Longhorn real-estate agents, start your engines. Rumors have been circulating for weeks that George W. and Laura Bush would move to Dallas when they vacate the White House in January. But during a fund-raiser last week, President Bush confirmed the move: "Laura's over there trying to buy a house … I like Crawford, but apparently after eight years of sacrifice, I am no longer the decision-maker."
As you'd expect, the news has the Dallas real-estate community buzzing. "It's the biggest story in town," says Mary Candace Evans, real-estate editor of D Home & Garden, whose blog has been tracking the First Family house-hunting rumors closely. According to local gossip, Laura Bush is working with broker Allie Beth Allman, who heads a large firm that specializes in upscale properties. (Allman did not return NEWSWEEK's phone call.) Agents say that when Mrs. Bush checks out a listing, the agent who has the listing is asked to vacate the premises, and soon afterward a big black Suburban pulls up to the door.
As far as what and where the Bushes might buy, speculation centers on four neighborhoods.
The first question is whether the Bushes want to buy an existing home or build from scratch. The family built their ranch in Crawford, and reportedly enjoyed working with their architect designing the residence. "Laura's father was a homebuilder, and she does enjoy the homebuilding process," says Evans, who's spoken with builders who've worked with the Bushes in the past. "She's wonderful to work with and very direct." Indeed, several Dallas agents say they've noticed several large homes with very large basements (an unusual feature in Dallas, where most homes are built on slabs) in upscale neighborhoods; the basements (which would allow cars to be driven directly inside, as well as providing space for the Secret Service) led some to speculate the properties might suit the Bushes. But by one account, the Bushes haven't yet decided whether to build or buy.
As for selecting a neighborhood, local agents point to four areas. Just north of downtown Dallas lie two small independent cities, Highland Park and University Park, that feature some of the nicest homes in the region. They're adjacent to Southern Methodist University, home to The George W. Bush Presidential Library. Prices in these areas range from $750,000 up to $20 million, but in the Bushes' price range--rumored to be $2.5 million to $4 million--they could expect to find homes of around 7,500 square feet with five or six bedrooms, six baths, a three car garage, maid quarters and perhaps a swimming pool.
There is, however, a big downside to homes in the so-called Park Cities: the lots are small (often a half acre or less), the houses are set close together and many are situated close to the street, which could create headaches for the former president's Secret Service detail. (The Secret Service declined to comment on what its security requirements are for an ex-president's home.)
But if their security teams OK these neighborhoods and the soon-to-be-former First Family desires a place close to downtown to complement their rural ranch (which is just a two-hour drive from Dallas), agents Will Seale and Nancy Boucher Guerriero at Allie Beth Allman suggest they consider two listings on Beverly Drive in Highland Park. At $4.8 million, 3301 Beverly has four bedrooms, six full (and two half) baths and 8,820 square feet, with a backyard pool, media room, elevator and wine cellar. For something slightly smaller (and less pricey), these agents point to 3210 Beverly, another six-bedroom home with 5,800 feet, his and hers master baths (with steam showers) and a media room; the asking price is $3.145 million. Both homes are more than 60 years old, making them historic by Dallas standards, and both are comfortable without being particularly glitzy. "The Bushes don't go in for the big, swanky lifestyle," says Seale.
If the Bushes are happy to live further out of downtown Dallas, agents point to Preston Hollow and Bluffview as the neighborhoods they should consider. Before becoming governor, when Bush worked as an owner of the Texas Rangers, the family lived in a one-story fieldstone house in Preston Hollow, a wealthy neighborhood northwest of the city. (Other residents include Mark Cuban and Roger Staubach.) It's familiar territory and also a place where the Bushes might get enough land to create a walled property, which could make life easier for their security detail. The same is true at Bluffview, another upscale neighborhood farther from the city with rolling terrain (it was once a dairy farm) where buyers get slightly more for their money.
Dave Perry-Miller, a Dallas broker with an office in Preston Center who specializes in upscale properties, says he has two properties in the $3 million to $6 million range that aren't listed on the open market but would be quite suitable for the Bushes. For that money in Preston Hollow, he says, buyers would find properties ranging from an acre to an acre and a half, with a house ranging in size from 8,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet. "If what they've lived in in the past is any guide to the future, [they'd want] a property that's handsome and attractive but not ostentatious," Perry-Miller says.
Seale pointed to three suitable properties in Preston Hollow and Bluffview ranging in price from $3.29 million to $4.995 million. NEWSWEEK's favorite is the cheapest of the trio, located at 5140 Seneca Drive. It features four bedrooms, four full (and two half) baths and a three-car garage. It's situated on 1.9 acres down a tree-lined driveway that offers privacy and protection. It has a pool, a chain-link fence and a game room in its 6,084 square feet, but most importantly, it has the one feature that the 43rd president will absolutely demand in his next home: an exercise room.
Daniel McGinn is a national correspondent at NEWSWEEK and the author of "House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes."