Defining Homes Autumn 2013: For the dogs

Long-planned ilume Park is poised to open

06If you’ve driven by ilume Park recently — the sister development to Cedar Springs’ popular ilume mixed-use complex — you’ve probably noticed the lime-green insulated panels and gravel driveways and exposed rebar and chain-link fences and thought, “When will it finally open?”


Below, how the common room looks today at ilume Park; top, a rendering of how it should look by the end of the month.

Well, sooner than you think.

This time last year, a Dec. 1 completion date was projected, and things are going ahead of schedule. Rick Williamson, who’s overseeing the project for the Crosland Group, predicts Oct. 30 will be the finish date for Phase 1. (There will be five phases in toto, the final ones set to open by April 15.) And it promises to be spectacular.

You might not be able to tell that from a walk-thru, where drywall is still lining the halls and workers astride stilts are spackling the high ceilings. But Williamson can see what others can’t. (It helps that he has professional renderings to assist.)

Its 240 units average 940 square feet (from a small of 577 to a large of 1,423 s.f.), more than those at the ilume, and the vibe will be different. Within its four stories will be a huge fitness center ($140,000 of equipment is scheduled to arrive this week) with tanning bed and massage room; a huge common area with a full bar; a grand piano; a poker room; and multiple courtyards. By the time the remaining phases open, there will be a pool not only for the human residents but for their four-legged family members, as well a huge hot tub. (Rent ranges from $1,069 to $2,699.)

The pool at ilume Park probably won’t be the social hub ilume’s area is. Williamson predicts more couples and fewer singles and roommates in the dog-focused facility, and has already fielded interest from some ilume residents interested in moving over (move-ins will probably start in early December). But it doesn’t matter too much: whichever building you live in, you get access to the amenities at both.

Who said a dog’s life is hard?

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in Defining Homes Magazine, October 4, 2013.

—  Michael Stephens

Defining Homes Autumn 2013: Flipping out

Do you have what it takes to turn a dump into a delight? It takes a special kind of personality



Before and after: Above, a gutted kitchen; below, the flipper’s redo — stylish, but not pricey.

By Arnold Wayne Jones

On an episode of Will & Grace, the lead characters planned to make money flipping apartments with the motto, “The Flippers Who Care.” The same happened last season on Modern Family. And Bravo TV’s Flipping Out was all about gay real estate mogul Jeff Lewis and his business of buying, renovating and reselling homes.

Clearly, it’s something the gays were meant to do.

But just how easy it is? It depends on your motivation, your skills … and your business savvy.

Tony Sicilian, a Dallas-area real estate investor, says knowing if you’re the right kind of person to flip “is the million-dollar question.”

Sicilian has been at this game for about eight years and recently went back out on his own to set up an investment group with his brother. Being a flipper (at least as people understand it from watching HGTV, Sicilian says) requires “optimism and vision. Whether you need to be excellent at design or fabulous at money, that’s secondary. But you have to be able to see the product in your head when it’s done.”

Sicilian calls the current real estate market “one of the most insane we have ever seen. There used to be a three-month supply of product on the market; now, when one house sells, there’s only a 30-day supply at any given time. Things are going up and selling that day. It’s great for a lister, but bad because everything has gone up and your window for finding a good deal is very, very narrow.”

Still, investors like Sicilian can usually find deals when there are motivated sellers who haven’t listed their homes yet.

“We’re advertising for distressed sellers in need of a quick solution,” he says. “I’ll buy for cash and resell them quickly. Buying from an investment group is smart — you can usually buy 75 to 80 cents on the dollar.”

And, he says, the amateur can do it, too … if he or she has the wherewithal to navigate the innumerable pitfalls and secrets to real estate investing that can trip up the unwary.

Keith Yonick, a Realtor with Prudential Texas Properties, has seen flippers and knows a few ins and outs to doing it the right way.

“The ‘seasoning rule’ is very important,” Yonick explains. “When you file the deed [on a property you plan to flip], you must wait three months before you [resell]. If the deed is not expedited, it can be a disaster” trying to sell an unregistered deed.

Not all homes are created equal, either. “HUD homes are a bad idea to flip because they do so many inspections,” Yonick says. The bureaucracy can slow down turnaround. “And do not attach to the listing — they could come up later!”

Because foreclosed properties do not have a disclosure process, it’s “buyer beware!” “Many investors do not like [investments like flips], so lenders are harder, and underwriters tear them apart.”

A rule of thumb is, factor in a 12 percent sales cost (that’s high, but it’s better to be high than low, Sicilian says) “and buy at retail 75-80 cents on the dollar, less repairs.” So, if you’re hoping to see a house for $100k and plan to put $10k of work it, don’t pay a purchase price more than $65–$70k.

“You think you should buy a $100,000 [at a discount] for $75,000, then you put $10,000 into it and sell for about $110k,” Sicilian says. But it doesn’t always work that way. “There are tons of hidden costs,” he explains. “For instance, if you buy a foreclosure — which isn’t the right way to flip, but as an example — you’ll have to pay closing costs based on the higher value. The margins can hurt really quick.”

There are full-time flippers who have this down almost to a science; but if you are thinking of doing it as a part-time hobby and secondary income source, make it easy on yourself.

“If you’re not doing this full-time, you definitely want to find [a property] that doesn’t need an insane amount of work, like normal paint and carpet and foundation fixes — this is North Texas after all,” Sicilian says. Your margins might not be as sweet, but it’s good training for more complicated deals.

“One rule of thumb for flippers is always to buy a lipstick redo —the little old lady’s house,” Yonick explains. Those usually require mostly cosmetic changes by visionary flippers who can get a good deal due to bad curb appeal and unfortunate décor choices, but which can have unseen problems. (Nevertheless, the appeal of so-called “ugly homes” is overstated.)

Costs will always underscore the profitability of a flip. But it helps to think long-term. Consider all actual costs of everything going into the house — staging costs, electricity costs when you’re showing it, interest on any money you borrow, insurance, labor costs and more.

“One of the biggest things people forget is the stuff behind the wall,” says Sicilian. “When you sell, there will be an appraisal and an inspection, but people forget to look at stuff like electrical, plumbing, foundation. You might not think it’s off but you’ll need an engineer’s report which, will cost you $500” — another of those hidden costs. And it’s a good idea to do pressure tests on your plumbing lines early, so you don’t find out three months later you have a leak. “You’d rather know upfront to spend an extra $500 and not spend $5,000 later,” says Sicilian.

“For a buyer going to FHA for an insured loan, they will be looking that what they are collateralizing is a good, secure house,” Sicilian says. “So, cutting corners isn’t always smart — it may save you money but will cost you down the line.”

Of course, there are often hidden bonuses as well. Buy one of those old-lady homes, and you might just pull back the original 1950s carpet only to discover pristine hardwood floors. “Those are ‘in’ right now, and you just got them for free!” says Sicilian.

This article appeared int he Defining Homes Magazine, October 4, 2013.

—  Michael Stephens

Business Briefs: AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

Mark Sadlek

AssociaTitle announced it appointed Mark J. Sadlek director of business development at its corporate headquarters in the heart of Uptown Dallas at Crescent Court.

“We are thrilled to be adding Mark Sadlek to the AssociaTitle team,” said AssociaTitle President Paul Reyes. “He is a seasoned real estate professional in the Dallas area with a track record of proven success and will serve both our clients and our company well.”

Sadlek joins AssociaTitle from Republic Title of Texas, where he served as vice president of business development and director of coaching services. He worked to build and promote the company externally with Realtors, developers and lenders. His focus also included business coaching and training.

He has also served as vice president of business development for American Title and as home mortgage consultant for Shelter Mortgage & Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Previous to his work in the North Dallas real estate industry, Sadlek worked in marketing and sales for almost 20 years and was intimately involved in the start-up of two companies, VerCeram and Velux-America.

For the past nine years, Sadlek has worked in the North Dallas real estate industry, building positive relationships with local Realtors and lenders. He was awarded the 2010 Affiliate of the Year Award from MetroTex Association of Realtors, served on the MetroTex Board as an affiliate appointee board member, and chaired the Affiliate Forum Committee of MetroTex.

He was a co-founder and co-chair of Leadership Lambda Inc., an LGBT leadership development organization. He was also a board member of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and has chaired the Heart Strings Fundraiser at the Majestic Theatre. Additionally, Sadlek served on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, as well as a co-chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Club.

Ernst & Young Announces Gross Up for Jan. 1

On Jan. 1, Ernst & Young joined more than 30 major U.S. employers that are equalizing the pay for gay and lesbian employees by covering the cost of state and federal taxes for domestic partners.

Employees enrolled in domestic partner benefits incur additional taxes as the value of those benefits is treated as taxable income under federal law, while the value of opposite-sex spousal benefits is not.

Federal law treats domestic partner benefits differently from federally-recognized spousal benefits.

—  David Taffet

Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

Defining Homes • Ask the EXPERTS

With the economy still in a wicked mess, reports are that the latest trend in homebuying is not buying. Renters are on the rise. But are they? Real estate source Inman reported in January that it is cheaper to buy in the majority of the country’s larger cities. Keith Jurow reported last year on World Property Channel that a Harris Interactive survey found renting a better option. So which is it? We asked locals in the industry how the trends are swaying the Dallas housing market and the frustrations behind them.


Michael Litzinger

Michael Litzinger
William Davis Realty Uptown

The trend has affected my business significantly. The firm I recently moved to seems to be more in tune with today’s market. Their streamlined, online process requires less paperwork which makes it better for the client, a much quicker turn around for me and better for the environment.

Leasing does move property these days, and I am just glad the industry moves in some fashion whether it’s leasing or selling.

I do think the trend has affected us locally somewhat, but not nearly as severely as in most other areas. I still feel good about the Dallas market.  I know Realtors in other areas that can’t say the same.

Buyers are decreasing to some degree. Even with low interest rates, I’ve had a lot of buyers come to me and then disappear.



Derrick Dawson

Derrick Dawson
Texas Pride Realty

As an active and producing Realtor also working in property management, I’d say the rental trend has picked up significantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s been ideal for property renters/owners or for the multi-family industry. The rental market has been stable but faces some challenges based on broken leases due to financial hardship or unemployment. Many are playing it safe by downsizing or combining rental homes based on economic conditions, being fearful of keeping their jobs and saving for the future.
Today is a buyer’s market and an ideal time to get out of the rent race. The downfall to the buyer’s market that I have seen personally is buyers and investors taking advantage of desperate people in today’s markets, possibly causing detriment to individuals or families in their time of need but also bringing down values in those areas making it harder for others to sell.



Dan Flynn


Dan Flynn
Dave Perry-Miller InTown

The trend of leasing over buying has changed the way I preview properties in my area. Leasing is so hot now, I’ve looked at rentals and try to know the different apartment communities close by. Now I am much faster to respond to leasing needs.

I process far more leases to build my future list of clients. I try to educate and prepare them for the buying process down the road. Using a Realtor to find the perfect place to lease makes a lot of sense for those wanting to buy in the future but also for those who don’t really want to do the legwork.

I recently represented a seller who could not sell his property for the amount he was hoping for. Finding qualified buyers in his market and price range wasn’t easy. Another Realtor’s client was interested in leasing the property so

I had to have that conversation with my seller. The seller decided to go with the lease. While sales are still going strong, leasing has increased. While this really is the time to buy, I think all the media attention scares buyers. Potential buyers need to know that the market is stable here and we are one of the cities leading the nation in sales right now.  Go buy a house now or pay more for it later both in price and interest rates.


Keith M. Thomas

Keith M. Thomas
1111 Apartment Locators

Although the economy has definitely affected us here, it is worse in other areas of the country. Dallas continues to grow and so I feel the trend’s impact on Dallas has been positive.

My company is a fully licensed real estate brokerage company and we handle all residential and commercial real estate transactions yet, our primary business is apartment locating. We want to maintain focus on renters, but we’ve created strategic partnerships with other real estate companies and have a referral program with them. We work closely with our clients to help with all of their real estate needs.

For homes that have reasonable mortgages there is good news. In Dallas, the rental market has significantly gone up, especially from 2010 to present to a  94-97 percent occupancy rate.

Buyers become renters for two reasons: First, they are able to get a nicer home for a lower monthly payment. And second, it doesn’t make sense to buy unless you’re planning to stay. However, buyers are increasing, oddly enough. MetroTex Association of Realtors reported that last August 2010 there were 1,223 properties sold and this August 2011 there were 1,485.

It’s a landlords’ market. Rents are at a premium and good ones go fast. When I show my clients rentals, they want to think about it, I encourage them to act quickly, because the unit is gone within a day or two. Why should homeowners take a loss on waiting for a qualified buyer, when they can rent quickly and hold out for the market to improve?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Defining Homes • Super (re)model

Remodeler Chris Sandlin says slow your roll before that redux

Wingren-Kitchen-5By Jonanna Widner

As a third-generation homebuilder and remodeler, it’s no surprise that Chris Sandlin opted out of a journalism career and instead chose the family business. He made the change in 2005 and with such a history of the industry in his blood already, Sandlin brings a fairly unique perspective to the market.

“I’m 30 years old, which is relatively young compared to others in my position,“ he says. “But I put a lot of time and energy into the right team of workers and sub-contractors to customers’ homes so the end result lives up to what the homeowners deserve. As a gay business owner, I’m happy in providing stellar home services to the community.”

Before moving forward with that remodel, Sandlin says to think before demolishing.

Wingren-Master-Bath-2Know when to remodel: “I commonly work with homeowners to determine whether it makes more sense to remodel or move. I approach each situation openly and honestly, and try my best to suggest what I think would be best, even if that means I don’t win the job.”

Remodel before selling: “This is usually the case with older homes that have not been remodeled recently. Homeowners accept my guidance for what sells. I have a good combination of experience in the homebuilding and real estate industry.

“There is a catch-22 here. If the house sells quickly, homeowners in won’t have time to experience the finished remodel project which tends to be the kitchen or master bath.”

“This can happen very easily. Most $250,000 homes do not need a $50,000 bathroom redo, nor does a $300,000 home need a $100,000 commercial grade kitchen. A wide variety of factors need to be considered, including how long they plan to stay in the home, what’s the budget, how it adds to the home’s value.“

Budget help: “When in the budgeting/planning phase with homeowners, research the values of nearby homes, especially with remodels. This has been helpful in concrete figures regarding their remodel, as well as experienced conjectures about how the remodel will affect the home’s future value.”

Don’t rush the details:  ”Too many homeowners want to rush into their project without a clear vision. Step back, assess the project and come up with a plan. With that, the end result will be everything the homeowner wants. Rushing into it without a plan will only result in more time, money and headaches.”

Going green: “This is an area I take pride in. As a certified green professional through the National Association of Homebuilders, I integrate green philosophies and I want to minimize waste factor and landfill component as much as possible.”

“I started making many green features as my standard a long time ago because I feel it’s the right way to build and remodel. I’m happy to see more homeowners interested in these options.”

DIY:  “I’m happy to help prepare homeowners for what they would encounter if doing it on their own. Sometimes it works out just fine, with small jobs that don’t require licensed tradesmen or city permits. When it comes to larger jobs, people need to know if they honestly have the time to do this in addition to the day job.”DH

Visit for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.



















—  Kevin Thomas

Local Briefs

CCGLA surveys candidates, sets meet-and-greet events

As municipal elections approach, the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance has sent an online survey to city council, school board and mayoral candidates in Allen, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, and “meet-and-greet” sessions for candidates are planned in Frisco, Plano and McKinney in April.

The organization will also create and distribute a voters’ guide.

The Plano “meet-and-greet” will be held on Friday, April 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at a private residence. For more information, go online to

Results of CCGLA’s candidate surveys will be posted on the CCGLA website prior to each event. The events are informal, non-partisan, and all candidates are invited.

Oak Cliff Earth Day to feature vendors, info booths and more

Oak Cliff Earth Day, which has become the largest all-volunteer-run Earth Day since it started five years ago, will be held on Sunday, April 17, from noon to 5 p.m. at Lake Cliff Park, located at the intersection of Colorado Street and Zang Boulevard in Oak Cliff.

There is no charge to attend the event, which will include art, food, plants and other environmentally-friendly products available for purchase.

There will also be educational booths on topics such as how to save energy and clean up the environment, along with locally-grown honey, animals to adopt and native plants for gardens.

Parking at the park is limited, however, free parking is available at Methodist Hospital, in Lot 10 only, located at 1400 S. Beckley Ave. across from the hospital entrance on Beckley Ave. Methodist Hospital is providing a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the event.

Participants are also encouraged to take DART to the event or walk or ride a bicycle. There are a number of bike racks, funded by Oak Cliff Earth Day, at the park.

Mayoral candidates to speak Sunday on animal issues in Dallas

Dallas’ mayoral candidates will participate in a forum on animal issues in the city of Dallas on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at the Central Dallas Library, 1515 Young St., in downtown Dallas. The Metroplex Animal Coalition is sponsoring the forum, with is free and open to the public. Journalist Larry Powell with Urban Animal magazine will moderate.

The mayoral candidates are former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, Councilman Ron Natinsky, real estate consultant Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings, former Pizza Hut CEO and Dallas homeless czar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Defining Homes • Spring 2011

Click magazine cover to download issue pdf.

Defining Homes • Sprint 2011

—  Michael Stephens