel like me and bring half the house. But it is a little noisy at night since you hear your neighbors going up and down. I think the problem could be solved by creating an artificial door with sound-proofing. The closets are small, but that’s what you get in NYC. No microwave— easily fixed — and no garbage disposal, but I’ve been living with that for years at the beach house. I do like the garbage chute in the kitchen, and you simply take recycles to the basement.

And let me tell you, no developer will do this again: when #5 was built in 2006/2007, every master bath got that Tota Neorest I am trying to fit into my suitcase. The master bath has heated stone floors and great floor-to-ceiling glass subway tiles.

I like the small lobby, who wants to pay for common space?, and after 11:00 p.m. you get a virtual doorman, which may be why the monthly dues are only $503.  The $649,000 price is reduced. When this building was born the real estate world was a vastly different animal, and the agent, Elena Sarkissian, tells me initial pricing was $1414 psf, now down to $1000.

The Neorest is practically free!

Best thing: location. Located between Madison and Fifth, I have walked the four blocks east to Times Square countless times and it is a piece of cake. SoHo is a quick subway ride and Grand Central is so close I can see it while I’m writing. I’ll take more photos after I pack up.

Mid-town, Neorest, Bulthaup: I’m in love. Anyone want to share a one bedroom in Manhattan?

I almost did not post this foreclosure, and while I have some issues with the kitchen — what in bejesus were they thinking with those wood cabinets, all beach house kitchens need to be white! — and the master bath looks like it might get you a good bash on the head if you get in after a few too many Mojitos, I will fix said issues for that Bay view right from the porch. (Not giving up the Top Shelf.) Mix me up a pitcher of anything with booze in it, rustle up some cheese and Carr’s wafers, and let’s enjoy the sunset. One acre, across from beach, 2420 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, garage and bonus room with bath. Bank-owned at $252,000.

OK, painting party on Saturday — that green gives me indigestion! But man oh man, let the bank throw in some Sherwin Williams and camel hair brushes, I am so signing on the dotted for this number.

I was in L.A. recently, and all I wanted to do was hang out with Mama, a.k.a. The RealEstalker. I fell in love with Mama the first time she referred to a fancy pants house as a “big-ass” mansion. Laughed so hard I cried and just about wet myself, or maybe I did. But it was more than professional respect: Mama has a way of looking at these homes, these ridiculously huge homes that no one really needs, but, like a God-awful wreck on the freeway when the Medi-copter swoops down, we just have to look. I mean, I have to look, and that is why being with Mama — actually, Mark — is like being with my twin. Or alter-ego. I had this discussion at a holiday par-tee Saturday night in a home I know Mama would rip to shreds: who the hell wants to see Trailer Park House Porn?

Mama is the original House Porn Queen, I’m just the Texas helping.

When she wrote about Dallasite Phil Romano’s house I almost exploded with laughter. Oh baby, I thought, if you could only see the real thing! This was December/January of 2007/2008, and DallasDirt was relatively new. Phil’s listing agent got wind of what I had posted, well, not posted, but linked to. But no one in Dallas real estate at the time understood linking or blogging or even who the RealEstalker was.

Mama, you were ahead of your time. A true House Porn pioneer.

The agents were angry. How dare someone make fun of one of their listings, how dare I dare to endorse this daring dare of making fun of a listing. Well, I wasn’t. I was reporting it. How dare I dare to not ignore it?

The internet had not sunk in, yet.

Remember when she said, “Preston Holler is one of Dallas’ finer and most expensive neighborhoods where many of the swank streets are lined with mansions that make Beverly Hills look like the damn ghetto.”

Well honey, I don’t know about that, your Bev Hills is pretty darn swanky. Why even the parking meters were decorated with holiday ribbons, so festive.

What was that you said? Oh. Oh yes. We don’t have parking meters in Preston Hollow.

We have chauffeurs!

Here’s a cool place if you have a hankering for a second home in the Baltimore MD area — the market there is not too shabby, but you might have to worry about crime. Jenna Bush Hager and her husband, Henry, have their super historical townhouse on the market for $474,900 for the three-bedroom, 2000 square foot former storefront with original hardwoods, 11 foot ceilings, gas fireplace and exposed brick. The home also has a garage and a neat two-story rooftop terrace off the master bedroom. Oh and that master bath sports a white marble tub and spa bath, not too shabby for these young un’s who got hitched in Texas in 2008. In Maryland, selling prices are recorded so the WSJ reports that Henry paid $440,000 for the property back in 2008. Guess they are hoping for a little appreciation. The town home is near Federal Hill, which is kind of like Georgetown, if you know D.C. Also the Baltimore Sun dug up this: the couple’s mountain bikes were stolen from their garage in June, which makes everyone wonder if Baltimore crime is enough to maybe send them back home to Texas?

You do recall former NBA champ Michael Jordan.  Not only is he known as “the greatest basketball player of all times” but he is gaining a rap as the greatest home builder of all times! Jordan is completing a 28,000 square foot mansion in The Bears’ Club, Palm Beach County, Florida, near where Tiger Woods just completed his grand estate. The builder: Lavelle Builders out of Jupiter, Fla. Of course, Tiger’s estate is surrounded by water on three sides to,  perhaps, keep the paparazzi (among other things) at bay. Jordan’s mega-mansion, which is still under construction, is not even close to the water. But it now goes down as one of the largest, most expensive homes ever built in Florida that is not on the water, says real estate agent Jeff Lichtenstein of Christie’s Great Estates and Illustrated Properties. Lichtenstein knows of what he talks: he sells real estate in the Palm Beach area, which is notoriously filled with high net worth people who like to enjoy a second or third home here because here they have it all: a backyard marina for their yachts, sea, beach, and plenty of gorgeous Florida sunshine.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot: golf.

Though waning with the general population, the wealthy still love to tinker on the greens. Jeff’s father, Cary Lichenstein, was a golf rater for GolfWeek Magazine and has been playing since he could walk. In fact, he lives so close to Jordan — in Admiral’s Cove – the elder Lichenstein could lend a hammer or nail to the twenty million dollar project.

The Jordan home will have 11 bedrooms, sits on a three-parcel site right in the backyard of the uber exclusive (and hard to get into) Bear’s Club. Let me put it to you this way: it costs $350,000 just to call yourself a member of the club. The area is loaded with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, but he personally plays at Bears Club — so basically this area is golf nirvana and the membership list is a regular Who’s Who…  stars, Fortune 400 execs, and the Nicklaus family.There are 55 residences ranging from $4 million on up to, well, probably Jordan’s home. When complete, Jordan’s mansion will be a contemporary with Spanish-style roof — this I have to see. It will have four separate structures: A main house, a guardhouse, a guesthouse and a poolhouse for the mammoth swimming pool. In other words, the largest spread in the ‘hood.

Neighbors once included chanteuse Celine Dion, who ran into a few problems with her HOA over her desire to add a commercial recording studio or music room to her property — deeds are so tough in this ‘hood that even if a home burns down, you have to re-build it to look just like the original home. I mean, can you imagine the disaster if a Mediterranean went up right next to — another Mediterranean?

Jordan paid $4.8 million for the land and is spending an estimated $7.6 million for the construction. The Lichtenstein boys estimate that the total booty will top $20 million, and they worry a bit about re-sale value:

“It would be interesting to see what the Jordan home resells for, being that its location, while great for MJ’s privacy, is not ideal for resale to the usual trophy-and-yacht buyer,”says Jeff.

Only his banker knows for sure!

1. Second home trends: Affluent Baby Boomers will retire later and downsize from their large McMansions for which utilities and taxes have become prohibitive, to smaller homes, maybe condos,  in the city and a second home — in the cheaper boonies, or in another city. Just last night a reader emailed me that his biggest dream is to own a second home condo in Quebec! Cripes, even Disney is getting into this market.

2. According to a study by E360 Global Research, 45% of current second home owners think now is a great time to buy a second home. Of those, Mexico has a strong pull for almost half — and this survey was done in August, 2010. The drug cartel crime in Mexico is isolated to certain areas, they believe.

3. Of the 54% who say now is not a good time to buy a second home, most say the next two years will be. E360 (who provided much of this information) expects big growth in the second home markets surrounding highly populated areas.

4. Most people want a second home as a vacation haven to de-stress. Most prefer a lake or ocean view, with a mountain view coming in second. North Carolina, for example, is one of the fastest-growing second home destinations.

5. What kinds of amenities are second home buyers looking for? Good question. To some extent, they want great medical facilities (resuscitate me!) and a spa. Golf and eco-green based living also does not turn them on. I’ve read that many want to re-live their college years, with classes and intellectual stimulation (and pot?) nearby. Boulder, Colorado is home to a lot of intelligent people and gaining a large second home population, for example.

6. Pricing sweet spot: $200,000 to $400,000 and pay cash, if possible. I mean, those 401Ks are doing so well, right?

7. Vacation and lifestyle are the reason 46% want to buy; another 41% want to buy for investment. Only 11% give a rat’s tooshie about retirement.

8. 49% of second home buyers want a single family home, and 60% just want a 2 bedroom, 2 bath floor plan.

9. 49% of second home purchasers will buy domestically, but a growing contingent is eying Mexico and  Central America — Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama — as a low-cost of living second home and place to retire.

10. The second home won’t be too close to the first: 30% of buyers want to be 100 to 300 miles from their primary home; 40% want to be 500 to 1000 miles from the primary home; 11% are willing to be more than 1000 miles away from the primary home.

I have been cheating on my house by lusting after this estate property for years. YEARS!

And now, she is on the market, available. Be still, my beating heart.

Listed with Douglas Newby, this home is on the same little lake where police went full S.C.U.B.A. this summer to find the murder evidence that nailed a guy named Gary Wayne Pettigrew — never name your kids Gary Wayne — for killing Farmer’s Branch police officer Lowell Clayton “L.C.” Tribble right in front of his home in 1983 after Tribble, a 38 year old police officer and father of two at the time, dropped off medicine for his sick child. Police hunted for his killers for decades. When you live next to a pond, it’s supposed to be a plus for property values — this home is listed at $3,250,000. Waterfront properties carry a price premium, and this lake in Northlake Estates is where Dallas police S.C.U.B.A. and Farmer’s Branch police dove to find the missing link to Tribble’s murder. Homes on the market on this little lake do generally run in the three millions: like $3,850,000.

But I guess the owners never knew they were living next to a sunken murder weapon. It seems that Pettigrew tossed something in that pond/lake after he committed the murder eons ago. Neighbors had told me the police were looking for a gun and the DPD S.C.U.B.A. team was so good they found it the very first day. Then they kept on diving for more evidence, and finding more junk in the pond. The smoking gun that solved this murder was in our little lake all that time.

Oh, but the house: designed by renowned Dallas architect Gary Cunningham,

FAIA, spedifically for this gorgeous water-fronted site, over a bridge to a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides. From the kitchen and breakfast room you look across the pool to the lake along the side of the property. The living room is cantilevered over the water with aquatic views in three directions. The dining room features warm wood and glazed walls, also emphasizing the lake wrapping around the house. In many of the rooms sunlight comes in from three directions, streaming across the maple floors, accentuating the art and illuminating the contemporary spaces.

Now do I think this is a good value? Obviously I love the ‘hood: becoming well known for being uber safe and a haven of haute contemporary homes — Lionel Morrison’s chef d”oeuvre across the street; William “Kip” Tindell of Container Store fame’s lovely modern manse, once Caroline Minnis’s lake-front home designed by Emily Summers, ASID; architect Sharon Odum, AIA; builder Diane Cheatham was listed for over $5 million back in the day and sold. But then, 6424 Belmead just sold for $2.8, ‘course it’s not on the water. The home is listed for less than 6506 Northaven, which sold for $525.23 per square foot, or $3.5 but was significantly newer.

So yes, we are definitely in the ballpark. What do you think?

Thanksgiving is over and for most of us, those turkeys from last Thursday are going to make excellent sandwiches for a few days. But the inspiration for this post truly came from an article I came across on the BBC: is squirrel the perfect austerity food? I mean, we are trying to make ends meat meet (pardon my pun) in the U.S., and this story points out that squirrel is really a very American food. In fact, it could even be more red-blooded American than turkey?

So why don’t we eat squirrel for Thanksgiving? My husband tells me that in New York, some free-range turkeys were ringing up at $15 per pound! Who needs to pay that kind of money when you can trap a grey squirrel right in your own back yard! Cost: $00.

Eat squirrel, and watch those down payment pennies add up for your primary shelter or a second home.

Besides, there is no better way to get rid of a rodent/pest than to simply consume it.