Monday, October 1, 2018

Real Estate FAQs for the Catskills


How long will it take to sell a house in this market?
A lot depends on the choices you make when you list it. The truth is, it can take up to a year. Or more, depending on where your property is and whether you price it right. That's why having a GOOD market analysis and then pricing it right is so important. It makes all the difference.

I know there's a lot of interest in upstate from NY buyers. If I price it tight, am I selling myself short?
There is, indeed, a flood of upstate buyers streaming up the Hudson River. Kingston is the latest beneficiary of that buying frenzy. 
It's why I moved to Franklin! It is getting crowded!
That tide is rising up the Rt 28 corridor, too. Andes, Margaretville, even Delhi are beginning to see more interest from those NYC buyers. But those buyers are still fixated on mass transit. It's more than four hours on the bus to Oneonta! And anything over a two hour drive feels excessive to them. 
It is still a buyers' market in Otsego and most of Delaware County. They're not focused here yet.
If you overprice, you sit.
Price it right, it sells. Maybe quickly. And you may get multiple offers.
Today's buyers want a perceived “good deal.”

Can't I just use Zillow to market it myself?
Absolutely. And you'll get what you pay for. You'll appear on web searches with 
no one to filter who contacts you, no targeted outreach, no professional advocate when Zillow tells your buyers your property is worth far less than you know it's worth (Zillow's market analysis is close to useless in rural areas) and no one to 
negotiate for you if you get a potential sale.

Aren't all realtors and real estate companies the same?
No. They really aren't. 
Real estate companies are wildly varied in how they operate, how they market properties, and how they compensate their agents.
Most important for you, as seller, should be how an agent will market your
property, how enthusiastic that agent is about your property, and how accountable they will be to you. 
You want your listing seen as widely as possible, marketed as creatively as possible. You want your agent to communicate with you. A good agent will give you feedback after showings, will respond to you quickly and will give you sound advice.
The biggest agency isn't always the best. The agent who collects listings but
doesn't service them isn't doing their best.

Am I going to have to stage my property?
Do you have to pay a stager to come in and clean out your house? 
Probably not.
Will your house sell more quickly if it is neat, clean, uncluttered and fresh- looking? 
Yes. Unequivocally, yes.
Look at your house as though you were a buyer. Does it look as bright, spacious,
and attractive as possible? Does it need fresh paint or a touch up? 
Clean your carpets. If they're worn, rip them out.
It's hard work getting a house ready to sell. But the payoff is a bigger sale

I don't have the time or energy to prep my house for sale. Do you know people who can do it for me?
I do. And I'm happy to share them with my clients.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Moving To The Country

Yes, Brooklyn,

Kingston, for you, is the country. I know it. You're not wrong, not relatively speaking.

Woodstock's rural.  Rhinebeck -- so quaint. Hudson? Adorable.

Phoenicia, Palenville? The sticks!

But trust me, there's more country-ish country than that, and I've moved there.

I'm still in the Catskills. In fact, I'm IN them.

Let's begin at the beginning.

My former house is a great place and I never much liked it. Sorry. Fact.

It was a ranch. In a suburban development between Kingston and Woodstock. Highly practical. Livable. And unlovable.

There were no gardens at all when I moved there. And when I started to plant, I discovered the house had been built on fill dragged in from the rest of the neighborhood. It was basically an island of rubble.

Not much grew. And what did grow got eaten by the perfectly adorable and very hungry deer who outnumbered us ten to one.

Here's what I wanted:

And we found it.

It is two hours from where we used to live, at twice the elevation of where we were. The climate is different, the weather is different, the storms blow through here quickly and then seem to pick up steam in the mountains and absolutely pound the Hudson River Valley. Here? A little rain.

I like New York City. I visit fairly often. But something has happened since we're here. Something's different since we get our eggs at the farm stand down the road with the metal cash box that no one guards. Something's changed.

Binghamton felt like New Jersey to me yesterday when I had to go there. I'm fine if I never have to go there again. Albany? Huge. So many people. So much sprawl. It's hot. It's crowded. People are cranky.

I suspect New York City is going to feel like an urban theme park in its unreality.

Reality now is a tiny village with one gas station, a post office, a restaurant, pizza place and two antique shops. Reality is that the biggest noise on the road are the dairy trucks heading to the farm down the road. Reality is closing the windows when the manure spreader shows up in the back field.

Reality is pretty damned blissful. Life? Not always so much. But reality of day to day living? Amazing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Everything Old Is New Again

Real estate clients show up from Brooklyn with huge enthusiasm for this area and absolutely no idea why. That's what happens when an area develops “buzz.” They don't know why it's so great here, but they've heard it is and they're in love before they even get off the Thruway.

My job, as their realtor, is to show them why they're right. They want me to find them a house they can make into a home, but I'm also their advocate for the Hudson Valley. I'm their tour guide.

I grew up here; my dad's family has had a summer cottage in Rosendale for five generations and my family moved to Woodstock when I was nine. I've seen attractions come and go.

The rickety, death-defying trestle bridge over the Rondout Creek in Rosendale that thrilled my cousins and me when we were kids is now a solid, reliable structure. It links to walking trails that replaced the train tracks my grandmother and her parents rode upstate from the Bronx when she was a kid.

The railroad bridge beside the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Highland and Poughkeepsie is now the majestic Walkway Over The Hudson. My dad's favorite Kingston spot, Lawton Park, near Golden Hill on Route 32, is closed.

But some things stay the same: the eerie echoes in the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, the ice caves off Binnewater Road, the climbers crawling the rocky face of the 'Gunks, the Mohonk tower above them, the stone walls of the Overlook Mountain House in Woodstock, and the rattlesnakes that nest nearby, just for a few.

Then there are the attractions that have been here forever, but I never knew.

Just last year I discovered Kingston Point Park. I have no idea how I missed it. Blame the dodgey reputation the Rondout area had when I was a kid. That was a very long time ago. Imagine my delight when I wandered through those iron gates late last summer and strolled the paths to discover a beautifully preserved trolley car sitting on the tracks in a misty rain. I honestly thought for a moment that I'd managed to travel back in time. But no, no magic this time. That trolley runs every weekend in the summer.

The year before, I walked the soggy path to the Saugerties Lighthouse for the first time. I've been back several times since.

How about when that Viking ship with its crew of happy, young adventurers docked at the Rondout last year? Or when the Clearwater pulls up to the dock? The daily summer afternoon concerts at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston are worth a mention, too.

I happen to appreciate a good graveyard. Some of my clients do, too. You can't do much better than Kingston's Montrepose Cemetery, designed by landscape architect Calvert Vaux. It's so nice, he's buried there. Nearby Wiltwyck Rural Cemetery also has a real, haunted charm, with the lonely whistle of the occasional freight train adding to the atmosphere.

Sometimes it's not the outside attractions that appeal to newcomers. They want architecture. They want food. They want craft beer. They want music. We've got that covered, too.

I tell them they've got to see a show at BSP in uptown Kingston and try to get a peek at the old vaudeville theatre that hides in the back of the building. Talk about a hidden treasure! And it's a short walk to all of uptown's dining options. It seems there's a new one every day. Kingston City Hall is well worth a visit if you're an architecture fan. Too bad about the old post office up the road on Broadway. It must have been a bit more inspiring than its replacement, Planet Wings.

If they're foodies, I make sure to mention both the CIA, which we all know about, but also the amazing dining opportunities on Main Street in downtown Poughkeepsie. If you haven't checked out what's there, you've missed something. Maybe you can burn off all the calories by walking back across the Walkway to your car.

Breweries we've got. Not only the established favorites, but new ones, like the Suarez Family Brewery in Livingston, or something entirely different, like Kombucha Brooklyn on Route 28. Plus there's the Craft Beer Boogaloo, an annual event for the beer lovers from far and near.

Live music is coming back, too. BSP in Kingston has established itself uptown, but there are lots of smaller and larger venues, with the Colony Cafe in Woodstock just re-joining the list this spring.

There are some truly odd and terrific space reconversions that I point to when I confirm that something is, indeed, happening here. Joe's Garage on Main Street in Catskill is a remarkable reuse of a garage space into an event venue. The old lumberyard there is becoming home to a dance company. Then there's the remarkable Basilica in Hudson, a converted factory space. Kingston's Hutton Brickyard is getting a new life as well.

My experience is that the one thing our new residents aren't terribly interested in is history. They appreciate it, but they aren't excited by it. They want community, connection, and nature. They love old houses, but a day in a museum doesn't seem to hold much appeal. It's an interesting challenge for an area that's always been, let's admit it, a bit snobby about our historical significance.

For our newest would-be residents, the Hudson Valley has no county barriers. Hudson, Catskill, Woodstock, Rhinebeck – it's all the Hudson Valley. All they ask is what there is to do, what there is to see, and how long a trip it is back to the city. Because most of them keep a foot in the city for work. They've got to pay for that upstate house somehow.

First published in  Check them out!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Must Love Pets

I recently met Cujo.

I was showing a home to potential buyers. I'd been told the owners would be taking their dog out of the house while it was shown. They didn't.

I led the potential buyers down the basement steps, and a deep, ominous grumbling began. When the barking started, I almost fell off the steps.

It never stopped. Every time we went anywhere near his or her crate, which was buried in a dimly lit corner, the baleful hound lunged.

You look mighty tasty,” Cujo said. “And no one has fed me my breakfast. For days.”

I couldn't tell you if it was a he or a she. We didn't dare look too closely.

The buyers felt sorry for the snarling beast and so did I. He or she was probably scared to see strangers poking around its house. But it sure didn't help the buyers picture themselves living there.

It did, however, hurry us up.

Pets are a touchy subject these days. We don't own our pets anymore. That's not enlightened. We are “pet parents.”

Pet parents brag about their four legged child's irrepressible personality. They assume everyone will enjoy their little darling.

One client who wanted to sell her home had a hyperactive, stressed-out, little dog who leaped into the air and yipped, non-stop, for every single showing. No one could talk. The dog monopolized our attention.

The house finally sold while they were away on vacation with Little Yipper.

Good pet parents take their pets with them everywhere they go.

One woman carried her dog in her pocketbook. It growled in every house she looked at.

Poppy doesn't like this one,” she told me.

Poppy was very difficult to please.

Another couple brought their adorable young dog to every appointment. After several hours trapped in a car on the New York State Thruway, Bouncy couldn't wait to get out of the car, race in circles and then take off into the woods.

Bouncy came back eventually.

Yet another couple had three very lively Border Collies.

They threw open the car doors and invited them into every house they looked at. It didn't occur to them that the owners might have had pets of their own, animals who might not welcome the bumptious intruders. Not to mention the trail of dirty paw prints on a just-cleaned floor.

They'll have to live here, too,” the dogs' parents explained.

The look I got, from owners and dogs, when I suggested that the dogs stay outside, could have melted wax.

There are cats who try to escape every time an exterior door is opened.

I nearly had a heart attack as I started to say, “Watch out for the...” and the family cat materialized out of nowhere and bolted for freedom. Fortunately, Kitty didn't run quickly enough.

There are houses that smell so strongly of the animals who live there that I suspect nothing short of demolition will banish the funk.

But don't get me wrong. It's not all horrible.

Sometimes the family pet is one of the best things about a house. There are few things more enjoyable than watching a merry beagle race around in circles at the sound of her name. A sweet old cat on a bed or a calm dog looking for a little affection are pluses, in my opinion.

I like animals. I really do. But I have to admit it: overall, animals and real estate don't mix.

In case you're wondering, my dog stays home. She gets carsick.

(Previously published in Ulster Publishing - check them out at!)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Brooklyn North

Move aside, Hudson. The buzz has moved south and it's taking over an entire small city, not just one very hip main street.

Kingston's been rumbling for a few years, with the O+ Festival, the influx of young visitors lured by their friends and the growing availability of Air BnB rentals. But if you're not here yet, you've come late.

Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe Vogue. Seriously. Vogue. Kingston is now the great little upstate destination for design lovers that you just must visit, darlings and dudes.

People who I've helped find homes here in the past couple of years are now thanking their lucky stars they got into the Kingston scene before Vogue found it.

What's so great about Kingston?

Well, first, there's the Uptown (Stockade - same place) restaurant scene. Surprisingly varied and plentiful for a fairly small city, you can have lunch at a minimalist Greek place and dinner at a locavore's favorite fantasy. Meat, no meat, pasta, no gluten, ethnic and American - it's all within a few blocks.

The shopping's improving, too. Antique shops, gift shops, art supplies, candy, coffee (sometimes several under the same roof), tattoos and even an upscale bridal boutique.

The live music scene has picked up in a big way and the tumbleweeds no longer blow down Wall Street at 10 PM on a weekend. Unless The Tumbleweeds are playing.

The Rondout area (the river end of the city) has been an arts enclave for years and now the city is on a mission to revitalize the midtown, Broadway area, which connects Uptown and the Rondout, with more restaurants, shops, galleries and watering holes.

Walk two blocks from the Trailways bus terminal and you're in the heart of Uptown.

It's car-less upstate living at its best.  But it's not a secret any more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie Was Right

Woodstock lost its coolest resident yesterday; David Jones put out a new album, then said goodbye.
He was always able to see trends before they happened and I imagine he saw what was going on in our part of New York's Hudson Valley.

If we aren't changing, we're deteriorating. That's a bit of Eastern wisdom I remember from all my reading of Buddhist texts when I was trying to make sense of a world that was moving too fast for me. And this area where I grew up, nestled between the Hudson and the Catskill Mountains, is changing.

Look at uptown Kingston on New Year's Eve, photo from MidHudson News:

You undoubtedly don't understand how surreal this crowd is, but take it from one who has watched a crumpled up newspaper blow up this street at night with nothing else in sight - this is incredible.

These are people fiercely in love with their new upstate town. They're young and they're energetic and they're determined to create a real community here. In my opinion, they're a great addition to an area that's been moping since its main employer left town thirty years ago.

Brooklyn expats have created a new land - Kingstyn...a reviving city with a great vibe, lots of culture, and a belief that there's nowhere better. All they have to do is get the city to hack those shocking taxes down to size and they might just be right.

Then there's Woodstock. Big changes here, too.  Just a couple of years ago I really despaired of its future. Always a silly but endearing place, it felt like it was becoming a caricature, with aging hippies and New Jersey motorcyclists in tie die dominating the landscape.

But now there's a younger vibe. Many say it's because of Air BnB and I believe it. Younger people discovered it as an easy weekend getaway and have fallen in love with the streams, the mountains and the relaxed vibe. There are families with young kids. There are European transplants, particularly from the UK. There are artists and musicians and the same kind of creative people who made Woodstock something special back in its Albert Grossman-era heyday.

Phoenicia, snowy little exit off Rt 28, is now hip. Rosendale, an endearing blink of a village between New Paltz and Kingston, is hip. The other side of the Hudson may be rolling hills and manicured estates, but the west side of the Hudson is wooded, wild and funky- it's cool again.

Bowie was right again.



Monday, May 18, 2015

New York's Secret Garden - Otsego and Schoharie County

I spent every summer as a kid at a sweet little cabin my parents had built on farmland outside of Cherry Valley. My kids spent their summers there, too. I wish it was still ours, but at least it's still there. When I need to whisk my mind to a favorite place, that's where I go.

It's been a long love affair with that area for me. I was back today and when I first caught sight of a rolling vista of farmland, I got teary. I do that.

I pulled myself together and headed into Cooperstown. It's the prettiest little lakeside town I know. It's got it all; pristine waterfront, Victorian and Colonial architecture, a bit of life thanks to the baseball fans. Oh, that Otsego Lake. Thanks to the wealthy family with the foresight to buy up one shore and keep it from turning into a collection of camps. Generations have enjoyed it because of them.
Then I went to Cherry Valley. Part of my heart is always there.  It's an adorable little village that sometimes almost wakes from its slumber, then dozes off again. It appears to be dozing right now. But the townsfolk got together and restored the Lithia Spring in the middle of town about ten years ago. It looks wonderful.

I stopped at the great old market that doesn't appear to have changed in the past forty years. The old fellow behind the counter snorted when I asked him what was new in town. "Nothing," he scoffed. But when I left I found he was wrong. There's a new art gallery in Mr. Lafler's old plumbing business building. Someone else has started a lovely business up the hill; a lilac farm.

Cherry Valley and Otsego County aren't undemanding sweethearts; it takes sturdier folk than I to hang in there when the long winter roars in. It's snow country.

But there's nowhere sweeter in the spring, I'm thinking.