Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year in Review

Well, as 2009 winds down, I suppose it is only natural to look back on the year and reflect on things good and bad, personally and professionally.

On the personal side, we are expecting in March. It is our first, and cautious optimism would be the best way to describe how I feel about that. She is excited, and since she is such a saint. (she puts up with me) I have no fear that she will be a great mother, and together we can be pretty good parents.

But this is a real estate blog, and although my personal life is important to me, I'm sure it is pretty mundane to someone who is trying to gather information on buying a home in Sullivan County.

Professionally I had my best year in my short (four year) real estate career. Now most of that I can attribute to switching brokerages, where my opportunities increased expediently, and also putting it in perspective, "best year" does not by any means put me up there with the Rockefeller's, but in a year of global groaning and gnashing of teeth, I would say professionally it is an accomplishment.

I had some really great clients this year, and met some wonderful, and wonderfully different people. I would like to thank all those who bought, and who's homes I sold in '09. You are the only reason I am in business.

My mission statement for 2010 is simple. "Be there for my clients." I would like to think that I succeeded in that in '09, and I would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2010.

Now if I could just get my concierge service business off the ground. It is a great idea, but I have had little response.

“I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed: and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I fail and keep trying.”


Friday, December 11, 2009

Holidays Approaching--Slow Weekend

First weekend in probably about two months where I don't have a full schedule. I do have to accompany a co-broke on one of my listings on Sat. but that is it. I'm sure it is the holidays. People are busy with Christmas stuff. I certainly don't mind. I'll take a weekend at home.

The problem with my "busyness" is that it is not translating into offers and sales. I have a half dozen people I am actively working with, and although I feel we are close on a few, all seem hesitant. There is a prevailing idea that any asking price can be automatically discounted by 20 to 30 percent, many refuse to make compromises, and then even when it all seems like it has come together, there is that nagging fear that if the market declines further, they will have overpaid.

They are not tire kickers. I have been in this business long enough to sniff out the ones who are just looking for a nice day to view houses in the country, but there is just no such thing as an easy sale.

An example I have is the property link I listed below. I showed this property three or four times. It is a nice big farmhouse on seven acres with a few huge outbuildings. Bank owned. It was bought at the height of the insanity for $450,000. Bank started it at $239,000 dropped it to $220,000, (at which time I got an offer for $180,000) I urged my people to come up just $10,000 more. No dice. They "moved on."

The price was just dropped last week again to $199,000. I called back my customers and told them. They said, put in an offer of $182,500. When I presented it...to late. In the course of two days, there had been an accepted offer, and contracts were out

Believe me this is a steal at $199,000, (and it probably went for around $190,000.) But this is my point. For $7,500 (less then the total commission.) Buyers are willing to walk. I can lead a horse to water, and yet this pervasive attitude that unless the property is a steal, it is not worth it. And it is not until the media starts telling everyone that the market is rebounding before this attitude changes.

I know I have told this story before, but I had an economics professor in college who would say. "When do the cliff divers of Acapulco jump? When they see water? or when they see rocks?

7858 State Route 52 (a/k/a CR 111) Narrowsburg, NY 12764

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Foray into the Short Sale Mess

So inevitably I suppose, the short sale spectre which has been looming this past year, finally entered into my day to day business. I currently have two deals (or attempted deals) in the short sale category. I am the selling agent on one, and the buyers agent on another.

While being on the buyers side is a lot less work, I find it more frustrating, because besides squeaky wheel phone calls to the listing agent, I have no control, as the frustratingly slow wheels of the bank system continuously leave the buyer up in the air as to whether this will actually happen.

Dealing with loss mitigation bank personnel is incredibly frustrating, because it seems there is no vested interest on that end to make the deal happen. All necessary hoops--hardship letter, financial corroboration, comparative market analysis, the necessary short sale "packet" as been submitted, and yet we sit and wait. I do believe that this will happen, but when is the question, and in the meantime, as an agent, all I can do is try to keep impatient buyers from moving on.

I read a stat that 80% of all short sale attempts fail, and the average short sale takes eight months to complete. I blame the lending institutions for that. The obvious apathy that I encounter on every phone call is absurd.

On a brighter side, my holiday weekend was full of showings. Buyers are looking again, and despite what the doom and gloomers are saying, things seem to be picking up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slow Business Unless Your a Bank Robber

I racked my brain this morning to come up with a real estate topic for this blog post, but the reality is, things for me have been quiet. I field daily inquiries, and have shown on the weekends, but everybody seems to be casual lookers right now. I don’t know, maybe it is the time of year, or maybe it is just happens to be the people who are contacting me. There hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on the pending or sold sections of the mls, so I think things in general are quiet.

The $8,000 tax credit did get extended which I think is good news, at least for the economy in general, I think it has minimal effect on second home purchases here in SC.

On the exciting news front we did have two bank robberies here in Callicoon within five days of each other, which is unusual to say the least. The first, on the Bank of America, the robbers were quickly apprehended, but so far the second bunch on the Bank of Jeffersonville remain at large. I’m sure the second was a “we coulda done better conversation” that built into the actual crime.

All the papers wrote that the first bank heist was in excess of 75K which I think is irresponsible to print. It surprised me that one would get that much from a teller hold-up in the sticks, and I think it got the second crew thinking. They should have told everyone they only made off with like $5,000. Probably would have prevented this second robbery.

Anyway just my two cents. Starting to get a response from my concierge business. www.catskillconcierge.com I have two interviews this weekend.

Friday, October 16, 2009

120 Acre Sale in Glen Spey

A listing just went to sold status in the mls. It is 120 acres on Van Tuyl Road in Barryville, sold for $200,000. Nothing special about the land, but nothing really negative about it either, no power lines or steep grade. It is an estate sale, so perhaps there was some motivation with multiple siblings (just surmising) however, this cannot be classified as a distressed sale. It sat on the market for almost 700 days, price drops from $499,000.

This puts us in a land price area we have not seen for some time in this county--under $2,000 an acre. And it reinforces what I have been saying all summer. Buyers are only pulling the trigger when they feel they are getting a great deal.

At any rate this is going to add an interesting twist to large parcel land comps. I added the link to the listing below.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Speculation on the Tax Credit Extension

From the Re/Max Mainstreet Website

"Quick passage by the House last week of a bill extending the $8,000 home buyer tax credit next year for military, diplomatic and intelligence personnel serving overseas increases the odds that Congress will agree to an extension, maybe even an expansion, of the entire credit program well into 2010.

The White House is also signaling that it sees the overall tax credit program – currently set to expire November 30 – as an important element in cutting the unemployment rolls and stimulating new jobs next year.

After an economic policy strategy meeting last week in the Oval Office involving President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, congressional aides said Democrats generally support an extension of the housing credit.

Reid already has made clear he wants an extension. He is co-sponsoring a Senate bill that would do so for six months.

Congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, sponsored the one-year extension of the credit for military and other personnel serving overseas, and is reported by aides as favoring an extension for the entire program.

The White House has not publicly committed to an extension, but has confirmed that the President is seriously examining that option.

An unexpected development that emerged following last week's White House meeting was the possibility of opening up the credit to a broader group of buyers next year - people who sell their current homes and buy a replacement home.

Though details were scanty, Capitol Hill sources said one option on the table would be to provide a tax credit – most likely at the $8,000 level – to replacement home buyers whose incomes do not exceed some limit.

The current credit phases out for single taxpayers with incomes above $75,000, and married purchasers earning $150,000. "

I give it a 50/50 shot that it will be extended. Funny thing is now that we are coming up on the dealine, I have had a few inquires about whether buyers can get in under the wire.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Busy, Busy...and the New Yuppie.

It has been a while since my last blog post. I have been trying to do once a week, but this past week has been so busy, that I haven't had a chance. Again busy doesn't always mean money in this business, and so far none of this flurry of activity has generated anything concrete, but as we all know, buying a home is not like buying a loaf of bread. Especially with a second home, the idea needs to percolate and age a bit, before it comes to be. All of the new inquiries these past two weeks are new to the process. And that brings me to the topic of this post.

In my own little real estate world, it seems the fear of the "next great depression" has passed. Prospective buyers have emerged from the fallout shelters. Most of the ones who have contacted me are young urban professionals, 25-35, double income couples, (whether gay or straight), in which both parties are pretty even economically. A few have kids, but most don't.

However the "yuppie" stigma couldn't be more off. It seems anything over 2,500 square feet is too big. I have heard, "a little place to get away to." or "cabin in the woods." Heating it and taxes are a major concern. Mcmansions and anything showy is frowned upon. A new frugality seems to have emerged. Not just because of the recession, but it almost seems inherent in this generation.

The other thing is that the buyers have done their research and are well informed. Very often they already know the last sale price, lot dimensions, taxes and sometimes even mortgage information without me telling them. I love it. Working with a savvy motivated buyer makes my job much easier.

However value is the key. Gone are the days where a buyer stretches more than they had originally wanted to. Anything less then ten percent off the asking price is dismissed at hand. It really seem as though the "less is more" era has emerged.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

$8,000 Tax Credit. Will it Expire? Does SC Real Estate Care?

From The NYT's Online Sept. 15th.

"When Congress passed an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers last winter, it was intended as a dose of shock therapy during a crisis. Now the question is becoming whether the housing market can function without it.

As many as 40 percent of all home buyers this year will qualify for the credit. It is on track to cost the government $15 billion, more than twice the amount that was projected when Congress passed the stimulus bill in February.

In the view of the real estate industry and some economists, all that money is well spent. They contend the credit is doing what it was meant to do, encouraging a recovery in the housing market that is gathering steam. Analysts say the credit is directly responsible for several hundred thousand home sales.

Skeptics argue that most of the money is going to people who would have bought a home anyway. And they contend that unless it is allowed to expire on schedule in late November, the tax credit is likely to become one more expensive government program that refuses to die.

The real estate industry, including the powerful 1.1 million-member National Association of REALTORS®, wants Congress to extend the credit at least through next summer. The group hopes to expand the program to $15,000 and to allow all buyers, not just those who have been out of the market for at least three years, to qualify. The price tag on that plan: $50 billion to $100 billion."

Two out of my ten residential sales this year were eligible for the tax credit. So for me, I am at about half of what the national average is, but we are a second home market. Will the expiration do anything to our market? It's hard to tell. If it expires, and there is a dip in national numbers, it will affect people who are getting ready to test the waters again. However I have not seen a last second rush of people trying to buy something before the end of November.

I guess we will see. I think overall it was good for the housing market. Both of my "first time" buyers would have bought anyway, but the credit enabled them to look in a higher range.

NAR is feverishly trying to get the plan extended, so in their eyes it has helped the agents and brokers nationwide. Well lets see...if they are estimating five million home sales this year. Forty percent is two million. Times that by $8,000, you get 16 billion--the amount the tax credit cost the tax payer. Now take 5% of that) the national average of a real estate commission). That comes to 80 million (very roughly) in real estate commissions. I guess we can see why NAR wants this so badly. That is a healthy chunk of change.

Again locally, I don't think it is going to make much of a difference, but we'll see.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Summer is Gone

It really didn’t hit me until this week how quiet it has gotten up here in Sullivan, post Labor Day. I drove to downtown Callicoon last night and there was only one car parked on main street. I had gotten used to driving through at least once or twice to find a good spot. And then again driving into the office this morning, the roads are all very quiet. The leaves are changing, the fall crispness is in the air. I love this time of year.

But what does this mean for my sellers? A few are not happy. They are worried we have missed the selling season, and with school tax time fast approaching, there are a few that are re-examining their strategies.

In my short real estate career it has historically seemed like the fall is not a bad time for activity here in Sullivan. Now granted if you go by the sold numbers in the fall, those are all deals put together in the middle of summer, and for some the search may have begun around Memorial Day. However, my phone is still ringing, and people are still making appointments.

I think for smart buyers, now would be the time. When is it the best time to by an air conditioner? Certainly not the first eighty-five degree day in June. And we all know the best time to get Christmas decorations is Dec. 26th.

It will be interesting to watch the pending list over the next couple of months. I think the fall will continue the upward trend of activity.

For now though I will enjoy the quiet sidewalks of our little towns, and watch the leaves do their thing. Fall really is the best time of year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gas Drilling Seminar

I attended the natural gas seminar last night put on by the Independent Oil and Gas Association.. It was a pretty packed house, standing room only, and the first part of the night was somewhat informative. However the q and a portion turned into a bit of a donny brook, with some pretty off the wall questions and accusations.

It really didn’t answer too many of the questions people have had in this county since this whole thing came up. We were assured that the D.E.C. will be closely regulating all drilling activity, that there has been no instances of contaminated drinking water anywhere in New York State, since the first well was drilled years ago. It sort of reminded me of Alien Invasion. “We come in Peace.” There were vague promises of road repair, and examples where they had built bridges in the past. They also made references to other areas of New York, where wells were present in the back yards of schools, and in wineries.

They explained the fracturing process, which is 99.5 percent water and sand, the other .5 percent being a lubricant, and some sort of soap. All very benign sounding. There were graphs of comparative water usage. (Apparently golf courses use much more water then gas drilling.) And promises of rigs being silenced at dusk.

However any specifics, and they became vague. I paraphrased a few below.
What happens to the contaminated water? “Well, there are a few possibilities, one of which is setting up a treatment plant, another is re-using the water in a different well.” (Again promises of D.E.C. involvement.)

How many wells will be drilled? “Well right now there are 650 rigs in the entire U.S. so the reports of thousands of wells is untrue. It will probably start off with a few, and if they are successful, more over time.”

How can you be sure that there will be no drinking water contamination? “In 2004 the EPA after looking at 452,000 wells in the U.S. concluded not a single case of water contamination from gas drilling.”

One of the most interesting spins was the promise of local tax revenue, and how the companies were going to pay these taxes directly to local municipalities. However when it was explained more, it is actually an ad valorem tax--a real property tax, which is directly linked to the amount of gas pumped from a well. In essence a property’s assessment will rise due to the fact it is more valuable because of natural gas. However they made it sound as if the gas companies would be paying the tax, when actually it will come from the land owners.

Without question, since it was put on by the Gas Association it was a bit slanted, and some was out right propaganda. However they are coming, its just a matter of when. I guess we can only hope our state and local officials police them enough to keep us safe. I do have a gut feeling that this will actually be good for the county once it is up and running. I attached some links below.




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catskill Concierge

I have decided in my unending quest for extreme wealth, to start a business, while still building my real estate empire.

Seriously though, it seems that on every transaction, as the second home buyer nears the closing date, I start to get the questions. Do you know someone who can plow my driveway? Do you know a good plumber? What is the crime rate in this ares? Do I need a good security system?

Everyone is busy, and most people who are successful enough to afford a second home purely for leisure, are working pretty hard to achieve such a level of financial success, and it takes up a pretty healthy chunk of their time. Owning a second home requires a certain level of maintenance, and that part of home ownership can be a drag.

Most don't seem to mind the lawn mowing and gardening (because on 2nd ave and 84th, on the 12th floor, there is very little lawn) but the other stuff, general house work, snow plowing, window washing etc. Who wants to spend their weekends doing that? And then there is the dreaded "freeze-up" where the heat shuts off in an unoccupied house, and a pipe bursts.

So with the help of a small team of eager currently unemployed entrepreneurs, we are in the process of starting Catskill Concierge, a full service concierge service in Sullivan County. It is in its infancy stage, but I would love to hear some feedback, and hopefully a few customers. I attached a link to the new website below.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fixer-Uppers Are Still Out There

It has been awhile since my last post. I went away for a bit, and have been pretty busy, just trying to catch up, and field daily new inquiries. It seems that there is plenty of interest, but still only at the "bargain level" for whatever price range. It appears people's perspectives are still being dictated by the media, and the news that this may be the bottom has got people poking their heads up out of their respective foxholes, but again only if it is a "deal".

However some sellers are responding, and I have had a few calls on things that appear to be just that...a deal. I went out an previewed two properties this week that I had calls on. Now I suppose a "deal" is in the eye of the beholder, but these two properties in particular caught my eye enough to write about here.

Neither are my listing, so the suspicious folk do not need to worry that I am plugging my inventory.

Click here for listings

The old boarding home is a pretty unique building. First of all, it is set on 78 private acres. Some of it is open pasture and a nice stream, (although a pretty major portion is on a hillside). It has its own private wooden bridge to get to the property, and most (if not all) of its originality remains. I also added a couple of my own shots below. This is one of those properties that make you feel like you are stepping back into the fifties. All the bedrooms are small, but there are 12. Hardwood floors are original, the barn is also original and huge.

Check out the player piano with all the scrolls. Every once in a while you get the hair on the back of your neck cool feeling about a property, (kind of like when you hear a song you really like for the first time.) and this one definitely has it.

It is a ton of work--many would consider it a money pit or a headache, but an original old 1850's boarding house on 78 acres with a stream under three hours from midtown for $319,000 to me is a "deal". I say this one is in contract by Oct. 1. Anyone want to take an over/under on that?

The other property is considerably less money, but has the same kind of old originality. It was the general store in Galilee, PA for years. This property is also pretty big (five bedrooms and a big space downstairs), and needs work. Most of the original building remains, although there were some hodge-podge renovations over the years. Portions of the tin ceilings have been destroyed, which is a real shame, but I think they can be salvaged. Also, there is little evidence of Home Depot around.
However, this is another property where you feel like you are stepping back in time. Many times I hear the complaints that old-school originality is tough to find, and often what was once vintage is now covered by cheap '70's paneling or foofy 80's textured wall paper. Here are two of examples where the right person can really get in there, roll up there sleeves, and turn either one of these into a truly spectacular properties.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Bait and Switch and the High Maintenance Seller

I got a phone call from a listing of mine that they no longer wish to retain my services as their listing agent. They want to terminate the agreement, and attempt to sell the house on their own.

Now please understand this post is not about me defending my abilities as a listing agent, and defining their actions as impulsive and unwise, but rather the interesting situation as a whole for a real estate broker.

The listing agreement reads that should a prospective seller break the agreement before the expiration date, the agent is due financial consideration for advertising and services rendered. I know some brokers who hold clients to this, but I don't. If you are unhappy or just wish to move on, God bless. No hard feelings. The last thing I want is someone who feels trapped by my services. I do spend money on advertising, but rarely on one listing. It is more of a marketing approach as a whole.

Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. X want out. So be it. Their home was shown nine times in five months. Nine ready able and willing buyers who chose not to buy this particular home. The feedback? House too small 1,300 sq. feet. Bedrooms too small. Too close to the highway. Although urged, they were not willing to drop the price any further. (We did have three price reductions.) Again not blaming them. They are a very nice couple, who really would like to sell. I feel bad that I was not able to help them sell their home. I spent quite a bit of time with them, going over numbers, changing and moving signs, almost daily phone calls. It was a lot of work, for it to turn out to be nothing.

Or was it nothing? (This is where I finally get to my point.) Two couples that I showed Mr. and Mrs. X's house too, have made offers through me on other houses. One is within a half a mile, and has already signed contracts, and should close in the next few weeks. Without having that listing, and having the opportunity to market it, I would not have meet either couple or made either sale. Is it the bait and switch? I had the bait, and it did turn into a switch, so I suppose in the most basic form it was.

Now we all know that the illegal form is when the bait is non existent and is advertised purely as a lure. I just think it is interesting when you take a look at it, how well such a scheme can work.

There are a few Realtors in the area who leave listings on their websites long after they have either sold, or gone off the market. "Oh I'm sorry, that house just went into contract. But do tell, what type of home are you looking for?"

I do believe that Mr. and Mrs. X were a bit impulsive deciding to have a go at it on their own ( and if they list with another broker, so be it.) Nine showings in five months is pretty good for times like these. You can lead a horse to water...

Did I fail? I failed Mr. and Mrs. X, but I did not fail my business, or the two buyers who found homes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cold Feet

I had the first full weekend with no showings in quite some time. The odd thing is, is that I was busy showing during the week. Who knows, perhaps with people getting time off, they use the weekends for leisure activities. I am not complaining, as I spent the weekend going to the various local events. The Narrowsburg Riverfest was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and some of the art work that was auctioned off was pretty special.

I did get a call from a buyer of mine, who is scheduled to sign contracts tomorrow. He e-mailed me a few other listings, that he wants to see before he stops by the lawyers office, and we once again discussed the compromises he is making on this house, and the "shortfalls" for lack of a better term. I did my best to dissuade his fears, without sounding like a pitchman, (because I think once I come across as a "salesman", I've lost my credibility.) But I know he still has a bit of trepidation.

This is the third time I have shown a buyer other houses, after an accepted offer, and a satisfactory inspection, and in this case a succesful appraisal. The classic example of cold feet.

I can certainly empathize. I think we have all been in that position where once the excitement and the rush wear off, you are left with that nagging doubt, and that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you may have made a horrible mistake, and the perfect home at a perfect price is out there somewhere, and you have missed it.

I have made the comment before that the only two times I see a buyer perfectly happy, is when they finally find the home they want, and at the closing table when they finally own the home. The whole process in between is fraught with uneasiness, as the different obstacles are negotiated, and it can be quite frightening. It is such a huge investment, that often every decision is second guessed and agonized over. It's human nature, to worry when you are out of your comfort zone.

It can be frustrating at times as a broker, because it seems a buyer will do a one-eighty, often overnight. All I can do, is stress value, and assure that these hiccups are in every deal.

Buying a home, even if it is a second home is an emotional undertaking from the moment the buyer walks through a house, and "feels" it is right, until, they sign their name on the check ( or mortgage) with a bunch of zeros. Of course there will be fear and a bit of regret mixed in. I just hope my attempts at allaying those fears (whether they by that house, or a different one) help ease the apprehension, and make the process a bit smoother.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Dreaded "Underwriter"

I had the last twenty-four hours where I thought I deal I have been working on for months was dead in the water. We had managed to get over every hurdle with this property. It is a large parcel with a small house, most of the value is in the land.

Most banks won't lend on a property with more than 40% of the value in the acreage, (which is a Freddie and Fannie guideline, look how that worked out for them) but we shopped around a bit, and found a lender who assured us it wouldn't be a problem.

So we slogged through the process, ducking issues as usual, inspections with wet basements, surveyors who are slow as molasses, the appraisal, which I was concerned about, simply because you never know, came back 10% higher than the accepted offer. I thought we were golden.

Then I get the dreaded call. The underwriter kicked it back. Too big a risk with that much land. Now keep in mind, my client is plunking down over 30% cash. With the amount that is being financed, I could sell this property over a weekend for that amount. I don't see the bank risk, that this shadowy "underwriter" has seen.

And that gets me to this whole underwriter thing. Who are these people? Even the name is ominous. Some nameless, faceless guy sitting in a florescent lit room, with a giant approved/denied stamp, thumping mortgage applications with an evil cackle. I understand the whole need to keep fraud out of the system, but this cloak and dagger stuff is a little over the top.

At any rate, so far the story has a happy ending. Using my inside voice, I explained reasonably to the loan officer that she assured me this would not be a problem, and that is why my client chose to go with her company. (Believe it or not there were a few others willing to loan on what is essentially vacant land.) After a day of back and forth, the "underwriter" approved it, and for now the deal is back on.

Now if you are an underwriter reading this, please don't take it personally and send me a nastygram, I'm just ranting a bit, and you must admit, like I said before the secrecy thing is a little over the top.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Buffalo Zach's

Had a great experience at this eatery in Roscoe. And I would recommend it to all who are in that area. It is right off of 17 in "downtown" Roscoe. It has a large outdoor comfy eating area. The interior has a southwest/Starbucks feel without being cheesy. The food was delicious, and the service efficient and friendly. Tikki torches surround the outdoor deck, where there are weekend afternoon concerts--bluegrass and country, as well as some pretty talented one man bands. It is very pet friendly, and I have never been there when there has not been a pooch or two drapped over the feet of their owner on the deck.

There are some pretty cool eateries popping up here in Sullivan, which I think is a great sign, but what sets this one apart is the owner, Peter Swensey.

Peter is a soft-spoken, hard-working guy who oozes earnestness, and is impossible to dislike. He greets and chats with all the patrons, and his personality really shows not only in the decor, but in the feel of the place. Jason Dole wrote a great article in The Towne Crier a few years back about Peter. I attached a link below.

Anyhow, if you are ever in the area, and want to stop off the highway, for a bite of lunch at a great little spot, stop by Buffalo Zach's. I recommend the roast beef panini with roasted red peppers, and cheese and horseradish sauce.


Monday, June 22, 2009

The Camping Renaissance

Quiet weekend. I'm not sure if it is the weather, or the end of the school year, but I did not have appointments either day. I did have to meet an appraiser on Saturday up by Parksville, and that gave me an excuse to stop in and see my friend Ann at Hunter Lake Campgrounds. Besides this soggy week, she says they are having one of their busiest seasons ever. (And she's been there almost thirty years.) I got a similar report from the owners of Soaring Eagle Campgrounds right over Kellams Bridge in Stalker PA. They have been just about full all season so far.

There has always been a pretty substantial camping business in Sullivan County, but now with the recession, and people returning to a "simpler time" (the media seems to have latched onto that phrase) it seems camping is having a bit of a renaissance.

There really are some hidden gems as far as campgrounds go in our area. Hunter Lake is one of my favorites, not just because the owners are real hardworking likeable people, but because it has that upstate Adirondack/Lake George feel, at half the distance. The lake is gorgeous and the campsites are tucked in by the lake. http://www.hunterlakecampground.com/

Lander's Campgrounds at Skinners Falls is a pretty popular one, but there are quite a few all along the Delaware. Most have canoe or kayak/tube rentals, so you can enjoy the river.

Here is a list of a few others. http://www.catskillhikes.com/sullcamp.html

While there are detractors from the whole camping thing, there really is no other vacation or weekend getaway that compares in price. Yeah there are bugs, and the possibility of rain, and dirt, but I remember as a kid, sitting around the campfire at night, the fireflies blinking, the smell of smoke in the air, a stomach full of smores and hot dogs. Without sounding like a visa commercial, those memories are priceless.

Many of my buyers have similar memories of this area. It seems when they are describing their dream property, it hearkens back to a childhood summer memory, whether it be camping, or a relative who owned.

So during the lean times, lets cultivate a whole new generation, who will fall in love with the Catskills. And if you make it up to Hunter Lake, say hi to Ann for me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interest Rates and Gas Prices...What else for a Perfect Storm?

There has been a rather disturbing trend happening over the last few weeks that I have an uneasy feeling may effect the slight bounce in our real estate market.

One of the things that brought buyers back, was obviously the historically low interest rates, and to a lesser degree, (although some would argue this point) gas prices. I have had this discussion before, and there are people who are adamant that if a second home buyer can afford a 200k plus Sullivan County home, and a place in NYC or surrounding area as a primary home, and afford all the expenses that go along (two heating bills, two tax bills etc.) a sixty cent jump in gas prices will not effect their bottom line.

I disagree. Now I'm sure there are people out there who pay no attention to gas prices, but the vast majority of my buyers, are stretching for the dream of country home ownership. An extra fifteen dollars a trip, translates to $60 a month. If you added $60 a month to payments on a 30 year fixed at 5.85% (the current rate) it would be a difference in price of $14,000. That is a pretty big difference in buying power.

Now add almost a whole point onto an interest rate, and you can see how timid buyers may duck back down into the foxhole.

I am normally a pretty bullish guy when it comes to our real estate market. But even I started to scratch my head at some of the prices back at the end of '07 and into '08. We have all witnessed a pretty major correction. (20 to 30% percent by some estimates). I still truly believe that there are some good bargains out there, but this belief that we have reached bottom?...I am not so sure.

I think if interest rates stay around this level, and gas prices do the same, we will stay at status quo. I am just concerned that one more event...one more big corporation collapse, or 400 point Dow drop, or a big jump in unemployment...could freeze this market again, and we may not see signs of buyers picking themselves up and dusting themselves off, until the fall.

Hope that is not the case. Right now in my personal real estate world, things are moving right along. Maybe it is paranoid to look over one's shoulder. I just feel we may be at a cross roads and the next few months will really determine which way we move.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I stayed up to watch Saturday Night Live last week. Something I haven’t done in a while. SNL really isn’t what it was back in the day, but I digress.

Anyway they have the segment …“Really?” during the weekend update. I found myself saying that a lot this week, as I encountered the relative insanity in my profession, and surroundings.

Like the fact that a stove needs to be sitting in a kitchen of a brand new construction. It doesn’t need to be hooked up, just be there for the appraiser to see. Fridge? Not necessary. Just a stove. Or else it doesn’t appraise. A $300,000 home missing a $200 non-working stove. The bank will not loan on it Really…

Or the fact that our state can manage a hostile takeover, and shut the doors for two days, and yet fixing a pothole is too big an undertaking. Are these guys still getting paid while the doors are locked? Of course they are. I know this partisan crap has been around forever, but really? Is this the way grown ups in “power” act? Really? And we have people who still believe that gambling will come to our county. These people can’t get out of their own way. (And that is not a blind knock on the governor. We know he is sensitive.) Really.

How about the co-broke showing I went on, where the owner told me “realtors aren’t worth an eff.” Really. Nice to meet you too. I think you need a Prozac and a nap. Oh and by the way, the reason your house isn’t selling is not because agents are not worth and eff, its because it smells like dog pee, and it only has one bathroom. Really.

I had two closings this week. Really. First time in my career. One was a house that I listed. The owner is the sweetest eighty year old women you ever want to meet. She is moving to Florida to be close to her daughter. She had lived in the house since it was built in 1951. We had some attorney issues, survey issues, and appraisal issues. (Like any deal there is always something). She stuck through it all like a trooper. She flew off to Florida this morning, and left me a card with a fifty dollar gift certificate to Red Lobster, and a note saying I am the best real estate agent ever. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Almost more than the commission check… Really..

Monday, June 8, 2009

Primary vs. Second Home Buyers

As most of my readers, (if there in fact are any, besides my sister) know, I mainly specialize in second home buyers, city or suburb dwellers looking for a weekend/summer place. Every once in a while though, I get someone looking for a primary home. I had just such a family this weekend. A nice couple with three kids, re-locating to our area from Jersey. His company transferred him, and she is going to be working at our local hospital in the O. R.

They knew very little about the area, except that they needed to buy a home, and to be in it by the time the kids are back in school. It was nice taking them around, showing them different areas, and homes. It was a long day, but one that was beneficial.

Since it had been a while, the difference between primary and second home buyers was blatant. First of all, this couple has already made an offer on one of the houses we saw. That has never happened to me with second home buyers. For them it is at least two trips, and very often much more.

I liken it to buying milk and jewelry. If you go to the store to buy milk (a necessity) you will come home with milk, however, with jewelry, it must grab your eye, tantalize you, touch that human urge portion of your brain. That is what will trigger a purchase.

But then some might ask why I don't turn my attention to primary buyers, and in fact after getting such a quick offer, I contemplated that very idea. And the reason is simple. Showing nondescript ranches, and 3.5 bedroom modulars is boring--the dairy section of the real estate industry. I'd much rather work in the jewelry store, where things are more aesthetically pleasing. Sure you may have to work a bit harder, but the environment is better for the soul.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rust in Peace

After a crazy weekend last weekend, and a runaround day yesterday. I have no appointments today. It was a busy week, and possibly constructive. I have a few possibles. But today...nothing. I'm not complaining, it is a chance to catch up on some things, and relax a bit.

I have a new listing in Delaware County on the Beaverkill. Check it out on my website. I have decided not to really plug my listings on my blog, because it is a little gauche and not what this forum was intended for.

The only reason I bring it up, is I really have not explored that region along Old Route 17. It is a nice area, and it is not far from Roscoe, making it pretty accessible. If you are into trout fishing, I guess that is the spot to go. There were a ton of fisherman out and about, all dressed up in their angler finest. It is an area I plan on paying more attention to. Roscoe really is a cool little town, with Buffalo Zack's, and Live Bait and of course the Roscoe Diner (which is a great spot to meet customers, because everyone seems to know it.)

If you are currently looking, but are one of those leery about stepping over the magic 100 mile from NYC mark, I recommend checking out. It is a little further, but it may well be worth it in price and appeal.

I snapped this shot along Old Route 17. I think it shows the fun, hip feel of the area.

Would love the back story on this. Anyone know?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Listing Homes in Today's Market, and the Passive Aggressive Seller

As a broker that works with both buyers and sellers, it is sometimes a strange dichotomy being on both sides.

Sometimes I am jealous of, and contemplate being a buyers agent. It would seem to be simpler, have an us versus them attitude, and travel around with abject disdain at any and all over priced listings.

There is absolutely something pure and hopeful about meeting and working with a motivated buyer. Newness and discovery, and exploration.

On the other side, selling seems to be a sadder experience. Really the only thing that makes a prospective seller happy when meeting with a broker is the hope that the home is worth what they have heard it may be. Everyone has heard whispers about what it may be worth, but they always seem to cling to the highest. That is until John the Grinch comes along and shatters their illusions.

It reminds me of an incident that happened to me when I was around eighteen or nineteen. I was helping my then girlfriend's family clean out an old barn full of furniture. I discovered a Hank Aaron rookie baseball card from the Milwaukee Braves from 1954. Her family said I could keep it. I had a feeling it was worth some money. But I had no idea how much.

Now this was at around eight o'clock on a Sunday night, in the very early nineties, so there was no way to verify how much the card was worth. There was no google or yahoo or eBay or howmuchisthiscardwoth.com. I had to wait until Monday to call a card dealer.

Now keep in mind that to me this was found money. But throughout that evening the worth of that card ballooned in my head. I spoke to a friend who told me his dad sold a Mickey Mantle rookie card for like $75,000. By the time I went to sleep that night I was a possible millionaire.

It turned out the card was worth around $800. $800 of found money, but by the time I spoke to the card dealer, I was disappointed.

It seems that this same thing happens to a lot of the possible sellers that I speak with. I have a very careful comparative market analyses that I follow, and when I present them with what I feel the home is worth, invariably I get the crestfallen look, and a stony silence.

Now the ones that protest, are easy. I am armed with comps. and reasons and explanations. As part of my listing process, I let the sellers know that if they want to hire a licensed appraiser to appraise the home, I will reimburse them that cost at closing from my commission.

Now I'm sure some of you know my feeling on the appraisal process, but having a house previously appraised makes it much easier once the bank appraiser comes in. Sort of the herd mentality, also it makes it easier during negotiations. "liscensed bank appraisal" sounds very official.

I guess finally I have gotten to the point of this post. Recently I have has sellers agree with me on the price I told them, make it seem as if they are ready to list, and then drop off the face of the earth.

I had one guy who called me to list his property. He had had it on the market for a year prior, with a few bites, but nothing real. I told him that I thought it was priced to high, lets drop it twenty percent, which is still high, considering the market, but we could guage the response. He agreed, I sent him the paperwork, and I never heard from him again. Voicemails went unanswered. Then last week I see it listed on the mls for twelve percent higher then it was originally for. Sorry I did not realize we were in a real estate boom.

I wish him luck. I just feel that agents should not be rewarded for over pricing listings, and then once a realtionship with the seller has been establsihed, massage a reduction. Believe me I have been guilty of taking over priced listings, and all you end up with is unhappy sellers.

I suppose for some it is easier to be passive, and list with a yes ma'am realtor. That way they can hold onto the dream of the big payday for a little longer, which in some cases may be comforting. All I can say to them is good luck.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Olympia Hotel Renovation

It appears as though the renovation on the old Olympia Hotel has slowed for a bit. They have all the new windows in, but the flurry of activity that began the endeavor has subsided a bit.

Perhaps I'm just anxious to see it finished. It really is a grand old building, and it deserves to stand proudly restored over the town. There is rumours of a dinner train that will take passengers from Port Jervis and back while enjoying dinner and drinks. I think that is a great idea, and hope it gets off the ground.

I am wary though. It seems that every year or so, there is some big "happening" in Sullivan County that will put us on the map, and enable us to rival the Berkshires, or the Hampton's. Something that will turn the tide of haphazard dilapidation that seems to dot our landscape.

Now this is on a smaller scale than Cappelli or six giant Indian casinos, or any other scheme that has been bandied about, but it some ways I think it may be more effective in maximizing this areas draw.

I know this has been discussed on other forums, but part of the Sullivan County appeal, is that it is not the Hampton's. A middle class "blue collar" (whatever that term really means) family can afford to buy a second home here. I was just out two weeks ago with a family where the father is a NYC fireman, and last year I sold a little place to a teacher and a toll collector. Sullivan still is affordable enough so that if one saves, a second home is doable.

I seem to have gotten of target, but I guess my point is that if the Olympia is successful, I think that it will enhance the Sullivan experience, and show what this area has been for over a hundred years. A playground for the not so rich and famous. What better way to illustrate that then with a restored old hotel and train station?

Below is an old picture of Callicoon in the early 1900's the Olympia is on the right. I also included the original link to the Democrat article


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bald Eagle Nest in Narrowsburg

On Sunday my wife and I ate at the Main Street Cafe in Narrowsburg, one of our favorite spots. If you haven't gone, I really recommend it. Anyway, when we were leaving, we stopped for a minute at the observation deck next door that looks out onto Narrowsburg Eddy. I spotted a bald eagle way off in the pines across the eddy. Of course I didn't have my camera, so I couldn't take a picture, but through that binocular thingy that they have set up there, you could see there was actually two.

Well I went back this morning, and I managed to get this picture. I believe they are making a nest. The tree they are building it in is the big pine straight across from the observation deck. It is really too far to take a good picture, but I drove down a little closer and managed this shot. I believe it is the male.

Next time you are in Narrowsburg, check it out. Through the binoculars you get a pretty good look, and they really are spectacular creatures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Amendment of Post Below

I feel I must update my rather harsh post below. The appraiser in question called me, and we spoke at length. He agrees with me that the house was priced well, but he said he just couldn't find comps to support it.

We went back and forth a bit, and I dug up a comparison that was not on the mls., which he used, and lo and behold, the $4,000 gap was bridged, and all is well in real estate land.

I am still convinced that the comparison format to define value is flawed. How can a property ever appreciate if it is only compared to recent sales? It is sort of the chicken or the egg scenario, but there must be a price jump somewhere, to start the ball rolling. Does it begin with someone willing to pay cash to bridge a gap? Then once that property joins the comparison pool, the next buyer doesn't have to come up with as much cash.

And in the reverse, what we are seeing now is the foreclosures dragging down the comp. pool, and deflating value.

Who knows...What I do know is that this time it worked out, but I'm sure I will be in this predicament again. It is just very important to get all parties (broker, appraiser and lender) all on the same page, then at least there is a possibility to work it out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Appraisal Gaps...A Rant, and Perhaps some Insight

Once again I have an appraisal gap on one of the deals I am involved in. It is a $4,000 difference. I have had a few of these before, but this is the first since the inception of my blog, so now I can rant here, instead of pacing and muttering in my office.

An appraiser is hired by the lender to determine "market value", and to ensure that the collateral is equal to the loan. However, in my opinion, the appraisal process is flawed, and very often the appraiser is clueless, for lack of a better term

The definition of "market value" is: "the estimated amount for which a property should exchange on the date of valuation between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s-length transaction after proper marketing wherein the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently, and without compulsion."

Now to me that means that "market value" has been determined before the appraiser ever sets foot on the property. A competent real estate broker (i.e. myself) has already evaluated the home, set an estimated sale price, produced a willing buyer, and procured an offer. The value of the property becomes what someone is willing to pay for it.

Now some will argue that it could be a nutcase who is willing to pay much more than the home is worth, so that is where the appraiser comes in, and I agree, but when the appraisal comes in less than 2% below the asking price, are you serious? Can you really believe that the appraisal process is that specific? Of course not, it is a joke.

The first thing the appraisal company asks for is a signed copy of the contracts. So they know the price before they ever look at the house. To me that is ridiculous. If you are so confident in your ability to determine fair value, go in blind. Give me a real opinion, not one carefully crafted around a pre-determined number.

So over $4,000 the deal comes to a screeching halt--1.82% In this unstable market, some would argue that home values could change that much in a few weeks. But rigid banks, and clueless appraisers, cannot see the big picture. It is frustrating.

Now let me say that I have worked with some good appraisers, who get it. And believe me an appraiser who gets it would never turn in an appraisal this close to the price.

It reminds of the type of people who say they can only have Grey Goose in their vodka tonics, and yet in a blind taste test, you know that they will not tell the difference between that and Smirnoff. Self importance to me is one of the most distasteful characteristics, and an appraisal, at 1.82% below ask, screams of self importance.

All right, I feel a little better...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Land Crave

As a reluctant salesman I try to consider my self more of a novice therapist. As a matter of fact, I always considered the term salesman to be somewhat derogatory and the occupation rather derisive. It evokes images of door to door encyclopedia peddlers with felt hats and slumped shoulders. Or even worse fast talking car dealers, teetering on the edge of morality.

I have met the hard sell real estate salesman, and frankly I can't stand those types. If you had to come up with a list of noble professions, I'm sure you would pick doctor, teacher, foster home worker, caregiver, etc. Real estate agent would be pretty far down on the list. And rightly so. There are much more noble professions than mine, but every once in a while I feel like I am really helping someone fulfill a dream.

This has happened a few times with land buyers. I was out with a couple last week. He is looking for land, at least twenty acres, and the only real requirement for him for the house is that it has a roof and four walls. She is a little bit more picky on the house, but not much.

Getting him out in the woods was like taking a kid to Disneyland. Owning space to roam. I think for some it is a primal need. I showed him four properties, and he loved every one.

I have had three or four such buyers over my real estate career. They are a joy to work with, not because they are easy buyers, some can be hesitant, but because there is a certain lack of suspicion and a real genuineness. They are acting on a dream.

Invariably it seems to come from a childhood memory. Everyone, when telling me what they are looking for, has a control, whether it be a big parcel that their grandparents owned that they used to roam as kids, or a summer camp they would attend. There was something that fostered this dream to own land.

But just watching this man this weekend, I realized that he has thought and planned and worked hard for this. This is his dream, and I am helping him achieve it. Noble? Not open heart surgery with a ball point pen noble, but it gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I think we all need.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As the media continues to spell doom to the entire housing market, I am getting more calls from second home buyers looking for foreclosures. Invariably even if the prospective buyer doesn't begin with that topic, as we chat about what they are looking for, the subject always comes up.

It seems that some have this vision of finding the deal of a lifetime, and snatching up a wonderful little country getaway for a fraction of the cost.

Its like the urban myth of the "friend" who is subletting their grandmothers duplex in Chelsea, and paying only $600 a month. When I lived in Manhattan, everyone sort of knew somebody like that, but not really firsthand but they were spoken about with awe and reverence, and a bit of jealousy.

The problem with the foreclosure market in Sullivan County, is that that side of the housing market is very different than what most of the people I deal with are looking for. I attached a link to a typical foreclosed property here. Believe me this type of house is a dime a dozen.

Click Here

Most are in the south eastern part of the county, around Monticello, Fallsburgh area. Like the rest of the country, they are mostly primary homes, taken over by the bank after the owners have stopped paying. The houses are often in disrepair, and have been on the market at various prices throughout the foreclosure process. Contrary to what some might think, a home typically goes into foreclosure only when every other avenue has been tried. Banks do not like to lose money, and will not give a house away.

Now I am sure that there are some very nice second home style properties out there right now, where the owner is in a tough financial situation, but being upside down, or even attempting a short sale, does not automatically turn a deal into a steal.

I just heard of a house that is going to auction this week. It had been on the market for almost two years, the price dropping to 70% less than what was originally asked. The problem is that it is in a flood plain, with major water damage, and even at these low prices, buyers do not want to deal with that headache. I am curious to see what it sells for, but like anything else in life, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Froelich Road Houses

I posted last month about the three houses on the hill above Callicoon. Well the lower house finally closed last week. Price was $250,00o. Originally listed at $399,000--it is a nice house with some good views. I attached the picture below. The only downside is the driveway, which is quite steep. But I suppose at that price it still becomes worth it.

The upper house, however just came back as active on the mls. I am not sure why the deal fell through, but after sitting with signed contracts for almost two months, something happened to kill the deal.

I attached pictures below. This property has the driveway to contend with as well. But it is a nice big house, and the views are the best of any house on the market in the county. Hands down. It is listed at $329,000. Originally it was close to six..
I really believe that this house is one of the best deals on the market right now in this county. Any offer in the mid to high two's would probably get accepted. ( I do not know for sure, as I am not the listing agent.) But browse some listings in that price range. They don't even begin to compare.
Now couple that with a very low interest rate. Is this Apple stock pre ipod/iphone? Not quite, but three years from now, this house will not be worth less than $260,000. And interest rates will be higher.
If anyone is interested in viewing this home give me a shout.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Gaffken-Barriger fund wins first round

Interesting article in the River Reporter about the latest on Barriger. The link is below.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Gaffken-Barriger, they are a private investment company here in Sullivan County, that specialized in higher risk loans, with a high interest rate.

Well, when the market began to tank, numerous mortgagers defaulted, including a Florida based company, which had borrowed over ten million.

Those who had invested in the fund are insisting that they were "guaranteed" an eight percent return, and are quite upset, that not only are they not getting a return, the principle is gone as well. An investigation continues, but no criminal charges have been filed, and from what I hear, they are not expected.

It is rather sad. I met with an older couple last month, who must sell their house and move in with their daughter because they invested their life savings with the fund.

But I suppose this is a prime example of caveat emptor. With all the fast talking that I'm sure went on to convince people to invest, there must have been some fine print somewhere that this was a possibility. This was no Ponzi scheme, although I'm sure that is little solace for those who have lost their shirts.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interesting Listing

Once again my blogging has lagged. And once again it is because I'm busy. This past weekend I was out showing both days. Buyers are returning, as the air is warmer, and the prices and interest rates are lower.

The market has definitely changed, and I think for the better. I remember the days when I used to cringe when I would get calls for prospective buyers looking in the 150 to 200 range, and anything lower was really crap. I remember early last spring (march '08) I showed fifteen houses to a guy in that mid $150,000's range all around the county. He wasn't looking for anything extravagant. I believe it was three bedrooms, two bath with a little charm and privacy. Some of the things we looked at were absurd. It got to the point where showing was no longer any fun, and at times it felt like a real waste of time.

I believe the people who drive the real estate market in this county, are a gen x subdued version of the yuppie. (although if you call them that, they would be somewhat indignant) At any rate, our county is very dependant on that particular city-folk weekender. Not ultra-rich, but rather one where a second home is a big purchase, and one in which serious sacrifices must be made to make that dream a reality.

Those folks began to get priced out of the market, and that is when our version of the real estate bubble burst.

But now those people are able to look again, and see things in their price range that they like. The reason this all came about is because I was speaking to a customer about a particular property he likes.

This property is in Cochecton. It is a 1900 farmhouse on 28 acres, with the original barn, and all the original floors and walls. (The dreaded 70's paneling did not manage to infestate this one.) It has its normal farmhouse drawbacks, one bath, funny shaped kitchen, a lot of paint and elbow grease will be needed. I attached a few pics below, courtesy of Malek.

Current price is $248,000. This is one of those properties with good bones--actually great bones. The acreage does have the millennium pipeline cutting through a portion, but it is somewhat flat and has a big stream.
If you take this property, and refinish the farmhouse to its glory, and do it slowly as a project while you come up on weekends, what will this property be worth in lets say ten years, if the market rebounds.
I know at the height of the boom, a redone property like this was selling for mid sixes. You couple this with a low 4.5% interest rate, and all of the sudden it makes sense to buy it, not only as a labor of love, but as an investment. The naysayers will moan about how we are not at the bottom, and it is much to risky, but they also would have told you not to buy stock when the market was at 6,700, almost 1,000 points ago.
And in ten years when the interest rate is 8.6 and our median price here is up 48%, we may look back and say. Shoulda bought at the bottom.
Its gonna be fun to read some of the e-mails I get on this one...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My New Listing

First off the house I wrote about in my previous post sold for $450,000. Not bad I was guessing less. I am sure the new owners are going to love it. It really is a special property.

I think in this down market, where every buyer seems fixated on value, and finding that elusive bargain we have lost sight a little bit on why people buy second homes in this county. I think this concept has been touched on in other blogs, but at the risk of sounding like the department of the redundancy department, I would like to put my own spin on it.

People buy here for a lifestyle--a getaway--for rest and peace of mind. That is why the real estate department varies so tremendously here. A suburban ranch in Monticello will be priced very differently than a small quaint farmhouse on a quiet road, although both may have similar square footage, and be only a few miles from each other.

With that being said, I have a new listing in Black Forest Colony, which is a private preserve/development in Lumberland. There is over 1,100 acres set aside for the residents to use--hike, hunt fish atv, whatever. This particular property is five acres with a great year round stream, a private wooden bridge is the only way to get to it. It is deep in the woods. The house itself is more of a cabin. I attached pictures below. It was built in the fifties, and as a lot of charm. All original woodwork, etc.

You can see more pictures on my website. Now you may think I am pumping this property because it is my listing, and that is true, but I think it also brings up an important issue on value. We decided to list this property at $245,000. It has less than 1,000 square feet. Some will probably look at this listing at shake their heads, and murmur something about overpriced in a market such as this.
But there is no other listing in Sullivan County that is similar. It has what very few properties have. Complete seclusion, access to land for recreation, and some real authenticity.
In my opinion it is a simple case of supply and demand. That is why we decided to price it the way we did. Special properties will carry inherit value despite fluctuations in the market, because the appeal will always be there.
At rate shoot me an e-mail if you agree, or if you think I am way off base.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another 400K Plus House in Contract

Another favorite house of mine just went into "contract signed" status on the MLS. This house
is an Alpine log home on ten acres in Lumberland. I attached some pictures below.

It has three bedrooms two baths, a beautiful field stone fireplace, it is made with 18' logs. Completely secluded on ten acres, which adjoins state land.

This house has that rare feeling, where you just want to take a deep breath and relax when you step out onto the deck. The view of high point New Jersey is really nice, (in fact you can see three states from the deck)
The seller bought this house in early 2006 for $625,000. About a year and a half later, he put it back on the market. (I believe it was because of a job relocation) Initially it was put back on for $759,000. And why not? it was the height of the boom, and this really is a special property.
Well the property sat. Perhaps the cool off had finally started, and buyers just felt it was too much. Or maybe it was into that upper bracket where there is fewer buyers. At any rate, despite numerous showings, it sat.
There was a series of price drops, and a switch of listing agencies. The last list price was $499,000, and it sat at that price throughout the winter. I showed it a few times, and had an interested party, but they felt the market was too unstable, and decided to play the wait and see game.
But then Friday it went into contract signed. A quick e-mail to the listing agent indicated that it is all but a done deal, money is transferred, and it will close in a few days. I am very curious to see what the final price was. I am guessing low fours, but would not be surprised if it is in the three's. I will be sure to post when I know.
This is a situation where the current seller bought with cash back in '06 so he didn't have to worry about being "upside down". He took the 100k plus loss.
I believe that as reality sets in, we will see more and more of these type of deals. Real estate is still moving, but we are still searching--not so much for a bottom but a range--a place where we can gauge market value.
At least it is better than a dead standstill.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interesting Article on Gas Drilling

Steve McConnel wrote an interesting article on gas drilling in Wayne County. I included the link below.

I think the most interesting thing (besides the obvious lack of permits coming in) is the fact that Stone Energy Corp. spends well over a million dollars in leases, brings in all the equipment and man power to drill, yet fails to apply for a permit from the DRBC to drill. I would love to have heard the conversation with the guilty party when the head honchos at that company found out that the drilling had been stopped. That's a pretty big oops.

I guess we will wait and see what happens. Has the bad economy and cheaper gas prices really squelched the Sullivan County natural gas rush? I for one hope so.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Haven't posted in awhile, because I've been busy.

It has been a week since my last blog post, which I suppose would make the real estate "experts" purse their lips and shake their heads in disapproval, but I have a good excuse. I've been busy.

Real estate busy. I was double booked all weekend, and had listing appointments the last two days. Two of my showings turned into offers, one has been accepted, and the other...fingers crossed...looks like it will be accepted as well.

Now they aren't Chapin lakefronts that I sold. One is a $130,000 house, the other is a $90,000 piece of land, (which puts me squarely in the new Sullivian median) but to borrow a phrase from the youth of America, I am still stoked.

February numbers will be out soon, and I think they will be as putrid as we have seen. Volume of closed homes in Feb. will be very low. I think that we are finally seeing post Lehman numbers, and the landscape, even to the most optimistic looks bleak. But as we all know, there is a lag between getting an accepted offer, and the closing, when the sale shows up on the stat sheet. So the bleakness we are seeing is really from the frozen deer in the headlights period at the end of '08 where people did nothing for a few months.

But for now, I have inspections to go to, people to call back, and listings to upload. Busy feels good.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Main Street Cafe in Narrowsburg

I suppose an upside to the slow down in the economy affords me a rare Sunday off. Today my wife and I ate breakfast at the Main Street Cafe. I forgot to bring my camera, and upon searching for a picture on google, the one above is the only one I could find. I apologize to the original owner if there is a copyright infringement, but it is a great picture of the outside deck.

The place was busy at 10:30, almost full. We got a table by the window, in the sun, it was a pleasant atmosphere from the beginning. It is small, probably about ten tables inside, and a bar that seats five or six. I would guess there was about twenty five diners, which is just about capacity.

The food was delicious, our waitress friendly, and although there was a wait for the food, it didn't bother me. We sat, and people watched, and read the paper. It reminded me of a few places I used to go too when I lived in Hell's Kitchen. The whole restaurant has that cozy tin ceiling feel. It would have fit right in on 10th Ave. (although the prices are definitely Sullivan County)

I know many of my customers come here to run away from people, but sometimes it feels good to be around folks, and after this long dreary winter, It felt good to be among humanity. I would recommend checking this place out, especially this summer when they get the deck open.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Barriger Houses in Contract in Callicoon

I just found out today that the three houses up on the hill on Forelich Drive over-looking Callicoon, are all in contract. I am surprised given the state of the economy, but am also buoyed by the news. People are still buying second homes in Sullivan County.

All three were built at the height of the boom. The entrepreneurial contractor backed by Barriger, bit off a little more than he could chew, and before the houses were finished he had defaulted. Barriger foreclosed, and had the first two finished and the last was getting close. But then they had there own financial issues. Essentially the houses were foreclosed on twice before anyone ever put a piece of furniture in them.

The lower house sits on 18 acres, however the acres are a steep hill. It is a four bedroom 2 bath home with board and baton siding. It has a nice view, but it is not as nice a view as the houses further up the hill. Below are pictures of the first house.

This house was listed for $299,000 (originally when it was first on the market, the price tag was $425,000.) I am not sure what the accepted offer is, but I am curious to find out.

House #2 is the biggest of the houses. It is 3,600 sq feet. It has a big covered porch looking out over the view, and the view is one of the best you'll get in this county. (pics below.) Original tag was $599,000. When it went into contract it was at $425,000. Again curious to see what the accepted offer was.

House number three had the most issues, but has the best view. The driveway is very steep, and was washed out when I was up there. Also it was still not finished. It is smaller than the others, but the master bedroom views are really breathtaking. Original price was $599,000 finished. Last price was $329,000. I am guessing with the work that needed to be done, this house went for low to mid two's. Again I will be curious to the final price.

It goes back to my theory that there still are buyers out there. They just need to know that they are getting a bargain before they will take the leap. I guess a house that was on the market for $200,000 more last year constitutes a bargain to some. Congrats to the soon to be new owners, and welcome to our town.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So I too will blog...

Although by doing this I feel a bit like a follower, or at the very least certainly not a trend setter, I have decided to start a blog. Most of the real estate literature urges one to have a blog on your websites, citing much higher traffic draw. Will it work in turning me into a real estate mogul? One can dream I suppose.

Being almost forty, the word itself bothers me (although much less than when I first heard it). Blog...it sounds like something out of a Lewis Carrol poem. But after hearing it a bit it kind of begins to sound normal. I suppose you get used to it. Blog, pod casts, texting, lmao--whatever it is in this day and age, we just have to roll with it I suppose...

So for my first relevant topic, I am going to discuss taxes. Real estate taxes in Sullivan County have always been a bone of contention with homeowners, both primary and second. At times the system can seem completely arbitrary, and accessors so far off base that it makes you scratch your head. It seems they try to make it seem more complex than it actually is, so that owners get confused, and assume that the accessor knows what he is doing, and give up.

1) My first piece of advice is never take what the accessor is saying as gospel. Call him or her and ask for an appointment to go see them. Most are very cordial (which does not mean they will necessarily adjust your assessment) but at least you will get an explanation as to why you are taxed the way you are.

2) Arm yourself with information. With technology at your fingertips these days, it is much easier to find out what you neighbor is paying. Get comparables, which is what the assessment system is based on. I offer free c.m.a.'s (comparative market analysis) for anyone who requests them. Just shoot me an e-mail.

3) Go to Grievance day. Most townships have them in May. Again e-mail me and I can get you the exact day for your township. It can't hurt. Local legend says that just for going to grievance day, the judge will take off ten percent.

4) If you are looking to buy, make sure the tax info you are given is current. Have your agent verify.

Recently I have had people who only wanted to look in Wayne County P.A. because of the taxes. Now there are some very nice country homes over the river, but P.A. taxes are starting to creep up.