Lake Life

Nearby lake homes provide escape hatches for Dallasites

Even before a pandemic made hash of many travel plans and sequestered most to their homes, finding an escape hatch two to four hours away from Dallas was a priority for many. Place that home-away-from-home on a lake, and it was even better.

In fact, the 2017 National Association of Realtors Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey found that the majority of vacation home buyers nowadays are getting the most use of homes that are within 200 miles or less of their home base.

That interest also moved Ebby Halliday Companies to make a move to add Cedar Creek Lake properties to its roster by acquiring Johnson Monroe Realtors, a staple of the Cedar Creek Lake residential real estate market for 38 year.

“Timing is everything, and the timing of this move meets current market needs and positions our combined companies to better serve current and future residents, as well as second-home buyers and sellers, in the Cedar Creek Lake area,” said Ebby Halliday Companies president and CEO Chris Kelly.

Courtesy Long Cove

Park Cities resident (and People Newspapers contributor) Kersten Rettig said her family opted for a home on Lake Whitney for decompressing.

She said having the home has helped considerably during the pandemic, too.

“Once the pandemic started, we upgraded our connectivity to be able to work at the lake and spent five days of every week there,” she said. “Having a place to escape to was a total lifesaver for us.”

Jennifer Pankratz and Whitney Wiegand both own Cedar Creek Lake homes, but also rent them out for others looking for a bit of an escape.

“My husband and I purchased our home nearby last March, the same week as the stock market plummeted,” said Pankratz. “It felt a little like cliff diving, but I am so glad we did.”

“When COVID-19 hit our lake house took on an even more important role,” said Weigand. “It became home base for us during the shutdown.”

Both said they waited until it was safe to start renting it out, and have taken extra precautions that allowed them to leave the homes vacant a few days between visits, and do thorough cleanings.

Long Cove, which has become a popular Cedar Creek Lake spot for many, has also seen an uptick in interest in the resort-style homes with an ever-increasing slate of amenities.

The developer said that February will also bring new developments in the Henderson Bay and South Shore neighborhoods, and later in 2021 a new community in the heart of their sports venues will be announced.

“No two weekends are alike because there are so many options here,” said local custom home builder Robert Elliott, who owns a home there. “The short drive allows us to be here more.”

But for Katherine and Ken Bullock – Greenway Parks residents by weekday and Long Cove residents by weekend – lake living allowed their family to be together during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been an opportunity to spend time together as family – listen more, get outside more, and try to teach our kids about nature and basic life skills – like laundry!” they said.

What they’re saying:
Courtesy Kersten Rettig

Our lake house on Lake Whitney gives us a front row seat in the theater of nature. We observe the birds, mostly cardinals, who give a little pop of color to the oak trees there, this time of year we see flights of migrating birds zoom across the sky, and we have a family of foxes who flirt with us at dusk. The sunsets can be magnificent and we never miss one, no matter what we are doing, we pause to watch the sun set.   It’s quiet there, there are no airplanes, traffic noise or leaf blowers anywhere around; the occasional roar of a fishing boat is the only man-made sound we hear.   It’s always been a retreat for peace and quiet since we bought it in 2007.

Once the pandemic started, we upgraded our connectivity to be able to work at the lake and spent five days of every week there. Having a place to escape to was a total lifesaver for us.   We were asked if we would consider renting it out for a period of time as brief as a weekend or as long as a month.  We aren’t set up to rent it out and, since we are there so often, we never considered renting it out. 

:My husband wanted to buy a ranch and I wanted to have a lake house so we compromised and got a lake house. (lol) We were not interested in east Texas lakes that are brackish, muddy and crowded.  Lake Whitney is an Army Corps of Engineer lake so there are no boat docks or boat houses with direct lake access which appealed to us, though it’ makes it more inconvenient to put our boat in the water. It also means there are not that many boats on the lake, even on the busiest holidays such as July 4. 

We chose not to live on a lake where many of our Park Cities neighbors had their homes.  Sometimes living and working in the Park Cities can be very intense and we wanted to have a place to go where we could totally escape from that scene.  – Kersten Rettig

Spending time at the lake means having frequent escapes from the city.  It’s only an hour away, but each stay feels like a small vacation.  You really do forget about the trappings of Dallas.  It’s an opportunity to be outside and enjoy big scenic views and watch wildlife.  Because of the water cooling effect, the air temperature on our dock patio is about 10-15 degrees cooler than the temperature in Dallas, so you can actually enjoy the outdoors when its hot and not feel miserable.  We also rarely see a mosquito because our location is on big open water and there is a constant steady breeze keeping them away.  All this makes a long hot summer bearable. 

One big surprise is how much we would enjoy the house in the fall and winter.  We don’t spend as much time on the water boating then, but seeing miles and miles of nothing but water and big sky from the house or patio is just so serene.  We equate the feeling to being in the mountains and taking in those views, or being at a beach and looking out at the ocean.  It’s the next best thing and only an hour from home.  Fall and winter days are spent watching football around the fireplace and making smores and hanging out outside around the firepit. 

Our family and our friends all enjoy these aspects of lake life, so everyone wants to come.  We all want to be there. That means lots of family time and friend time we might not get to enjoy without this vacation home.

When COVID-19 hit our lake house took on an even more important role.  It became home base for us during the shutdown.  My husband and I both brought what we needed to work remotely to the lake, and that’s mostly where we stayed, as much as our jobs allowed.  You can be much more isolated there if you need to be, but still be surrounded by nature and outdoor activities in a much less crowded space. 

During the shutdown we were flooded with requests to rent the house. We wanted to help our Dallas neighbors out, we knew so many wanted a get- a-way from their house, but, out of respect and safety to our lake neighbors we did not rent the house to anyone, until it was ok to do so. 

After quarantine lifted, we continued to have an increase in demand for rentals.  I had multiple request for dates daily.  We decided to rent it as often, but safely, as possible.  We asked for multiple night minimums and left the house vacant a few days between visits.  This limited the number of people in and out which made us more comfortable letting people stay in the middle of a pandemic.  We also increased our already thorough cleaning routines between visitors.  Our calendar was very full all summer, into early fall and even now over the holidays we are getting requests. 

We feel some of the criteria we had for choosing a lake house, is some of the same reasons the demand for it is so high as a rental.  We wanted big sweeping water views unobstructed by bridges or other houses. We wanted a safe neighborhood with nice homes around us where we felt safe going on walks.  One very important feature was the house needed to have an open floorplan with lots of light and big picture windows  As a designer,  I wanted a house that we could decorate with a light and bright palate but still feel nautical and appropriate for a lake house in Texas. I think we achieved it, and I think that is part of the attraction to our guest who stay.

We are surrounded by water views as far as you can see and  feel totally connected to the outdoors making for year round enjoyment. – Whitney Weigand

Courtesy Jennifer Pankratz

My parents owned a house on Enchanted Isle. Their suggested listing price was 20% higher 2020 vs 2019.

My husband and I purchased our home nearby last March, the same week as the stock market plummeted. It felt a little like cliff diving, but I am so glad we did.

Buying the house during the pandemic was unsettling but it was also the reason we committed to renting it which has been a wonderful experience. 

In addition, we recently hosted my dad‘s 80th birthday at the house. Ten friends came on a Friday and socially distanced around the pool firepit. Then, the grandchildren were able to spend time with him Saturday through Sunday, also at a safe distance.

We bought in March so I do not have prior rentals to compare it to, but home values have skyrocketed according to Todd Russell, a local realtor. My parents house was a great example. 

A few of our rentals from this summer were families who had to cancel their long distance plans.  – Jennifer Pankratz

Courtesy Long Cove

No two weekends are alike because there are so many options here. Pickleball, golf, tennis. Grab a snack at the pool. Ride bikes on the trails. Go fishing. Take the boat out. And since it’s so easy to get to, you can do whatever you need to at home and still make a day of it here. I can be at a 10 am soccer game in Dallas and still be rocking and rolling on the lake by 1. The short drive allows us to be here more.

Community is everything. There are other places you can have a lake home, sure, but the community is what really makes Long Cove worth a lot more. That’s one of the big reasons we built our own family lakehome here. Going to a place where you and your kids can know a few friends and always meet new ones is a difference maker. The social spontaneity makes it great. You don’t have to plan much. It just happens. One day you’ll be having lunch at someone’s pool, then taking a bunch of kids out tubing or wake boarding, and then find yourself at the end the day having tequila on someone else’s porch. – Robert Elliott, Long Cove home owner

People are surprised how easy it is to get out here. And once they come through the gates and wind through what we affectionately call Detox Drive, they feel like they’re a world away from Dallas.

Being an hour and change from Dallas makes it a no-brainer. Your kids can have a morning soccer game and you still can be here before lunch. So the amount of use Longcovians get out of their lakehomes is huge compared to say a second home in Florida or Colorado. And our season is eight or nine months long. Our special events start in March and run all the way through late fall, and they’re always well attended.

On 4th of July weekend, 92% of our homeowners were here. Long Cove has become a meeting point where extended families get together for birthdays, holidays, weddings, and to just to have fun in a safe environment. – Kiki Pennington, Long Cove

The pandemic has been an opportunity to spend time together as family – listen more, get outside more, and try to teach our kids about nature and basic life skills – like laundry!

Our school has a morning chapel, and we’ve been able to sit on our porch huddled together listening to the chapel. It’s a great way to start the day. –Katherine and Ken Bullock, Long Cove homeowners

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at

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