How to Live Like a Jonas Brother

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Jonas' Bros. home in Southlake, Tex.Todd Handwerk, president of Calais Custom Homes in Southlake, Texas, is the man who built the home where three of the four Jonas brothers live (left) in the über upscale and secure gated community of Vaquero, about 15 minutes northwest of DFW Airport.

The eldest Jonas boy recently got hitched and although he consulted with Handwerk about building a new home, Kevin and his bride ended up buying their own place down the street from Mom and Dad Jonas. Vaquero takes security seriously: at the entrance gates, unless a homeowner gives the OK, you don't get in. And Vaquero homes are huge even by Texas standards: the average is about 8,500 but many top 14,000 square feet. So we had to grab Handwerk and ask a few burning questions...

HousingWatch:
We hear the market for lower-end new homes -- those under $300,000 -- is picking up this spring. You're a high-end home builder. How are YOU doing?

Todd Handwerk:
The strongest market we're seeing in North Texas is under one million, the Baby Boomers who are moving down. They want smaller, but they still want great finish-out on a smaller scale, say 2,800 to 4,000 square foot. I just had a widow move here from New Hampshire, she bought our 2,900-square-foot spec home that had been on the market for a year. Paid cash.

HW: Are people looking for bargains?

Yes, especially those moving here from more depressed markets.

HW: Are the banks lending any money to builders?

They are asking crazy things, like 30 percent down. And this administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth -- the President telling banks to loosen up and lend, in reality the regulators are limiting real estate loans to strict percentages, punishing the smaller regional banks for the sins of the big ones. That has cut back the number of builders a bank can work with. Thirty percent of my competitors are out of the business.

HW: What are you going to do?

I'm down from six specs to two, and I'm going to convince customers to custom build, which will take about 18 months. End result: this will lead to a shortage of new homes.

HW: How long did it take you to build the Jonas Brothers' home?

Ten months. I built it for a client who then sold it to the Jonas family.

HW: What about the house appealed to them?

We built for three teenage boys each with their own upstairs bedroom suites separated from each other -- none of the bedrooms touched. Then there was a game room, a media room and a bonus room/playroom the Jonas boys could use as a music room. So each boy had his very separate own space. The parents, of course, are downstairs.

HW: That's great, sounds like there's more potential clients living with Mom and Dad.
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