There's an article in today's NY Post about city renters buying country homes. It features a great couple I sold a house to last year in Sullivan County with some nice photos. Check it out here.
There's an article in today's NY Post about city renters buying country homes. It features a great couple I sold a house to last year in Sullivan County with some nice photos. Check it out here.
Usually mid January to mid March is our 'second selling season' here, with second home shoppers looking to get into a house by summer. But that doesn't seem to be happening this year. Blame it on the winter. We had a very mild winter, without much snow or deep freeze temperatures, up until mid January, but it's been a different story for the past month.
We actually don't have a whole lot of snow on the ground — about a foot right now, except in drift areas — and have been largely spared the wintry mix ice mess that hit further south. But the timing of the snowstorms that have come through kept folks from making weekend treks up. The bigger issue has been the cold. People come up to look when it's 25 or 30, but not when it's 0 or 5. President's Day Weekend is usually busy, but this weekend two of my three appointments cancelled because of the cold. I can't blame them; yesterday was brutal, with temps about 5 and winds gusting to 40mph.
It will be interesting to see if we have a delayed winter season or a lost one. The upside to this is that the snow is fabulous, the best I've seen in a few years. When winter temperatures are warmer, hovering around freezing, we get these melt/freeze layers and the snow becomes crusty. The cold temps right now are keeping the snow just perfect. For cross country skiers amd snowmobilers, it's heaven.
And at least it's not Boston.
UPDATE: 1/30. It seems like the survey link below was for one time use by a single user. I'm tracking back to the original sender to find out if there is an 'open' (not single user) link for the survey.
My friend Aileen passed this link on to me for a survey about demand for a jitney service from the city to the Upper Delaware River hamlets in Sullivan County, with possible stops at Pond Eddy, Barryville, Narrowsburg and Callicoon. It's a great idea. Public transportation from NYC to western Sullivan County in the summer is very limited at best, and folks with cars are always schlepping back and forth to Monticello for bus pickups or Port Jervis for train pickups.
Please take the survey and pass this link around to everyone you know you might be interested in the service:
The Cuomo administration has been kicking around plans to increase broadband internet access in New York state for a few months now, and is now ready to unveil what is a very bold plan that could make New York the most connected state in the nation. Last Friday, the Governor issued a press release outlining the state's broadband initiative committing to bring broadband internet with 100Mbps download speeds to every New Yorker by 2019 (with the exception of some rural areas, with a 25Mbps target.) Gov. Cuomo will be featuring that in his State of the State speech today as well.
The plan calls for the state to commit $500 million in matching funds to private internet providers to meet the target, for a total of $1 billion in investment. It's a bold plan with an ambitious target to be sure. Forgive me if I'm a little cynical that it will bring broadband to every rural household in the state, because players like Verizon will likely pull out the big guns so they get the lion's share of the money for subsidies for a fiber FIOS rollout they were likely to do anyway. But maybe I'll be wrong, and most of the money will go to to subsidize broadband buildout in areas that the fiber and cable companies otherwise have deemed economically unviable. With $500 million up for grabs, you can bet there will be lobbyists all over it to shape the rules. We'll just have to wait and see where the money goes — for cable extensions to low desnity rural areas like northwest Sullivan County, or for FIOS extensions on Long Island.
Friday's New York Times has an article, Wide Open Acres, about a couple who nursed back a run down farmhouse into a stylish country getaway. They did a great job with the redo, and when I saw the article I didn't even recognize the house. This type of article, though, is a little bittersweet, because of the expectation it can set. They paid $205,000 for the house on 43 acres, and even the buyer commented in the article that finding something like this was "one in a million."
The owners also said the renovation costs came to about $30,000. But you need to read the article carefully — they did most of the work themselves with friends and families, only using professionals for plumbing and insulation. But the house itself, even though it looked like a handyman, was basically sound with working systems. And if you look closely at the 'after' photos in the article, the house wasn't gutted and re-sheetrocked. The old paneling has been painted, and there's still acoustic tile on the ceiling. They did a beautiful job with the colors, and accenting with wainscotting to give the house a fresh, updated and open feel.
These owners made a very smart buy, and lucked out in finding an old farmhouse with good bones. Many old farmhouses in 'origina' condition don't have good bones, but suffer from house osteoporosis — with foundation issues, wood rot and non-working systems — that can be costly to repair. I've been in a lot of farmhouse fixers with contractors, and the estimates to bring back an old farmhouse that needs everything typically are in the $100 to $125 per square foot range.
Both Travel and Leisure and the New York Times have included the Catskills on their top travel pick lists for 2015. On the Travel and Leisure list, the Catskills takes the #3 spot. On the NY Times 52 Places to Go in 2015, the Catskills are at the 39th spot, just behind Alentejo, Portgual but ahead of Rome and Shanghai. Go figure. The NY Times thumbnail is a toe dip, and only highlights a few spots further east and north in the Catskills, but it's still great ink.
The recipe for both picks is similar — outdoor recreation days and foodie nights — within a 2 to 3 hour drive of New York City. These follow on the heel's of last years New York Magazine article, Get in on Sullivan County. I expect that Time Out will jump on the bandwagon with a Catskills article in 2015.
Thanks to JJ for giving me a heads up on these.
Once upon a time, a time not so long ago, a wealthy whiz of a currency trader fell in love with a sleepy little hamlet, a little down on its feels, in northern Sullivan County. The currency trader was Andy Krieger and the little hamlet was Livingston Manor, at the gateway to the Catskill Park. Andy had a dream of turning around the little hamlet, and building a small upscale resort along its southern flank. Over a number of years, starting in the early 2000's, he bought up a big swath of Main Street, refurbishing old buildings and kickstarting some businesses. He also pieced together a land holding south of town that totaled about 900 acres, completed a stunning renovation on a large 1950's era house and unveiled plans for the upscale resort.
Andy's dream came tumbling down in the recession, and over the last few years Andy lost control of all of his Livingston Manor properties in a series of foreclosure and judicial actions. The jewel in the crown, the large acreage and homes south of town, recently came to market. There are six separate listings that include two houses and a total of 894 acres.
The two houses and 506 acres are west of Shandelee Road, and afford spectacular views from the upper fields and ridge lines. Together the 4 listings that make up this section have a total asking price of $4.479M. (The listing for the main house alone on 55 acres has an asking price of $1.1M.)
There are two listings for a total of 388 acres on the east side of Shandelee Road, a significant holding on its own, but with less spectacular views. The total asking price for these two parcels is $1.1M.
The total asking price for the whole shebang --- 894 acres and two houses --- is $5,579,000. Backing out the value of the houses, that pencils out to about $5300 an acre.That may seem pricey on a per acre basis, but this size of holding is very, very rarely available. There are usually a couple of two or three hundred acre properties on the market, but seldom anything approaching 900 acres. Smaller, individual parcels are available, ranging from the main house on 55 acres, up to 155 acres, but the uniqueness of this is the entire 894 acres together. The least expensive piece is 97.8 acres for $300K; the most expensive, 134 acres at $1.53M.
Here's a link to the 6 listings, if you want to check them out.
I just posted the latest Current Market Conditions Report for Sullivan County Real Estate. I just squeaked in before the ball drops. Happy New Year everyone!
What an amazing day for Sullivan County! It's just all starting to sink in. This morning news reports started circulating that Gov. Cuomo is going to ban fracking in New York state. While fracking has been less of an issue in Sullivan County over the past few years because of a combination of the geological formation of the Marcellus Shale under Sullivan, the reluctance of the Delaware River Basin Commission to approve drilling in the river basin and the presence of the Catskill watershed, the sceptre of fracking has still hung over our heads. Now it looks pretty certain that fracking, even if it was unlikely to happen here, is off the table.
Then just after 2PM today, the state's Gaming Commission made a totally unexpected decision regarding the award of a casino license, deciding to only grant one license in the Catskills/Hudson region (rather than the two permitted in the region). The commission shut Orange County out of the race, because of the negative competitive impact for a casino further north, and then narrowed it even further, deciding to only grant one license between Sullivan and Ulster. And that license goes to the Montreign/Adelaar proposal in Sullivan County at the site of the old Concord resort in Kiamesha Lake.
That's great news IMHO for a few reasons. It greatly increases the chances of success of Adelaar, not having to compete with a closer in casino. It also leaves one casino license up for grabs in the region downline. That keeps the possibility, albeit slim, of a casino project at Grossingers in Liberty a few years down the road.
Montreign submitted multiple options, depending on the competitive landscape. With no competition, Montreign/Adelaar will be building the largest option, including a water park. The impact of that extends beyond the direct jobs. Sullivan County will again have a year round destination resort within 90 miles of NYC. That could extend our largely summer season, with the great potential of off-season mid week corporate retreat and conference travel. Maybe in a few years the New York State Associations of Realtors will hold a major meeting here. For more than a decade, we haven't had any place with enough rooms and meeting space to hold anything more than a small conference. It also opens up the possibility of some other hotel developers deciding to site a niche property here. Over the past decade I've talked with or worked with a number of nice/lifestyle/boutique hotel developers interested in siting a property here, but were nervous because there was little to no off season draw.
Likewise, the 'no frack' news could also result in some increased development. I've also worked with a handful of younger, edgier developers looking to do something here for the 30-something NYC second home market, but have been scared away because of the sceptre of fracking. This could be a game changer.
Lastly, there could be a positive impact on agriculture. There's a lot of interest in farms to produce products for the locavore market in NYC, but very few farms available on the market. Dairy farming, he traditional backbone of Sullivan County agriculture, is tough to make work economically. So its been a little surprising how few of those farms have come to market in the last few years. One reason may be that some of those farmers may have been holding out for a gas lease payoff. But now that's off the table, we may see a few of these legacy farms come to market, and be repurposed for NYC locavore market agricultural products.
Not sure how this will play out in Sullivan County, but it sure made an interesting, upbeat day for those of us here.
The Gaming Commission just announced Adelaar at the Concord as the ONLY casino license they'll be granting in the Catskills/Hudson Valey region. They decided not to grant ANY license in Orange County because of the potential adverse impact to any casino further north, and also decided not to grant a license for a competing license in Ulster County. This is AMAZING news, and frankly, totally unexpected.
You can trudge through snow, but ice can stop you dead in your tracks. The slightest incline can be impossible to negotiate if its covered with a light coating of ice. A few years ago a friend turned me on to Yaktrax, and they're the best thing for walking when there's ice. The design is ingenious, a stretchy rubber 'skeleton' with metal spring-like coils that's quick and easy to put onto your shoes or boots.
If you have a house in the country, you need these in your winter 'kit'. If you have friends with a house in the country, a pair or two of Yaktrax would make a perfect holiday gift.
I've blogged about Yaktrax a couple of times before, but like cell boosters, there are some things that are so grea for couintry living that it's worth blogging about again.
The first significant snowfall has hit, and that means shifting into 'winter mode' for showings. Contrary to what most people think, the market doesn't die here in the winter. It's not as busy as the summer and fall, but there are a lot of folks still looking. This weekend, for example, I have three appointments.
Showing houses in the winter is a very different animal than showing in other seasons, and it takes some adjustment. Days are shorter, so showing appointments have to be finished by about 4:30, and driving between houses can be slower. If a house is unoccupied, it can be hit or miss about whether the drive is plowed. Trekking down and back a long unplowed drive can add fifteen or twenty minutes to a house showing.
Unoccupied houses seldom have shoveled stairs and decks, and I always carry a shovel in the event we have to shovel our way into a house. Lock boxes and locks are sometimes frozen, so I bring along a hammer and lock deicer, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. In my Durango I also have a bag of sand and a few pairs of showshoes.
Real estate agents here are very experienced at showing property in the winter. Follow your agent's lead. We all understand that buyers making the trek up from the city want to get in as many houses as possible, but we may suggest shortening a 'to see' list based on conditions. On a four hour trip in the summer you may be able to see six houses, but in the winter you may only be able to get in four or five. We also may cancel due to weather conditions, particularly if there's ice. Remember there's a five to ten degree differential between the city and Sullivan County, so winter drizzle in the city could be ice in the country.
Know the limits of your vehicle and driving ability. All-wheel-drive vehicles can't get through everything, regardless of what you see in the tv commercials. All weather tires aren't snow and ice tires, and an AWD vehicle with all weather tires can still get stuck. Even in my brute Durango with snow tires, I'll get stuck at least once a winter and have to dig out and use sand.
Dress for the weather. Keep in mind that houses that aren't heated can be colder inside than the outside temperature. On a bright and sunny forty degree winter day, it can be downright pleasant outside, but ten or fifteen degrees colder inside an unheated house.
Bringing children requires extra planning. Make sure you have extra layers to bundle them up, and bring dry socks in case they get snow in their boots. Also, their little legs can have a harder time trudging through snow. A long unplowed drive with a couple of feet of snow can be nigh impossible for a five year old, and doing a parent switch out to watch the kids in the car at the road adds a lot of extra time. Also, from my experience, children have less stamina in the winter for house looking. Four houses is usually about the max with pre teenagers in tow.
Adults need to do some extra planning as well. If you're wearing shorter hiking height boots, throw some higher boots in the car if you have them. Six inch hiking boots are a surefire recipe for cold, wet feet in a foot or two of snow. And apart from getting stuck in a snow drift, there's nothing that makes folks grumpier than cold, wet feet. An extra pair of gloves is a good idea, too.
Then there's the bathroom kahuna. A lot of houses, even if they're heated on low, will have their water shut off if the owners aren't there. Don't assume that the water will be on to use the toilet at many houses you'll be seeing. Take the opportunity to use restrooms when they present themselves, because when you're out in the country, it can be fifteen or twenty minutes to get back to the nearest grocery store or coffee shop.
Winter house shopping can be quite pleasant if you're prepared and have reasonable expectations. There's something magical about seeing properties bathed in a winter wonderland cover of snow. But you need to move a little slower, dress a little warmer, and probably see fewer houses.
I just stumbled across this post on Upstater.com that Casa Susanna, the inspiration for Harvey Fierstein's play, Casa Valentina, is on the market. Back in the 1960's, Casa Susanna was a discrete guest house near Hunter where cross-dressing men could vacation and be 'themselves'. It has a fascinating history that was documented in photos that were found in a Manhattan flea market a decade or so ago by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, who put them together into a book in 2005, Casa Susanna, available on Amazon. The story and photos are fascinating. Then the story was transformed into a play on Broadway. And now you can buy the house!
Note, this is up in Greene County near Hunter, outside of the area I handle. But the history us so cool, I wanted to post it on my blog. You can either click through the links in the Upstater post to get to the listing (and the contact info for the agent), or use this link. Upstater also references this article on Chronogram about the place and the book. (The book, by the way, is a sure fire holiday gift hit for lgbt Catskill friends.)
I was talking with my good friend, Nancy Fredericks of Catskill Castles, this week about home care services for second homers here in Sullivan County, something I'm asked about a lot. She said she'd just gotten a call from Alan Li in Livingston Manor about his new business, My Catskill Cottage, a property management and concierge service. I checked out Alan's website, www.mycatskillcottage.com, and it looks like it's exactly what a lot of second homers are looking for.
Nancy also mentioned that the concierge service at the Chapin Estate, which has been a big selling feature of that upper end community, now offers concierge home services outside of Chapin. So it's another option to consider. Their website is www.chapinestate.com/concierge.
If you're aware of other concierge or second home management services here in Sullivan County, please add them in a comment below.
A number of sources are reporting that a decision on which counties/sites will get the four coveted casino licenses (two Catskills/Hudson, 2 further upstate) will likely be announced on Dec. 17th. That's when the state gaming commission's Facility Location Board will hold its December meeting.
A stylish, totally renovated house with views, a swimming pond and 6+ acres is a hard package to find. Add in a great location in the Beechwoods near Callicoon and cable service, and this one moves up to being a 'Top Pick' at $349,000. This was a total redo by one of my favorite contractors, Justin McElroy, of a partially completed salt box contemporary that sat unfinished for a number of years. The house is set back off the road, but it isn't totally secluded — you can see some other houses from this one. But it's tough to get views, a pond AND total seclusion until you move well into the $400's, and even then that combination can still be hard to find. Click on the photo at left or here to see the full listing.
If you're a locavore eater, how about this holiday season being a locavore giver? A handcrafted or locally made gift from Sullivan County is perfect to tuck under the the tree. Here are some shopping ideas for gifts from the Sullivan County Catskills.
First off, Carolyn Duke at Duke Pottery is hosting her annual "Handmade for the Holidays" shop at her studio west of Roscoe for the next two weekends. (Facebook page) In addition to her pottery, Carolyn invites other local artisans to display their handmade offerings, and there's a wide selection of really interesting gifts.
Also check out Signature Gifts at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, 37 Main Street in Narrowsburg, chock full of items made by many of the area's top local artisans. The Gallery at DVAA is also hosting its annual "Art in Sixes" exhibit, with dozens of small (under six inches) works that make very unique and affordable gifts.
Local maple syrup will bring a sugary smile to friends and relatives. Check out the products from Catskill Mountain Sugar House. You can find their syrup at Peck's (in plastic jugs), or order online if you'd prefer glass bottles.
For your drinking friends, how about giving a bottle of Bootlegger Vodka from the Prohibition Distillery in Roscoe? It's a great vodka that comes in this really neat bottle. You can pick it up at their tasting room in Roscoe, or if you're not heading up between now and the holidays, you can find it in a number of liquor stores around the city. (They have a "Find It" map on their website.)
Here's another one where a price cut has gotten my attention. This is a non-lakefront home in Kenoza Lake Estates has a lot of privacy in a pretty, wooded setting and comes with lake rights. The builder/developer of Kenoza Lake Estates built this as his own house, and to also use as a model for potential buyers, so it's quite stylish with nice fit and finish. It's a craftsman style with nice touches like an outdoor fireplace. Click on the photo to check out the full listing.
On the New York side of the Delaware River, there are only a few stretches in Sullivan County where riverfront houses don't either have State Route 97 between the house and river or just behind the house. One of those stretches is River Road, running north from Callicoon along the river. River Road is a particularly pretty section of the river, and a favorite of bicyclists and runner.
Houses along River Road rarely come to market. I don't think I've seen one on the section of River Road outside of town for a couple of years, so this one caught my attention. River Road does run between the house and the river, but that's true for all but a couple of houses in this area. The road dead ends, so there's very little traffic. You're also only a couple of minutes from town for shopping, restaurants, movies and the Sunday farmers market.
To see the full listing, either click here or on the photo.
(Update: 11/28 - this house is now in a deal.)
The price was just dropped on this renovated farmhouse on 25 acres to $349K, putting it at the top of my 'great deal' list. It's head scratching to me why this one hasn't sold. It's set back off of a quiet country road, with some nice fields and paddocks, has a great view and the taxes aren't crazy. Sure, there's some 'deferred maintenance', like painting and deck staining, but when I've shown it, nothing has jumped out at me from a condition standpoint.
This one has almost the whole package for a buyer looking for that backroad country charmer with privacy and plenty of room to spread out, or fill with friends and family for summer weekends and holidays. This is probably the closest we have on the market right now to that elusive "Love, Valour Compassion" farmhouse ideal that I write about all time.
To check out the listing, click on the photo OR click here.
I jus posted my monthly current market conditions report for Sullivan County real estate. For the past few months, my monthly report has been sort of boring, because there haven't been any dramatic moves. Since the beginning of the year, the same summary could be used for most months — sales volume down, median price steady, average fluctuating, not enough good inventory in popular categories to meet demand, I'm pretty busy.
This month, though, my jaw dropped when I ran the numbers for October. For the 3 month period ending Oct. 31st, the average sales price skyrocketed 20% above the same period a year earlier, largely on 6 sales above $500,000 closing in October, including a $1.45M sale at Timber Lake. That's the highest average sales price since 2008. Expect the average to pull back again over the winter, because there are only a couple of $500K+ sales currently listed in contract. But the October data does indicate that here is increased confidence at the upper end, a market segment that has been notably slugglish over the past few years.
For a fuller picture, check out my November Market Conditions Report here.
It caught me a little by surprise that hunting seaon (deer rifle, the main hutning season) opened yesterday, Nov. 15th. It came a little earlier this year, usually opening the weekend before Thanksgiving. The deer rifle season runs through Dec. 7th.
The Berman Estate in the Town of Fallsburg is being auctioned with 'no reserve' (no floor price) on Nov. 6th. The 170 acre property includes a 9.000+ sq. ft. main house, a carriage/guest house, a caretaker house, inground swimming pool, tennis courts, horse paddocks and a mile of frontage on the Neversink River. The property is listed for sale at $3.9M. Property taxes total approximately $60,000 per year.
This auction comes on the heels of last month's auction of a 10,000+ sq. ft. lakefront home at the Chapin Estate that according to what I've picked up on the grapevine, went for $3.5M. (I'm waiting for the sold property record to come through to confirm.) That was well below the replacement cost for that house.
Here's the link to the auction site with more information on the property, if you're interested.
The mid-upper ($500K-$750K) and upper end ($750K+) of the market has been very sluggish here over the past few years. But it's starting to show some signs of life. In the past few months, there have been 3 sales at Chapin in the $1M top $3M range, and I've heard through the grapevine that the house that was recently auctioned there went for $3.5M. A house outside of Claryville sold last month for just over $1M, and there's a house at Timber Lake that was listed for $1.59M that's in contract and expected to close soon. There are 4 other houses listed between $700K and $1M in contract that are expected to close soon.
In September, I had appointments with three buyers looking into the $700's. None found exactly what they want, but they're actively looking.
There's a common thread among these upper end properties that have sold. They all have unique or spectacular settings, with large acreage, stunning mountain views or great lake frontage. Most of them are perfect or close-to-perfect houses — stylish, updated and move in condition. And all of them were great values, being sold below, sometimes well below, their likely replacement costs.
In 2013, we cleared much of the good 'fire sale' inventory in the mid range $300K plus or minus $50K), including a backlog of lakefront houses that had lagged on market since the recession. That stabilized that segment, and those 2013 buyers got some great deals. We may be seeing a similar scenario in the mid upper and upper range. The upper end 'great value' inventory may be clearing, and the buyers that took the leap in 2014 may have swept up the great deals in this range.
Fall is traditionally a strong selling season for second homes here in Sullivan County. It may seem counterinuitive, because most people think summer is the big selling season. Summer is the big looking season, but many of those summer shoppers don't decide to take the plunge until the fall — after the back to school frenzy is over. It's tough to say whether that pattern will play out this year, because for the past couple of years the seasonality of the market here has been unpredictable.
But, there are buyers out looking now. I was booked pretty straight through this past weekend, and already shoppers are calling for appointments over Columbus Day weekend. So it could turn out to be an active fall.
The fall selling season lasts through the first week of November, so sellers only have five more opportunity weekends to get some buyer love before we go into holiday hibernation. So if you're thinking about cutting your price to move your house before winter, now's the time to do it. Wait until Halloween, and you've probably missed most of the fall market.
I just posted the September Market Conditions Report for Sullivan County Real Estate. Sales volume is off 10% from the previous year (better than last month's 15% year over year drop), and prices showed some recovery from last months year over year drop. Check out the full report here.
Some houses just scream 'adorable', and this one is the curl up kitten of country cabins. It isn't large, just 875 above grade square feet, and given that there are 3 bedrooms, everything is 'cozy sized'. But there's a huge screened in porch that essentially is a summer living room. A bonus is a stream at the bottom of the property.
This was a total makeover in the early 2000's of what was an ugly duckling ranch. I remember when this was on the market after the makeover about a decade ago, and always loved showing it. It's one of those rare houses that just makes you smile. It isn't for everyone, because it is small. But for someone, it's going to make a very cozy getaway. To see the listing, just click on the photo.