September 15-16: A Weekend on Lake Travis in Austin, TX
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Diary Notes: Fall, 1984
 
December 8, 1984
An Inspection Tour of
the Dallas Condo

 

I don't know when I first started thinking about moving from Chicago to Dallas. All I can say with assurance is that I was getting more and more tired of the Chicago Winters and the crowds all year long. High-rise living was OK, and had its attractions for a person who traveled frequently, but after visiting Dallas quite a few times in the last year or two, I had grown more and more accepting of a move to a place with much more sunshine and much less rain and snow than Chicago.

 

A Move to Dallas?

I talked about this with Grant, because if he didn't want to or couldn't move with me, I would not have left Chicago. I found that he was very receptive to the idea, except for the fact that he would have to find a new job and he was worried that his lack of a degree would make that difficult. I told him that he shouldn't worry about that- at least for a while. Of course he would have to find a job at some point, I could afford to support us both for a time should we decide to move. We also knew that, if we did move, wherever we moved would need to be decorated and everything set up, and it would be hard to do that if we were both working.

Aside from the time necessary to decorate and set up a new house or condo, there was the question of the skills necessary to accomplish the task. I am woefully lacking in those skills; my idea of decorating it to shove everything up against walls and arrange furniture so you can use it without tripping over it. Grant, on the other hand, was an accomplished decorator- not in the frou-frou sense but in the more practical sense of knowing what goes with what, and what compliments what. He had an eye for nice things, but not overly nice things.

But we talked about the possibility quite a bit, and together decided that we wouldn't think about actually moving until we had a place in mind for us to move to, and for that we needed to head down to Dallas to have a look around.

 

Househunting in Dallas

During Thanksgiving week, we took a trip down to Dallas, where George lived and where I would want to live if I moved to Texas. The reasons for living in Dallas were many and varied. First, that's where the Williamsburg house is that Greg and I own together. I didn't ever consider moving into that house, though; it was just an investment for me. And besides, Greg already lived there. Dallas was also the location of two of the three real estate investments that George and I were doing together (the third was the dock slips in Austin, but we weren't actually partners in those). Finally, Dallas had become a transportation nexus since the opening of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in the mid-1970s. There were maybe slightly fewer direct flights to cities around the country than from O'Hare, but the Dallas airport was more modern, less congested and (big factor here) much less susceptible to delays and cancellations- especially in the winter.


When we arrived in town, George and his partner put us up at his house in Preston Hollow- a very nice area but with houses too large for our needs or our budget. But George knew that we would be able to find affordable yet large places closer in to town where there would be more things to do than in your typical suburban area.

I didn't know much about Dallas, having only been here a few times on business. I did do some driving around town once looking for Baskin-Robbins stores, but a lot of that was at night and I didn't remember my way around very well. I was, however, at least passingly familiar with the area where the Williamsburg House was and where George lived, the Crossroads (where most of the gay bars were), Central Expressway and the Dallas North Tollway. So I knew my way around the area bounded by Walnut Hill Lane on the north, Central Expressway on the east, Lemmon Avenue and Cedar Springs Road on the south, and Love Field (which was Dallas's airport before DFW Airport opened halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth).

We talked a lot about areas where we might find nice but affordable places. George suggested that we not look north of Northwest Highway, as this would all be suburban, single family homes, and perhaps a bit far from the things Grant and I might like to do on weekends.


George suggested that we look in the area just south of Highland Park (Dallas's wealthiest zipcode and a town in its own right), but north of Lemmon Avenue. The area south of Lemmon, while poised for gentrification, was still too sketchy, he thought, for us to feel comfortable. It was also more commercial than we would probably like.

I did ask George about highrise living, as I was used to that in Chicago, but he correctly pointed out that Dallas is not nearly so dense a city as Chicago, and that highrises weren't very popular around here, since land for townhomes and single-family homes was still so plentiful, even fairly close-in. There were highrises, he said, but these were in the "luxury" class, and were, by and large, nestled along Turtle Creek Boulevard which, he thought, would be too pricey.

Being a Realtor, George knew what he was talking about, and Grant and I took his advice. We got in his car on our second day here and went off to look at some listings in the initial search area.

I was pretty impressed with the area that George had picked. It reminded me of the area a few blocks west of the highrises that line Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. There was a mixture of single-family homes, duplexes and some relatively new townhome developments. I didn't know much about townhouses, and George had to explain.

In the condominium form of ownership, the individual unit owners own the "rights" to their portion of a common structure, but they do not actually own pieces of it. The Condominium Association actually owns the building(s) and any other common areas- like swimming pools, garages, and so on. Every resident is a member of the Association, and the Association sets the rules and guidelines for the entire complex.


Owning a townhome is a bit different. First of all, at least in Dallas, the Townhome model is limited to homes designed so that individual owners do not live on top of each other, but rather side-by-side. For this reason, townhouses are usually only two stories (sometimes three), and an individual owner actually owns not only his multi-story unit, but a portion of the land on which it sits. Since townhomes usually have common walls, the exact middle of such a wall is the dividing line between one unit and the next.

Another difference is than in a condominium, one's address is typically something like "1200 Douglas Avenue, Unit YYY", where "YYY" indicates the floor and unit number. Since townhome owners own the land under their units, each unit will have its own street address, so you might have "1300 Douglas Avenue" right next to "1304 Douglas Avenue" and so on, even when the units share one or more common walls.

One of the first places George took us to was (at the time) called "The Townhouses on Douglas", and it was on the east side of Douglas Avenue just south of Prescott avenue. When we'd walked through the unit (which was new and never lived in), we liked it- particularly for the atrium in the center that brought lots of light inside. We decided to purchase it.

George helped me deal with the Realtor, and I put a deposit on it so that a contract could be drawn up. The townhouse was a new one, so George said that if for any reason I wanted to change my mind, I could do so up until the time the sale contract was signed. Grant had to go back to Chicago, but I stayed on a couple of days.

One day, George and I were driving up Inwood Road, near where he lives, and we passed another group of townhouses. There was a "For Sale" sign out front and on an impulse I asked George if he would call the Realtor and see if we could see what they looked like. I am always worried about major purchases, and want to make the best decisions I can, and so I thought it would be good to have looked at as wide a selection as possible.

When we called the Realtor, she said that we might be able to get into the townhome that day. She checked with the owners who apparently agreed to show the unit that same afternoon. The first minute I walked into the townhouse, I knew that it was ideal. It had plenty of room for everything Grant and I owned, it was bright and well-decorated, with many touches that the other townhouse (which seemed cramped by comparison) didn't have. To my surprise, the price was lower. I made a decision on the spot, and wrote a check for a deposit. The next day I canceled the other purchase, and George began the paperwork necessary to close on the Inwood Road townhouse. That was a big help, because I had to get back to Chicago.

 

Grant and I Tour the Inwood Road Townhouse

I told the Realtor that the only contingency on the contract would be an inspection by a friend of mine in Chicago, and we came down the very next weekend to go through the townhouse. Grant was as impressed as I was, and enthusiastically endorsed the purchase. We agreed on the price and closed the deal by mail a few days later.

I asked George to take some pictures as Grant and I toured the Inwood Road townhouse, and he did a pretty good job with most of them. The pictures he took are OK so far as they go; they will certainly give you a good idea of what the townhouse was like. But since I am doing this album page in 2017 and since (spoiler alert!!) I am still in the same townhouse, I thought it might be interesting to pair each of the pictures we took in 1984 with the corresponding view from January, 2017. I tried to duplicate the angle and scope of each shot. I will put the two pictures side-by-side in a slide show.

This slide show will work like the others in this photo album. You can move forward and backward in the show by using the little arrows in the lower corners of each slide. You can track your progress through the show with the numbers in the upper left corner of each slide. Enjoy!

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One of the nice things about this unit (the largest of three different sizes here) was its location at the back end of one building. There was only one common wall with another unit, and this unit had the advantage of all the light from its windows along the back side. All the rooms had plenty of windows. Most of them looked west, over or beyond the greenery-covered wood fence that surrounds the three buildings, to a neighborhood of single-family homes. Looking out west windows looks across the tree-covered backyards of the homes on the next street. From this unit you neither see nor hear the traffic on Inwood, and ever window (except the bay window in front) looks out on trees.

We didn't photograph the two-car garage; this would be the first time I would even have one. I really liked the family room above the garage with its cathedral ceiling. Should we ever need it, a family member could live there and be very much out of the way. (As it turned out, none ever did, and when big screen TVs became commonplace, it became an entertainment/media room.)

Well, once we finished the tour, we went over to George's house to talk about it, although the decision to buy it was never in doubt halfway through our tour. Grant expressed that he could do wonders with it by changing some of the decorating, and we figured that all the furniture that we owned between us would fit nicely into the townhouse. After talking it over for just an hour or so, we called and made an offer over the telephone. We reached an agreement the next day, and we went back to Chicago the new owners (if the mortgage goes through, which I have no doubt that it will) of a four-bedroom, four-bath home in Dallas, Texas. From that point on, our plans to move to Dallas went into high gear, since we planned to close on the house in mid-December, and move down right after Christmas, in January, 1985.

 

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September 15-16: A Weekend on Lake Travis in Austin, TX
Return to the Index for 1984