Top 5 Cycling Trails in Dallas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY: STEVEN HILLS WITH AHA MOMENTS GROUP

Great cities develop great trail systems. Dallas understands that linking communities with trails and greenways is a critical piece of the urban puzzle. Dallas’ award-winning trail plan includes over 125 miles of the most beautiful and diverse urban hike and bike trails in the country. Located throughout the city, these trails connect communities, provide alternative transportation corridors, and have become an essential recreational amenity for Dallas citizens.

Inflate your tires, put your helmet on, and pull on your gloves. It’s time to check out these 5 outstanding trails in the heart of Big D.

White Rock Lake Park Loop Trail

The 9.4 mile White Rock Lake Loop Trail along the shoreline of beautiful White Rock Lake in East Dallas is without a doubt the City’s most popular trail. Cycling past the phenomenal Dallas Arboretum, the historic Filter Building, and other historic features including several art deco Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era picnic structures is a delight. Many cyclers venture out onto the tree-lined streets in the Lakewood, Lake Highlands, Forest Hills, and Casa Linda neighborhoods surrounding the lake where they quickly discover that Dallas isn’t quite as flat as they thought. Trail Map – http://happytrailsdallas.com/trail-maps/White_Rock_Lake_Trai.jpg

White Rock Creek Trail

Described as “one of Dallas’ oldest hike and bike trails”, 7.6 mile White Rock Creek Trail, in northeast Dallas next to White Rock Creek, links the ten parks that make up the White Rock Creek Greenbelt. Being a great route for commuting and fitness, the trail provides a direct connection to Richardson via the Cottonwood Creek Trail at its north end and to White Rock Lake and the neighborhoods of Lakewood, Lake Highlands, Forest Hills, and Casa Linda at its south end. This trail is a favorite of riders looking for a quiet, off-street experience that is uninterrupted by at grade street crossings.     Trail Map – http://happytrailsdallas.com/trail-maps/White_Rock_Creek_Trai.jpg

Santa Fe Trail

The subtitle for writer Dick Sullivan’s July 2011 D Magazine article about the newly opened Santa Fe Trail was “It’s not as fancy as the Katy, but that’s fine. East Dallas doesn’t exercise in mascara.” The Santa Fe is about getting fit, getting connected, getting involved, and getting in and out of Downtown Dallas without a car. Located in an old railroad right-of-way, the trail begins just east of Downtown near the State Fair of Texas site and passes by the Lakewood Country Club and the historic Hollywood/Santa Monica neighborhood before it connects to the White Rock Lake Park Loop Trail and the Lakewood, Forest Hills, Casa Linda, and Lake Highlands neighborhoods. Trail Map and More Information – www.friendsofsantafetrail.org

Katy Trail

Privately funded and supported by the community, the historic Katy Trail quickly became an iconic destination for the people of Dallas and is now being expanded to make it possible for even more people to enjoy. The south end of the trail begins just north of Downtown Dallas and a new section that extends the trail past Mockingbird Lane is under construction. Easily accessible from the M Street and Preston Hollow neighborhoods, the existing 3.5 mile trail serves as a 26+ acre linear park providing recreational and alternative commuting opportunities in and through one of the densest areas of the City. The Katy Trail makes it easier than ever to attend Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games, concerts, and other event at the incredible American Airlines Center and other places in Downtown Dallas. Trail Map – http://happytrailsdallas.com/trail-maps/Katy_Trail.jpg

Harry S. Moss Trail

Maintained by the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association (DORBA), the Harry S. Moss trail boasts 6 miles of natural surface trails with 7 connected loops to provide a great off-road biking experience in the middle of the city. Construction of the trail began in 2010 through a partnership with the City of Dallas. This is the “intown” place to go if you like riding in trees on trails with some tight and twisting areas, dips, mounds, and short hills. The Harry S. Moss trail is also one of 17 DORBA trails in the DFW area which together comprise a total of over 200 miles of off-road fun and adventure.  More information on DORBA can be found at http://www.dorba.org. Trail Map – http://happytrailsdallas.com/trail-maps/Harry_S_Moss_Trails.jpg

Six Things Buyers Should Do When Looking For Historic Homes In East Dallas TX

BY: STEVEN HILLS WITH AHA MOMENTS GROUP

East Dallas offers a wealth of historic homes that will give you extreme pride of ownership and the chance to personally experience a part of Texas’ rich history. Historic homes in East Dallas make this city unique and one of the best cities to live in.

However, buying a historic home comes with its own quirks and nuances. Before you go looking for a historic home, it’s best to be informed about what to watch out for and what you can expect. Here are 6 things you should do when shopping for a historic home.

Learn about historic homes and historic homeownership.

You will want to know about each potential home’s story and what makes it special. Learn about the neighborhood, the property’s architectural details, its early owners, timelines and other significant information. This will help you decide if the home and neighborhood are right for you. Keep in mind that historic districts and historic structures are covered by special regulations to ensure their preservation. These have to be balanced by the need to have updated fixtures and systems for your comfort, sanitation, and safety. Additionally, look into incentives offered by the government to help owners of historic homes offset some of the costs for preservation.

Trees 75 years or older require more work than trees in younger neighborhoods

Older homes are typically surrounded by decades – sometimes centuries – old trees. And this means more yard maintenance work. Older trees have more mature branches that could lead to overhangs. The Dallas city code states that property owners are responsible for the maintenance and care of trees that are overhanging a street or a public right of way. The trees should be regularly pruned to avoid obstructing street lamps or the view at an intersection.

More trees also mean more shed leaves in the yard, resulting in more raking and composting work.

The very nature of historic homes might prove a challenge if you’re a perfectionist.

Historic homes’ main attractions are their unique character and charm. But the fact that they’ve been around for decades can only mean they’ve seen plenty of wear and tear. Hardwood floors shift and turn wobbly, plumbing pipes rust, and furnaces get leaky. Be aware of these issues from the onset and be prepared to deal with them.

Moreover, older homes that have not seen major updating can present safety hazards. Before 1978, most homes were painted with lead-based paint. It’s not unusual to find the original painted surfaces still intact under newer layers of paint, posing a health hazard, especially to children.

Older plumbing and electrical systems are often non-compliant to current standards and may present safety and health hazards.

Choose a qualified home inspector (or two) with significant experience in Dallas historic homes

Given the potential hazards and maintenance problems of historic homes, it’s best to look for and vet inspectors who specialize in Dallas historic homes right at the start of your search. These professionals do more than just assess a property’s condition. They are also knowledgeable about historic architectural details and their preservation, as well as the regulations and ordinances that govern the preservation of historic homes.

Ask your Realtor in Dallas for a list of qualified local inspectors and research on your own as well. Click here for a place to start.

What you can’t see is as important as what you can see.

Historic homes that have been spruced up and updated with new roofing, finishes or fixtures can be misleading. Underneath the bright and shiny surface could be rotting pipes, invasive tree roots, windows that have been permanently shuttered, lead-painted surfaces, and other age-related issues. It’s important to remember that what you see may not be telling you the entire story.

Review the Seller’s Disclosure Notice carefully and have a qualified professional inspector – or two – conduct a thorough assessment of the property, including all systems and hidden components. The only way to avoid problems down the road and to fully enjoy your beautiful historic home is to anticipate potential problems and resolve them before you proceed with the purchase.

 

5 Things I Learned When I Analyzed the Z’estimate For Our Home 

BY: STEVEN HILLS WITH AHA MOMENTS GROUP

With so much information available online today, sellers and buyers need to know about the accuracy and limitations of what they see and read: Some information is good, and some information is bad.

I recently prepared a detailed Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for our North Texas home. Curious to determine how the results of my CMA compared with Zillow’s market value prediction, I followed Zillow’s process for getting a “Private Estimate” available only to me as the homeowner. The result? A 19% difference between my CMA value and Zillow’s “Private Estimate.” Here are five things I learned about Zillow and its market valuation process.

1 – Zestimates Cannot Be Customized to Reflect Unique Market Factors

Zillow says “The Zestimate is created by an automated software process, designed by statisticians, and there is no ability for humans to manually alter the Zestimate for a specific property.”

Customization based on unique market factors is crucial in estimating the market value/price of a home.

  • New York City is Not Dallas, Texas
  • Each metro area has unique factors that influence housing prices. The same can be said for communities and neighborhoods within each metro area. Buyers select neighborhoods and communities based on their individual needs and desires. While Facebook and Google may be able to predict when people will get married or buy a house, Zillow’s software cannot adjust Zestimates since it cannot know the detailed differences between buyers, sellers, neighborhoods, and communities across the United States.
  • Consequently, unique market factors are not considered in Zestimates. Take, for example, pools. I estimate up to 50% of the homes in my subdivision have pools. Homes with pools typically, but not always, command a higher price in the Dallas market, suggesting that homes without pools should be viewed differently than those with pools.

2- Zillow’s Data Coverage Is Incomplete

Zillow says “The Zestimate’s accuracy depends on location and availability of data in an area. Some counties have deeply detailed information on homes such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage and others do not. The more data available, the more accurate the Zestimate value.”

Unfortunately, the data Zillow uses in its Zestimates is not adequate, complete, or accurate.

  • Physical attributes – pools, pergolas, outdoor kitchens, number of garage spaces, number and quality of upgrades, age and quality of finishes, the age of roofing materials, and the type of windows can affect the market value of a property. Non-physical attributes such as location, schools, and inventory also influence market values, but none are considered in the development of Zestimates.
  • Tax assessments – Many Texas homeowners contest their tax appraisals each year to keep their property taxes as low as possible. Annual tax “appraisals” that are not developed from detailed investigations are not even “windshield” appraisals. The appraised value of a property on the tax rolls is somewhat irrelevant and is typically not discussed in residential real estate negotiations.
  • Prior and current transactions – Zillow says “Zestimate accuracy is computed by comparing the final sale price to the Zestimate on or before the sale date.” Zillow has no access to details related to the negotiations or sale of properties in Texas. Maybe a buyer got a seller to include $10,000 in flooring replacement or other improvements in the final price. This type of information is not public knowledge so a simple comparison of list prices, sold prices, and Zestimates is not reliable. Realtors investigate and often contact each other about past transactions to ensure they learn as much about prior sales as possible.

3 – Zillow’s Process for Selecting Comparable Properties is Different from the Processes Used by Real Estate Agents and Appraisers (Professionals)

Zillow says “Our estimating method differs from that of a comparative market analysis (CMA) done by real estate agents. Geographically, the data we use is much larger than your neighborhood. Often times, we use all the data in a county for calculation. So, though there may be no recent sales in the “neighborhood”, even a few sales in the area allow us to extrapolate changes in the local housing market. However, the data we gather does allow the models to incorporate the geospatial (neighborhood) patterns of recent sales.”

Zillow’s selection of Comparable Sold Properties can be misleading if the public doesn’t realize how Zestimates differ from CMAs and appraisals. Four of the seven comparable properties chosen by Zillow’s software would not be considered appropriate for use in a CMA or appraisal.

  • Eighteen homes sold within my popular subdivision in the past six months, providing many options for the selection of comparable properties within a half-mile radius of my home. Zillow selected a home in Dallas more than one mile from my home.
  • My home is a three bedroom, two and one-half bath, 2,217 square foot house on a 22,450 square foot lot with 20’ and 30’ setbacks. Of the seven comparable properties chosen by Zillow, two were two-bedroom, three-bath, zero lot line homes in a nearby subdivision on 5,000 and 6,700 square foot lots.
  • My house was built in 1980 on a public street. One of Zillow’s comparable properties was a home built in 2002 in a gated subdivision with private streets adjacent to my subdivision.

4 – Zillow’s Adjustment of Sold Prices of Comparable Properties is Limited and Inadequate

Zillow adjusts prices on its comparable sold properties for 1) number of bedrooms, 2) number of bathrooms, and 3) square footage.

  • No adjustments were made by Zillow for things like the pools that are so popular in my neighborhood.
  • Adjusting for square footage on top of adjusting for numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms can distort the pricing. as can a failure to account for a three-car garage versus a two-car garage.
  • While Zillow users are given the opportunity to edit the facts about their own homes, they are only given the limited option to “remove” a limited number of comparable properties for general reasons such as street condition/traffic, dissimilar view, distance to amenities, exterior appeal, interior finishes, and yard condition. Homeowners are not able to adjust the facts about Zillow’s comparable properties to more accurately reflect specific differences

5 – Zillow Acknowledges the Limitations of Zestimates

Zillow’s website includes a page devoted to reducing exclusive and uninformed reliance on its Zestimates.

  • Zillow acknowledges the limitations of its “proprietary formula” by reiterating 1) a Zestimate is not an appraisal and 2) that “Zillow does not offer the Zestimate as the basis of any specific real-estate-related financial transaction.”
  • Zillow updates its assessment of the data coverage and Zestimate accuracy daily. Zillow currently rates its Dallas/Fort Worth accuracy as fair, with Dallas/Fort Worth Zestimates being more than 20% off on more than 20% of the local transactions it can track. Putting that into context, for every 100 Zestimates for homes valued around $500,000, approximately twenty of those Zestimates are at least $100,000 off.
  • Zillow encourages buyers, sellers, and homeowners to supplement Zillow’s information by doing other research such as:
  • Getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent
  • Getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser
  • Visiting the house (whenever possible)