Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Fix or Not to Fix

To fix or not to fix, that is the question. these days a number of home sellers are facing this dilemma. the problem is sellers are already facing lower property values due to the real estate decline, so the last thing they want to do is spend more money enhancing their home, only to sell it.

That’s understandable… but, if you really want to attract serious home buyers, keep your sales contract from falling through, and get the best possible price, you need to swallow hard and fix that house. Now I am not talking about spending thousands and thousands, however the little things need to be repaired. A loose front stair or a rotten windowsill can turn off a buyer before they even give the house a chance.

Studies have shown that within ninety seconds of meeting someone, people already have made a basic assumption about that individual, simply based on that quick interaction--a wrinkled shirt, or unkempt eyebrows, or whatever catches the eye. That becomes the starting point. Now throughout further interactions, obviously those can change. However why start at a disadvantage?

The same premise is true for house hunters. An idea--a premise--is formed within minutes of setting foot on a property. Did you know that an unheated home shown in the winter months is much less likely to sell than one with the heat on? If one feels uncomfortable they are less likely to pull out their checkbooks. It has been proven many times. Buyers buy more on impulse--on feeling than rational thought.

Many buyers will also use your home’s flaws as an excuse to offer you a lower price. They interpret these flaws as a lack pride in your home, or that you lack the money to fix them and are desperate and willing to sell for less.

First, get your home inspected now, instead of waiting to find out what’s wrong with it when you’ve got a potential buyer on the line. This will eliminate unexpected shocks for both you and the buyer and give you a chance to fix problems that might scare someone away. The more things you can fix now, the less overwhelmed your buyer will be, and the less likely he or she will cancel the sale.

Second. Declutter. I cannot stress this enough. People's personal belongings do not sell a house. Buyers need to envision their things in the space. It is difficult to do that when it is crammed with the sellers stuff. A clean home is an inviting home. Does the garage need a fresh coat of paint? How about the stain in the carpet in the hallway? These things may seem little, but they all matter.

And finally Third. Do not be around for the home showings. Now if you want to be there initially, meet the prospective buyers, and then excuse yourself, that is fine. However following the buyer around and explaining things about the home is not a good idea. Studies again have shown that a prospective buyer feels like a guest when he or she is in a home with the owner. You want that person to imagine being the owner, not a house guest. You have hired a real estate agent for a reason. Let him or her show the house.

There were 13 properties reported sold in the last seven day on the Sullivan County MLS Click Here for listings.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Flippin' Brother

So I am not even going to address the lack of blog posting. Disgraceful..I know. I do plan on posting sold info every week , so for those of you who have clamored for it, it will make its return. I will post it every Fri.
Once again the reason for my lack of blogging is the fact that I have been very busy. I am set to shatter my previous record for sales in a year, and this Dec. alone will beat what I made in my first two years of being an agent. Some has to do with the fact that the market has turned around, but a lot of it is simply because I have been doing this for longer now. I am better at it.  People know this is what I do, and refer others to me.  My sphere of influence has grown, and with it does my sales volume.  

But as the holidays approach, things slow a bit, and I have been able to catch my breath and try to resuscitate a stale (ish) website and blog.

So "My Flippin' Brother" made its premier on A&E on Saturday. This is a show about a local realtor/designer/house flipper Randy Florke who owns the Rural Connection. It is a real estate office based in Manhattan that sells second homes in Sullivan County. He also flips homes, and even tried a modular "green" line of second homes that I believe was not all that successful.

At any rate, Randy has been successful buying and selling real estate here in Sullivan County. He was one of the first to really start catering to the metro second home buyer pool, and his shabby-chic-farm-house-on-a-dirt-road line of inventory was a hit throughout the boom years. And something others have tried to emulate with varying success.

The show however,  was an unmitigated disaster. The "stars" of  the show are Randy, who unabashedly refers to himself as a cross between Martha Stewart and Bob Villa. His brother Ron, who although he has a pretty good reputation as a solid contractor here in Sullivan County, decided for whatever reason to let the show paint him as a complete imbecile, and Jesse Fescue who plays the tired part of the flamboyantly gay interior designer. Think Albert (Nathan Lane) in the Birdcage--which was a great movie, but I digress--meets Cameron from Modern Family, meets the interior decorator from Beetlejuice. All good roles, however it's been done, and the attempt at this character was about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
Perhaps it would have been less insulting to the veiwers intelligence if it werent being passed of as "reality" television. On the show it said Randy had just purchased the home they were flipping. In reality he has owned it since 2006. At the end the "buyer" (who never really bought it, the house sits empty to this day) wrote a check for 300K for the house. I can assure you that never happend.
I'm not even going to mention the fake water main break three inches below the ground. Pipes freeze unless they are below the frost line.
They made sure to add a fair amount of bickering and arguing. Put all that together with some contrived issues and problems that pop up as a deadline approaches and certain bank default and destitution looms, and you have a pretty bad hour of television. It is a shame, because I think that a real estate show in Sullivan County would have been nice.
There were 8 single family homes sold in Sullivan County in the last seven days. Click Here for Listings


Monday, July 30, 2012

5 Must Have Apps for Searching

As we shift our online usage to a more mobile platform, companies are scrambling to keep up with the technology. Like the Commodore 64 or MySpace, some will be left behind, however in my opinion the five below will emerge as the leaders of real estate mobile app searches.
1) True to form, is the best, easiest and broadest app out of all of them. Although I have had my issues with NAR, and have voiced them here, when it comes to technology and staying ahead of the curve, I believe they have spent a ton of money to make sure that happens.   I found the navigation to be very intuitive and looking for houses and prices was an enjoyable experience. With features such as checking for nearby houses, prices, realtor search, favorite properties it makes searching a snap. could arguably be just the only app you need for all your real estate searches. All the others are chasing NAR and It’s a free app so you have no excuses in not checking this app first. I really could have stopped the list at one.

2) Again, I have had my issues with Zillow (don't worry fellow Zillow freedom fighters. I no-followed this link.), however they too have obviously spent a lot of money on their mobile web platform, and it shows. It's mapping section is better than, and it integrates well with the GPS on the Iphone, so you can find a listing that looks interesting and then get directions, and follow your way there. Zillow has proven that they are going nowhere.

3) I put Evernote on this list because it is extremely useful for jotting down notes or taking pictures. One of my favorite features about Evernote is the fact it syncs over the cloud. You can install Evernote on your desktop, iPad or Android tablet so your information can be changed or added anywhere online or offline.
All of your notes and information will stay on there and it won’t take up any space on your device. Even if you are finished looking for houses this app will still be useful as a digital journal. It also features voice notes as well. You will have to create an account first but it is free and that login is the key to your journal. Highly recommended for everybody.

4) House Hunter is another house locator app. One feature that really caught my eye is being able to set the importance of each amenity of the house. For example you could set the importance of your backyard, acreage, waterfront, view, etc. and work your way down the list.

After you complete the score you can add the custom profile and search for houses. It also has a mortgage calculator which comes in handy. This app does cost $3.99 (which dooms it long term.)  so you should use the apps above to see if they meet your needs. There is a “light” version of this app but it makes it barely usable as you can’t create custom profiles and barriers to most of the functionality before telling you to purchase the app.

5) Zip Realty is another free app with a good fast search engine. It has partnered with NAR somehow (I would love to see the numbers they are paying.) and they have over 500,000 MLS listed houses. Locally however they do not have any SCMLS (Sullivan County) listings, only GHVMLS (Greater Hudson Valley) listings. As a side note I have noticed that quite a few web searches, including RE/MAX.COM do not have a feed to SCMLS. This is yet another reason to ensure that your home is listed with an agent who is a member of both.

There were ten single family homes reported sold in the SCMLS in the last ten days. Click Here for Data

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fireworks Cancelled

I just heard that the Narrowsburg Firework display has been cancelled for this year. And I must say I am incredulous. Over caution and political correctness have always been a bit of a sore spot with me, but this is taking it to a whole new level. Apparently last year someone went to the River Reporter with a story of a fledgling bald eagle that was a bit shook up by the merriment. The story does not divulge how shook up the baby eagle was, or how this person even knew this. At any rate, It brought in the big bad federally over financed United States Fish and Wildlife Service.( I am picturing black Humvees). Anyone who disrupts or injures a Bald Eagle will face up to a 200K fine and a year in jail was decreed.

The volunteer fire department who do this show as an act of patriotism and to raise money so they have the correct equipment when they run into a burning building (for free) to save you or your family talked it over and decided it was not worth the risk. The skies over Narrowburg Bay will be silent this 4th. Chalk another one up for bureaucratic overreaction. Families usually come from all over the state for this day in Narrowsburgh which culminates with a pretty fantastic firework show. One that celebrates our freedom. God forbid a baby eagle gets to sleep a bit later. When did common sense stop?

I don't want to make this bigger than it is, however when the government forbids an act like the celebration of our freedom, over the ridiculous ruse that it may agitate some local wildlife, I think it is time to pay attention. Common sense needs to previal, and we as a collective people need to stand up against this sort of (albiet minor) oppression.

There were 21 sold listings reported in the Sullivan County MLS over the last 10 days Click Here for Listings

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sullivan County Real Estate Auction This Month

Well I have probably broken a record for how long it has been between posts, but my life has been as hectic as it can be. I had my second child three months ago, a little girl, who is the sweetest thing in the world, but a hell of a lot of work, my mother who has been ill for some time has taken a turn for the worse and requires a lot of care as we prepare for the inevitable, and we have also bought a house and moved. Whew, even writing it sounds exhausting.

After overseeing and physically doing a major part of the renovation of our new home, we are finally settling in. I have spent most of the last month or so looking like one of those semi-clueless people on the DIY network as I ripped up old carpet, and bad pink tile, and discovered that everything takes longer and costs more than anticipated.  But as I said, things are finally slowing down a bit. On top of all of that I wrote three offers so far this month, and have been out every weekend showing houses. There is no doubt. The market here in Sullivan County has rebounded.

But the remnants of the crash still surrounds us, and nothing makes that more obvious than the yearly Sullivan County Tax Auction. There are a record number of properties on the docket this year. Almost triple the amount there was back in '08. The auction takes place on June 20th and 21st in the auditorium at Sullivan County Community College. However there is an early registration and a chance for you to take a look at some of the auction properties before than. Click Here for all the info on the auction.

There will be some steals and deals to be made. A few of these are some pretty nice spots, and on average they go for around 70% of the original ask. So if you do a bit of homework and have your checkbook and your nerves ready, you could end up walking away with a nice deal.

There were 15 single family homes reported sold from the MLS in the last 10 days. Click here for the details

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lakefront For Under 200K

6 Bodine Lake Road 189K

Once again life has placed my blog on temporary hold. I know that no one needs to hear my personal saga. (But I had a baby two weeks ago, my father broke his back, and I have been EXTREMELY busy fielding real estate inquiries.) It seems like the warm weather has brought people out of hibernation. Hits on my website have more than doubled in March, and my inbox is stuffed with inquiries. (Alright, stuffed may be an exaggeration, but there has been more than enough to keep me busy.) So all that has made the blog suffer.

I did want to squeeze in a post however, it has been too long, and it weighs on me like a guilty chore. I imagine faceless, nameless readers, breathlessly checking every day, only to be disappointed with the same old post staring back at them. Google analytics points out otherwise, that the traffic is not that robust at all—that perhaps it is just a handful and even they may be stumbling upon this blog by accident. However, my type A personality allows me to sleep better when my blog is current.

So I decided to just quickly highlight a property that I think is a good indicator of where our market is, and how far we have come. However I think it also indicates (by the fact that it is not yet in contract) how sluggish our market still is, and how hesitant buyers are.

The property is a 1342 square foot three bedroom two bath home on Bodine Lake in Yulan. It is a true lakefront, there is no “short walk” to a public access, or a road between the home and the water. It has a nice grass backyard that slopes down to the water. It is priced at 189K. Bodine Lakefront

Now yes the market bubble has burst, but it is not 1968, and we are not in Minnesota, so obviously there must be some drawbacks for a lakefront to be priced like this, and there is. Bodine Lake is a very small, non-motorboat lake. The one side of the lake is adjacent to a fairly busy road, which you can see across the lake from the backyard, and the house itself is dated and needs some work. The deck is in need of repair as well

However this is a true lake front home priced under 200K. The water is literally steps from the back deck, and it has a great backyard that slopes down to the water--It has that vacation/lake house feel.

This is one of those properties that I feel will be snatched up pretty quickly. There just aren’t a lot of waterfront homes like this. Most that are in this range have some pretty serious compromises for the buyer to consider.

Back in 2007, I sold a home smaller than this one, in similar shape, with only lake rights to Bodine. (It was a short walk, but certainly not in the backyard like this home) That home sold for 219K. The interest rate was 6.75%.

There were eleven single family homes reported sold on the Sullivan County MLS in the last ten days.

 Click Here for sold listings

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cribs--Sullivan County Style

Although this is another blog post that is not based on an original concept, I figured that it would interest some people. has been doing Friday Real Estate Porn for some time. (A segment where they feature upper end, high scale homes.) Well Upstater has a tendancy to stick a little further east and north.  (Although they do stray into Sullivan from time to time.) Besides, in my opinion they have recently sold out. All of the sudden they are charging for advertising and listing placements. I think it is a shame, because it was a really cool blog for a while. Oh well, everybody's gotta make a buck. They still have some good posts though, and they highlight some really nice properties.

At any rate, I have had the opportunity to see some upper end homes here in Sullivan County over the last few weeks, and decided I would post a few of them on here. Now some are only quasi for sale. They are not on the MLS, and the owners will only sell if the price is right. I have not included addresses, but feel free to drop me a line if you are interested in more info, and I can get a hold of the owners.

1)  Minimalist on 11 acres in the Chapin Estate. Gourmet kitchen and baths with all granite and marble.  Large stone patio from rear of home leads to a huge in-ground pool, pool house, indoor/outdoor kitchen with fireplace, pizza oven and state of the art appliances. A private walk leads down to your tennis court and a 4-season gated residential preserve tucked discretely amidst 2500 acres of pristine forest lands and bordering 14,000 acres of protected conservation lands. Out your back door is a 2000 acre lake. Price tag? 6.5 Million. Click on the images for a larger view.

 2) Perched above North Branch NY high on a mountain this custom built 6,200 square foot contemporary really is a cut above most homes I have seen in the area. The stone work alone cost well over 100K, and it is evident why as soon as you enter the home. Over 100 windows make this already openly designed structure feel as if you are living on the hillside. The central focus of the house is the "conversation pit". A sunken living room area with a huge stone fireplace, and all stone laid floors with radiant heat underneath. Dual oak staircases lead too the second level where the master bedroom with floor to ceiling windows looks out on the countryside. And the other stairwell leads to a fully finished basement with a wine cellar, and a media/movie theater room. A bridge over the driveway leads to a full apartment above the three bay garage, complete with two more bedrooms and a bath--perfect for entertaining.

The only drawback to this spectacular property is the driveway, which winds its way up the steep mountainside to get to the secluded meadow where the house sits. It is a real challenge if there is any sort of weather. Price tag? 1.9 Million. Click on the images for a larger view.

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3) This home was built in 1912, as part of the Singer sewing machine estate which entailed 3,000 acres with a 100 acre mountain lake. This home served as the boathouse, and the grand structure remains today. The main section of the house has retained its integrity and remains untouched complete with original stone fireplace, clay tiled floors, leaded-glass windows,and beautifully crafted walnut domed ceiling and trim. The windows open to the lagoon which flows from the 100 acre lake.

The kitchen has been redone with all new high end appliances, and the eat in nook looks out over the lagoon with a stone arch foot bridge and a waterfall. The lower level has all the original stonework. Currently it is used as a library, but could easily be converted into a another bedroom. The double doors from here lead out into the courtyard. Property sits on just over four acres. Very special property. Price tag? 649K
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Click Here for slideshow of all the images of the properties above.

There were seven properties listed as sold in the Sullivan County MLS in the last ten days. Click here for data.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Dilapidated Catskills

Bungalow Colony in Bethel

The snow less winter continues here in Sullivan County. We seem to be stuck in a perpetual November. At this point I hope it continues. We really only have another five or six weeks before real spring weather starts to hit. This is the strangest winter weather I can ever remember though. But for all you global warming pundits—we have already surpassed the snow totals of 1922, and  so far we are averaging a half a degree colder. No I think this just an aberration. Every once in a while you get a year like this. Although I feel bad for those that make their living off the weather, I certainly do not miss the nuisance of snow.

The real estate market chugs along here in Sullivan County. I am slow, but not stopped. I have heard others are busy, but February has always been a quiet month for me, and this year is no different.

My amateur photography distraction has switched over the last few months to the dilapidated. As all of us know, our region was a great draw—beginning right after the Second World War, until the mid seventies, with the peak in the sixties. The Catskills was the place to summer in. However, as the younger generation began to grow up, the allure of the mountains declined. As Max Kellerman put it "You think kids want to come with their parents and take fox-trot lessons? Trips to Europe, that's what the kids want. Twenty-two countries in three days. It feels like it's all slipping away."

And slip away it did. Now we are left with the rotting shells of that past. They dot our landcape--fascinating eyesores of a former generation.

There are many websites devoted to the decaying areas of our county—my favorite being The Vanishing Catskills. (My blog title is a thinly veiled forgery.) I really like Raymon Elozua’s style. I don’t think it is just the black and white either. He captures that strange feeling of desertion and abandonment that is left behind on these properties. Scott Haegner’s "Jennie’s Bed" is also a pretty cool picture. Was it really taken in the cottage where the matriarch of the Borsch Belt passed? Photo

And here are some shots of the Concord.

Although, using only my Coolpx 630, I don’t believe I have captured the same sensation as the other, more talented, I have included a few of my own. Click on the picture for a larger view.

Old Hardware Store in Parksville

Ed's Pharmacy in Parksville

Trailer in Livingston Manor at Sunset

And below are a few of the Paramount Hotel.

There were twenty properties reported as sold in the Sullivan County MLS. Click Here for Listings

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

End of the Year and BPO's

So we are at the start of the New Year. 2012—the apocalypse year. Its funny to me that people believe that the Mayan civilization would be able to predict the end of the world, however the use of the wheel somehow eluded them. I guess we will see though.

I am no longer going to apologize for my lack of blogging. It just gets old, and the few that do read this I’m sure find it half-hearted and patronizing. My new year’s resolution is to blog as much as I can, However, I will post the sold info weekly. That is what I have received the most flack for. My running commentary seems much less compelling then the stats of what has sold here in Sullivan County.

Year end for me was a lot of running around. Showings have slowed, however I have become more and more busy (perhaps I should have just used “busier”?) doing BPO’s—broker price opinions.

 As the real estate market continues to sell in the red, more banks are turning to agents and brokers for “opinions” on price before they decide on a foreclosure or short sale offer. It really is no secret that all they are trying to do is save a few bucks where they can. A licensed real estate appraiser has more often than not undergone more extensive schooling, and is held to a much higher standard under the law when determining value of real property. Therefore their fees are quite a bit higher.

So banks have turned to agents and brokers for an “opinion”. They make it very clear that it is not an appraisal. However they do require three sold and three active comparables. They require all tax information and want a detailed explanation as to why you have come up with your “opinion.” Some even require adjustments for square footage and acreage differences. For all intents and purposes it is an appraisal. But why pay an appraiser four hundred when you can pay an agent one?

Forget the fact that it is on a property that was thirty percent overpriced when it was appraised three years ago and sold via a “no doc.”, variable rate mortgage to a family that had no chance of making the payments. Now let’s try to save a few hundred as we take the 70K hit on the foreclosure. Penny rich and dollar poor.

At any rate I am happy to do them. They are fairly easy, and are a nice steady stream of income over the last few months. It has had me all over the county, and I was even offered a bribe at one particular property. It was actually pretty surprising. I felt like I was on a John Stossel’s “What Would You Do?"

Most of these BPO’s are on the other side of the county, and driving through there, it has reinforced to me how depressed parts of Sullivan County really are. I have taken a bunch of photos and plan on doing a blog post on them at some point when I get a chance. I was going to post a few this week, but pictures of run-down, closed hotels and businesses just didn’t seem like the right first post of the new year.

Happy New Year to All!

There were 25 properties sold in the last thrity days here in Sullivan County.

Click Here for Listings.