Tom Foster, a Texas Monthly writer, wrote an article on Allie Beth Allman and her large presence in the Dallas real estate market. She is a deserving subject as she is the last of the residential real estate titans of a generation. Ebby Halliday is gone, Charles Freeman is gone, Virginia Cook is retired, and Ellen Terry is semi-retired. These are all real estate brokers who have headed up large real estate firms and made a huge impact on Dallas real estate. Allie Beth Allman has outlasted all of them and is still going strong. Tom Foster also offered his opinions on Dallas residential real estate.
This provides an opportunity to add extra detail to his story on Dallas real estate and fill in gaps in the story. This is also a good opportunity to further illuminate my approach to real estate, which is markedly different than the publicly owned firms he primarily profiled. However, first I would like to thank Tom Foster for the accurate quotes in the Texas Monthly article that he attributed to me.
Douglas Newby Quoted in Texas Monthly Article by Tom Foster
Dallas is the most open city in the country.Douglas Newby
These quotes included:
It’s not that Dallas society is a stuffy club that shuns outsiders, Douglas Newby believes, but rather that people here sniff out and reject coastal elitism. “I can’t emphasize enough that Dallas is not an old-school, uncrackable, inbred environment,” Newby says. “This is the most open city in the country. You have third- and fourth-generation important families, and you also have new wealth, and you have people moving here. They might enjoy going to New York for the museums and culture, and they might have a vacation home in Santa Barbara or Malibu. But nobody that is seeking out Dallas lives in awe of L.A. They are not impressed.”Douglas Newby
“I have seen other companies and people come to Dallas from California or New York thinking they would wow everyone because they were big in L.A. and end up pretty much ignored. People think, ‘What’s so big about an L.A. agent? Everyone is leaving L.A. anyway. If they can’t keep their clients there, what are they contributing here?’”Douglas Newby
Tom Foster Invited Me to Discuss Dallas Real Estate
When we met for lunch at Cafe Pacific, Tom Foster explained he was wanting to write a story about Highland Park real estate agents and their back-stabbing, sniping and underhanded behavior as they fight for clients and deals. Tom Foster said that he hoped the article could be the basis of a streaming series with a plot line about high-end real estate agents in the luxury market. I suggested he would have a hard time finding real estate agents in Dallas to speak negatively about each other, because we all work together and our success as Realtors is based on cooperation. I am so proud of our real estate community that Tom Foster could not find any Dallas real estate agent that would say anything bad about another Realtor. As a result, he shifted his story to profile Allie Beth and her company. However, to further glamorize Allie Beth, Tom Foster used the technique of diminishing or disparaging other Realtors or real estate firms.
Ironically, he also took my conversational comment mentioning Allie Beth had a daughter who had worked in the White House and characterized that comment as a snipe in his Texas Monthly article.
Tom Foster Channeling His Personal Inner Realtor
Tom Foster reported in the Texas Monthly article that Allie Beth made a point of saying that she did not have the current listing for the Crespi-Hicks Estate because the owner was really good friends with the current listing agent they chose. Would Tom Foster consider this a round of Realtor sniping? Or was this Tom Foster channeling his inner personal version of a Realtor?
Was Tom Foster suggesting that the seller chose an agent only out of friendship, not that the agent was a very good agent and the seller thought that this agent could best represent them?
Also, I might have mentioned conversationally to Tom Foster that another Dallas Realtor had also represented George and Laura Bush. When I was Chair of the Realtor Breakfast Caucus, I introduced George Bush when he spoke to 500 Realtors just days before he announced his candidacy for President. From the lectern, then Governor George Bush profusely praised another very good Realtor, with Ebby, who was also his Preston Hollow neighbor, for the great job that Realtor did selling his Preston Hollow home. I have always recognized and appreciated the different ways Realtors know their clients.
Tom Foster Makes Reference to Competition Among Dallas Real Estate Gossip Bloggers
Tom Foster writes, “Regardless of who broke the news [of President Bush’s new home when he left the White House], the point is that somewhere along the way Dallas real estate became the kind of industry that inspires heated competition among gossip bloggers.”
I don’t know of any gossip blogger competition in Dallas. Candy’s Dirt by Candy Evans is the only Dallas real estate gossip blog that I know of. I think maybe Tom Foster in his Texas Monthly article is suggesting that I am a gossip blogger. If Tom Foster reads my blog, he will realize that the topics I write about are: Dallas history; the city of Dallas; Preservation; Organic Urbanism; Dallas neighborhoods, Dallas Architects and Architecture; reasons why STRs and ADUs are bad for Dallas; and specific real estate as it impacts Dallas. Unless a home is being preserved or torn down, there is seldom any mention of a home that is listed or sold.
Who Broke the Story of Where President and Mrs. Bush Were Moving When They Left the White House?
President and Mrs. Bush came up at lunch when Tom Foster mentioned that he was meeting with blogger Candy Evans of Candy’s Dirt that afternoon. With a smile, I suggested he might ask her if seeing my blog article on the house that I thought would be good for President and Mrs. Bush, that I posted the morning of the day she broke the story, might have prompted her to break the story that afternoon of where President Bush was moving. I don’t know if Tom Foster asked her, but he does detail how she said she was looking for stories of people that had seen black Secret Service limousines in front of houses and that led her to the President’s new house.
I explained to Tom Foster that for a couple of years almost anyone I ran into would ask if I knew where President Bush was moving to in Dallas. When I said, “No,” they would invariably say, “I can’t believe as a Realtor you don’t know.” They would claim to have inside information that he was moving to this or that neighborhood and they knew because they had inside information. At that time, I did not think President Bush had found or bought a home, so I never participated in the gossip. Also, I have never claimed to break the story of where the President bought a home. However, I did want to be on record for knowing where they were moving for all the jabs I took for being the only Realtor that did not know where the President was moving. I took a picture of his current home and photoshopped out a telltale large art object from the front yard, along with the street number on the house, so not to make it too obvious. I then wrote about why I thought this is the home that President and Mrs. Bush would enjoy living in.
Writing and developing the article took some time, and when my web developer was ready to post it, it was right before the Thanksgiving holiday. I recall asking my web developer to hold off posting the article until after the holiday so the Bush family would not be disturbed during Thanksgiving if someone happened to read the article and break the story. Sure enough, the afternoon of the day I posted the article, Candy Evans and other news outlets were officially breaking, confirming, and announcing the story. I never broke the story, I just left breadcrumbs to the story.
Tom Foster Never Asked Me How I Knew This was the Home the Bushes had Purchased
Actually, I was fairly certain for almost three months before I wrote the article that this was the home the President and Mrs. Bush had purchased. It was a home I was very familiar with. The sellers of this home had asked me to list the home and we had a preliminary agreement for me to do so. I even had the house appraised to make sure that our impression of the home’s value was in the same range as that of the real estate community. The sellers sent back to me a signed Listing Agreement with our agreed upon price, but someone in their family office added or modified a clause that made me uncomfortable, so I decided not to list the property. Some weeks later, the appraiser I had hired asked me for permission to appraise the house for new clients. Ethically, the appraiser could not appraise it for a new buyer or client without my permission. Also, since he had already done the work on the appraisal, he would basically be able to re-draw the same appraisal for new clients. As a courtesy, I gave him permission. I suspected the buyer might be the President since the home did fit the profile of a home I thought the President and Mrs. Bush were looking for. By the same appraisal being used, it would also let me know approximately what the President or another buyer would be paying for the home. Through other business sources who shared bits of information with me, I was able to piece together and further confirmed this was the home the President had purchased. In DCAD, the deed transfer date was specified as well as the name of an out-of-town buyer who is a friend of the President. For two or three months, I did not mention this purchase to anyone. But at some point, I thought I would subtly suggest this would be the President’s new home since I had declined to speculate previously. Because I am so confidential with what I know and what I learn, people are more apt to share information with me that I can use for the benefit of my clients. Gossip just as social currency is not my thing. Information that can benefit my clients is something I treasure.
Oh, and one last interesting thing about the President’s new residential compound. I had told my prospective clients that owned then what is now the President’s house, that they should buy the one-acre property next to them, as the combined property would make their home and the lot next door individually much more valuable. It turns out that the President and Mrs. Bush and the Secret Service did in effect bundle these two properties.
Tom Foster Asked Me Not a Single Question About the Crespi-Hicks Estate
In the Texas Monthly article Tom Foster emphasized the Crespi-Hicks Estate as the ultimate example of the luxury real estate market. However, in our long conversation, he did not ask me a single question about the Crespi Estate or the Crespi-Hicks Estate. Any quotes or statements from me about the Crespi Estate in the article are from secondary sources, as I had no discussion with Tom Foster regarding the Crespi-Hicks Estate. However, I agree that the Crespi Estate does best define the Dallas ultra luxury real estate market in Dallas. The Crespi Estate also
best defines the difference between my focused and bespoke approach and the approach of Allie Beth Allman and her large publicly owned firm as profiled in the article by Tom Foster.
Since I am mentioned in the article regarding the Crespi-Hicks Estate, this seems like a good opportunity to review my involvement with selling the Crespi Estate and then representing Tom and Cinda Hicks in marketing the Crespi-Hicks Estate.
Douglas Newby Listed and Sold the Crespi Estate
Most people in Dallas were not even aware of the Crespi Estate before I listed and sold it. No one in Dallas was aware of the architect that designed the Crespi Estate before I listed it. Robert Wigley, who listed the Crespi Estate with me, was the son of Florence Crespi. Robert Wigley was a brilliant man and quite a gentleman. He was Princeton educated and served as Vice Chair of E.F. Hutton at the height of the firm’s national prominence. He also served on many boards and managed the assets of prominent families in Dallas. I worked on a strategy with him that included several components.
The Strategy for the Sale of the Crespi Estate
The strategy for selling the Crespi Estate included five main points.
1) Preserve the original home.
2) Keep the 21-acre estate property in one piece. (For the few that were aware of the property, it had always been assumed the house would be torn down and the land subdivided into one-acre lots.)
3) Coordinate a sale so that a closing would not take place while Florence Crespi (96 years old) was still living in the home. Robert Wigley had promised his mother that she could live in the home the remainder of her life. She had full-time staff attending her at all times.
4) The home would not be publicly discussed, and those I approached about buying the home would be bound by confidentiality.
5) Obtain a sales price higher than the value appraisers would customarily place on the property.
The Sale of the Crespi Estate Was Successful on All Counts
The first person I contacted when I had the property listed was Realtor Nelda Cain, who I was aware knew and was friends with Cinda and Tom Hicks. Nelda agreed with me that the Crespi Estate would be a perfect home for Cinda and Tom. She arranged for the two of us to meet Cinda at her Beverly Drive home and tell her about this property.
Cinda was unaware of the existence of the Crespi Estate; however, she was immediately enthralled. Cinda has exquisite taste and a strong background in design and architecture. Tom and Cinda signed a Buyer’s Representation Agreement with Nelda on this specific property. Nelda and I then proceeded to show Tom and Cinda the Crespi Estate. While the home was not yet ready to purchase, Tom and Cinda both loved it. Subsequently, they visited the property along with late architect Bill Booziotis and the late Rick Brettell, former DMA Director, who had a strong background in architecture, and Nelda’s sister Nancy Marcus who already owned a magnificent historic and architecturally significant home in Volk Estates. They all enthusiastically endorsed the home. The Hicks were ideal buyers because they had resources and genuine aesthetic interest in the home. There were a handful of other billionaires or near billionaires who I also presented the property to in private meetings. This was done with a large portfolio of photographs, survey, site plans, floorplans, and written information.
The Uncertainty of Possession Was a Major Hurdle to the Sale
Because of an uncertain time of possession, Robert Wigley and I developed a nuanced plan with layered closings that eventually put a cap on the period of time to wait for possession. Near the end of the process, Nelda Cain was spending a great deal of time in Nashville cutting a wonderful album Raising Cain. As a result, while Allie Beth never did see the Crespi Estate before closing, she helped at the end and was compensated by Nelda Cain from her buyer’s agent commission. The public was not aware of this sale that had transpired over the last 18 months until I announced it at the last party of the original Crespi Estate. This event was to announce the Dallas 50 Significant Homes celebrating the Dallas AIA Chapter’s 50th Anniversary.
Tom and Cinda Hicks Asked Me to List the Crespi-Hicks Estate
When Tom and Cinda Hicks decided to sell the home, they called me and asked me to represent them. Tom and Cinda had many of the same goals in mind that Robert Wigley had when he asked me to sell the Crespi Estate. Tom and Cinda and I developed a strategy that had many successes. Even before there was public notification that the property was for sale, we received a substantial offer that would have preserved the home and kept the property in one piece.
When the home was put on the market, friends and neighbors and those who owned important homes were personally notified the home was going on the market without mentioning a price. Word that the house was for sale rippled through the local, national and international markets because of the architectural significance of the home. A Dallas home never before or since has been featured in as many magazines, in as many international newspapers, media outlets, or more internet articles than the Crespi-Hicks Estate. I was most pleased that the coverage was almost exclusively on the aesthetics and architecture of the home and value of the land, and not on amenities or the brand of the stove or how many garage bays the house had.
Hicks Internal Financial and Real Estate Advisors Pushed to Subdivide the Land
Internally, real estate and financial advisors within the Hicks’ business organization claimed they could sell the property for more money than what the Hicks had been offered if they sold the land to individual builders. I did not think we would receive a price as high as what had been turned down and this was not the right approach. In addition, I also discovered a discrepancy in the total square footage DCAD showed for all the buildings. I urged that the proper square footage be determined so that those figures could be used in our marketing material. The Hicks internal advisors did not support this request and wanted to continue to use the higher DCAD square footage. With these differences in opinion, we ended my representation as the Listing Agent for the property.
Financial and Real Estate Advisors Failed to Sell the Land to Different Builders
After two or three months of the real estate and financial advisors not having their anticipated success of selling the property to individual builders, the Crespi-Hicks Estate was then listed with Allie Beth. Allie Beth then rebranded the Crespi-Hicks Estate as Walnut Place in the marketing video and other listing materials. This rebranding decision was made despite Walnut Place being known as a modest senior living facility close to the Crespi-Hicks Estate. Also, the senior living facility came up first in Walnut Place Google searches. Allie Beth then entered Walnut Place into MLS. Buyers known for purchasing properties at low prices were targeted. After approximately another year on the market, Walnut Place (formerly Crespi-Hicks Estate) sold. The sold price for the property was rumored to be much lower than the offers the Hicks had previously received when I had the property listed, but we don’t know because the property was pulled out of MLS three weeks before it closed.
Crespi-Hicks Estate was Canceled in MLS Before the Closing
Tom Foster apparently never asked Allie Beth the sold price of the Crespi-Hicks Estate or why it was canceled in MLS. The records show the Crespi-Hicks Estate was entered into MLS and the listing was pulled out of MLS before it closed. This eliminated a public record of the sales price. As a result, Realtors do not know if the property sold close to the listing price or sold at liquidation price, pennies on the dollar. We do know the listing was canceled in MLS after it was common knowledge there was a contract on it and even many people knew Andy Beal was the buyer.
“Some Agents List Properties in MLS and Then Pull Them Before Closing So There is No Record of What the Buyer Pays”
Tom Foster quotes Candy Evans as saying, “Some agents list properties in MLS and then pull them before closing so there is no record of what the buyer pays.” Tom Foster recounts in his Texas Monthly article how Candy Evans says some agents with $20 million to $30 million homes list the property in MLS and then pull their listing just before it sells so that there is no record of what the buyer paid. Tom Foster reports, “This practice violates industry rules, and Allie Beth says she’s never done it.” However, Tom Foster apparently did not ask her why the Crespi-Hicks Estate was entered in MLS and then pulled out of MLS before the sale was recorded three weeks later. When a property is canceled in MLS right before the sale, this prevents other Realtors to know the sold price, and it also hides the information of what other real estate agents or firms were involved in the transaction. This is not to suggest that Allie Beth violated industry rules. There is a work-around approach to how this is done by Realtors which Candy Evans alludes to. It might not honor the spirit of the industry rules but does not technically violate any rules. I am confident Allie Beth is correct when she says she has not violated industry rules when she has canceled properties she has had listed in MLS. Tom Foster made a point that Allie Beth was responsible for all four sales of the Crespi-Hicks Estate. While Texas is a sales price nondisclosure state, the next sale did have a reported sales price. This next sale Allie Beth was involved in went through an auction house and it was reported by many sources, including Candy’s Dirt, that the Crespi Estate home and 25 acres sold for only 36.2 million dollars. Neither of these subsequent sales were near as high as offers that were made on the Crespi-Hicks Estate when I had it listed.
A Succession of Crespi-Hicks Estate Buyers Have Continued to Eradicate the Architectural Magic of the Home and the Majesty of the Site
When I am representing the owner of an architecturally significant home, I always try to obtain the best price but also continue the architectural tradition of the home in a way that benefits the neighborhood, the city, and the historic legacy of the home. In the last three Crespi Estate sales that Tom Foster references, the mission to best preserve the architecture and the presence of the Crespi Estate has been abandoned. The first buyer immediately eliminated two allées of 80-year-old Mississippi magnolias framing the formal entrance and motor court. Interior architectural detail that had captured the world’s attention was eradicated. The second buyer eliminated the original formal private drive that swept across the property and over a hill allowing the Crespi Estate to appear in all its grandeur. Many referenced the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, as sharing this sort of architectural reveal. The subsequent owners of the Crespi Estate property are building homes that don’t accentuate the estate nature of this home or land, but are on lots that are subdivided in a style of a suburban development. We are fortunate to still have remnants of the original Crespi Estate, but it is disappointing that the home’s refinement, sophistication and presence has been diminished.
Tom Foster Identifies the Crespi-Hicks Estate as the Real Estate Center of Luxury Market
Despite Tom Foster in his Texas Monthly article identifying the Crespi-Hicks Estate as the real estate center of the luxury market, he fails to name any other real estate agents or auction house involved in the past Crespi Estate sales. Tom Foster also does not mention the listing or sold prices on any of the sales. Tom Foster also did not mention the current listing agent or the current listing price of the Crespi-Hicks Estate home that is presently on the market.
Original Crespi-Hicks Marketing Campaign Brought the Property to the Attention of Every Subsequent Purchaser
In the Texas Monthly article, Tom Foster makes a point of stating that Tom Hicks needed Allie Beth Allman to sell the property. Tom Foster’s article is on Allie Beth, so it is certainly understandable that he wants to create the most favorable impression of his subject. It is commendable that she has been involved in a series of Crespi-Hicks Estate sales. By the same token, the original marketing campaign for the Crespi-Hicks Estate was both broad and deep. With the exception of possibly the current owners, every subsequent buyer of the Crespi-Hicks Estate after Tom and Cinda Hicks either looked at the property or their Realtor engaged in conversation about the property with me when I had it listed. Even the current listing agent is still quoting me or experts I arranged to discuss the property when I had it listed.
The Douglas Newby Crespi-Hicks Estate Video Has 14 Million More Views Than Total Views of Subsequent Crespi Videos
The initial unscripted marketing video I created for the Crespi-Hicks Estate was shot even before the household staff knew the home would be offered for sale in the future. This video has 14 million more YouTube views than the total YouTube views of subsequent Walnut Place or Crespi-Hicks Estate marketing videos produced for the next three listings of the Crespi Estate when it went back on the market. The videos I did on Mayflower Estates, the neighborhood where one finds the Crespi Estate, even have more views than the subsequent Realtors’ videos on the Crespi-Hicks Estate home itself.
Every Realtor and Real Estate Firm Involved in the Last Three Sales of the Crespi Estate Deserves Credit
On any home, priorities change, prices go up or down, and the approach to selling the property changes. All sales are successful sales. All the agents deserve great credit for these sales. However, the total outcomes of these sales were much different than the outcome of when I originally sold the Crespi Estate.
Compass Challenged Large Dallas Real Estate Firms
Tom Foster quotes Candy Evans, “Going digital was about finding buyers not just for $2 million properties, the base unit of Highland Park real estate, but for the rarer $30 million sales. You want to find near billionaires for that. You don’t do that by putting a story in the Dallas Morning News – you find someone like that who might not even live here yet through the kind of digital marketing Compass was promising.”
Because of the Promise of Increased Digital and Internet Presence, Large Dallas Real Estate Firms Lost Agents to Compass
In the Texas Monthly story, Tom Foster described how hard it was for big Dallas real estate firms like Allie Beth Allman who were losing a significant percentage of agents to Compass. I agree with Evans that Compass woke everyone up to the importance of the internet and digital marketing.
Real Estate Broker Douglas Newby Still Has the Highest Internet Presence for Specific Markets Like Highland Park
If one were to search for Highland Park, Old Highland Park, Highland Park neighborhoods, Architecturally Significant Homes, Dallas Modern Homes, Architect-Designed Homes, and other relevant search terms, the website of Douglas Newby either comes up first or at least higher than any other real estate firm including Compass, Allie Beth Allman, or other large publicly owned real estate firms associated with Highland Park.
It’s Not the Number of Agents in a Firm, It’s the Internet Presence of the Firm that Benefits Clients
From the beginning of the internet, I recognized that it was not the number of agents in a firm that gave exposure to a home being marketed. Where a Realtor’s website came up in search results, is what gave the client’s home the greatest exposure and advantage. Even with the huge resources that Tom Foster mentioned of Compass or Sotheby’s or Berkshire Hathaway, the website of Douglas Newby and Architecturally Significant Homes comes up higher on search results for key terms searched for by Highland Park buyers and buyers of architect-designed homes and architecturally significant homes than any other real estate firm.
Tom Foster Reported that the Highland Park Real Estate Brokers Never Worked Harder Than When Competing with Compass
Tom Foster reported in his Texas Monthly article, that Allie Beth and other brokers of large Dallas real estate firms for two years never worked harder in their lives than when Compass was competing with them for their agents. One of the main differences of my privately owned real estate firm and large real estate firms is that I have never been distracted by recruiting or retaining real estate agents. I have always chosen to concentrate my focus on my clients rather than focus on creating a large real estate brokerage. The profits from my business are reinvested in ways to benefit my clients and Dallas. Large real estate firms are an important segment of the real estate market and have done spectacularly well in Dallas. Collectively, they are responsible for a multitude of more sales than me. However, I always welcome a head-to-head comparison of my marketing results or financial outcomes of the same or similar properties with agents of any of the large firms.
Tom Foster Quoted Very Few Real Estate Agents for His Article in Texas Monthly
Since very few Realtors were quoted in the real estate article by Tom Foster in Texas Monthly, I would like to speak for the Dallas Realtor community. I think Dallas Realtors are the best trained and the most competent and conscientious Realtors in the country. This is the result of the overall civility and generosity of Dallas. It also comes from the superior architecture and quality of homes that Dallas Realtors get to work with and experience. With 15,000 Realtors in the Dallas area, there is always going to be keen competition. And I will always be grateful for the wonderful friendships and joy of successfully cooperating with other Realtors who complete a transaction that generates happiness for both the buyer and seller.