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.

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.

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 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.