Architectural Corner – Prairie Style
Chances are you’re going to be surprised by this. Originating in Chicago in the early 1900’s, Prairie style architecture placed a great emphasis on craftsmanship, simplicity and access to nature. it’s most celebrated architect was Frank Lloyd Wright.
Prairie architecture combined various ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement, and featured sprawling footprints with strong geometry, brick or stucco exteriors, open and asymmetric floorplans, and connected indoor and outdoor spaces. Sprawling but rarely tall (Wright referred to the style as “Married to the ground”), Prairie homes emphasized the horizontal and minimized the vertical. In fact most vertical features such as downspouts are routinely cut out.
Many of the bolder, less-appalling newer construction homes can be defined as Prairie.
Vague Specifics – October 2022
I saved writing this towards the end of the month because I had a few economic summits to attend before my monthly prognostication.
The dreaded R-word is on everyone’s minds. The economy is being stimied by spiraling interest rates. Around the corner is job losses and possibly a further stock market correction. Although we have a period of relative discomfort ahead, this will be nothing like 2009. The government printed trillions of dollars and paid people to stay at home, causing too much money chasing too few goods. Sprinkle on that terrible monetary policy over the last few years, and we have the worst inflation in 40 years. Once inflation is tamped down, interest rates will settle again, probably 4.5-5.5% by this time next year.
Despite interest rates being so high, it is now a fantastic time to buy a home. “But John, you wise yet immature savant,” I hear you say, “how is it a good time to buy with interest rates where they are?”. First of all, dear reader, interest rates will go down and we’ll see another refi boom. Secondly, the market is no longer seeing multiple offers going 10% over list price. Sellers are willing to negotiate. If you find that perfect house, now is the time to get it before rates drop and the frenzy begins again. Also, look for builders to cut great deals through the rest of the year.
As I’ve said before, do not look for a “market adjustment”. More people moved to Dallas this year than any other metropolitan area, and balancing the number of buyers with active listings is going to take years. I’m not saying prices are where they were in June, but we’re still 10% up than we were in January.
Another reminder the 6th Annual John Angell Real Estate Group Pumpkin Carving Competition is this month. Email me a pic of your pumpkin. It will be judged on the total quality of the image (background, lighting, angle, creativity and intricacy of the pumpking carving). Judging takes place on Halloween night Monday, October 31st at 6pm.
Architectural Corner – The American Craftsman
Inspired by the British Arts & Crafts movement and beginning in the later years of the 1800’s, American Craftsman represented a departure from the ornamentation of the Victorian Style and urban grit of the Industrial Revolution, embracing a return to countryside simplicity. It began in Southern California and spread from 1900-1929 throughout the United States, most common in California and the midwest.
Craftsman homes feature low-pitched, gabled roofs, with overhanging eaves and exposed rafters, signature front porches and tapered columns, large bay windows, and stone or stucco accents. They are almost always painted wood siding, typically with cedar shaker shingles.
Not only is the craftsman style still extremely popular with smaller-sized new construction today, thanks to their quality build they are a common target for renovators, although their small size often warrants signficant additions.
Giving Your Air Conditioner a Helping Hand
2022 has been the spiciest summer in a decade, and with it comes talk of rollling blackouts and heat advisories. While the modern air conditioner is virtual a miracle (placing its inventor, Willis Carrier, just below the Archangel Michael in the pecking order of saints), in extreme temperatures they need all the help they can get. Here are a few tips to help give your air conditioner a little help:
1) KEEP YOUR SYSTEM MAINTAINED – Hands-down the most important thing you can do. Even if it’s working perfectly, have your technician come out every spring and fall. In the spring they will check your coolant levels, make sure your coils are clean, and give it a full physical.
2) MAINTAIN A CLEAN FILTER – Replace your filter every 1-2 months. Put it in your calendar, write it on the refrigerator or carve it on the back of your hand. A dirty filter not only decreases your efficiency, it heavily burdens the system and can spell an early demise. Also, agents like me use filters as a barometer for how a seller has generally kept a home.
3) CHECK FOR LEAKS – Windows, attic access, and exterior doors should be closed as tightly as possible. Also, in the spring and fall check your ductwork for leaks. Rats and squirels love eating through it.
4) SHADE AND KEEP YOUR CONDENSOR CLEAR – Keeping your condensor out of direct sunlight will help it’s efficiency, but make sure nothing is within 2 feet of the unit. Circulation and shade will make sure the unit is doing it’s job.
5) DON’T CRANK UP THE THERMOSTAT WHILE YOU’RE GONE – While keeping the temperature at 80 while you’re at work may seem like a good idea, in reality it takes more time and energy to cool your house down than it would to simply maintain a constant temperature.
6) ADD INSULATION – You can never have too much in your attic. Insulation is messy, but it’s relatively cheap to have blown into your attic.
7) KEEP DUCTS OPEN – Not only does it not improve efficiency, a closed duct puts stress on your system.
MLS Statistics – June 2022
I know it’s February, and difficult to imagine the blazing summer that’s only a few months away. It was a comparatively cold winter, and looking in at my back yard, it’s hard to imagine it will soon be a lush, green field of St. Augustine.
There are 3 keys to a good lawn: proper fertilizing, mowing, and regular irrigation.
It all starts with good fertilizing. Calloway.com suggests to fertilize in early March, and do so every 8-10 weeks (bearing in mind they have fertilized they want to sell you). I’ve learned twice a year is fine – once in March, once in October. Depending on what type of grass you have, there are different fertilizers. If you’re really interested in finding the right fertilizer, visit www.soiltesting.tamu.edu.
Mowing is not only critical in keeping your neighbors off your back and the city from writing you tickets, it causes grass to spread laterally. More coverage means fewer weeds. Mowing on a regular basis – weekly or every other week – is very important as well.
Irrigation (also called watering) is of obvious importance. One inch per week during the spring, 2 inches per week during the summer, one inch in the fall, and 1/2 inch in the winter. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your yard doesn’t need water.
Weeds are another matter. There are two types of weed killers: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Spring is time for treating pre-emergent weeds, and make sure the fertilizer you use treats for regional weeds. They will appear throughout the summer, there’s no way around that, but using a pre-emergent weed killer is more than an ounce of prevention in the war on weeds.
Architectural Corner – The Cave
The cave has to be the oldest form of shelter in human history, and from a scientific perspective it’s actually a pretty good dwelling!
Caves are either naturally occurring or man-made. Given their temperature is regulated by the planet, caves tend to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They save up to 80% on climate control costs. Their materials (rocks, stones & dirt) are surprisingly good with sound insulation, and many caves have underground water sources. Also, caves with only one entrance offer enhanced security. On the negative side, it’s a cave. Typically what you see is what you get, and unless you have a second exit, you’re pretty much doomed if there’s a cave-in or intruder entering.
(Thanks to Kim Nguyen for suggesting this time-tested yet oft-overlooked dwelling.)
Thanksgiving Tidbits: A Dive Into History
Every now and then I get to do a deep dive into American traditions, and I almost always come out with my favorite kind of knowledge: the useless kind that make me seem smart to people who don’t know me enough to know better.
Turkeys, native to the Americas, were first domesticated in Central America. They were brought up to North America by European explorers and ultimately shipped back to England. Unfortunately for the traditional narrative, this happened after the first Thanksgiving was celebrated between the Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe and Pilgrims in 1621. Instead, they likely dined on local domestic foul such as ducks and geese, as well as nuts, shellfish and venison. Only 53 of the original 102 Mayflower settlers survived to see that day, the others had perished from starvation or disease. Roughly 90 Natives, led by Massasoit, participated. Were it not for the Wampanoag, The Pilgrims almost certainly would have perished that first winter at Plymouth Rock.
Thanksgiving wasn’t even a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln declared it as such in 1863. He did this thanks in part to the lobbying of influential writer, women’s rights activist and editor Sarah Joseph Hale (author of the Mary Had a Little Lamb nursery rhyme and a driving force behind the founding of Vassar College). She was editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, which in the 1840s first associated roast turkeys with Thanksgiving. This was made easier because turkeys had already become ingrained in English celebratory meals, and because they’re massive birds that can serve feed many people.
This Thanksgiving, maybe give thanks for Sarah Joseph Hale. Without her, we who knows if we would be celebrating Thanksgiving at all or what we would consider the centerpiece of the meal.
Vague Specifics – October 2021
The market has definitely calmed down a bit since mid summer. It was surprising how early in the year it began in 2021, in fact it was going full-speed the week Texas shut down for the snow. I actually got into a wreck on I-30 on my way to an inspection (not one of my smarter moves), I think I had 4 contracts in title at the time which is almost unheard of for winter. After 4 months of breakneck market speed, in July we finally saw things start to slow. No, we’re not going to see the market “adjust”, and if we did we’ll have a lot more to worry about than the DFW real estate market because something really bad would be happening. To put this in context, we just went through an economy-shutting-down pandemic, and it did nothing but speed things up.
If you’ve been waiting to buy, it would be a good time to start looking. Multiple offer situations have settled down a bit (although they still exist, especially in some markets), inventory is rising slightly, and, most importantly, interest rates are about to go up. Thanks to the highest run of inflation we’ve seen in 20 years, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, and home affordability will inevitably suffer. Next spring will bring a bit more inventory, but it will also bring more buyers and higher rates.
Thank God the fall is here. We were really lucky this year when it comes to extreme heat, I think we had 5 days over 100 degrees, but the humidity has been just awful the last few years. It is nice to take that first step outside in the morning and not feel like I’m not in a pressure cooker.