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?
Building a barndominium: Finding a general contractorBuilding a barndominium: Finding a general contractorClaudia OrumOrum


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

​​​Once we knew what we wanted and where we wanted to build, we began searching for the "right" builder.

The internet was helpful with designs and configurations, but finding the right contractor was not so easy. I found that most of the established metal building contractors in our area specialize in commercial metal buildings, and many of the contractors who specialize in barndominiums (who I found listed on the internet) have specific regions where they build. None of the online barndominium contractors built in our county.

Our experience showed an important difference between a primarily commercial metal building contractor and a primarily​ barndominum contractor. The commercial builder has the experience to erect the most efficient foundation, metal frame, and structure. However, they may be unable to retain individual subcontractors for much of the interior, residential-type work—the “meat and potatoes” portion of a barndominium. Subcontractors like framers, flooring contractors, carpenters, cabinet builders, and other artisans who finish out a home are not used to the same extent for commercial building interiors. As barndominiums become more popular and commercial builders incorporate them into their scope of operation, I think this issue will resolve itself.​


In my quest for a general contractor, I contacted local metal companies and asked for a list of general contractors. Then I contacted some of the contractors to ask about their experience with building barndominiums. This method of researching was not successful for me.

My first choice of a contractor was a local commercial metal building company. I met with them, and we entered into a contract to build the barn portion of our barndominium, which is a separate structure from our home. The barn is a 24’ x 40’ insulated metal structure with a concrete floor. Unfortunately, by the time they completed the barn, they had a backlog of other jobs. They estimated that the soonest they could begin construction on the home portion would be eight months but most likely ten months. This was not acceptable for us, so I continued the search for a general contractor to build the home portion.

Word of mouth can mean a lot in a rural community. That's how we found the general contractor for the home part of our project. In the course of conversation, a friend gave us the name and phone number of a barndominium contractor he knew. We called the contractor, then met with him to discuss our plans. He gave us references, and we checked them out. I spoke with his banker. We looked at a completed barndominium and even one in progress before we made our final decision. By January 2016, four months after we made the decision to build a barndominium, we found the right contractor for us, and work began on our new home.

Area bankers are excellent sources for finding local contractors. You can also contact your local Capital Farm Credit representative or even your homeowners' insurance company.

TIP: If you leave a message or several messages and the contractor does not return your calls, or perhaps waits a week or two to call you back, keep looking. Chances are, if you try to contact him in a crisis, you won't get a call back at that time either. Look for honesty and professionalism.​

Next week: Ideas, designs, and the layout of your barndominium

Building a barndominium: How to finance it and where to buildBuilding a barndominium: How to finance it and where to buildClaudia OrumOrum


Editor's Note: This is part two of a series.

Financing a barndominium is different than financing a traditional home. Many banks do not consider barndominiums a dwelling so you will not get the same type of loans (length of loans or interest rates). Shop around for financing that is best for you. Ask lenders about their contractor payment process, or “draws.” Encourage draw inspections by your lender. In other words, the contractor should provide the lender an itemized list of expenses for each draw of funds he makes. The lender may send an inspector to the building location to confirm that the money draw was used appropriately.

If you plan to “pay as you go” and finance​ yourself, use caution and common sense. Verify material deliveries and work progress before you pay a draw. Ask for copies of invoices for materials and sub-contractors.

There are many other factors to consider before you start building. This may add costs to your project, but not considering them could cost you more in the long run or even delay your project once it starts.

  • Do you already own your property? If so, where on your property is the best location for your new home? Consider:
    • Property access from a public road. The type of public road may add value to your property, which will help your appraisal value for financing.
    • Land elevation and drainage.
    • Utilities. Does your property already have access to a power line? If not, where will you need the power company to set poles?
    • City sewer hookups or septic system? Since most barndominiums are in rural areas or outside of city limits, they have septic systems. Know your county’s regulations and guidelines for putting in a septic system. 
  • Site preparation
    • Do you need to clear trees or brush?
    • Do any existing buildings or structures need to be removed?
    • What type of soil stabilization will your foundation need?
    • Do you want to put in a driveway base on your property? Keep in mind that construction of a barndominium will mean heavy concrete​ and delivery trucks getting to the building site.
  • Water. Do you have access to city water, or do you need to drill a well?​
​Next week: Finding a general contractor
Building a barndominium: Our storyBuilding a barndominium: Our storyClaudia OrumOrum
Editor's Note: This is part one of a series.

In 1994, my husband and I purchased a new mobile home for our 27 acres in Burleson County, Texas, and enjoyed 20-plus years in it. By 2015, we began plans to renovate the mobile home and possibly add a room. Once I calculated the costs of the improvements I wanted to make, I knew that would not be a wise investment. With my husband already retired and my retirement approaching, I began looking at other options.

Owning two tracts of land, we decided to sell the smaller 27-acre tract and relocate to our 74-acre tract. Now, the next major decision: What do we want to live in?

We have owned conventional homes and mobile homes, but at our ages, we wanted something that did not require so much maintenance. Energy and insurance costs were also a major consideration. After a lot of research, which included talking to other homeowners, we decided to build a barndominium.

Barndominium Pro’s & Con’s:
  • PRO: With the metal frame and exterior, the walls are thicker, and so is the insulation, which means energy savings.
  • PRO: The metal frame structure also means savings on homeowners insurance.
  • PRO: The design can be simple or elaborate. You can make it what you want.
  • PRO: Building costs are more reasonable, and construction time is quicker.
  • PRO: Taxes are usually lower (that is still to be determined in our case).
  • PRO: Exterior is simple to clean.
  • CON: Builders who specialize in barndominium construction in your area may not be easy to find.
  • CON: Conventional financing is not as easy to obtain as with a conventional home.
  • CON: If you plan to “pay cash as you go” using contractor “draws,” make sure you have your attorney go over your contract to avoid any unforeseen issues that might arise.
There are several ways to go about building a barndominium. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can have the concrete foundation and metal building constructed quickly, then build the interior structure yourself, or sub-contract it out.

We talked to several people who were completing the inside of their barndominium themselves, and we talked to a few who were dealing with individual sub-contractors on their own, but most of these people were younger, and completion of their barndominium was on a “no rush” basis.  That choice was not for us. We wanted a contractor who would work with us and handle the sub-contractors, and we wanted to move in in a reasonable amount of time.​

Next week: How to finance and where to build

 Search Blog Posts