Happy Trails, JudonHappy Trails, JudonDavid S. JonesJones, D.
2016-09-19T05:00:00ZCenter News

​​The most prolific author in the 45-year history of the Real Estate Center has retired.

In 39 years as the Center's legal expert, Judon Fambrough answered thousands of emails, letters, and telephone calls from Texans seeking advice. He traveled the state delivering lectures on property rights, including oil and gas, wind power, hunting leases, and landowner liability.

Judon authored some 300 Center publications, many of them consistently among the most downloaded from the Center's website. His Hints on Negotiating an Oil and Gas Lease​ was first printed in 1980. Since then, it has been revised many times and is still among the Center's most popular. A revision of his Landlords and Tenants Guide was posted online recently and quickly shot into the Center's top ten downloads for the month.

Among his other "best sellers" are The Texas Deer Lease and Obtaining a Texas Real Estate License​.

Who "likes" a Judon article sometimes depends on whose ox is getting gored. Landowners love his Hints on Negotiating an Oil and Gas Lease, oil companies not so much. One Texas oil baron tried to get his employment at Texas A&M terminated. As the name suggests, Judon's Landlords and Tenants Guide also has two distinct sets of admirers and detractors.

Judon was a visionary. While researching articles, he found many discrepancies in the law and frequently pointed them out. He was among the first, for example, to discuss wind rights and wrongs.

The October issue of Tierra Grande has the final two Judon works, and they are must reads. "Navigating Watershed Changes" covers changes to Clean Water Act regulations that could potentially effect most homeowners. "Mixing Oil and Water Law" discusses a Texas Supreme Court's ruling that applies existing oil rights law to water rights.

Judon has bought a farm in his home state of Missouri. We wish him all the best as he rides the range on his tractor. We could not let Judon ride into the sunset without thanking him for his contributions to the Center and for his service to the nation for which he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star while serving in Viet Nam.

Happy trails, Judon​

Who You Gonna Call? Dustbusters!Who You Gonna Call? Dustbusters!David S. JonesJones, D.


We did a deep cleaning of our house this week. The next day a study made national headlines, and it implies we may have endangered our health by stirring up the dust bunnies.

Researchers say indoor dust can expose you to a wide range of potentially toxic chemicals. The study found 90 percent of dust samples taken from houses in 14 states contain harmful chemicals.

The Natural Resources Defense Council identified ten chemicals that may have a negative impact on health. They say the problem is in the many consumer product chemicals in use today.

We spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors on average—in homes, schools, offices, gyms, and cars. These places are usually full of dust, which is more than just dirt. Household items like televisions, furniture, beauty products, cleaning products, and flooring materials shed chemicals that end up in the air and in the dust on our floors.

These chemicals can enter our bodies from air and dust when we breathe and touch contaminated surfaces, accidentally transferring them to our food or mouth with our dusty hands. And some of these chemicals can contribute to health problems.

When this story broke, I thought I had been freed from the shackles of housecleaning forever. Alas, I'm not that lucky. The researchers say you can minimize contact with the chemicals by washing your hands with plain soap and water, wet mopping and dusting with a damp cloth, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. Want more ideas? Read Bob Vila's "15 Remarkably Easy Ways to Create a Dust-Free Home."

The study doesn't mention which states were examined, so Texas may not have been included. It shouldn't have been. I remember how the dirt piled up on my in-laws' window sills in West Texas during their zero-visibility dust storms. Toxic chemicals were the least of their worries. They had to clean their house regularly or be buried alive.​

We're Taking Our Show on the RoadWe're Taking Our Show on the RoadBryan PopePope
2016-09-01T05:00:00ZCenter News

Has it really already been a year since the last Texas Realtor convention?​

​​So popular was our Plin​ko game in Fort Worth last September, we're dusting it off and bringing it next week to Galveston. Stop by, say howdy, and give it a go. You could walk away with exclusive Real Estate Center swag.​ And I don't mean just ballpoint pens.

You could also end up on our Real Estate Red Zone podcast or on our Facebook or Twitter feeds. The possibilities are endless.

Games and giveaways are fun, ​​of course, but the real reason we come to the convention​ is to visit with you. This is our chance to find out from you how we're doing. Which of our data, publications, or online features do you find most useful? How might we improve? Are we, in fact, "helping Texans make better real estate decisions"?

For our part, we'll fill you in on some of our website's features you may be unfamiliar with. For example, "Market Research" continues to be one of our best-kept secrets. That's a shame, because it's an invaluable tool for keeping up to date on economic conditions in all Texas MSAs. Market Research Coordinator Edie Craig will be on hand to tell you all about it.

And did you know we have an online research library that is expanded almost weekly? Or thousands upon thousands of pages of housing, land, building permit, employment, and population data, much of which is downloadable? We'll tell you about those, too. 

In short, you'll walk away with information that can help you serve your clients even better. Oh, and also with really cool Real Estate Center swag. Did I mention that?​

We look forward to seeing you in Galveston on the 9th. Look for booth 309.

A Chicken in Every Pot and Four Cars in Every DrivewayA Chicken in Every Pot and Four Cars in Every DrivewayBryan PopePope

​​My neighborhood has a private Facebook page where residents (or "friends," as the page refers to them) can post items for sale, advertise babysitting and lawn-care services, and rat out neighbors for leaving trash bins on the curb an hour after trash pickup.

Recently, one neighborhood "friend" observed that a couple of homes on her street had turned into rentals. What tipped her off were the four cars parked in the driveway day in and day out. Although her concern was about the rentals affecting the "quality" of the neighborhood, the conversation quickly turned into a round-robin argument over what our HOA does and doesn't allow, but that's a topic for another day.

Back to things that affect a neighborhood's appeal and, by extension, its home prices.

According to a study done earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors, the number of renters in a neighborhood can influence home prices. Their study found that, nationally, a high concentration of renters caused prices to drop an average of 13.8 percent.

The impact of living near a low-rated school is even more severe. Home prices in such areas dropped 22.2 percent. And if you're near a strip club? That could mean a 14.7 percent drop.

Of much lesser concern were the presence of power plants (5.3 percent) and shooting ranges (3.7 percent).

In the comments section following NAR's article, one reader stressed​ the role basic curb appeal can play in keeping​ home values up.

"How about chain link fences, bars on windows and doors, peeling paint on houses, and other deferred maintenance like blue tarps on roofs, neglected landscaping, graffiti, junky cars parked on the street and front lawns, and vacant lots with debris and weeds?" he wrote.​

I can only imagine the Facebook fallout from my neighborhood friends if I were to commit any of these infractions. Perhaps I'll plant a few plastic flamingos in my front yard this weekend and find out.​​

Who's Being Left Behind?Who's Being Left Behind?Luis TorresTorres

​​​​​​​Seven years after the Great Recession in the U.S. officially ended, there is a group of people who continue to struggle to find jobs and earn higher wages.  If the unemployment rate is analyzed by education level, one finds it highest for people with only a high school diploma and especially for those with even less than a high school level of education (Figure 1).


Job openings are at higher levels than for the previous two recessions in 2001 and 2008 (Figure 2).  This means there are job openings, but they are not being filled. This is possibly because of mismatched skills. The unemployed are less educated and cannot fill the available job openings. 

Even in the manufacturing industry, which has registered a sharp drop in employment, the number of job openings are at pre-2008 crises levels (Figure 3).


A look at earnings by educational attainment reveals that on average from 1Q2007 to 2Q2016 a person with a bachelor's degree or higher earns almost two times more than of a person with a high school diploma and 2.5 more than someone without a high school diploma.  Comparing inflation-adjusted weekly hourly earnings in 2007 with 2016 shows earnings for people with a high school diploma and some college are still below their 2007 levels, while the earnings of people with a college degree and higher have seen their purchasing power surpass 2007 levels.

The high unemployment and low earnings for the less educated, despite increased job openings, may suggest a structural change in the labor market could be the culprit causing the drop in job opportunities and earnings for the less educated.

The Beveridge curve (Figure 4) is a graphical representation of the relationship between unemployment and the job vacancy rate (the number of unfilled jobs expressed as a proportion of the labor force). If it moves outward over time, a given level of vacancies would be associated with higher and higher levels of unemployment, which would imply decreasing efficiency in the labor market. Inefficient labor markets are due to mismatches between available jobs and the unemployed and an immobile labor force.


There is evidence that the less educated are being left behind. They have a higher probability of being unemployed, and their job earnings potential is lower. To resolve structural issues, structural reform need to be implemented.  In the education system, that would improve the quality and skills of this population. What is worrisome is that most of the solutions would involve political will, making it difficult to resolve this issue given the current impasse in the country’s political system. The nation desperately needs to increase productivity and long-run economic growth by implementing such reforms.

For Pete's Sake, Let's Just Home-School the KidsFor Pete's Sake, Let's Just Home-School the KidsBryan PopePope

​​​I've been a parent for 15 years. For ten of those, I've worked at the Real Estate Center. So for some time now, I've had a pretty solid understanding of the role school zones play in homebuying decisions.

At least I thought I did.

Last fall my wife and I decided to move our family to a new neighborhood. Suddenly, the importance of school zones hit me like a ton of old Encyclopedia Britannicas.

Until then, I had no idea how vital it was to our 15-year-old's future that he not have to switch high schools. The marching band directors already like him, my wife said. The baseball coaches know him, she argued. Starting over at a new school could completely upset his career trajectory, she reasoned. (I admit I might've inferred that last one.)

She was also concerned about our third-grader, but less so. After all, it's not like third-graders have had as much opportunity to set down roots.

At any rate, I eventually conceded, and we began the arduous task of trying to make sense of our city's school zone boundaries.

After several grueling weeks of scribbling stars by some neighborhoods and Xs by others, and watching some potentially wonderful homes fall by the wayside in the process, we had our neighborhood shortlist and were ready to go househunting.

I won't bore you with the rest of the story. Suffice it to say there's a happy ending. The point is that schools are an extremely important consideration for the majority of people shopping for a home.

The National Association of Realtors conducted a "Back To School" survey three years ago, and three out of five homebuyers surveyed said school zones impact their buying decision.​

More than 90 percent said school zones are "important" or "somewhat important."

Almost 45 percent said they'd pay up to 10 percent beyond their budget for a house within a desired school zone.

Many said they would be willing to give up certain amenities to live within the school zone of their choice. For example, 62.4 percent would do without a pool or spa, 50.6 percent would give up accessibility to shopping, and 43.9 percent would pass on a bonus room.​

It's enough to make home-schooling look like a viable option.

We've Come a Long Way, BabyWe've Come a Long Way, BabyDavid JonesJones, D.
2016-08-04T05:00:00ZCenter News

​​​​​​​​The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University is 45 years old this year. To help put that in perspective, check out this infographic by JP Beato of our graphics staff. As you can see, prices have changed a bit since 1971. Keep in mind, these are average national numbers and vary by location.

What Motivates Where Millennials Live?What Motivates Where Millennials Live?Bryan PopePope
CBRE issued a press release earlier this week touting Dallas as the number one destination for millennial migrators. The findings were taken from a survey conducted this spring by moving company Mayflower.

Jobs were cited as a significant pull factor for millennials, but not the leading one. That distinction went to "pursuing relationships."

Like the rest of us, millennials also like to play, CBRE said. "Millennials are drawn to active areas where they seek out community connections while finding social snap-worthy food." Mayflower reported that 56 percent of its survey respondents said that good restaurants are a must.

But that's just what one survey found. I was curious about what some of the Real Estate Center's student employees—all of them Gen-Yers—might have to say. So I asked them.

Two of the four I talked to said job opportunities are the main determinant of where they'll live. Another, Hayley Rieder of Richardson, said affordability is an issue.

"It's hard to save for the future, but spending less on living expenses may make it easier to plan ahead," she said.

Of course, it's not all about jobs and money. Three students said Mayflower was on target about the importance of building personal relationships. And never underestimate the power of a city's culture and diversity.

Camilla Adams, who's from Dallas, said she would first select a city that fits her lifestyle, then look for a job there.

"I want to live somewhere that has eclectic neighborhoods with different types of people with diverse ideas," she said. "I want to experience different things."

"Having a good cultural base is important," said Heather Gillin of San Antonio. "I want there to be choices as far as food, museums, and things to do."

Wayne Powell, another North Texas resident, agreed.

"One of the biggest questions for me is, are there events that the city has for its residents?" he said, citing Austin's music scene as an example. "I want things to do that are cool and fun."

Transportation issues are on many Texans' minds, and that includes some millennials.

"Gas may be cheap now, but it is still not something I​ want to spend money on. Every penny counts," Rieder said. "Plus, biking, walking, or carpooling is better for the environment."

When asked about housing, nobody seemed in a hurry to buy a house.

"I want to make sure I'm established in a city and planning to stay there before I buy," Gillin said.

Powell expects to rent for at least the first five years after graduating from Texas A&M University.

"I don’t know if I might get a job offer in another city during that time," he said.

Click here​ for a summary of Mayflower's survey findings.

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