If you never believe me when I tell you that life revolves around real estate, you should have been up in McKinney on Saturday afternoon. Home and Garden Television chose Meritage Homes  for an episode of it’s new competition reality show, “Showhouse Showdown,”  featuring two designers duking it out for the chance to win the “best design” award. The setting was  two new Meritage model homes in McKinney off Virginia Parkway, and despite the heat, the throngs were out — even infants! The designers, Aaron Duke and Ashley Astleford,  were chosen from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and given eight weeks and buckets of cash, then told to go to town on two identical Collin county glammed up $300,000 ISH builder homes. And glam they did. Five rooms, 3200 square foot four bedroom homes with master down, living, two and a half baths, kids rooms and a gameroom up.

Meritage Homes is the only large national homebuilder to be 100 percent Energy Star-qualified in every home since January 2010, and plans to open six more new communities in Texas. Meritage, like Darling and other builders, are also busy building and selling homes, one reason why the area caught the eye of HGTV:

“Building is going on in the state of Texas,” Dawn Stroupe, executive producer of “Showhouse Showdown” told Star Local News. “Your economy is doing well. We found by reaching out to builders throughout the nation that there is a lot of building going on in the state. ”

(Would someone maybe ring up Bob Shiller?)

The designers for the showcase homes are carefully selected, do their thingee, and then the public troops through the homes like they did today, voting on who they like the best. And though we were there today, basking in the glory of TV, melting in the 4:00 pm sun — I swear it was 99 degrees — we are not sure who the winner is. HG is so tricky, they shoot two endings (after many takes but I think I lost 10lbs of water weight!) and then use the one with the actual winner for the show when they edit. So we cheered for both designers, whose tastes could not have been more different

Stroupe says it’s all the public’s choice and taste. The schtick is that in each show episode, two designers with  differing design aesthetics create a vision and then, the public says “this is the one I would buy” or like or whatever. HGTV was on hand interviewing people for their thoughts on the homes, real estate, and home buying in general. Like I said: life revolves around real estate, especially here in Texas!

The Gold Envelope

David Call, Ashley Astleford, Glen Boudreaux, me, Aaron Duke

 

I’m not going to say Dallas Real Estate is a hoppin’, but we are really hanging in there. Really. As I mentioned yesterday, I was in Southlake on Saturday, and I went to that adorable Southlake Town Center. Met a cute couple who were building a home in Colleyville because they had just sold their home in Keller in 6 days. Wow!  I got nosy and said, so how much did you reduce it by? Was it a fire sale? Only $2000 under asking, they said. You live out here, I asked? Nope, both work in downtown Dallas. They are in Colleyville for a new home, schools and safety.

Welcome to the suburbs, which are not as dead as the media might have you believe. Over on YouPlusMedia, my good friend and super respected home builder Brad Holden says the Frisco new home market is “experiencing a growth that has builders scrambling to get permits for new lots in their communities. This increase in new contracts over the past couple months shows me signs of buyer confidence and the fact of low interest rates slowly rising.” Case in point: Meritage Homes, he said, had 649 closings last year, so Brad wonders where Steve Brown gets his info on home starts plummeting.

Case-Shiller spoke this week, and we all grabbed our Depends. CS says Dallas-area pre-owned home prices dropped just 1.2 percent in February 2011 from a year earlier. That’s really not bad. Not trying to be Susie Sunshine, but I’d almost say they just held steady.

In fact, the decline in the LOCAL Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index was a lot better than what we’ve been hearing, especially when prices were about 3 percent or 4 percent lower than last year.

There are two ways to look at this. One, is to be Steve Brown and note that Dallas-area home prices have been down for eight consecutive months. Well, he has a point.

Or we could note, as Dr. James Gaines over at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, that the diminishing is getting better.

“It could indicate a trend toward being back to even or perhaps even start a trend toward positive increases,” Gaines said Tuesday.

Did he say positive increases?

Case-Shiller said our price decline was less than half of what the rest of the nation suffered, which was about 3.3 percent. Prices were down in all of the 20 major Case Shiller markets with the exception of Washington, D.C.

Nice to know our tax dollars are helping lift that market.

“There is very little, if any, good news about housing,” Standard & Poor’s David Blitzer said. “Prices continue to weaken, while trends in sales and construction are disappointing.”

You talk to these guys, it seems that the economic recovery is moving about as fast as a slug.

Steve says Dallas-area home prices are now about 10 percent below the Case-Shiller mid-2007 peak in the Case-Shiller index. Could we be coming out of the tunnel? David Brown at Metrostudy says maybe. Brown  also thinks that the dearth of housing inventory could bring on inflation in home prices.

“For-sale housing inventory is not growing, even with sales at a low for this housing cycle,” Brown said. “Demand is likely to grow.”