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Six months has gone by fast for me writing about vacation homes for SecondShelters.com. What have we been covering? Beach, lake, ranch, and mountain abodes, among other destinations of interest to North Texans. Year end is a time to look back and reflect. What are the top spots for vacation homes for DFW residents?

Gas up the virtual jet and click to see highlights; we’re taking a tour of some of our favs…


Pebble Beach Golf Links. Photo by Bart Keagy

7th Hole, Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Photo Credit: Bart Keagy)

Trade representatives from Monterey County, Calif., hosted a media dinner I attended recently, making an excellent case for the coastal area two hours or so south of San Francisco, plying us with agricultural products from the region.  It was a knockout meal, not surprisingly, as the area is home to the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Salinas Valley (nicknamed the “Salad Bowl of the World”),  and numerous California-caliber restaurants and wineries.

Eating local here is as good as it gets.  (Full disclosure: the dinner included fabulous abalone, lamb, artisanal cheese, glorious produce, fine wine — and, yes, it was comped.)

Today’s post features one of the premier residential communities in Monterey County: Pebble Beach.  It’s a bucket list golf destination for many, with more than half-a-dozen golf courses, including  Pebble Beach Resort’s famed Spy Glass Hill, The Links at Spanish Bay, and Pebble Beach Golf Links,  rated the No.1 public course in the U.S. by Golf Digest Magazine,  and a frequent setting for the U.S. Open.

Much of Pebble Beach is gated, open to the public willing to pay the $10 toll to drive the renowned 17 mile scenic route that winds along its shoreline. Homeowners and resort visitors on this road enjoy some of the most spectacular oceanfront views in the country. Housing prices in the area reflect the stunning beauty.

Soak it up, viewing housing options in a range of prices:


Photos by Mike Maez, courtesy Gooding & Co.

Last year, about this time, I was in Pebble Beach at the venerable Concours d’Elegance which takes place in the center of second home nirvana: Pebble Beach and Carmel. Family matters kept me away this year, but I hear the crowd was even bigger, better and richer this year: Jay Leno’s Fiat 500 Prima Edizione sold for 10 times its expected worth. Twenty-four collector cars sold in excess of $1 million, highlighted by the summit of the weekend on Sunday evening when the von Krieger Special Roadster, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K, sold for $11,770,000, a double world record for a Mercedes-Benz and a pre-war car at auction.

In a way, collectible cars can be like second homes and certainly cost more than a mansion. Leno’s small white coupe was initially valued between $25,000–$35,000 but grabbed a final total price of $385,000. I mean, that’s a condo at the beach, right?

That was just one standout in a weekend of record-breaking sales. Gooding & Co., the largest auction, came away with nearly $115 million in sales, up from about $78 million last year. And I’ve read that sales at the five biggest auction houses at Pebble combined (Gooding, RM, Mecum, Bonhams, Russo and Steele) totaled $260.3 million, up from $197.5 million last year.

“This is proving once again and more than ever that the world of people who are collectors who are well-heeled are realizing there is a limited number of these types of cars,” McKeel Hagerty, the founder of Hagerty Insurance, said in Forbes.com

No, this proves once again that luxury is nowhere near dead and the well-heeled are buying — three hundred thousand dollar cars (that’s about the average selling price at Concours), mansions and vacation homes. Sellers have to make sure they are finding these buyers and changing marketing skills to capture the affluent. What better place to capture them than Concours?

This increase in sales volume came despite lower volumes: according to Hagerty,  882 lots of cars sold in 2011 at an average price of $223,950. This year fewer autos — 754 — sold for an average of $345,272. The mood at the auction we hear was “nuts”. And of course Jay Leno, who recently took a salary cut as TONIGHT laid off staffers, helped feed the frenzy. Last year, when Leno walked in, it was as if like stood still to greet him.

This year seemed to be the Concours of the Movie Star:  Steve McQueen’s 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Coupe was sold by RM Auctions for (GULP!) $11,000,000–a world record for the sale of an American car. Like Ferratis? A 1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider set another world record, going at $11,275,000. Then there was that tip-top seller, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that once had been owned by the legendary Baroness Von Krieger.

photo by Mike Maez, Gooding & Co.

On Saturday, Jay Leno surprised the audience by making a special on stage guest appearance with David Gooding and Auctioneer Charlie Ross, auctioning his personal 2012 Fiat 500 Prima Edizione to benefit the Fisher House Foundation. Talk about top brass, more metal was onstage than in the cars: the United States Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Leon Panetta and Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Raymond Odierno introduced Fisher, a non-profit organization that provides a wide range of services and support to the families of wounded American solders. Leno’s Fiat 500, valued only between $25,000–$35,000, sold for $385,000 and pulled in an additional $215,000 of charitable contributions. Thanks, Jay.

Including these results, Gooding & Company has auctioned off a grand total of more than $30 million in collector cars over the years, generously benefiting charities that impact various great causes and foundations world-wide.

And, of course, it takes place in Pebble Beach every August. If you want to go and stay there in August of 2013, I suggest finding a place NOW.


Like my mother used to tell me, don’t ever give it away for free. Smart Texas Monthly. You have to buy an issue to read Jason Sheeler’s profile of super agent Erin Mathews,  Give Me Shelter, in the current issue of Texas Monthly. I suggest you buy, read, and then read it again to capture the picture of what he so very well painted of the Honeypot real estate world, Area 25, where the refrain goes like this: no one ever gets fat, ugly, poor, or has an underwater mortgage.

Jason contacted me when I was in Pebble Beach this August. He wanted to talk to me for whatever insight I could provide on selling real estate in Dallas. When I got home, we sat down at my kitchen table and chatted. I asked him why he was focusing on Erin, because yes, I knew she was a super agent, but there were others doing just as well who are a little more, shall we say,  under the radar? Was there a special reason (that I was missing)? I asked mostly because I love to keep track of the best publicists in town for agents — most of the top agents have them, if not all, and of course, I had just launched CandysDirt. Publicists are just part of the game. He told me he was using her profile as a vehicle for telling the high end real estate game story. Fair enough. It says a lot about Jason that he didn’t care how much the other high-producing agents would bitch and moan that they had not been included. He was laser-focused on telling the story, and Erin was the tool by which he took the reader into the high-stakes multi-million dollar real estate game of our area. I wrote a similar  story years ago for D when the game was just amping up: How Dallas Sells Real Estate. My vehicle was a glitzy party at what was once Robert and Maureen Decherd’s home on Hollow Way. After publication, agents called to complain that by publishing that, I had basically ruined their lives because now they were all going to have to spend more money on parties and promotion.

In other words, they were going to have to work harder.

What Jason showed in the TM article, and remember a good writer shows, doesn’t tell, was how hard Erin works at selling homes. (Which I told him. Of course, that is true of all the high-production agents in this town.) She embraced social media, she staged, she showed up when she was dog tired, ergo she sells. I love the vignette of the Preston Hollow house being transformed by her home stagers, hauling out boxes of fake plastic ivy (bet you two hundred it was on the top of the kitchen cabinets) and Erin and her staff moving around patio furniture in her couture, no less.

A few interesting observations I have heard:

-Note that the four major firms mentioned, this prior to any Ellen Terry-Dave Perry-Miller merger news, were Erin & her partner David Nichols, Allie Beth Allman, Dave Perry-Miller and Briggs Freeman —  “like they were the only four companies that exist”.

-Some agents are asking if it is all factual questioning, I guess, Erin’s sales claims. I am sure TM’s fact-checkers did not miss a beat.

-Others say it didn’t really capture Erin’s personality, except for describing her background in fashion retail and at Neimans. (“Oh. So that’s why she likes to dress up.”)

– A few LOVE the way she carefully portrayed herself as a servant of her clients, and takes caution not to fall into the Eleanor Mowery Sheets trap of (A) overspending and (B) believing her own press releases.

– She said she doesn’t have her face on her signs. One agent said, funny, she doesn’t mind them in all those magazine ads.

– While Erin always looks like she just stepped out of Vogue, which has written about her, she lives fairly modestly even though she drives a white MercedesS-Class. Jeeze, car stature is as vital among agents as the lockbox combo.

– Some agents say Erin really IS a great agent because even Sheeler fell for her selling herself to him. Wouldn’t be the first time.

I think it was a great article. I’m only irked at one thing: he mentioned Erin’s age at the get-go as 62 (Jason, really, that’s why I wouldn’t tell you MY age!) but failed to tell us who does her microderm and what plastic surgeon, if any, she uses. Because I think Erin looks fabulous, more like 38, 40 at the most. So who cares about the number?

Photo caption: Mathews in a home she recently sold at the Creeks at Preston Hollow.
Photograph by Darren Braun

Eight of the top twenty cities on this “life sucks here” list are in California, which makes me sad because I LOVE Cali. But not sure I’d ever buy a home there, even in Pebble Beach, unless I had oodles of high net worth. (And I LOVE San Diego.) So check out this list. Miami and Fort Lauderdale are big no-no’s, high foreclosures, crime, you-name-it. But kind of surprising to see that both the current and former home of President Obama are on the list, my our home town of Chicago and his new town of D.C:

Chicago ranks seventh on the strength of its long commutes (30.7 minutes on average–eighth-worst in the U.S.) and high sales tax (9.75%—tied for the highest). The Windy City also ranks in the bottom quartile on weather, crime, foreclosures and home price trends.

President Obama’s (relatively) new home also makes the cut at No. 16. Washington, D.C., has one of the healthiest economies, but problems abound. Traffic is a nightmare, with commute times averaging 33.4 minutes–only New York is worse. Income tax rates are among the highest in the country and home prices are down 27% over three years.