Two cars in every garage, six chickens in every yard?Two cars in every garage, six chickens in every yard?Bryan PopePope
Last week, the State S​enate unanimously passed SB 1620​, which would allow residents in a subdivision to keep as many as six chickens in their backyards.

More than likely, you already knew about this. I first learned about it this weekend on my neighborhood's "friendly" Facebook page. Folks there were squawking with excitement over the prospect of having a daily supply of fresh eggs.​

Naturally, the bill led to more than a few puns from legislators. Lauren McGaughy with the Dallas Morning News​ captured a few of the best (worst?).

​​​"I truly feel this is an egg-ceptional piece of legislation," said Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood. "How did you hatch this idea? I would like to peck at it a little bit. Did you egg-nore any stakeholder?"

"This applies to a half a dozen chickens," said Sen. Royce West of Dallas. "Is that with or without fries?"

The Houston Chronicle, for its part, posted video of Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston going all Foghorn Leghorn​ during a discussion about the bill.

The bill, which can be viewed here​, does include a few restrictions, of course. In addition to limiting the number of chickens a resident can keep, it calls for a prohibition on breeding poultry and keeping roosters. It also calls for a minimum distance between a chicken coop and a residential structure.

Of course, as of this writing the bill is still with the House, so let's not go counting . . . well, you know the rest.
Clover there! Clover there!Clover there! Clover there!Bryan PopePope
The early onset of spring was brought to my attention this year not by the fields of bluebonnets and ​Indian paintbrush, nor by the unseasonably warm temperatures that settled in by mid-February.

No, this year it was thanks to my buddy's tirade against clover, which for several weeks now has been assaulting his yard. Over the years, this fight has escalated into all-out war involving vigorous and regular applications of weed-and-feed that has damaged his grass.

Ever the pacifist, I attempted to point out some of clover's more positive attributes. For example, from an aesthetic standpoint, there's​ its lovely, dark green color and velvety feel (take off your shoes and revel in its coolness). From an environmental standpoint, it's great for bees (on second thought, better leave your shoes on). And surely you've tasted delicous clover honey.

My friend wasn't buying it.

Okay, then let's be practical about it. It's good ground cover that's easy to maintain.

Nope, still not buying it.

Fine. Then, as in any war, the b​est way to defeat one's enemy is to understand one's enemy.

​​​​To that end, an article​ on Todayshomeowner.com digs into the science behind what makes clover flourish and what you can do about it. Here's what they said:
  • Poor soil. Do a soil test to determine levels of nitrogen and other nutrients (editor's note: click here to find out how ​Texas A&M AgriLife Extension can help). Improve your soil quality by aerating and top-dressing with good-quality compost mix. You may need to repeat this for a few years until the soil is in better shape. Be sure to test different areas of soil, since the clover patch may be different from the rest of the yard.
  • Low nutrients. Feed your lawn with an organic slow-release fertilizer that will improve your soil as it breaks down. Chemical fertilizers quickly leach away and eventually make the problem worse.
  • Over irrigation. Water leaches nitrogen away, so heavy rains, overwatering, and overlapping sprinkler patterns can create inviting spots for clover.
  • Cool temperatures. If spring weather has been cool, soil microbes might not be active enough to mo​ve available nitrogen into your lawn grass, giving clover a head start in the growing season.​​​​​
If, like my friend, you feel that ​chemical warfare is your only path to victory, here's what the Texas Agrilife Extension Service says:

"The best thing to get rid of clover in St. Augustine is a 'clover killer' such as Ortho Weed and Clover Killer or any contact herbicide, which has label instructions for use on St. Augustine grass. If label instructions are followed, the herbicide cannot and will not kill the turf.

"Remember that clover is a reseeding winter annual and will not and cannot reseed and compete in a healthy, thick turf. Granted, if clover is allowed to grow and cover a turf area it can shade-out the desired grass. Clover can also damage and delay bermuda grass green-up in the spring if allowed to cover.

"If you are worried about herbicide damage to the area, regular mowing will remove the clover and avoid the damaging competition. Mow often enough to avoid clover seed formation, especially in the spring.​​​​"
Feeling crabby? A bigger home may helpFeeling crabby? A bigger home may helpDavid JonesJones, D.


In the animal kingdom, humans are not the only species with the urge to find a bigger home. One of my favorite videos is the BBC production "Amazing Crabs Shell Exchange." It's had more than 1.5 million views.

Part of the video's attraction is its relevance to real estate. That is, the smallest household (a little hermit crab) has outgrown its current abode and needs something larger. Unfortunately, there's nothing on the market (a beachfront lot). So, the little crab waits for something to come along.

Meanwhile, larger crabs are also feeling the housing pinch (pun intended). When a new shell washes ashore, it sets off a scene reminiscent of California's housing boom that produced wild scrambles for a listing. H​ermit crabs line up from largest to smallest awaiting the big homeowner to make its move.

When at last the biggest crab on the block moves into a new home, the vacated shell is quickly claimed by the next largest hermit crab. That one is then claimed by the next in line, and so on until everyone has new digs.

As sometimes happens in real estate with multiple bidders, not everyone lives happily ever after. In the BBC video, the original little hermit crab is shoved aside at the last minute by a neighborhood tough bully who grabs the shell just as the little crab is about to move in.

At this point, the small crab's original shell has already been "sold" to another household, and the smallest crab faces homelessness and death in the hot, tropical sun. Eventually, however, it does find another shell, although it's far from a dream home. Despite a big hole in the shell, the small crab moves in.

That is how real estate works, even if you are crabby.

Stay tuned for part two from BBC video: "Shell Game: Home Repairs Even a Crab Can Do."​

Tracking Texas job growthTracking Texas job growthLuis TorresTorres
​​The Dallas Federal Reserve's latest ​Texas Employment Forecast suggests Texas employment will grow 2.7 percent this year (December/December), up from the previous forecast of 1.9 percent in January.

Based on the forecast, 331,600 jobs will be added this year, bringing the state's job total to 12.5 million by the end of December.

Job growth patterns over the three months ending in January showed signs that the energy and manufacturing sectors have begun a turnaround from the sharp declines of the past two years.

Other observations:
  • Strength in the U.S. economy continues to be a tailwind.
  • The largest drag comes from the increase in the Texas value of the dollar.
  • Texas employers added 51,300 jobs in January, the largest gain since February 2013 and by far the largest gain of any state.
  • Hiring came back strong at the start of the year as drilling picked up, causing falling oil-and-gas-related jobs to finally turn around in a major way.
  • Professional and business services recorded the largest private sector employment gain in January with 14,000 jobs added.
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities grew by 8,100 jobs.
  • Manufacturing expanded by 7,300 jobs.
  • Construction expanded by 5,300 jobs. Homebuilding has gotten off to a solid start this year as demand continues to be strong in the state.
  • Mining added 1,900 jobs. 
  • Private sector jobs increased by 45,900. Government jobs grew by 5,400.
  • The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.8 percent.
  • Dallas continues to be the strongest job market in the state. Hiring also rose solidly in Fort Worth as manufacturing bounced back.
  • Other job big winners are College Station, which added 3,400 jobs, and San Antonio, which added 3,300 jobs.
  • Austin employment growth decreased, adding only 1,000 jobs, while Houston lost 2,200 jobs in January.
  • Employment appears to be picking up in other energy-producing areas. Midland added 600 jobs in January, and Odessa added 300.
Living in a doghouse? You have companyLiving in a doghouse? You have companyDavid JonesJones, D.


Millions of animals live in America's homes. The 2017 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Animal House Remodeling Impact reports 61 percent of U.S. households have an animal or plan to get one in the future.

To animal lovers, pets are family. Ninety-nine percent of owners say they feel that their animal is part of the family. When looking for a new home, 95 percent of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allow animals; 81 percent of U.S. households say that animal-related considerations will play a role in deciding on their next living situation.

According to NAR, 61 percent of buyers who own animals say it's very difficult to find a rental property or a homeowner association that accommodates animals.

Animals also play a role in home remodeling. More than half (52 percent) of all animal owners who completed the survey undertook home renovations to accommodate their animal. The most popular projects included building a fenced yard (23 percent), adding a dog door (12 percent), and installing laminate flooring (10 percent). Ninety-four percent of animal owners were satisfied with their renovations.

Eight of every ten survey respondents felt a sense of accomplishment when they hired a professional to complete a renovation, and nine in ten when consumers completed a DIY project.

The survey also brought out some suggestions for selling a pet-friendly home. Sixty-seven percent of Realtors say that owning an animal has a moderate to major effect on selling a home. Two-thirds of Realtors always advise sellers to replace anything that has been damaged by an animal, cleaning a home to remove an animal scent, and to take an animal out of the home during showing.

NAR tabulated 3,298 responses to the survey. A "Joy Score" created a ranking between one and ten. High Joy Scores indicated greater joy from the project. The overall Joy Score for all animal renovation projects was 9.4.

Eighty-three percent of consumers own a dog; 43 percent a cat; 9 percent own a bird, reptile, amphibian, arthropod, small mammal, or miniature horse; 8 percent a fish; and 5 percent a farm animal. Twelve percent of consumers have moved to accommodate their animal, and 19 percent said they would consider moving in the future.​

Building a barndominium: Time to move in!Building a barndominium: Time to move in!Claudia OrumOrum
​​​Editor's note: This is the sixth and final entry in a series.

If you’re like me, after months of building and sub-contractors, you are chomping at the bit to get into your new barndominium. Well, hold on a little longer and take your time going through each room looking for “fix its.” Have a note pad and Post-It notes with you.​

As you enter each room, turn on the lights and look at the floor, walls, ceiling, and door facings. Has any of the paint peeled? Are there spots on the wall? Does the floor look dull in one spot but shiny everywhere else? If so, write it on your note pad and on a Post-It, then put the Post-It on the area needing repair.

Test all light switches and plugs, run water through all faucets, and watch for drips when you turn the faucets off. Check your windows and any other glass installed in your home for nicks, cracks or other damage. Open all cabinet doors and drawers. Look at your home's exterior as well. Now is the time to find problems.

Once you have gone through the house thoroughly, make one more trip for a final review. Consider doing this walk-through at a different time of day, as lighting will be different.

Now you're ready for a walk-through with your general contractor. He should arrange for all issues to be resolved before you make your final payment or draw to him.

What about all the leftover construction materials? We chose to save on the “make-ready” contractor’s fee by cleaning up the construction scraps ourselves each weekend during construction when the sub-contractors were off. However, most people will have a pile or two of construction scraps around the house.

​Another make-ready cost is having someone clean the house from top to bottom. Construction leaves the house full of dust, so all lighting and plumbing fixtures need cleaning. The insides of cabinets and drawers may require dusting. Windows will need to be cleaned. So will the floor. This is a good time to make sure your concrete floor is sealed adequately. If it's not, add another coat of sealant but only when your house is completely clean.

Now that all the issues have been resolved, you're ready to move in.

One final piece of advice I received from my CPA when I met with him to prepare my 2016 taxes: When you build your barndominium yourself or have a general contractor build it and you pay with draws out of pocket (or if you financed construction through a lender), keep copies of all your draw payments and backup documents. Also keep receipts for any home- or property-improvement items you purchase. These might include gravel or pavement for a driveway, additional loads of dirt for your yard, and fencing around your home if you want to keep the cows out of the yard. These things add value to your investment. If you someday decide to sell your property, these add-ons will likely make a difference when determining your return on investment. Here are some articles that​​ explain in greater detail:

The following companies have also been very useful to me throughout this project:

Building a barndominium: What about the details?Building a barndominium: What about the details?Claudia OrumOrum
​​​​​Editor's note: This is part five of a series.

​Barndominiums can be built in a variety of styles. Some, like this one, even resemble traditio​nal homes.

​During our initial visit with our general contractor, he asked me what my ultimate goal for our new barndominium was. I told him that I wanted it to be “my home, my retirement home, and my nursing home all in one." He was a little surprised by that answer, but then I elaborated.

My ideal home is a moderate-sized home—one that is comfortable, welcoming, well-built, and easy to maintain both inside and outside. I researched and worked on our home layout and design for several months before we selected our general contractor, so I had a good idea of the details I wanted.

With details, try to stay a step or two ahead of your contractor. It will make your building project go faster. Our contractor did a wonderful job guiding me in that direction. He knew the building stages, so he asked me for details in time to order the materials before the sub-contractor was ready for them.

Interior/exterior details
What are the important features you want in and around your new home? There are literally thousands of ideas to choose from and consider. Our first contractor's advice to me was to log onto Houzz.com​ and search for what​ever room or theme I wanted. Well, that almost created a “design monster,” but my budget quickly got that under control. Houzz.com provided modern and innovative ideas on everything from appliances to bathroom decorations and even wall color ideas.​

We chose a variegated stained concrete floor and sheetrock walls with regular nine-foot ceilings throughout our home. Neither my husband nor I thought ceiling height was very important, but I did some research and discovered that a nine-foot ceiling adds more value to the home than an eight-foot ceiling. Also, it can be maintained easily. The ten-foot and raised ceilings are lovely, but, in my opinion, they pose a little more difficulty in maintaining (changing light bulbs, cleaning spider webs, etc.). Not to mention they cost considerably more than nine-foot ceilings. Consider the look you want versus the cost of the building materials, heating/cooling costs, and ease of maintenance.​​

Windows/exterior doors
These were my first big detail items. Natural lighting is ​​​essential to me, so I wanted plenty of windows and doors with sidelights. A 36-inch patio door with ​sidelights and built-in mini-blinds was a must-have.

Lights/electrical plugs
Make the electrician your friend. During the framing process, meet with the electrician to go over how you want the electrical setup in your home. Take a copy of your floorplan and identify where you want your electric plugs, TV cable outlets, internet cables, etc. Let him know if you want LED lights (how many and where) in each room. Identify appliance locations. Do you want plugs on your bar or island? What about under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen? (I love mine!) And don't forget the outside electrical outlets.

Wall colors
I used Sherwin-Williams’ website for my interior colors and trim. It had helpful ideas. I particularly liked their color palette collections. I chose our room colors from their “Rustic Refined” collection. Choosing different room colors was a little more expensive than going with one or two colors, but I am very happy with it.​

Ceiling fans
I purchased most of our ceiling fans on sale at Home Depot. I wanted to add a western touch and create my own "wow" factor. I did this with Rustic Lighting and Fans.


Regardless of which appliances you select, make sure your framer has the correct dimensions of each.

Interior doors/cabinets
There are so many options to choose from. Don’t wait until the last minute to decide. I fell in love with Knotty Alder doors and cabinets, and I have them throughout the house (except in the mudroom).

Again, there are so many beautiful possibilities for your countertops and bath. I chose Typhoon Boudreaux granite for my kitchen and cultured marble for the bathrooms.

TIP: With health and safety in mind, I chose 36-inch interior doors and designed the master bath to be wheelchair friendly, just in case we ever need it. I also had 2”x4” or 2”x6” boards added to support handrails in the shower wall and bathtub area.

Next week: Time to move in!
Building a barndominium: Ideas, designs, and layoutBuilding a barndominium: Ideas, designs, and layoutClaudia OrumOrum

​​Editor's note: This is part four of a series.

You may want to purchase plans or hire an architect and interior designer to lay out your floorplan. However, you can also do it yourself. The beauty of a barndominium is in the eye of the homeowner. You can make your rural home as small and simple or as large and elegant as you want. It is up to you and your budget.

I drew the layout of our barndominium and barn and designed the interior using an online program called Space Designer 3D. This section will give you ideas to consider while working on your plans. 


The first choice we made was the exterior metal and colors of our building.

Discuss your options with your contractor, but read about the products and make your own decision based on what works best for you. Colors and metal coatings are important for several reasons. Consider:

  • Visual​ appeal — There are a number of colors you can choose for the roof, sides, and trim. Read about the advantages of the color coatings before you make your choices.
  • Fading and chalking resilience.
  • Corrosion resistance and longevity.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • 20-year versus 30-year warranty.
  • Stone/rock accents — Adding stone around the home can make it stand out, but it also adds to the cost.
  • Your budget — Go with what works for you.


Take the time to think about what you want, then sketch it out. 

  • Flooring — Stained concrete, tile, wood floors, carpet? The choice is yours.
  • What size and types of rooms do you need?
  • How high should the ceilings be — 8’? 9’? 10’?
  • How many bathrooms?
  • Do you need a utility room or mud​room?
  • Sizes of doorways and hallways?
  • Fireplace?
  • Do you want an upstairs? How would you use it?
  • Do you need a carport?
  • Do you want the barn attached or separate?
  • Kitchen size — small or large?
  • Do you want a front and back porch or a wrap-around porch?

Once you have your initial ideas, sketch them out on paper and prepare a blueprint or have a professional blueprint drawn up. The blueprint is the foundation of your home on paper. It determines how your contractors build your home. A well-thought-out and structurally sound home will add value to your investment.​

Next week: What about the details?

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