businesses, catskills, country life, farm, Real estate, Uncategorized, upstateny

Exciting News

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I’m starting a new chapter. A really thrilling one. I’ve joined forces with Keller Williams Upstate NY Properties, and will now be doing business with a logo I got to create, ( lookey up there!) with advertising I get to control, and even some help with marketing (more on that later).

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I’ve made a lot of changes over the years, but it’s not easy for me. I agonize over them. I make lists. I weigh pros and cons and I talk about it until I’m blue in the face.

But once done, I’m full steam ahead and this feels really, really good. I get to continue to work with clients I enjoy, help find them properties they fall in love with, and help sellers move on and find the best buyers for their homes. All within an hour of home.

This domain doesn’t work for me now, and rather than tweak and fiddle around, I’m just going to start from scratch.

I promise a lot of information about this gorgeous part of upstate New York, starting with a Caffeine Tour that will probably go on for the rest of my life. Follow along…you’ll find me at http://www.wordpress.com/upstatecountryrealty.com/wordpress.com

Here’s just a taste of Stop One…

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Thanks for visiting me here and I’m looking forward to seeing you at UpstateCountryRealty.com.

Susan

businesses, catskills, country life, Real estate, Uncategorized, upstateny

Friends – The Unexpected Benefit

photo of four persons uniting hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

My mother-in-law, a wonderful woman who became my friend, was a real estate broker.

“You should do it,” she told me over and over. “You’d be really good at it. And I’ve made so many good friends in this business.”

Dale, you were right — again.

I started my real estate career feeling a bit shell-shocked. There was so much to learn. I had all the book learning, but real life experience in sales? Next to nothing. I was a middle-aged newbie.

It’s been almost ten years now.

The first few years were definitely a learning curve but when I joined a very well-run boutique agency, everything started to click. I had some big sales.

I met some great people. Some of them became friends. One couple became such good friends that they came to my son’s wedding. We danced together all night and I was so glad to have them with us.

The Brooklyn invasion of the Hudson Valley seemed to open a flood of “muh peepul” as Hannah Gadsby would say. Surprisingly, people quite a bit younger than I are “muh peepul.” I like Brooklyn expats. And they like me.

My first experience was a couple I called “the brewery kids.” They weren’t kids at all. But they are about the age of my own kids and I found myself personally invested in helping them find their dream site for their dream project – – a craft brewery.

We drove hundreds of miles over a period of many months. I had one snarky realtor tell me he’d “never” work with them: “They’ll never buy anything,” he predicted.

I defended them like they were family. I knew they were serious. We just had to find the right place.

We did. And they now have a thriving business, a growing family and a cult following. I am proud I knew them when. I miss talking to them constantly, but they’ve got a business to run.

Before my move to farm country, I worked with several younger couples, all of whom struck me as people I wouldn’t be forgetting soon. There was the young mom of twins who explored the mountains with me, pausing for us both to go for a swim on a hot summer day. There were “the yoga people,” a beautiful young couple looking to escape the New York City rat race and establish a peaceful retreat in the Catskills that they could share with others. There was another couple with twins, with whom I shared the frets and worries of moving as I moved during their purchase of a country farmhouse. Another artistic couple found the funkiest place imaginable, with a tunnel to a studio space, no less. Working with them with just plain fun.

Everyone found their perfect place. And I found people who I hope to always know.

They weren’t just clients. They are friends.

Now that I’m in a new area, I’m meeting new people. Some of them completely disagree with me on politics. Some of them are older than I am. Some of them are younger. But many of them are wonderful. One couple gave me a pint of the most amazing maple syrup I’ve ever tasted — and I am a maple syrup junkie. They boil it down on their farm.

I may have gotten spoiled. Business was so often a pleasure. It may be more business here. But Brooklyn, once you find this gorgeous, affordable part of New York, you’re going to be haunted by it. And you’re going to love it here. I hope I’ll get to show you around.

Not every real estate client becomes a friend. But how lucky am I? So many have.

 

 

businesses, catskills, country life, Real estate, Uncategorized, upstateny

The Green Toad Bookstore (it isn’t home ’til there’s a book store)

I have always been a reader. Some kids were athletes. Some were social. I read. And, like most obsessive readers, I became a writer.

It’s a solitary occupation, which is why real estate is a good balance for me. That’s a very social occupation.

But when I’m done, I go back to my little kitchen table in the bay window upstairs and write. It’s how I recharge.

The town I used to live in was full of writers. They even had a yearly writer’s festival. And forgive me, hometown, but it felt like a competition. I wasn’t even comfortable in our local book shop, which should’ve  been a tip off that I wasn’t at home there.

I’m insecure enough about my writing that I’m just not comfortable planting my feet and holding forth on my “process.” My process is writing, rewriting, rewriting, putting it in a drawer, then pulling it out after a few years and wondering who wrote that surprisingly okay story.

I’ve moved. And my awkward social self feels entirely at home here, where there’s a bit more space, a lot less competition for the title of “most creative”, and where the local book shop not only welcomes local writers, but invites them to stay and chat about local gossip. “It ought to be a chapter in a book,” the owner said happily after explaining an upcoming election brouhaha.

What is this wonderful place, you ask? It is the Green Toad Bookstore on Main Street in lovely old Oneonta.

It’s a brick and mortar building that actually has brick and mortar. High ceilings, soft light, a massive selection of books, and (hallelujah!) a coffee shop right next door that you can access without going outside.

Where’s that, you ask? It’s three hours from the GWB, for my New York friends. It’s an hour and a half from Albany. It’s a step back in time and it’s just wonderful.

It’s very pretty in the city of hills (Oneonta’s slogan) this time of year. You could visit. It is a whole lot more enjoyable than online shopping. And if you go over Franklin Mountain and drive down a side road in Franklin, you might be able to spot me, sitting at that table by the window in our farmhouse.

Don’t forget to wave. Everyone does here.

catskills, country life, farm, Real estate, upstateny

Of Ants and Grasshoppers

Remember that old story about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant worked while the grasshopper played. And the grasshopper scoffed all summer, telling the ant he was wasting time that could be better spent enjoying himself. Winter was a different story, and the ant was warm and dry while the grasshopper shivered in the snow.

I’m trying to be like the ant.

We live in the real country now. Not suburbia. Out on a country road, twenty minutes from a supermarket (yes, you veteran country dwellers, I know you’re scoffing but that’s not the one mile walk I was accustomed to), and a healthy hill or a small mountain to get over in any direction.

We got our roof replaced. It needed it. I may have cried a little as we paid the bill, but it’s the kind of repair that will pay us back for the rest of our lives.

We got a generator. Our power went out all the time at the last house. But that short walk to a store and a mighty wood stove kept us going. The power was never out more than three days, as I recall. I suspect if it goes out here, it could be awhile before the power company gets to us.

We stocked ourselves with wood for the wood stove, got the furnaces cleaned, even had extra insulation put into the attic.

The snowblower is serviced, the salt is ready for the walkways.

We’re as ready as we’re likely to be.

It’s already snowed here, just a little. I’m not sure if I’m excited or nervous about the first real snowfall. This is the Catskills. It snows here. It can snow a lot.

What will I do to entertain myself once winter arrives?

I’ll be working. That’s a sure bet. Real estate may slow down in the winter, but it doesn’t stop.

I’ve been taping the sheetrock in my partner’s music studio. It’s a skill I’ve always wanted to have and it’s satisfying to put some work into the job. I’ve put in four or five full days so far, and the control room is, I think, ready to sand. I started taping in the live room today. It’s small and it’s going to go faster. That’s fine by me.

Once he’s back to work in his own space, there is paneling I could remove in the house….boy, is there paneling. But I have a book to write, too. Maybe I’ll take a break from construction this winter and focus on that.

Come spring, there’s a garden to expand, some painting to touch up outside, and we’ll be back to mowing that lawn that takes a full day, even with a riding mower to help with the meadow.

It feels different, this life in the country. The weather matters more. We watch the forecast and plan our activities around it. And people matter more, too. I’m loving the new neighbors, my new town.

This is what I always hope for my clients — finding the place that feels like home.

I got lucky. I found mine.

Real estate, Uncategorized

That Golden Rule

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Sometimes business becomes personal. And sometimes it goes wrong.  But sometimes, that gives me an opportunity to decide if I am really the person I want to be.

That happened today.

Former clients, people I worked with for a long time and really liked, just disappeared one day. This wasn’t just business. We’d become friends. They swore there was no way they’d ever want to work with anyone else. Then they did. They didn’t say goodbye. They didn’t explain. They vanished.

I hadn’t seen it coming. I’ll be honest — it hurt. I felt like I got dumped at the dance.

Fast forward a couple of years and suddenly I got an email from them. They were having trouble with a real estate transaction and they wondered if I could help them understand what they should do.

I paused. I wondered if the better thing to do was to simply not respond. We no longer had any relationship and any communication with them had to be very clear, as they have another agent and I do not want to, indeed cannot, by the code of ethics, interfere.

But I decided ignoring them was not the right answer. I’d liked them, I’d done my best for them, and I knew I’d feel better about myself if I continued to do that.

I dropped them an email, asked for a clearer explanation, then made a phone call to someone involved in their transaction to get the full story. Once done, I let them know it made sense to me, that if they needed further explanation, they could call me.

“Do your clients and co-workers know how lucky they are to have you?” they wrote.

No. Of course they don’t. Just like these clients didn’t realize how hard I’d worked on their behalf until they moved on. Just like I sometimes take it for granted when I know I can count on someone.

Trust is hard to win. And it hurts when it’s lost. But I did my best, before and afterwards.

I treated them the way I’d hope to be treated. That’s all I can do. But that’s a lot.

Real estate, Uncategorized

A “Quiet” Day on the Farm

It is not yet 10 AM. Four men are on our roof. Five more are on the ground outside the window. I can’t see them because plywood sheets are covering that window.

Scraping and banging above my head has kept a steady rhythm for the past two hours.

Ah, the quiet life in the country.

We have lived in this house for four months. It is, I hope, our very last move. We love it here. But moving and unpacking is just the beginning.

Consider this a word to the wise.

We knew we needed a new roof. That’s a huge investment, but one that will last for the rest of our lives. We are, after all, at “that” age.

A generator also seemed a wise investment. This is well and truly the country, and on a mountain at that. We toughed it out many times in our suburban ranch on that cul de sac a mile from a grocery store. Now it’s a fifteen minute drive to the grocery store. And anyone who takes winter in the deep Catskills of New York lightly deserves to have their pipes freeze, in my opinion.

So there are two massive investments right up front. And that is over and above the problems we discovered once we were here.

The riding mower that prior owner so kindly included in the deal? It need to be rebuilt. The flat tire was just the beginning.

Lights in the entry and the closet had shorts, making ominous crackling noises. Enter the electrician.

The well pump is a tribute to antique machinery. It, and the pressure tank, must be replaced. That is going to be pricey, and tricky as well. It isn’t worth taking the time to describe the well setup to you. Just trust me – it’s the weirdest thing any of us have ever seen.

The water in the basement isn’t the slight problem we were led to believe. It’s a “Get down here and start pushing this water toward the drain or put on your waders!” problem.

And did I mention we are creating a music studio for my partner in crime?

Be prepared, home buyer. No matter how great the results of your inspection, buying a house is just the start. There are changes you will want to make. There are repairs you will HAVE to make. And there are changes you desperately want to make (I’m talking to you, dropped ceilings, excessive quality paneling and avocado tub) that will have to wait.

The sexy changes have to wait. First, you’ll have to make things right. It’ll be worth it. But for now, I’ll be decorating the upstairs bath with colors that complement avocado green.

 

Real estate, Uncategorized

How to Sell a House in One Day

We’ve been talking about moving farther out into the country for awhile.

And then we found a place we both liked.

We made an offer. It was accepted.

Now we had to sell our house.

I tell my clients what to do to get their houses sold. I took my own advice. For once.

First, I checked the market. I compared my house with two houses that were for sale in my neighborhood and adjusted for acreage, location, rooms — all the things I do when I list other people’s houses.

And then I did what no one wants to do. I priced my house right in the middle range of where it would likely sell. Not the top of the range with room to move. Smack dab in the middle.

My intention was to be firm on the price. I could afford to be. There’s so little really good inventory that I figured there’d be a lot of interest.

It was a gamble. An educated one.

Now that I was pretty sure what my return was going to be, I took a long, critical look at my house. I touched up paint, freshened décor, repaired any problems I knew of.

Then I cleared things out. I boxed the multiple photos of my kids, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, my great-grandparents. I moved furniture around. I looked at the rooms through the viewfinder of my camera and found where things really looked best, not where I thought they looked best.

I made a detailed list of all the work done on the house, all the new improvements and upgrades (there were a lot – the place was a mess when we bought it), and made that part of the listing.

I put the listing up on MLS. And the phone started ringing.

The first people to see it came before we were ready.

“I wanted to have a couple of days to do a final cleaning,” I objected.

“They’re really interested,” their agent said. “They will understand if it doesn’t look perfect.”

They came. They looked around. They stayed a long time. They went out in the yard and talked. They came back in and sat down at our kitchen table.

“We want it,” the wife said. “We’ll give you full price.”

It was a case of the right people, the right house and the right time. They wanted a house like ours. They wanted to be where our house is. And the price worked for them.

Our house had an accepted offer. For full price. On its first day on the market, to the first people who saw it.

I knew my house would sell quickly. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so quickly. Nor did I expect the problems that resulted.

Let’s back up to the beginning.

We’ve been talking about moving farther out into the country for awhile. I’ve filled my partner’s inbox to the point of explosion with Zillow listings of decrepit farmhouses and “fixer uppers” in the middle of nowhere for a few years. It’s what I did when I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t sleep a lot.

And then we found one we both liked.

We made an offer. It was accepted.

Now we had to sell our house.

I tell my clients what to do to get their houses sold. I took my own advice. For once.

First, I checked the market. I compared my house with two houses that were for sale in my neighborhood and adjusted for acreage, location, rooms — all the things I do when I list other people’s houses.

And then I did what no one wants to do. I priced my house right in the middle range of where it would likely sell. Not the top of the range with room to move. Smack dab in the middle.

My intention was to be firm on the price. I could afford to be. Inventory was low.

It was a gamble. An educated one.

Now that I was pretty sure what my return was going to be, I took a long, critical look at my house. I touched up paint, freshened décor, repaired any problems I knew of.

Then I cleared things out. I looked at the rooms through the viewfinder of my camera and found where things really looked best, not where I thought they looked best.

I made a detailed list of all the work done on the house, all the new improvements and upgrades, and made that part of the listing.

I put the listing up on MLS. MLS. Not just Zillow. I wanted to give our local agents a chance to sell it. I wanted to give it the widest possible exposure.

And the phone started ringing.

The first people to see it came before we were ready.They were represented by a local agent.

“I wanted to have a couple of days to do a final cleaning,” I objected.

“They’re really interested,” their agent said. “They will understand if it doesn’t look perfect.”

They came. They looked around. They stayed a long time. They went out in the yard and talked. They came back in and sat down at our kitchen table.

“We want it,” the wife said. “We’ll give you full price.”

It was a case of the right people, the right house and the right time. They wanted a house like ours. They wanted to be where our house is. And the price worked for them.

Our house had an accepted offer. For full price. On its first day on the market, to the first people who saw it.

SOLD – Now What?

We caught the couple who lived in our soon-to-be grandma house by surprise. Our house hadn’t even been on the market when they accepted our offer. They thought they’d have more time.

Our house’s new owners-to-be had their own problems. Their house was selling in a few days and they weren’t sure where they were going next if they couldn’t move into our house quickly.

Our buyers had to move into a temporary place for a month. We couldn’t get the folks at grandma’s house to move any faster. We rented our house back for a month from our buyers, then moved into a temporary place while we waited for grandma’s sellers to move.

Where did grandma’s former owners go once we moved in? A rental. They haven’t been able to find a new house they like. They’re going to keep searching from a temporary home base.

It’s a little insane. And I’m hearing that it happens more and more. There is so little for sale. If someone puts their home on the market with nowhere to go, or if the people at the end of the line can’t get moving (ahem, grandma’s house) the delicately balanced dominoes that let one closing lead to another just can’t fall in order. So post-occupancy agreements are becoming common at today’s closings.

Moving, psychologists tell us, is one of the top five stressors. And that’s a straightforward move, without all these weird problems.

The only thing that got me through was the long view. I pictured it a thousand times. I’d be sitting outside on a warm, starry night, sipping a glass of red wine and looking at the valley across the street from grandma’s house. It’s a long view. It was worth it all.