This article appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Texoma Living!.
We pass them on our way to work. Situated on a well-manicured landscaped hill, tucked deep into a stand of old-growth oaks, or sitting stately in the center of a large parcel of acreage, surrounded by pristine white pipe and wire fencing, at the end of a private road. They are Texoma’s Multi-Million Dollar Homes.
In fact, most of these homes are worth well over one million dollars. One home in the swanky Woodland Hills subdivision of Sherman recently sold for $2.5 million and others under construction will no doubt break that ceiling as well. On private acreage and in silk stocking subdivisions, the house most people can only dream of has increasingly become someone’s reality.
Sherman’s Pill Hill
“In the Woodland Hills subdivision (known by locals as Pill Hill, a reflection on the number of medical professionals with homes there) are probably 15 or more million dollar-plus homes. Then there is Monarch Ridge on the lake; there are probably five or so out there. And there are others scattered around on owner’s property,” said Scott Bates. He’s part of Ceci-Bates Homes, one of Sherman’s premier custom home builders. They built one of the first, if not the first, of the million-dollar houses in the county.
Woodland Hills is on Loy Lake Road off FM 131 North in Sherman. “The lots are all five acres per housing site, all estate homes,” Bates said. “We’ve built one in there; it may have been the first one that was over a million. You’ve also got Summit Oaks Ranch in Denison on FM 120 towards Pottsboro; they’re building one home that’s over a million dollars and couple more that are planned.”
Defining Luxury Abodes
Before this goes any further, some definitions are needed. What is a million dollar home? Bates says it’s the price of the land plus the custom building cost of the house. Are they great big houses? Not necessarily, he says. Now we’re getting some where.
“Four thousand square feet is about the minimum, with at least four bedrooms. Most will have a dining room and an oversize kitchen—a chef’s kitchen, one that has commercial appliances in it, It isn’t unheard of in a house like that for the appliances alone to be $20,000 or $30,000.”
“A lot of these houses will have a separated media room and personalized spaces. A woman might want an extra large room for sewing or crafts, and men like garages that are larger and larger—definitely at least a three-car garage.”
With the million dollar house, the dollars are in the details. It’s those little extras that mount up … and up … and up. Bates explained, “Using cast iron on the exterior or interior, using high end finishing and trim, a lot of trim detail, special finishes on the walls, such as textured walls that are done by hand by an artisan, all of the these things add to the cost.”
The materials and fixtures count also; granite counter tops, beams in the ceiling don’t come cheap. One doesn’t go down to the local supply store and buy readymade.
“All the cabinetry is one off, custom-designed and built for the house and the customer’s specifications,” said Bates.
Costs can rise with the tide in the bathroom too. Extra-large water heaters, top of the line sinks and faucets – think a couple of hundred dollars to direct the water from the pipe to the basin. And showers are more than raindrops falling on your head, in the million dollar home. Custom showers with body sprays that come from all directions, rain shower heads and hand-held wands, all cost more. And even the venerable Jacuzzi is passé in the bathroom these days. Better to have a tub with an air bubble massage feature. And if bathing in tandem—to conserve water of course—is your bent, an extra large tub will fit the bill and raise it at the same time.
What’s under foot is different also. Bates says hand-scraped hardwood floors are popular in million dollar homes, as are travertine and natural stone. Basically from top to bottom, the million dollar house is a step, or two or three or even more, above the place most folks hang their hat and call home.
One unusual item they are building more of lately is storm cellars. Texas twisters don’t check the tax evaluations before they roar out of the sky, so the safety feature, built inside the house rather than in the yard more often than not, is a sensible expenditure, and in keeping with the emergency preparations, many expensive homes have auxiliary generators to keep power to appliances, freezers and necessary medical equipment. Elevators and add-ons to make the home more accessible are seen more than they use to be.
Curb Appeal, and then some
For all the care and planning given to the interior, million dollar homes address the exteriors with no less concern for style and quality. “There is money spent on the exterior of these homes to make them look a certain way just because that’s what the owner wants. It’s not just about making a house; it’s about setting it apart,” said Bates. “Concrete tile shingles as opposed to conventional shingles – that one items cost six times as much as conventional shingles. Cast iron on the exterior instead of just brick, those are the kinds of things that make the difference.”
“It’s not California, but at least a third of the homes built will include pools,” Bates said.. “One huge thing now is complete outdoor kitchens. We recently built one that cost $55,000. The house also had a pool and a hot tub and a waterfall.”
Some things one might expect in a million dollar home, are not so common, at least not anymore— tennis courts for example. “Tennis courts are expensive, take up a lot of space and have maintenance issues,” said Bates, “and besides, tennis is a social event. People would rather go to clubs to play. The same is true of exercise rooms, if you use a club, that’s a space you don’t have to heat and cool.”
The rise of the multi-million dollar home in Grayson County is a relatively new phenomenon. Bates said there are twice as many houses in that price category as there were a couple of years ago. It’s an upward market, both in numbers and in price. Where the million dollar home leads the two million or three million dollar home will follow. Right now the benchmark is around four million, but that is not likely to stand for long.
Compared to the areas to the south, Grayson County offers considerably greater value and more home for the dollar spent, and even if you have a million of those dollars to spend, you still want to get the most you can for every hard-earned dollar.
Featured Archive Story
The way north was an old trace that lay along the great wrinkle in the earth that separated the Blackland Prairie to the east from the Southern Plains to the west. The trail ran from Southwest Texas north to present day St. Louis, Missouri, and for centuries it served as a conduit for trade and war and migration by peoples ancient and modern. It went by many names. Most referred to it as the Shawnee Trail, for the ancient Indian village of Shawneetown near present day Denison. The military route built by the Texas army in 1843 was called the Preston Road. It ran south from Coffee’s Trading Post in the Washita Bend of the Red River to Cedar Springs hard by the Trinity in what is now Dallas. For settlers heading to the Promised Land south of the Red it was The Texas Road, and for the drovers who pushed the cattle herds north it was the Sedalia Trail, the Kansas Trail, or just, the trail.
Traveling west from Sherman on U.S. 82 where Bar 7 Road hits the highway, you top a rise. The horizon reaches out as the land falls away, and you are out of the cross timbers and onto the prairie. This dividing line is a great fold in the earth’s crust running from central Texas to Montana. Geologists call it the Preston Anticline, and it is where the West begins.
By Will Watson
Grant Martin didn’t come west from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1994 in a covered wagon as his Mennonite ancestors might have done, but he did bring Pennsylvania Dutch carpentry designs when he came to Grayson County. Martin and three of his sons opened Martin’s Woodcrafts, in Whitewright, Texas.
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