Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sullivan County Vacant Land

Once again me being busy has made my blog suffer. I just haven’t had that two hour block where I can sit down and write a witty, compelling yarn. Having a twenty-month old is a surprising amount of work, and I also seem knee deep in short sale paperwork, or answering emails.

Vacant land has been the theme of the last month. Up here in Sullivan County, the fall always seems to bring attention to larger land lots, because many of the avid hunters that come here have a dream of owning their own large piece, and being able to hunt it with impunity. There are quite a few pieces of state owned land that people can hunt on, but just like any other “public” area, this brings others into the equation. Everyone knows how annoying the Speedo wearing cell phone guy is at the public beach. Well put him in the woods with a gun. That is the hunter’s equivalent.

No, the dream of sitting in your own tree stand, on your own twenty-five to fifty acre piece, as dawn arrives and the sun breaks over the mountains is pretty powerful. And pretty universal for those who are into hunting.

I also think land ownership is a deep, ingrained desire. Owning you own space, and inviting those who you want, and denying the rest is a basic human (or perhaps even primate) trait. “I own all that I can see!” This kind of stuff has been around for centuries.

I have mentioned it before, but by far land here in Sullivan County is cheaper than I have ever seen it since I started selling real estate. I have compiled a list of my five favorites. These are all larger land lots, that I feel are really good bargains in today’s market.

50 acres 99K

I featured this piece last week. This is a foreclosure near Callicoon Center. It is fifty acres with a bunch of frontage on Nort Branch Creek, and a really nice pond. This is one of those pieces that would have had a 450K price tag on it in '07. This piece has just been surveyed, so that cost would not be needed upon purchase. Half wooded and half open fields.


41 acres for 99K
This piece is located just outside of Jeffersonville, within ten minutes of Bethel Woods. I have shown this piece a few times to hunters, and the concern was houses in the immediate vicinity. This is a great, flat piece of land however, also with a little stream. It has been on the market for over two years, with the original price well over 200K. It is sub dividable.

37 acres 225K
How much is a view worth? This 37 acre piece is priced higher than some of the others, but it has the best long range views from a piece for sale that I have seen in a long time. It is located just outside of Jeffersonville, by the desirable Beechwoods area. It has only been on the market for a few months, and they have already dropped the price some, showing motivation. Really nice open piece.

70 acres for 279K
This is another open piece with long range views, almost but not quite as nice as the one in Jeff. It is lot more acreage however, just under seventy. This piece is located outside of White Sulpher Springs, as you go up the mountain towards Livingston Manor. It has been on the market a whopping 1500 days. Original price tag? 995K. It is now listed for 279K. Can you say sellers fatigue?

130 acres 349K
There were a few I was flip-flopping on for the last one, but I picked this one for the sheer size of it. It is 130 acres down in Glen Spey off of Kalin-Weber. This is another piece that has been on the market forever. I believe the original tag on this one was around 800K. It is now 349K Or just under 3K an acre. Being less than two hours to NYC makes this one a pretty good deal.
There were four properties reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last seven days. Click Here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Short Sales in Sullivan County

Two of my four deals currently going on are short sales, and two deals already completed this year have been short sales. It seems the inevitable changes that life brings continues, but now as more people are upside down on their mortgages than ever before, being able to pick up and move is not so easy.

So more and more people are going the short sale route. What was once the root canal of the real estate world is really not that painful anymore. The last one I did was forty-five days from offer to full acceptance. Soup to nuts as my Dad would say.

Some sellers may consider letting a property go into foreclosure rather than a short sale. With a foreclosure, especially with the backlog that still exists with big banks, a seller could stay in the property, essentially rent free, for well over year before being forced to evacuate. But that fact alone does not mean a foreclosure is better. With a short sale, yes the home will be listed, added to the MLS, people will tromp through, break appointments and invade your privacy. All the inconvenience of selling a home will be present. And what are you left with? A clean slate.

Basics of a Short Sale

Short sales happen when a lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed against the home because there is not enough equity to sell and pay all costs of sale.

How is the Seller’s Credit Affected?

According to Allan Franks, division manager at Citi Mortgage, sellers will take a bigger hit on their credit report by going through foreclosure or giving the lender a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. Franks says the points lost on a FICO score are as follows:

Foreclosure or Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure--Both of these solutions affect credit the same. Sellers will take a hit of 250 to 280 points. This means if a seller’s FICO score before foreclosure was 680, it could dip as low as 400.

Short Sale--The affect of a short sale on a seller’s credit report is much less damaging. The ding on credit will show up as a pre-foreclosure in redemption status, Franks says, which will result in a loss of 80 to 100 points. This means a short sale with a previous FICO of 680 will see it fall to 580 to 600.

Waiting Period Before Buying Another Home

Foreclosure or Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure--Franks says a seller who wants to buy another home after foreclosure will end up waiting about 36 months before a lender will offer any kind of interest rate that makes sense.

Short Sale--The good news for short sale sellers is the wait is much shorter before buying another home. “They can buy again in about 18 months at a good interest rate,” says Franks.

Short Sale / Foreclosure Deficiency Judgments

The bad news is a seller could be subject to a deficiency judgment for the difference between the loan amount and the amount paid. In New York, purchase money loans are not subject to deficiency judgments; however, hard money loans, equity loans and refinances are. Other states have laws regarding personal guarantees, which could also result in a deficiency judgment if the home owner is personally liable for loan repayment.

The lender has sole discretion whether to pursue a deficiency judgment in those instances when the judgment is permitted. To determine whether a pending foreclosure or short sale is subject to a deficiency judgment, talk to a real estate lawyer. At no point should you move forward with a short sale if a deficiency judgment is a possibility.

If you’re a seller trying to decide whether to let a home go through foreclosure versus attempting a short sale, salvaging your credit is the main advantage to doing a short sale. But seek legal and tax advice before making that decision.

I haven't done a "pick of the week" in a while but this piece in Callicoon Center is a steal. 50 acres with a stream and a pond for 99K Land Piece

There were nine single family homes listed as sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last ten days. Click Here for Listings

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Favorite Farmhouse Listings

     We had our first snow of the year, (I am sure pretty much everyone on the northeastern part of the country already knows this). Sullivan County didn’t get hit as hard as other areas though. I had about eight inches on my back porch, and in and around Monticello I heard just over a foot. No major power outages or anything, I even showed some hunting property on Sat., before the flakes began to fly.

     I have remained fairly busy over the last week, I am getting a lot of hits on my website. Most of those hits have been about farmhouses. It seems that the trend (at least for me) is back to the country farmhouse getaway. The good news is, there are a few good—priced right properties out there. Properties that just a few years ago, would have had astronomical price tags on them. However, here at the end of 2011, getting a nice farmhouse for under 250K is doable. I have compiled a list of my favorites below.

32501—Priced very nicely at $179,000, this is an almost 3,000 sq. foot turn of the century farmhouse in Callicoon Center. A lot of the original elements remain, although there is some evidence of paneling and drop ceilings. The bones of the house are great, however. Although it is on 1.6 acres, it is located basically in the town of Callicoon Center, which may be a turn off for some, but an advantage for others. Click Here for Listing.

31170—This brick farmhouse on almost eight acres is one of my favorite active listings, and I am surprised it has not been snapped up yet. Built in 1949, it has four bedrooms, great original hardwood floors and cast iron radiators. The property is flat and open with apple trees and a great barn. This is a unique property at a good price (210,000), just outside of Narrowsburg on a quiet road. Click Here for Listing

32255—Built in 1890, this is a great little farmhouse in Obernburg with some really nice long range views. Like so many others, it was paneled and carpeted at some point, but the current owners have done a great job minimizing and re-doing. It is on a road that is somewhat busier than others, which may be a drawback for some. Click Here for Listing

 32639—I guess not technically a farmhouse because a farmer never lived there, but this home, built in 2002 has all the bell and whistles of a farmhouse. The views from the porch are phenomenal, and it has a nice pond. Taxes are a bit steep at $7,500 Click Here for Listings

30587—Probably my favorite active farmhouse listing. This is a pre-Civil War farmhouse on 13 acres, with a huge barn and a carriage house. House has been done impeccably. You put this house in Fairfield County and the price tag is a million dollars. Here in Sullivan? $249,000. Click Here for listings. Click Here for Listings

 There were fifteen properties reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS. Sullivan County Solds

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Smallwood and Multiple Offers

Smallwood Streamfront Cabin 129K

I had an inspection in Smallwood yesterday, but no scheduled showings this weekend. That is in stark contrast to last week, where both days were chalk full, and on Saturday I met six different customers. The day was fruitful however. I ended last weekend with four offers.

Three were on the same house, however. It is a short sale that I have listed, and have had listed for almost four months. When we first put it on the market, it got a bit of mild interest, but then tailed off, and despite the fact that I dropped the price a few times, and marketed the hell out of it, it sat without a whole lot of activity.

Well last week, I dropped it another ten thousand, and all of the sudden I started getting calls on it. I had to squeeze in four different showings on Sat. morning, and of course—feast or famine—three of the four showings resulted in offers.

This is the first time I have been in a multiple offer situation like this. And believe me I am not complaining. I think most brokers would love to be in this predicament, but unfortunately I liked all three couples, and all three really liked the property. So we asked for everyone’s highest and best by Tuesday—and on Wednesday I was in the odd position of calling two of them with bad news. I felt like Simon Cowell sitting at the desk after the contestants make the long elevator ride. It was a weird feeling and no fun at all.

But the couple that did “win” are very happy. This is a special property, and hopefully the bank will agree to the short sale.

The other offer I received was from a couple that has been looking for awhile in Smallwood. I had shown a few houses in Smallwood prior to this, but with these buyers we looked at between 10-15 homes. I was pleasantly surprised at Smallwood, and I plan on recommending this area more to people who are looking for affordable second home getaways.

Smallwood is a hamlet in Bethel, tucked in between White Lake and Swinging Bridge. It was originally settled in the 1800’s by eastern European immigrants, but it was not until A.N Smallwood came along in 1928 that it began to change into what it is today—A rural country escape, small, modest Adirondack style cabins hidden away under giant pine trees. Click Here for a History of Smallwood. As the years have gone on, more substantial—year round homes have been built. However Smallwood still has that feel of a working class summer retreat. If you are looking for a second home on a budget, you should definitely consider Smallwood. Although the pictures do not do it justice, Click Here for Smallwood Streamfront 

There were 19 properties reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last ten days. Click Here for Solds.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall in Sullivan County

Sonoma Falls in Livingston Manor
Peak fall foliage is just around the corner. This year will probably not be as spectacular as some, because we have had all the rain this year, which has knocked off a lot of the leaves before they could reach full potential. However over the next seven to ten days, most of Sullivan County will be in prime color. The cold nights mixed with the warm days are making the middle of our autumn season quite enjoyable. If anyone is thinking about coming up this weekend for a sightseeing trip, I would think that you will not be disappointed.

There are quite a few activities and events going on throughout the fall. It really is not a matter of what you should do while here, but what you should skip, because it is not possible to cram it all into one weekend.

Sonoma Falls in Livingston Manor is a great place to stop by if you are in the area. They have an old fashioned cider press set up in a barn, a country store that sells fresh produce and fruits, hayrides and a pumpkin patch for the kids, and some pretty spectacular water falls, with hiking trails—definitely a good spot to spend that afternoon. Cider Mill.

Bethel Woods has its rustic craft show this weekend. This expanded specialty craft event will showcase wood carvings, handmade furniture, pottery, accessories and accents for the home. They also have large tents filled with local fruits and produce. Bethel Woods

Segway Tours in Woodridge has fall foliage tours throughout Oct. Fall Foliage Tours

All farmers markets are in full swing, and will continue throughout Oct. as well. Farmers Markets.

Calkins Creamery will be having an in-store tasting and demonstration this weekend Calkins Creamery is a small, farmstead cheese operation on Highland Farm in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Emily Montgomery, the cheesemaker, produces an array of raw milk aged cheeses as well as fresh, pasteurized cheeses. Emily's father and brother, Bill & Zack, operate the 6th generation family farm. Cheese are aged at the creamery and underground in the caves at neighboring Calkins Creek Vineyard. Creamery Link

There will also be two Halloween parades. One in Callicoon on Oct. 29th at 1PM, and one on the 30th in Jeffersonville at 6PM. Another great activity for the kids.

There were eight single family homes reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last 14 days. Click Here for Listings

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deed Restrictions

We don’t have very many subdivisions with extensive deed restrictions here in Sullivan County, and the ones we do have generally are pretty lackadaisical. Mostly you see no trailers or mobile homes, or no further subdivision. That is pretty much the extent of it.

However apparently in Spring Texas, they take their deed restrictions very seriously. Now I get it—the role of the deed restrictions are to protect the property values of the homes in the subdivision. The deed restrictions spell out what you can and can not do to or with your home, often including what color you can paint your house, or what type of mailbox you can install—Conformity equals value I suppose.

The Sardo family who live in just such a subdivision are learning all about deed restrictions and lawsuits. The Sardo family own a pot-bellied pig and according to the Thicket at Cypresswood’s deed restrictions no animals, livestock, poultry, reptiles, or insects of any kind shall be raised, bred or kept on any lot in the subdivision. The Board of the Home Owners Association (HOA) for the Thicket at Cypresswood has informed the Sardo family they are in violation of deed restrictions and Wilbur, the pot-bellied pig, must find a new home. The Sardo family says Wilbur is a pet and not livestock and thus they are suing their HOA to keep their pig.

Who will win? Who knows. But there will be a lot of money spent on lawsuits over a pig. A much loved pig, I might add. There has probably never been any pig with more Facebook friends than Wilbur. At last count and still growing Wilbur had over 5,000 Facebook friends.

After hearing this story I jumped on the computer to research other odd deed restrictions. Apparently as long as the restrictive covenants do not break any local or federal laws, you can pretty much put in what ever you want. There is a house in Tennessee that has a giant statue of a cat in the front yard. Subsequent owners have been unable to remove it because it is in the deed that it must remain. Other strange restrictions include a stripper pole in a Las Vegas home, and a home in Colorado that must remain a deep purple.

On a more sobering note (although obviously no longer enforced as law now prohibits) there are deeds here in Sullivan County that restrict resale to “non-Caucasians and Jews.”

There were 11 single family homes sold in Sullivan County in the last seven days according to the Sullivan County MLS Click Here for Listings

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene in Pictures

All my weekend appointments canceled in anticipation of the storm, so the last few days have not revolved around real estate. I couldn't take the network news coverage much past Sat. morning. The buildup was ridiculous. I know it was a category 1 hurricane, and nothing like this has hit the east cost in thirty years, but sixteen mind numbing hours of batten-down-the-hatches coverage? Bloomburg and Christie got plenty of face time. Every time I put on the t.v. it was one or the other.

Well our power went out early Sunday morning, but the real crux of the storm did not hit my section of Sullivan County until probably between 2 and 5 PM. It was blustery and rainy before that, but the winds really kicked into high gear around 2, and blew pretty steady for the next few hours.

By that time I had some major cabin fever, so I headed out to see what damage Irene had done. Nothing really major. We had a bunch of trees down, and the Delaware and all the streams were pretty flooded. We got our power back here in Callicoon pretty quickly, but as I write this Monday morning, many in our areas are still out.

Delaware River above Hankins

Looking Downstream

Tree down on Obernburg Hill

Volunteer fireman cleaning up CR 121 above Hankins

On the mountain on CR 121. You can't really tell by the picture, but the clouds were moving, and the wind was really blowing. Christie would have told me to get the hell off the mountain.


Callicoon Creek

Jeffersonville Creek

Trees and debris in Callicoon

Hankins Creek

Another tree on a wire in Milses above McGurrins. For a moment I thought about trying to make it, but that is not how I want end the legacy.

Somebody had already cleared a way through. Fremont Township

Another of the Delaware. It crested at 2AM Monday. No big issues

There were eight properties listed as sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last seven days. Click Here for Report

My pick of the week is one of my listings. It is an old farmhouse on Menderis Road in Swan Lake on five acres. This really is a special spot. It is very secluded, and it has an old post and beam barn, huge blueberry bushes and apple trees and grapevines. It is a short sale, and we currently have it listed at 169K. It is a great price, but I have only had one showing on it since I listed it last month. Someone is going to come along and fall in love with this property. Swan Lake Farmhouse

Monday, August 22, 2011


Once again my blog post is later than I would have liked, but the fact of the matter is, I have had a very busy week. I got offers on both of my lakefront listings this week, after a summer selling season of little action. Both weekend days were full of appointments, as well as some showings during the week. It is like people realized it is Aug. and they better get in gear.

Both of my showings this weekend were Manhattanites, mid thirties, looking for a second home. What was different about both couples is they were not necessarily looking for privacy. They were looking for convenience. It was a little surprising, because I have gotten used to seclusion being sort of the mantra for the urban searchers. For many they want to be tucked away among the trees, out of sight from Fri. until Sunday.

Well it seems as I encounter more of these thirty-something shoppers, their priorities are different. First of all many do not own cars. Now if you are to buy in Sullivan County, you have to own a car. (Or rent one every weekend.) So I have had a few buyers who are looking for a house and car at the same time. However the issue is, many want to entertain in their upstate home, and most of their friends don’t have cars. So rather than having a house out in the woods, where house guests will be essentially trapped for the duration, dependant on the hosts to go anywhere, they are looking for closer, even in-town homes, where a guest can get up earlier than everyone else if they choose, and stroll into town for a bagel and coffee.

Also both buyers I took out this weekend are considering the Ulster/Greene county areas. There are a lot of reasons why they like Sullivan County better (besides price--we are on average 25% cheaper) one made the comment that our area has a “country feeling” that those more populous areas have lost. However what those areas do have is a train. This is a huge draw for thirty-something buyers. Guests can hop a train to Rhinbeck, or Kingston, and be picked up at the train station. Even a day trip visit is possible with a 90 minute scenic Hudson Valley train ride.

I think this is another example of how our county is lagging behind. Yes we are dependant on tourism, and we have made strides in making our county more attractive to visitors. However there is a train route in place, and twice a day a locomotive carrying what looks like garbage and roofing supplies, chugs through Callicoon. I know there had been big plans a few years back (Train article) to bring the trains back through. However like so many others, they fizzled with little fanfare.

I have done very little research on the history of the train line that ran up the Delaware in the last century. I do know it was the lifeblood, and many of the towns around us would never have existed if it weren't for the train. Callicoon was originally Callicoon Depot, and the entire town sprung up around the station. This link gives a little more info on the history of the train lines.

What would it take to bring a passenger train to Sullivan County? I don’t think it will happen without some sort of government subsidy. Conrail, the owner of the railway that snakes its way up the Delaware from Port Jervis to Hancock, makes its revenue from freight. Commuter or passenger revenue can not compete. A private venture like the one proposed by Mr. Wilson I believe is just to grand of an undertaking for the private sector. No, we need a local elected official to go on a mission. Someone with a little influence who can persuade those that frown on gas drilling and gambling, that perhaps a Sullivan County renaissance is as simple as a once a day commuter train from NYC.

There were eight listings reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS. Click Here for Sold listings

My house of the week is one of the in-town houses that I showedd this weekend. It is pretty big four bedroom completely redone farmhouse on Mill Street, right by the brook in Jeffersonville. It has two cool barns on the property, and it is set underneath a bunch of giant pine trees. The grounds are private despite being in-town, and you hear the constant sound of the brook anytime you are outside. The interior has been done with great attention to detail. It really needs to be seen to be appreciated. The pictures do not do it justice.Recently they have dropped th price to 249K, which I think is a great price. Jeffersonville House

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seller Frustration

So everyone knows how crappy the real estate market is in this country. The media loves doom and gloom, and there is at least one news piece daily that reminds me of this. And despite recent glimmers of hope, it remains in the doldrums, and most experts agree that it will stay that way for some time. It has been discussed ad nauseam, tight banks, nervous buyers, high taxes and gas prices, whatever is the driving force that is keeping things tight, it would appear that it will remain this way for some time. I believe like most things in life, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the more it is discussed and dissected and moaned about, the more it will stay the same.

Since I represent both buyers and sellers, I am seeing it from both sides. Right now I have a handful of listings that are not selling, and despite my best efforts, are continuing to languish. Now this is not an aberration. Less than one in four homes listed on the Sullivan County MLS will sell. That is the cold hard facts of this market. If you list your home today, there is an 80% chance it won’t sell in the next calendar year. Now these stats include the unmotivated, test-the-waters sellers, which although much less than at the peak of the market, still litter our MLS, but it is a sobering fact to bring up during a listing presentation.

So what does this mean to sellers? Your home must not just be a good deal, it has to be head and shoulders above the others. It must have a wow factor that sets it aside from the twenty other homes that a prospective buyer can pick to look at. And even then, this does not guarantee a sale. Every week I call my sellers, and we have discussions of what we can do differently. How can we make this house stand out from the others? For many we are at or close to the bottom for price, a few we have dropped into the short sale category, and all feel frustrated. Their lives are on hold as we search for a buyer. I feel for them, and it is often frustrating to see little to no response on some of these homes that a few years ago would have been snatched up quickly.

At any rate, there is still buying and selling going on. People are still moving, switching jobs, needing more room for growing families, and buying second home getaways. It is the process of how they are doing that which has changed. And who can blame buyers? The landscape is completley different than a few years ago. Buyers can wait, and nibble, and choose carefully. There is very little competition, and multiple offers are a thing of the past. Yes it is a buyers market, no doubt about it.

There were seven single family homes reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS for this week. Click Here

My pick of the week is along the same vein as homes that don't sell. It is an almost 2,000 square foot redone ranch in Narrowsburg. This is a nice home, and although it is on a small lot, it has appeal to both a second and primary home buyer. It just recently expired off the MLS after a year. Original price was $199,000 and they dropped it to $179,000. This is just another example of how just being a good home, priced competitively, isn't necessarily enough to get your home sold. Click Here

Saturday, August 6, 2011

MLS Whoops!

I am a member of two Multiple Listing Services and every morning over coffee I look through all the new listings that have come on the market. I keep tabs on the good ones, and perhaps send a few to various casual buyers that I have, that will buy the right house at the right price.

Most of the listings are presented very professionally. The pictures are all pretty tastefully taken. You can see some time and effort was put into removing clutter and positioning the shot for the best possible view. The description as well is mostly well written, and hits the high points of the house pretty concisely and with little error.

However with all things in life, you get the occasional agent who had a bad day, or just overlooked something. Most are just a misspelled word or two, or a wrong decimal point, but every once in a while you get a gem. I have seen some good ones on our local Multiple Listing Service, but nothing like the list I compiled from various real estate message boards and blogs. Some I think are pretty hilarious.

“Info on Homostead Act” (They never covered this form in my continuing ed.)

All wall damage repaired, butt cracks on surface.” (I hate those)

“Light filled home with strategically located mirrors.” (Boom chicka)

“Bathroom has His and His sinks.” (Understandable given the new Act stated above)

“Sit and enjoy the kitchen fire while Mom cooks.” (Mom attended the Michael Jackson School of Flash Cooking.)

“Yard with kennel and sandbox for the kiddies.” (Who needs a babysitter?)

“New addition with bedroom with French doors and pig roaster.” (Of course pork in the master bedroom)

“Kitchen with Spanish influences and un-permitted large maids quartered.” (Large maids with no permits?)

“Lovely home with new baths with EZ freeway Access.” (When you have to go and then go)

“Seller wants fast sale. Doesn’t like the area.” (But don’t worry you’ll love it.)

"There is also a sunny deck on the 2nd floor that gets a morning to afternoon delight." (I guess technically there is nothing wrong with this, but the twelve year old part of my brain gets a chuckle out of it.)

"Glass Doors Leading To Rear Deck Where You Can Sunbathe Naked and Commune with Nature." (Again I guess nothing wrong, but really?)

Some of my other favorites include a home that has been “remolded”, “motorvated sellers” and a “wreck room”.

And then we have these train wrecks below:

“Back to the market the client not get approval from Lender. For washer and dryer included…elememtary at 2 blocks, 2 duplex, 4 units .proyect will be ready on 4 months . call for details listing agent". (Someone needs to go back to "elememtary" school.)

"Not a short stale, this is a banked own home. IS AS Where As. Please bring all offers and write them on contracts." (What?)

And a picture tells a thousand words:

There were 15 single family home sales reported in the Sullivan MLS. Click Here for Listings
I do not have a pick of the week this week. Again nothing really jumped out at me. We are leaving tomorrow for Lake George for a few days. We're taking little Zach on his first vacation.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pictures of Sullivan County

Over the five years of selling real estate here in Sullivan, I have taken a bunch of photos. For whatever reason, I have saved all of them. Yesterday while transferring some old files, I came across a bunch of them, and in my--will do anything to waste time besides work--mode that I so easily seem to slip into, I wasted a half hour looking through them. Well to justify that half hour, I am going to use them as this weeks blog post. Actually some I think are pretty cool, and together they give a good snapshot of what our county has to offer.

This car is up above Roscoe on Old Route 17, along the Beaverkill. I always get a chuckle when I drive by it.

I took this from the Callicoon bridge just before the start of the annual Callicoon Canoe Regatta. The regatta was a tradition when I was growing up here, and I'm glad it is back.

My favorite driving range up in Fremont. Owned by a retired farmer, you hit the balls out into a hay field.

An old wooden bridge over North Branch Creek that leads to..

This boarding house on 50 acres. This was one of my all time favorite properties. I was bummed when I wasn't the one that sold it. The property also has a large old barn on it that was featured on History Channel's American Pickers. Very cool spot.

I took this while waiting for a client who owns 100 acres outside of Jeffersonville. This was beginning of Nov. last year when we got all the early snow. I didn't take the listing, but it is a nice piece of property. Land is a tough sell right now if you want top dollar.

I took this last spring while waiting for another client in Neversink. I ended up selling this property to him. Perhaps the fawn was my good luck charm.

View from the PA side of Kellams Bridge up above Hankins. My favorite stretch of the Delaware is from Long Eddy to Hankins. It takes about three hours in a tube, or an hour and a half in a canoe, and it has a great mix of rapids, and deep spots to hang out and swim.

I took this in Narrowsburg two years ago when a bald eagle decided to spend the summer in this big pine. I couldn't tell if there was a nest or not, but for that whole summer he just hung out in that tree.

View of Callicoon from another great house that I didn't sell.

We had 13 houses reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS. Click Here for listings

My pick of the week is a farmhouse in Smallwood listed for $299,000. It is a pre-civil war farmstead, with a huge (70 foot long) post and beam barn, and a separate carriage house, on 14 acres. For someone searching for an authentic old farmhouse, that has that "feel" this is Shangri-La. Yes it was built in 1850, so some of the floors slant, and the basement probably gets wet, and there is probably very little insulation in the walls, and all the other drawbacks that come with owing an old home, but it has that "feel" that is impossible to describe or duplicate. Homes like this one are rare, and for under 300K, ever rarer.  Smallwood Farmhouse

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zillow’s IPO and other Real Estate Sites

So’s initial public offering hit the Nasdaq on Wednesday (Z). The price was set at $20 a share and it closed at $39. A 79% percent jump.

I’m sure that anyone who has done any “real estate Googling” has come across Zillow. They are a company based in Seattle, founded in ’05 by some pretty bright minds that previously had a hand in Microsoft and Expedia. Basically they are a database that includes 100 million homes across the United States. And although current homes on the market are a big part of their search results, in addition they give value estimates of homes, by offering several features including value changes of each home in a given time frame (Zesitmates), aerial views of homes, and prices of comparable homes in the area. Where they can access appropriate public data, it also provides basic information on a given home, such as square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Users can also get current estimates of homes if there was a significant change made, such as a recently remodeled kitchen.

They are currently in third place for the highest ranking real estate sites behind Yahoo and, and despite the fact that they have never shown a dime of profit, (in fact last year they lost 6.8 million) they seem poised to seize the online real estate market. There are others, like Trulia and Realbird, but the big players seem to be these three.

Doubters are calling this another example of the beginning of the Dot.Com Bubble 2.0, and in some ways I agree with them. What exactly is Zillow selling? Well information I suppose, and that is what brings me to my point, and why I have an issue with websites like Zillow.

Real estate listings are a sought after commodity for agents and brokers. It is the product that drives each brokerage. Besides the obvious that you need a listing so you can sell it and make a commission, listings are used to show other potential sellers how successful a company is, they are used to lure in buyers, and a yard sign with your name on it is free advertising screaming to the neighborhood “Look at me. I am a real estate agent.” Listings are the life blood of any successful real estate agency.

Well once you get a listing, the pressure is on to find a buyer. Sellers want to know that you are working hard on their behalf and shouting from the rooftops, so agents scramble around to advertise. However they do not want to spend a lot of money. That is where these piranha sites come in. They very generously offer to advertise your listings for free. The posting process is smooth and easy. Often times they will partner with your local MLS and it can be done automatically. It’s a chummy win-win situation.

Well as these sites have evolved, they have begun to get greedy. They have come up with ways to attempt to get money from real estate agents as well as advertisers. They now offer different programs where you can enhance a listing, or pay to have it bumped to the top of the search results or better yet sponsor neighborhoods or zip codes, all for a monthly fee. Suddenly another agent’s contact info is splashed around on your listing. And all the while they have SEO web people feverishly working to assure top Google placement, effectively beating out local agent’s websites that have freely given them the listings in the first place.

The National Association of Realtors has also efficiently set up so that it holds agents hostage unless they buy an annual enhancement package at an absurd fee. Listings are stripped of all but one photo, and all descriptions are also removed, unless the fee is paid. On top of that, they offer neighborhood sponsorships, and banner ads. The total can be in the thousands. To me this is the biggest travesty. NAR is supposed to be an association that agents join freely to help them do business better and more efficiently. Instead they have basically become a monopolizing bully. It is akin to the protection fee you pay a crew from Canarsie. I suppose you could operate with out it, but without the MLS, few agencies could survive.

I don’t begrudge the entrepreneurial. On the same hand I don’t like to see people taken advantage of, and I think unknowingly we agents and brokers are. And I don’t think most agents realize that we are in a position of power. We have the product, and we spend a lot of time and effort obtaining that product. To freely give to these companies who then turn around and charge us, and compete with us in search results makes no sense to me. If all agents and brokers got together and decided not to give away our listings, the top five real estate websites would immediately fold.

But for now Zillow is worth 950 million, without making one cold call or knocking on one door.

There were five sales reported in the Sullivan MLS this week. Click Here for listings.

My pick of the week is one of the sold listings. MLS 32165. I think this sale is an example of our market stabilizing and perhaps even picking up a bit. It is a nice early 20th century farmhouse with a bit of land, and some seclusion. This house would appeal to a lot of second home searchers. What caught my eye was the days on market, and the original list price. (165K and 103 DOM) A few years ago, a house like this would have been priced at 200 plus K, and would have sat at least a year, with begrudging intermittent price drops. This one was a quick, efficient--list it and sell it. I think this is a good sign.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2% Tax Cap

"Statement from New York State Association of REALTORS CEO Duncan R. MacKenzie

Albany – June 25, 2011 – Today, a great victory has been won for New York State’s long suffering property taxpayers. Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver and the lawmakers who voted for the cap deserve kudos for standing up to the tax-and-spend forces that made this common-sense approach a political football. Tough times require tough decisions and Albany has delivered. This is also a significant win for the REALTOR organization. Residential property owners have no organized voice in Albany, so the 51,000 members of the New York State Association of REALTORS took up the cause and used every resource at its disposal to make the cap a reality.

New York’s REALTORS also praise lawmakers for including mandate relief opportunities as part of the cap effort. We have consistently said that the ultimate success of the tax cap will be tied to finding ways to help municipalities and school districts achieve savings from programs that have been passed down to them from Albany."

So what does this mean for Sullivan County? Nothing for the near future. Were this law passed in boom times, I suppose we would be able to see some relief a bit quicker, however with property values dropping, and tax levys here in Sullivan in some areas at a staggering 10% of market value, It could be years before we see any sort of change.

Massachusetts passed a similar law in 1980, making the property tax cap there 2.5%.  Since then, their taxes have gone up 23% compared with 56% in New York. No question this is a step in the right direction, and over the next ten years (if this law stays in place) our local municipalities will have to makes some major changes in how they spend the tax dollars. I am all for it. We have haphazard school districts, filled with 100+ K superintendents, principles and administrators. We have separate tiny hamlets, each with their own highway superintendents, building inspectors, assessors and dog wardens. Excess spending is blatant and is hurting our county.

There were ten sold listings in the Sullivan County MLS this week. Click Here

I don't have a pick of the week property this week. Nothing has jumped out at me. I have been super busy. It is mid-summer, and people are looking to buy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

100 to 125K Range

I put together two deals at the end of June. Both are primary home buyers and both emails were almost identical. They were looking for something in the 100K to 125K range, three bedrooms, and little bit of a yard, and they weren’t too picky about anything else.

An email like that three years ago, and I probably would have responded with a “Sorry can’t help you.” At the height of the craziness, even the 150K range was tough. But now things have changed. Once I started pulling up listings and sending them out, I was pleasantly surprised at the inventory.

Now in this range, you do have to expect some compromises. Both of these buyers wanted to see a lot of houses and between the two I showed around twenty-five scattered all over the county. It was nice getting acquainted with homes in this range again and I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what this range has to offer.

And if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be paneling. I am fairly certain that every house I showed (including the two that I have bids on) had some evidence of paneling, and some, the entire interior was paneled, from kitchen to bath to bedroom, walls and ceiling—A faux wood grain with fake knots and varying sized dark strips. And it all looks exactly the same. It is like everyone from 1975 to 1985 bought the same paneling from the same store.

I have seen people paint paneling which seems to work pretty well. Also unless it has been applied over plaster or sheet rock and attached with glue, it is pretty easy to remove and replace. Both of my buyers were pretty blasé about the interior. They understood that at this price range things are not going to be perfect, and really wood paneling is a small, easily changeable compromise.

But other than the paneling epidemic, I was really surprised at how much house you can buy in this range. All had three bedrooms, many had more than one bathroom, (a few had three) and I would say thirteen hundred square feet was the median. Some had garages, and outbuildings, and the taxes ranged from $4,000 in Liberty, to less than $2,000 in Fremont. It is nice to see that Sullivan County is affordable again. That is where we need to be to compete with our more glamorous counties to the south and east.

There were 14 sales reported in the last week in the Sullivan County MLS Click Here

My pick of the week is one of the houses I showed in the 125K range. It is in Liberty Township, so the taxes are a bit high at $4,000.  The outside of the house is a non descript board and baton sided looking ranch, but it is on a really nice lot, with great open views. And once you get inside, you forget all about the rough exterior. I would love to know the history of this house, because it is reminiscent of the Sears "Modern Home Starlight" series from the '20's and '30's (which is when this house was built). It has ten foot ceilings, a big kitchen, original doors, trim and windows. The downside is there is only one bathroom and it is tiny, but for a little second home getaway, it is hard to find something in this price range with this much character. Liberty Home

Friday, July 1, 2011

The 4th in Sullivan County

Summer is in full swing here in Sullivan County. The streets and sidewalks are busy with tourists and weekenders. The Delaware is dotted with kayaks, rafts and canoes. Life is preoccupied by gardens, barbeques and ice tea on the back deck.

There is a ton of stuff to do here in the month of July. The biggest dilemma is picking which event to attend.   Below is what I consider the highlights for the 4th weekend.

Narrowsburg’s 4th of July celebration. Running from the 2nd to the 4th, this three day festival includes an old fashioned fair with carnival games and inflatables, a spectacular fireworks display at dusk on Sunday, and at 3pm on Monday a traditional parade, followed by a take-out chicken barbecue. The fireworks display is really the best in the area. They are shot out over the water on the Delaware.

Roscoe also has a 4th of July parade on Sat. the 2nd. Thunder 102 will be broadcasting live from the route, and there will be numerous vendors and things for the kids.

The New York Philharmonic is playing Bethel Woods on Sunday the 3rd. Lawn tickets are still available.

Towns that have farmers markets this weekend are, Callicoon, Barryville, Jeffersonville, Liberty, and Roscoe. All Independence Day barbeques need a salad, and if your garden is a little short on ingredients, you can mix in a local farmers, without anyone being the wiser.

On Mon. the 4th, Liberty has an all day festival that starts with a classic car, motorcycle and tractor show at 11:00 am – Walter Moylan, the keyboard wizard at high noon followed by Walter Keller, Liberty's poet laureate at 12:05 pm (short set for Moylan). The parade starts at 12:30, followed by a hot dog eating contest sponsored by Garry’s Great American at 1:15pm. And to cap off the day, the Liberty Festival Talent Show with MC Jackie Horner – The Inspiration behind “Dirty Dancing” is at 4PM.

So if you are planning to spend this weekend here in the Sullivan County Catskills, there is more than enough to keep you busy.

There were eight properties listed as sold on the Sullivan County MLS. Sullivan County Solds

My pick of the week is a home that just went into contract in Lumberland NY, on Hollow Road. This house has been in the market for well over three years. It is an interesting custom contemporary, on over seven acres, adjoining Black Forest on the back. It is a big sprawling home-- 3600 sq feet, five bedrooms four baths, tennis courts, a swimming pool, totally secluded with a little bridge over a brook to get to it. It does have its drawbacks. It has evidence of 1987 splashed around, and the driveway when I showed it a few times had a tendency to get washed out easily Original list price was in the 700K range. Well it has finally gotten a bite, and gone into contract. It will be interesting to see what the agreed upon price was. But this is another house that if you told them three years ago that it would go in the 350K range, you wold have been told you were crazy. Lumberland Home

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Take on Gas Drilling

In conjunction with the “strategic release” of some of our oil reserves this week, as well as the propaganda filled viral YouTube video (I Love My NY Water) that is being bandied about Facebook. I have decided to weigh in for a minute or two on the gas drilling debate that has been raging here in Sullivan County for over three years. (Actually for over two decades on and off.)

I am fairly certain that anyone reading this is pretty familiar with the debate. But for those who aren’t, I will give you the cliff notes. About two miles below us, there is a bunch (although how much is debated) of natural gas among the Marcellus Shale.

Well halfway through the 2000’s, gas companies like Chesapeake, and Exco Petroleum began quietly approaching landowners of large chunks here in Sulllivan County, and offering them leases, which would give these companies the right to drill down to retrieve the fossil fuel, via a process called fracking. Fracking is a procedure where they force pressurized water and other ingredients down the well, forcing open fissures which will release the gas. Thanks to our fearless leader at that point (George Walker) the environmental laws were relaxed enough so these companies expected to come in and set up shop with little trouble.

Well I think they under estimated the land owners here a little bit. The residents formed a coalition, and held out for better terms on the leases. Some of the higher numbers I have heard are $3,000 an acre. However, this coalition brought attention, and with that attention people began to do some research, and some of the things that they found were troubling. Gas drilling has potential negative side effects on the environment. The gas companies are somewhat vague as to the “other ingredients” in the fracking process, and stories began to emerge from other areas. Suddenly Sullivan County was slated to be the next Chernobyl.

There was a series of town hall type meeting put on by the gas companies, which attempted to assuage all fears, but over the last few years there is a growing movement of anti-drillers, and they have pretty successfully halted the process while environmental impact studies are performed.

Let me first say that I get why the anti-drillers are doing what they are doing. No-one wants to see Sullivan County turned into a wasteland dotted with discarded pools of fracking fluid. These gas companies cannot be allowed to operate with impunity. There needs to be accountability.

However what I don’t get is the across the board attitude that drilling is evil, and must be stopped at all costs. This growing number of anti-drillers, led by their celebrity Lorax Mark Ruffalo, has continued to amass, until it almost seems like that is the general sentiment here in Sullivan County.

I can tell you that it is not the general sentiment. There are an equally large number of people who are, if not welcoming, at least understanding that gas drilling may be a way for Sullivan to emerge from a two decade long decline. Natural gas drilling could pump more money into our local economy than it has ever seen. Our ridiculous property taxes would be lowered, and jobs would be created. Many argue that the gas companies would be all take and no give, however there are ways to assure that that won’t happen.

I suppose the “not in my backyard” attitude has always bothered me, and in this instance it takes it a step further. Many of these anti gas drillers are second homeowners, so it is more like “not in my play yard.” Mark Ruffalo’s presence in Sullivan County does little to boost its economy. And I doubt if Ethan Hawke has ever even been here. We all drive cars, use electricity, drink from plastic and ride on rubber tires. That fossil fuel was harvested from somebody's backyard.

I suppose some need a cause, and self righteous indignation feels good. I just think it is all a bit much. Other areas have been drilled for natural gas, and the community has survived and even thrived. There is not a Dr. Evil out there intent on poisoning the children of Sullivan County. Let’s all just relax for a minute, and see what is best for our county.

There were twelve properties reported sold on the Sullivan County MLS this week. Click Here for Listings
My pick of the week is new lakefront listing on Tennanah. I think it is priced pretty middle of the road. There was a much bigger house that went for less on that lake just last month, but I really like Tennanah Lake. And I think this is one of the better lakefront listings for under a million. Its funny, it seems like there has to be one house for sale on Crowley Road. And this is the new one. Click Here

Friday, June 17, 2011

Emerald Ash Borer

Perhaps in your travels around Sullivan County you have seen these purple triangle contraptions hanging from various trees. Every time I would see one, I would tell myself that I had to do some research and find out what they were, but then life got in the way, and I kept forgetting. Well when I finally remembered I was surprised that I had not read something on it sooner, because it was covered quite extensively by the local media. (There was an article in the Democrat, Record and River Reporter. In Sullivan County that is as extensive as it gets.)

So some may know about our latest infestation threat, but for those of you who don’t, I will tell you. The Emerald Ash Borer, indigenous to Central Asia, at some point hitched a ride over the Pacific, and showed up in Michigan in ’02. Apparently these little insects have a fondness for our Ash trees. The adults nibble on the leaves, with little damage, but the larvae love to bore holes in them until they are dead. Tens of millions of trees have been lost in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and recently New York.

Surrounding counties have confirmed reports of these little buggers, but as of yet, none in Sullivan County. However it is only a matter of time before they show up. Quarantine procedures have been set up by the D.E.C to limit firewood and nursery tree transportation, but most experts agree that it is a losing battle.

Well these purple boxes have a bunch of sweet smelling sap inside that the bugs find irresistible. (Apparently they are also fond of purple.) They work along the same lines as a lobster trap. Once inside the insects are not smart enough to find their way out.

How effective will this be in stopping the beetles? I am going to guess not very. But I suppose every little bit helps.

This is just another example of how our world is getting smaller, and the repercussions it has on our environment. Last year we had an outbreak of “Rock Snot” (Didymosphenia geminata) an algae that was originally from Africa. Earliest reporting of this plant was in the ‘80’s. Although not a significant threat, it is a slimy weed that covered the bottom of the Delaware River for the month of July. Environmentalists report that it is a health risk for the local fish population. Also the bamboo that is prevalent along the banks of the Delaware is not indigenous to this region. Sometime in the mid 1980’s it began appearing, and now it is everywhere, and has choked out a lot of the natural growth along the river banks.

Nature is an opportunist I suppose, and if these species can hitch a ride on our carelessness, they will. Makes you wonder what was on Darwin’s shoe when he first stepped onto the Galapagos.

There were ten properties sold in Sullivan County this week as reported by the Sullivan County MLS.

Click Here for Listings

Friday, June 3, 2011

Phish and Memorial Day

Phish played three sold out shows at Bethel Woods this weekend, and it really went off without a hitch. I think no one was really sure what to expect. There were whispers that it would be the second coming of Woodstock and our roads would be choked with traffic, and all our fields would be crammed with music (and chemically) induced revelers. My weekend bookings took me right by Bethel Woods on Fri. and Sat. and both times I made it through with little difficulty. Feedback from people that I know that went to the concert was all very positive. I'm not a fan of Phish, and I don't really understand the draw, but seeing all the places along 17B open and busy was great to see. It is good for our county, and I think on this one they got it done right. Bethel Woods is a great draw, and has been a bright spot in a community that has had its share of disappointments

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. It just feels like summer now, and the way the phone has been ringing means that buyers are out there looking for that place to escape to for the summer. Once again I have a full weekend docket.

Sold listings:

There were 6 listings sold in Sullivan County this week. Actually one is in Delaware County, however it is significant enough (829K) that I included it.

Sullivan County Sold
Greater Hudson Valley Sold

My "pick" of the week is a 130 acre piece in Lumberland on Kalin Webber Road. It is vacant land. It has been on the market for over three years. Original price? 995K. They have dropped it too 430K, and who knows where it will end up, and when it will sell. Is it now priced where someone might jump? Hard to tell, but half a million off your original asking price is pretty hefty. Just another example of the champagne wishes and caviar dreams that fueled the bubble, and are now starting to fizzle away.

Lumberland vacant land

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sold Properties

Posting this week's blog a little late. I guess technically since it is Sunday I missed the week. However, I am going to cut myself a bit of slack, and say I made it in under the wire.  Busy seems to be the word these days. I have been swamped just fielding leads and setting up appointments, so the blog took a back burner.

Ayway, I got a call from an old friend of mine who wants to sell her house in Lakewood PA. Lakewood is in Wayne County, sort of  in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles north of Honesdale, and 15 or so miles west of Hancock/Lordville area. Nice countryside, but further out than most second homeowners want to be.

 I have my Pennsylvania real estate license, however I do not sell much in PA, and I am not a member of their MLS. It is something I may do some day if it starts to make sense monetarily, however for now I just haven't really done more than stick a toe or two over the border.

Well my friend is looking to sell her home, and wanted me to give her an idea of what it is worth. I called a colleague that works in a PA RE/MAX office, but he was temporarily unavailable, so I figured I would as a "layman" in this information age we live in, attempt to get some information on the local Lakewood PA real estate market.

It was surprisingly difficult. Active listings were very easy to find. They were splashed across half a dozen sites, tons of pictures and info, including acreage, square footage, taxes etc. However the good stuff, days on market, price reductions, distressed property info, all that was hidden, which makes it difficult to form any sort of opinion.

And sold comp info was even harder to find. Wayne County actually has a much better tax info site than Sullivan County. Tax info  However in order to find a sold price, you would need to know it had sold, and then look each one up individually. Still that is better than here in S.C. The only way to find sold info here if you are not in the business, is to schlep to the courthouse and look it up manually.

And that is why I have decided each week to post the houses that have sold here in Sullivan County NY. I will post the ones both from the Sullivan County MLS and the Greater Hudson Valley MLS, and for the convenience of my vast audience, I will omit the duplicate listings. This week we had seven sales in Sullivan County.

Sullivan County Sold

Greater Hudson Valley Sold

Let me know if there is any other info that I have left out that might be helpful or interesting.

My pick of the week is a 115 acre parcel in Jeffersonville with a somewhat nondescript house. It has just dropped in price by fifty thousand dollars. The reason I picked this one is because of the land. It is a gorgeous piece with two ponds, woods and some really big open fields. However like I said, the house is not anything special. Recently there was a 60 acre piece that sold in Fremont in the 600K range, but the house on that one is a really great farmhouse renovation. Pretty breathtaking. However similar square footage,  the land on this one in Jeff is comparable, if not better, and there is 50 more acres!

It just goes to show you that the wow factor of the house is what sells, but if you can look past that, those are where the deals are. I'm not saying that this is a deal at 699K, but as the old saying goes, they're not making any more land.

Jeffersonville House with Acreage