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

Friends – The Unexpected Benefit

photo of four persons uniting hands
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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.

 

 

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

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.

Real estate, Uncategorized

Real Estate and the Deep Catskills

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Allow me to introduce myself. I am Susan and I am a realtor with Select Sotheby’s International Realty.
I work with buyers and sellers in the upstate New York’s Catskills and the Leatherstocking Region, also known as the Cooperstown area.
I’m also a writer. And a journalist. And lots of other things but that’s plenty for now.
I’ve been blogging for years, but on another platform (ahem, blogspot.) Follow that link if you want to read back issues of my musings on real estate and life in the country.
Okay. Enough about me.
Let’s talk about you, potential buyer or seller, and the questions I most often hear from new clients.  It’s a crazy time and the market is definitely tough to predict. But I’ve got a few opinions and I’m happy to share.
So here, without further ado, are some Real Estate in the Catskills FAQs.
How long will it take to sell a house in this market?
A lot depends on the choices you make when you list it. The truth is, it can take up to a year. Or more, depending on where your property is and whether you price it right. That’s why having a GOOD market analysis and then pricing it right is so important. It makes all the difference.
I know there’s a lot of interest in upstate from NY buyers. If I price it tight, am I selling myself short?
There is, indeed, a flood of upstate buyers streaming up the Hudson River. Kingston is the latest beneficiary of that buying frenzy. 
It’s why I moved to Franklin! It is getting crowded!
That tide is rising up the Rt 28 corridor, too. Andes, Margaretville, even Delhi are beginning to see more interest from those NYC buyers. But those buyers are still fixated on mass transit. It’s more than four hours on the bus to Oneonta! And anything over a two hour drive feels excessive to them. 
It is still a buyers’ market in Otsego and most of Delaware County. They’re not focused here yet.
If you overprice, you sit.
Price it right, it sells. Maybe quickly. And you may get multiple offers.
Today’s buyers want a perceived “good deal.”
Can’t I just use Zillow to market it myself?
Absolutely. And you’ll get what you pay for. You’ll appear on web searches with 
no one to filter who contacts you, no targeted outreach, no professional advocate when Zillow tells your buyers your property is worth far less than you know it’s worth (Zillow’s market analysis is close to useless in rural areas) and no one to 
negotiate for you if you get a potential sale.
Aren’t all realtors and real estate companies the same?
No. They really aren’t. 
Real estate companies are wildly varied in how they operate, how they market properties, and how they compensate their agents.
Most important for you, as seller, should be how an agent will market your
property, how enthusiastic that agent is about your property, and how accountable they will be to you. 
You want your listing seen as widely as possible, marketed as creatively as possible. You want your agent to communicate with you. A good agent will give you feedback after showings, will respond to you quickly and will give you sound advice.
The biggest agency isn’t always the best. The agent who collects listings but
doesn’t service them isn’t doing their best.
Am I going to have to stage my property?
Do you have to pay a stager to come in and clean out your house? 
Probably not.
Will your house sell more quickly if it is neat, clean, uncluttered and fresh- looking? 
Yes. Unequivocally, yes.
Look at your house as though you were a buyer. Does it look as bright, spacious,
and attractive as possible? Does it need fresh paint or a touch up? 
Clean your carpets. If they’re worn, rip them out.
It’s hard work getting a house ready to sell. But the payoff is a bigger sale
price.
I don’t have the time or energy to prep my house for sale. Do you know people who can do it for me?
I do. And I’m happy to share them with my clients.
What are the professional tricks to get houses sold?
Tricks sound underhanded. I don’t do tricks. But I definitely have tips. And I know they work because I used them and sold my last house in one day to the first person who saw it.
For full price.
How? I’ll save that for my next post. Come back and visit again!