By: Kyle Whitecotton
By: Brian Kendall
By: Courtney Dabney
By: Courtney Dabney
Practically everybody in Fort Worth knows somebody who’s done it recently: cashed out of a sky-high neighborhood like the popular Fairmount on the Near Southside, bought a home for cash somewhere else in the city, slashed their property taxes and homeowner insurance in the process, and maybe pocketed extra cash for the kids’ college fund. Lots of factors come into play. The costs of rehabbing anything you buy can eat into the profit you make from selling. It’s a tough decision, giving up a comfortable lifestyle for the uncertainty of a neighborhood on the rise. The performance of a neighborhood’s public schools has helped keep a lid on prices — that’s good for buyers, bad for sellers. And carloads of other prospective homeowners and flippers are trolling the city, looking for deals.
“You’ve got to be looking and quick and driving the neighborhoods looking for signs,” Wanda Conlin, a six-decade denizen of West Meadowbrook on the city’s East Side and member of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, says.
Alamo Heights / Sunset Heights
$150,000 gets you… 3-1, 1,253 square feet, built 1954, sold for $149,000
Months of housing inventory: 3
Boundaries: These two neighborhoods sit side by side, east and west of South Hulen Street. Alamo Heights, tucked in behind Arlington Heights High School and east of Central Market, is bounded on the north by Interstate 30, south by the Chisholm Trail Parkway and west by Hulen. Sunset Heights is bounded by I-30 on the north, Hulen on the east, Chisholm Trail on the south, and Collett and Lake Como parks and Lake Como on the west.
Alamo Heights and Sunset Heights offer modest housing stock with access to two highways, Hulen Street and shopping and services along the Hulen corridor. Of the two, Ruth Story, of The Story Group at Keller Williams Realty, likes Sunset Heights most because of its hilly approach from the west. “I like hills and views,” she says. “To me, that gives a neighborhood character.” Its housing stock is midcentury, with “really good renovation possibilities,” Story says.
The neighborhoods feed into South Hi Mount Elementary School, Stripling Middle School and Arlington Heights High School. Young professionals have been buying in the neighborhood. Story’s been selling in the $175,000 to $250,000 range in Sunset Heights and Alamo Heights.
Alamo Heights “is still a neighborhood in transition,” Reed, of Coldwell Banker, says. “You can get in there in the 100s. They’re doing really nice things with those houses.”
$150,000 gets you… 3-2, 2,008 square feet, built 1956, sold for $140,000
Months of housing inventory: 1.5
Benbrook calls itself “small town, big backyard.” It sells easy access to Loop 820 and U.S. 377, and it backs up to Benbrook Lake and hosts some of the Trinity Trails’ most scenic segments. The city has a well-received library that partners with the City of Fort Worth libraries to share items. Under former Mayor Jerry Dunn, the city helped negotiate a deal to place a YMCA on Army Corps of Engineers property near the lake and U.S. 377. An economic development tax that voters approved in 1995 funds projects designed to increase economic activity. In recent years, Benbrook has been promoting its strengthened Fort Worth public-school feeder, with two elementary schools that feed into the new Benbrook Middle-High School.
“We now have families saying I can feel pretty comfortable sending my kids K through 12” in the Benbrook feeder, Story, the Keller Williams Realty Realtor, who lives in Benbrook, says. “We’ll see people move from Ryan Place [on the Near Southside] to Benbrook, not because they like suburbia. It’s a community, it has good schools, it has a [fast] police response.”
Story has been selling chiefly in the $200,000 to $350,000 range in Benbrook, with strong demand in neighborhoods like Westpark and Whitestone Ranch, a golf course community. The city also offers luxury housing stock in neighborhoods like Montserrat and La Cantera that exceeds $1 million. Median price in December was $210,000, down 4.7 percent from December the prior year, according to the Realtors association.
North Benbrook is another neighborhood that has found favor among homebuyers who are cashing out of more expensive homes in other parts of the city and finding they can buy more square footage for less money. One neighborhood is Mary’s Creek, which offers large mature lots, but is outside the Benbrook Middle-High School feeder. “I’ve sold quite a few lately” in the Mary’s Creek area, Reed says. “The houses for the most part are well-maintained; prices are not outrageous. It just seems to be an area that was forgotten for awhile.”
$150,000 gets you… 3-2, 1,596 square feet, built 1967, sold for $140,000
Months of housing inventory: 1.9
Boundaries: Wedgwood takes in a vast area of South Fort Worth, from Loop 820 and Granbury Road on the north and west, to McCart Avenue on the east and Sycamore School Road on the south. Wedgwood comprises several neighborhoods: Wedgwood East, Wedgwood South, Wedgwood and Wedgwood Square.
Realtors report increasing interest in Wedgwood in the last two to three years, as prices in the city’s central core kept increasing. “It just goes out like a big circle,” Story, the Keller Williams Realty Realtor, says. “The prices [closer in] were getting so high.”
Built in the 1950s and 1960s, Wedgwood offers midcentury style, large mature lots, and easy access to Loop 820, Southwest Boulevard, the Chisholm Trail Parkway, TCU and services along South Hulen Street. “The houses in general are well-built,” says Story, who’s been selling in a range of $150,000 to $275,000. Median price in all of Wedgwood was $238,000 in December, up 44.2 percent from December the prior year, according to the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors.
Young couples and professionals, including teachers and university professors, are the most likely to be moving into the neighborhood, Realtors say. “Old Fort Worth for years — the ’50s, ’60s — never went outside the Loop,” Gaye Reed, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, says. “We’ve got so many people moving in here. Younger couples, they don’t care if they’re outside the Loop or not. Young professionals are wide open. It’s their first house.”
Families remain an elusive target, even though Wedgwood’s inventory includes many larger homes at still-inexpensive prices. Perceptions about crime in some parts of Wedgwood persist, but Reed says that hasn’t hurt sales among her clients. “The challenge is the schools” in the neighborhoods, Story says.
Demand is strongest — and Realtors point their clients to — the neighborhoods’ so-called “W streets,” streets in Wedgwood’s interior that begin with “W” in the northern part of the area. “I would stay with the W streets,” Story says.
Reed similarly sells in the W streets east and west of Woodway Drive, the north-south street that runs almost the full length of the neighborhood. “The closer you get to Hulen” on the west, “the more work needs to be done [on houses for sale],” Reed says. “That’s not where I’m selling.”
$150,000 gets you… 2-1, 1,658 square feet, built 2017, sold for $140,000
Months of housing inventory: 3.4 (For 76104 zip code, which includes north Fairmount)
Boundaries: Vickery Boulevard on the north, Riverside Drive on the east, East Rosedale Street on the south and Interstate 35 West on the west. The north side of the Evans-Rosedale intersection is in the Historic Southside.
Activity is bubbling in the Historic Southside, but nobody’s guessing how long it will take to reach a boil. The City of Fort Worth has received eight proposals from groups who are interested in redeveloping several pieces of property that local public entities own around Evans Avenue and East Rosedale Street. With the neighborhood just across I-35 from the strong Near Southside, the city has supported it in recent years with investments in the Evans-Rosedale area such as a new public library, public plaza, fire station, Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods, street-front improvements, public art and establishment of a Neighborhood Empowerment Zone that offers fee waivers for new construction and rehab.
What happens with the redevelopment of the publicly owned lots around Evans and Rosedale is widely viewed as holding the keys to what happens further into the Historic Southside. “This is going to be the driver of whether anything happens short-term,” Mike Brennan, CEO of the Near Southside, Inc. economic development nonprofit, which has been supporting renewal in the neighboring Historic Southside, says.
Private groups have already started inching into the area. On the south side of Rosedale Street, in the Hillside Morningside neighborhood, architect Matthijs Melchiors is finishing construction of an office building made of recycled shipping containers. On the north end of Evans Avenue, at Terrell Street, developers Jennifer and Robb Farmer plan to redevelop an old funeral home into a movie theater with other commercial uses.
Investors have moved into the neighborhood, buying vacant lots and sitting on them. Small numbers of flippers and owner-occupants have purchased homes and rehabbed them in the heart of the neighborhood. A small number of buyers have purchased residential lots on the west side of Kentucky and Evans avenues, just outside the boundaries of the restrictive neighborhood overlay that governs design and materials used in new construction and exterior modifications.
Lots in the interior of the neighborhood are going today for $15,000 to $17,000, Lorraine Miller, a Realtor for Northern Realty who has lived in the Historic Southside for years, says. Lots that have dilapidated homes can be had for what’s basically a “dirt purchase,” she says. Among the numerous challenges today of buying in the neighborhood: There’s no focal point yet. Following well-worn advice of buying next to other positive things happening in a neighborhood is difficult in the Historic Southside. “There’s no sweet spot, not yet,” Miller says. But she and others who follow the neighborhood believe what happens with the publicly owned property will govern the speed and pace of improvement in the neighborhood and become the focal point. “If I were a forward-thinking person, I’d want to buy on Terrell Street, simply because it’s the main drag,” she says. Terrell has already drawn “a bunch of investors who came in and bought up vacant lots, and they’re sitting on them waiting for the transition to happen,” she says. “I think it’s going to come back; the question is how fast that transition happens.”
Renters occupy many of the neighborhood’s homes. “We need homeowners,” Miller says. Prospective buyers should familiarize themselves with the historic overlay that, among other things, puts rules on use of replacement windows, potentially driving up rehab costs. Historic Southside is also perceived as high crime, which isn’t supported by statistics, Miller says. “Part of the challenge of this community is perception,” she says.
Brian Dixon, a psychiatrist and Historic Southside’s new neighborhood association president, says investors are likely slowing down the pace of renewal. Even though lots are still relatively inexpensive, prices are up from $7,000 or $8,000 just a few years ago, he says. “That’s just flat wrong.” The Realtors association doesn’t have specific data for Historic Southside; the 76104 ZIP code includes the neighborhood, but its pricing dynamics are driven chiefly by the north portion of Fairmount on the Near Southside.
Dixon, who paid $140,000 for a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home built in 2017, envisions Evans and Rosedale as an entertainment district, “where you can come and have a good time.” The public plaza would be the focal point, he says. But he doesn’t envision development of a new restaurant row, which he says would be too much of a risk. “Fort Worth has a lot of great restaurants,” he says. “We don’t need to repeat restaurant row.”
$150,000 gets you… 3-1, 1,370 square feet, built 1947, $139,900 listed for sale
Months of housing inventory: 2
Boundaries: Interstate 30 on the north, Meadowbrook Golf Course on the east, East Lancaster Avenue on the south and Riverside Drive on the west. Meadowbrook comprises West Meadowbrook and Central Meadowbrook, separated by Edgewood Terrace.
Meadowbrook has been experiencing an influx of new residents moving from other Fort Worth neighborhoods, taking advantage of moderately priced mature homes, large leafy lots, easy access to Interstate 30 and Loop 820, and proximity to amenities like the Tandy Hills Natural Area and Meadowbrook Golf Course. Access to the Trinity Trails is close by at Oakland and Randol Mill Road, north of I-30. The former NBC 5 TV station on West Meadowbrook’s Broadcast Hill is home today to Fort Worth Police special units, giving the neighborhood an extra police presence. Demand for homes is strongest in West Meadowbrook, west of Oakland Boulevard, where some lots back up to Tandy Hills. Deals can be had for buyers who pounce.
A three-bedroom, one-bath in need of updates on Medford Road, for one, is listed at $139,900 and under contract. For the 76103 ZIP code, which takes in all of Meadowbrook and the White Lake Hills neighborhood, north of I-30, median price in December was $141,950, up 76.3 percent from December the prior year.
Be prepared for a dearth of shopping and other services; nearest major grocery store is in Woodhaven, north of I-30. Decades ago, East Lancaster was an active retail strip with two department stores, but the conversion of I-30 from a toll road decades ago meant traffic shifted to the interstate from East Lancaster. It used to be “we could shop on East Lancaster for anything,” says Conlin, publisher of the Greater Meadowbrook News who, in recent years, converted to online-only publication from print after she lost most of her local independent, East Side advertisers.
But there’s movement. In recent years, the Oakland-East Lancaster intersection has attracted new tenants such as a Whataburger, Griff’s Hamburgers and an auto parts store. A new city library is funded and planned for a site near the intersection. Trinity Metro’s East Side Transfer Center at Oakland Boulevard and East Lancaster Avenue acts as a hub for buses running between the East Side and downtown, with the East Lancaster-Downtown Spur route one of the city’s busiest. Fort Worth also has invested substantial sums in public art along East Lancaster Avenue. Residents laud the Meadowbrook neighborhood police officer for dispersing panhandlers on the street. And a new city Public Improvement District covering the street from Loop 820 to Riverside will generate extra tax dollars, paid by property owners, for security.
The heightened security will help confront East Lancaster’s image as high crime. “We don’t have a lot of extraordinary crime out here,” businessman Don Boren, who is married to Conlin, says. “What we have, particularly on East Lancaster, are crimes that put a damper on business: prostitution, drug-dealing.”
Further into the interior of the neighborhood, a small cluster — the well-regarded La Rueda Restaurant, Coffee Folk shop in a permanently stationed food trailer open Thursdays to Sundays, and Firehouse Pottery & Gallery — has formed at Oakland and Meadowbrook boulevards, giving residents hope that more could follow. Performance of students in the public schools also is improving.
Carrie and Stephen Fitzwater are two relatively new residents of Central Meadowbrook. The couple — founders and owners of Modern Lantern, a Fort Worth-based producer of rechargeable battery-powered lamps designed for residential, restaurant, hotel and special event uses — three years ago cashed in the appreciation on their home in Fairmount and bought a home for cash in Central Meadowbrook, freeing up room to help send their two sons to college and expand their business.
Their new home, which they found in foreclosure, is a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,800-square-foot Austin Stone ranch, with a rear-entry two-car garage, on a half-acre corner lot. The Fitzwaters installed a new roof and new air and heat, and renovated the kitchen, leaving the bathrooms for later. “We saw the potential walking in,” Carrie Fitzwater says. “A lot of people would have turned around and walked away.”
The home was burglarized the first week the Fitzwaters were in it, but a neighbor copied the thief’s license number, and police recovered the stolen laptop. The Fitzwaters’ advice to anybody considering what they did: “If you are an empty-nester, you don’t have to worry about the schools, but it does affect your resale,” Carrie Fitzwater says. She says look for a “solid structure, talk to your neighbors, go to the coffee shop — Coffee Folk — and talk to your neighbors, get an inspection.” Drive the neighborhoods you’re interested in, day and night, and look for how active the streets are, they say. In the three years they’ve been in the neighborhood, “we’ve noticed change. More people are out jogging and walking.” Conlin says she’s noticed the same. “We’ve got five new babies on the street,” she says.
By: Kyle Whitecotton
By: Brian Kendall
By: Courtney Dabney
By: Courtney Dabney