The Scott Lyons-designed home recently purchased in Highland Park is a perfect example of what I expressed in my earlier blog post “Best Architecture, Bad Times”. In a normal economy this would have been purchased and torn down within days of going on the market instead of being purchased for renovation.
The trustee of the estate had the property appraised and discovered all the value was in the .25 acre of land. The trustee had no idea who designed the home and the listing agent originally considered this home just an old 1970s home of no importance, not a Texas Modern home of great importance. As a result, the property was put in MLS with no interior photographs, emphasizing lot dimensions as it was assumed a builder would buy this tired residence as a teardown just for the land.
Fortunately the current economic climate has shut down any purchase activity from builders looking for lots. Only a few people even looked at the home the first few weeks it was on the market.
When Connie Harkins, an associate who works with me, first went through the house she quickly called me and said, “You have to see this house. It is obviously designed by Scott Lyons.” She was right. Scott Lyons-designed fingerprints were found throughout the house. The front door, fascia, the stone floors, woodwork, soft Mexican brick, ceiling treatments, filtered skylights in the hallways and floor-to-ceiling doors were all examples of materials and design elements that Scott Lyons used at 10240 Gaywood and other prominent Highland Park and Preston Hollow homes that he designed. We mentioned to the listing agent that Scott Lyons was certainly the architect that designed the home. To the listing agent’s credit, she asked the trustee to research the files where they discovered correspondence between Scott Lyons and the original homeowner, verifying that Scott Lyons was the architect.
The listing agent again, to her credit, changed the marketing course. She had the interior cleaned up, and more importantly, identified Scott Lyons as the architect in the MLS description of the home. Immediately after that, a great number of potential homebuyers came to see the home. Besides talking with the listing agent, I knew interest had soared in the property as over 200 unique visitors had been directed to my site when they Googled Scott Lyons architect. Many of these potential buyers liked the home enough that they called in their architects, interior designers and contractors to give them ideas for renovation and estimates for cost. Within four weeks of Scott Lyons being identified as the architect, the trustee of the estate had several offers to choose from. The new owner will be restoring this significant Highland Park home, preserving the work of Scott Lyons, one of Dallas’ great architects.
Architecturally significant homes on very valuable land are vulnerable, but not because buyers do not desire them, as is the case with the Scott Lyons house, buyers need time to evaluate and understand the home. They need the time for architects, interior designers and contractors to give them ideas on both design and cost. In a normal market a builder knows the lot dimensions and can make a quick offer sight unseen. The real estate agent, as discussed in Freakonomics, has very little economic incentive to tell the seller that they can probably sell the home for an additional $200,000 if they give the buyers who will renovate the home a chance to look at it. The agent might make an additional $5,000 on a higher sale, but will have to spend more than that in time and marketing materials. And often a listing agent will be working directly with a builder so they actually would make a larger fee on a lot sale than if the property sold to an individual working with another agent.
Preservation of the best architecture is successful when the marketplace is not abandoned prematurely. When the market is hot, lot buyers will always be available, but homeowners desiring an architecturally significant home will always pay more.