Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Portrait of Palenville

If you don't live upstate, there is a tendency to think one town is much like another. You'd be wrong. Lately I have found myself getting to know the town that bills itself as NewYork's first arts colony: Palenville.

Palenville has a lot of what we want from an upstate  New York village. First, it's not too far from the city ; two and a half hours by Thruway. It isn't remote; just fifteen minutes to Catskill and big box stores and all night supermarkets. Forty minutes to Albany (maybe less). Right down the road from skiing at Hunter and Windham and forty minutes to Belleayre.

There is a thrilling seasonal mountain road that can get you to Woodstock in less than twenty minutes. Same for Saugerties.  All the locals know it well.

Then there's the setting: a small cluster of charming old buildings dominated by what looks like a castle, but was in fact the old town school, now in private hands.  Towering above this one - traffic - light village are the Catskill mountains. If you don't know the Catskills, let me tell you they are not like the Adirondacks or the Rockies . These are not angry, intimidating peaks, glowering under a cap of summer snow and daring you to take them on. These are old, settled mountains, green and soft like the Blue Ridge mountains further south. The peak overlooking Woodstock is called Mount Guardian and that is what the Catskills are. They are huge, calm watchdogs. These mountains are comforting.

Palenville boasts good restaurants, lovely B&B's, hiking, fishing, swimming, a great new wine shop and my new favorite hangout -the Circle W market and cafe. Inside you'll find  wooden floors, dark wainscoting on the high ceilings, great food and a surprisingly eclectic variety of foods and household supplies. This market has style.

So does Palenville. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Uptown Kingston: hip and historic

Uptown Kingston's time has finally arrived. With Boitsons, the Stockade, BSP, Outdated, Duos and a slew of food, retail and entertainment venues, the historic Stockade area is jumping all week long. Then there is the Farmers Market, the O+ Festival, weekly concerts at the Old Dutch Church and the occasional movie shoot. The only authorized Mac repair in more than fifty miles is here, plus vintage clothes, organic plants and, rumor adds, a bakery is on the way! Yoga, meditation,  used books, coffee coffee coffee!

Just a quick walk from the bus to NY is a great storefront with a neat and simple two bedroom apartment above. Great tenants and a great investment at $399K.
A GDMRE exclusive.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday

When I was a young woman, I used to love to read the column from the Philmont correspondent in the chatham courier newspaper. I loved the Courier anyway. It was a great litle weekly with insider info and just enough snarkiness to be entertaining. There were local gossip columns, penned by A Red Headed Secretary and The Man in the Black Hat. And there was the news from Philmont.

If I remember rightly, Mr. Kimball was our intrepid correspondent, and the news was more likely to be about what his neighbors had to say, or why his bathrobe was so wonderfully comfortable that he refused to buy any other brand, than about events at the town meeting. But thanks to Mr. Kimball I felt like I knew Philmont.

He painted a portrait of a quiet hamlet filled with local characters who somehow managed to get along, at least well enough to avoid a small town Cold War.
I thought it sounded wonderful.

I finally got there today. It is a lot like I expected it to be; rows of small Victorians lining the winding road, a tiny business district, then more houses until the yard d's grow bigger and bigger, finally becoming fields and farms.

It still seems somewhat undiscovered,  but it has a what so many of us long for. There is a lake, sweeping views of the mountains, and most importantly, a sleepy charm that invites you to relax and stop rushing by.

Mr. Kimball is probably long gone, but his Philmont is still here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

21st Century Real Estate

Thank you, Cullen Burnell, for hooking me up with Instagram and explaining the mysteries of Twitter, FB, blog linking. Plus a great cup of coffee at Millerton's Irving Farm on a blustery day.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alternate Project

If you have actually met me, you know real estate isn't my only love - I also write. If you haven't met me, you may have figured it out as I continue to transfer thoughts to blog as though it matters.

It should.

In the back of my mind, I've been slowly watching the seed of an idea, waiting to see if it grows.  And I do mean slowly - it started back in 2008. That's when I started my first blog, Everyday People.

It started with outrage and fear - I was watching a major meltdown of our economic system, the disintegration of our middle class suppositions, and the future resembled nothing so much as medieval feudalism.  I began to think of the majority of us as serfs - and the deeper I looked, the truer it seemed.

My outrage cooled, as most hot emotions tend to eventually do.  I grew discouraged. I felt like it was pointless to keep talking or writing. I grew quiet. I decided it didn't matter.

It does.

I am no longer angry. I'm determined. And I know what I'm going to do about it.  The seed that I discovered five years ago is sprouting.

People's stories are what matter and I'm going to tell them.

We work in a world that bears very little resemblance to the world I grew up in. The sixties and seventies were times of huge transition, and the nineties took us light years ahead with the advent of the personal computer. 

We have to work - the cost of living has skyrocketed and our incomes have not.  But we can't find work. Or we have to make our own work.

I am talking to working people in the US, people from everywhere.  I am talking to people who are working four jobs and people who cannot find one. I am talking to people at the top of their professions and people whose profession has vanished.

I am going to share their stories on my Everyday People blog.  I am sure I am not the only person doing this. There are even other projects with similar names. That's okay. No one will talk to the same people as I do, no one will hear the same stories I hear.  They all need to be heard.

Time is my reluctant partner and my problem; there is limited time available to collect these interviews and to write these posts.  I am busy working, too.  But I have decided this matters. I will make time for it and I will do it.

I will continue to post here when something strikes me, but most of my writing energy is going to go to my blog. I hope you'll stop by and comment if you feel the urge.

I have two children, both grown, both struggling to make ends meet in this crazy new world. Being smart and educated, even connected, isn't enough. I feel like I misled them. I think there's an entire generation wondering what happened to their shot at the American Dream.

We all want to feel like we're doing something that matters. This is my project. I hope it contributes to making a difference.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Let's say you have to decide right now - what do you want for dinner tonight?
Quick - what'll it be? If you're like me, you can't do it.

My brain goes into panic mode.
I love sweet potato burritos! 

 But that's kind of heavy. Fruit maybe?

Fruit's great. But what about pad thai? I love pad thai.
 But that's kind of hot. Maybe it's too hot for hot food.  

Blah blah blah. I could go on for hours and still not make a decision.

So I have absolutely no room to say a thing about people who have trouble making a decision about buying a house. It's a whole lot more of a complicated (and long-term) choice than what you're going to have for dinner.


IF you have decided you're going to buy a house, and you WANT to buy a house, at some point I guess you have to decide what house you are going to buy. 

The problem is, we all want the perfect house.  And I haven't seen it yet.  Maybe the location's perfect, the schools are great, the commute to work is ideal and the house is just the right size.  It probably needs work.

Or if it doesn't need work, maybe the rooms are too small.

Or it doesn't have a garage.

Or it has a pool (or it doesn't).

Or it's not in the town you wanted.

The trick is to find the place that has imperfections that don't make you crazy.

The house I loved best was a mess - an old farmhouse we redid slowly from top to bottom. I've never worked harder. It was totally worth it. It was the worst house on a beautiful old tree-lined street. It was pure joy to make it shine again.That house loved us as much as we loved it. I was pretty sure I'd made a big mistake as soon as we agreed to sell it.

The house I disliked most was great on paper. 

Big rooms, gorgeous spot near a stream, lots of land and privacy. Nothing I did ever made that house feel like home. I knocked myself out and got nowhere. Selling it was a relief.

I found my dream cottage alongside a winding country road and spent a blissful winter there.  With spring, I discovered that my scenic road drew motorcyles by the dozens...all day long. I was serenaded by roaring Harleys from breakfast to sunset.

 I left it with equal parts regret and relief. But leaving prevented me from laying down in the middle of the road in protest...probably a good thing. No one would have heard me scream.

I've been showing houses lately to two kinds of clients - the ones who know what they want the second they see it and go after it, and the ones who just can't decide what they can live with. Those second ones are waiting for the perfect house. I suspect they'll be looking for quite a while.

I suggest they make a pro and con list for every house that might be a likely candidate.  Weigh it all logically. Then I tell them to go to bed and fall asleep imagining they're going to wake up in that house.  How did it feel?  If they can't get to sleep because of a feeling of dread, chances are that's not their house.

But if it feels comfortable, a bit like coming home, they may have found their imperfectly perfect match.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seventeen Year Buyers

Bugs creep me out a little.  I'm sorry. They just do. But that crazy infestation of seventeen year locusts seemed to coincide with some strange wave of home buying, so I had to find a slightly not-creepy picture of the little devils. I wouldn't want to wake up and see those eyes too close to me, just the same.


As the locusts emerged from their holes where they'd been waiting for almost twenty years, mortgage rates started to creep up. And suddenly would-be buyers who've been waiting for years also began to flood our offices.

It got busy after February. It even started back in the Hurricane Sandy-aftermath.  But this is just insane.

The locusts lined the banks of the Hudson, buzzing so loudly I couldn't hear myself think as I crossed the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge. My email and my phone started buzzing, too.  I figured things would get busy, but I really had no clue.

Every single day, I'm showing homes to at least two different clients. Seven days a week. Are they buying? They are.  They're determined to get a steal, and the days of the steal may be gone already. Sellers can hear those buyers coming, and they know what rising interest rates mean. Many of them have already dropped the price of their homes past the point of comfort, so buyers expecting to pay 20% less than asking price are getting a rude awakening...sellers are countering those offers with numbers that look a lot like asking price.

Great properties, rare properties, like an in-town Woodstock stone cottage, get snapped up within a couple of days, often after a heated bidding war. And days later, agents for buyers who missed their chance call, wondering if perhaps there's still a chance their buyer can get a bid in.

Remarkable properties, like this great retail space along Rt 28 just three miles west of Woodstock, have been for sale for awhile. But with all the summer traffic, the buzz about the new rail trails along the Ashokan Reservoir, and a great house for the owner or a tenant tucked back behind the trees on parklike grounds next door, this place is going to sell.

Now if I can just find a buyer for that adorable little 1780s cottage I like outside of Woodstock!