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Sunday, March 1, 2009

AbraCadabra - 2 more contracts signed

As you all know, it's not all cherries and roses out there at the moment. I mean, I've been a bit disingenius with my downplaying of all the economic troubles but the truth remains, like it or not, if I didn't read the papers, watch television or talk to anyone, I would have no idea we were in a depression (although after months of comparing the current scenario to the depression), most newspapers admited last week the accelerating downturn best resembles the resetting of 1982, not 1932 - but hey, let's not split hairs - hyperbole is what sells, so let's not ruin the party. It's so fun being taciturn and negative.

I mean, again, not to split hairs, doesn't a 7% unemployment rate mean that most people still have jobs? And sure there are some salary freezes and stuff like that, but nothing has changed for most people except their attitude - bravado and confidence is now fear and pessimism.

As far as I'm concerned, even more reason to buy one of our perfect little houses - at least you can be scared without anyone knowing it, on your own private 5 acres, with the coyotes yelping, the possums scavenging through last night's dinner - in fact, that's what makes country life great to the newbie - there are so many new things to be scared about the economy and the 'end of days' seem like just far off guesswork. A possum or racoon on the front porch, - now that's an issue.

But there is no doubt it's tough out there and there are 3 examples that really hit home for the missus and me. The first was the rapidly decreasing pages of our the mags and newspapers we get - we get most every house, garden, design magazine because I like to see which rag is covering the wrong story, but it was definitely alarming to get my weekly Crain's and it was all of 8 pages. Or get a notice in the mail saying Cottage Living, - my favorite home magazine - was going out of business. No fanfare, no nothing - just a frickin' low end paper postcard saying Cottage Living was no more and my subscription to it was flipped over to This Old House - problem is I already have a This Old House subscription - so now I have like 17 years of a magazine that was only renewed after serious debate each year. And then Country Home went bye-bye. So we are left with Country Living, which never really did it for me because it was a bit crafty and girlie and antiquey and flea markety and shabby chicy, unlike Cottage Living - which featured new cottage neighborhoods throughout the country, a great garden and landscape section in each issue (as opposed how to cook the best oatmeal raisin cookie).

The second one was one Lisa relayed to me the other day about making a reluctant trip down to Walmart in Matamoris and not being able to find any baby food and she asked around and eventually she found it - behind the counter, under lock and key, right beside the cigarettes. Seems like lots of mothers in this area are having trouble making ends meet - so they were stealing the basics - now, that's an alarming micro economic consequence of present day status quo.

There was third real insightful observation, but I can't remember it.

Lisa doesn't know the details, but me and my companies - I'm doubling down - screw it. This is either an economic situation that we will never recover from and we are all in same boat regardless of current household balance sheets, or this is the best time in a generation to buy shit. We're buying trucks, cars, and completely redoing our office. Not doing anything we wouldn't have been doing anyway, but accelerating the plans to take advantage of the availability of labor, the price of lumber, steel, and cooper. Prices are depressed 50% - meaning $100,000 buys $150,000 worth of goods and services, $1,000,000 buys $1,500,000. Borrowed money is free - residential rates at less than 5% and commercial not much higher - anyone who has every started a business nows how the cost of money is integral to examining good opportunities.

So, let's review - money is cheap, labor is cheap, durable goods are cheap, service is immeasurably better. Compare that to 24 months ago when prices were inflated and customer service suffered under the weight of too much business.

The one thing that enabled us to survive this downturn was an awareness of economic history, and a close attention to small local signals. I noticed something small change in the middle of 2006, and did everything I could over the next 12 months of boom marketplace to cut costs and position ourselves to not only survive, but prosper as the market became less a no-brainer. Locally, an underfunded Catskill Farms has outmanuevered many well-funded ventures - from Bethel Farms and it's 3 developments, to Kenoza Lake Estates and its very slow sales, to Tasmian Lake in Parksville to Sharoff's Bethel projects, to Barriger and Barriger's foray into real estate leverage, to the failure of Sheriden Homes, Chapin Management, Parson Enterprises, Eagle Nest Estates, and Highland Estates. Amazing how many projects and companies have come and flamed out - some spectacturally in a fireworks of debt, liens, lawsuits and bankruptcy and others just a slow, boring lack of sales that can be carried only through necessity - the enthusiasm long gone as the trudging march from one closing separated through much time and space to the next.

The thing about Sullivan County is that the power structure and who's who is so intertwined with these lackluster projects that nothing more is heard from them other than the occasional front page story about how many sales are occuring and how the line 'is around the corner'. it's a funny thing to watch, when you know what the truth of the matter is.

Well, anyway - who can tell I'm alone? Lisa's down in PA visiting my family and her mom came up from Richmond, so I've been taking care of things here, holding down the fort, executing my honey-do list to perfection.

Now, onto the important things - We sold another fucking house. I don't swear lightly, and I hope my readership can handle a little cursing (I wouldn't know since I don't allow comments) - but jeez laweez, we sold another one, and boy is it good looking.

This 960 sq ft beauty has it all, including the perfect barn red siding, 2 streams, close to Barryville, 2 bedrooms, fireplace and all the other details that make our homes perfect. The clients are veteran home searchers, having seriously been looking for over 2 years - in fact, Johnny (to the right) wrote us more than a year inquiring about 'what we have'. Well, eventually, what we got was right on the money, because they bought in, putting down some earnest money to hold the house as we go into contract. It's complimentary for sure.

Since the house says it all, there was no reason to crowd these new owners, and I gave them carte blanche to check everything out on their own - the stream, house, quiet, etc... This house needs no pitch. I am very excited about all 900+ sq ft.

And here is Cottage 21 really taking shape. After the offer on Cottage 18, and Erin's committment to the Mid-Century Ranch, what was a pretty big risk (building 3 spec homes in a depression) turned out to be fairly low risk, with two of them spoken for. The remaining one will be an easy sale - $342k, 2 bedrooms, 2 full baths, very private 6 acres, pond view, 2 minute walk to 2 lakes. Here she is taking shape - sage green cedar siding, slate colored roof and perfect river stone on the chimney.

Won't be long and she will be someone's home sweet home.

And heerrrrreeeeee's the Ranch. Big views, big design. We chose Tuscan Gold Cabot's stain for this house because the house and western view is all about the setting and spent sun, so we just joined the house and the sunset at the hip - dance partners from here onward.

960 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, big high ceilings. Privacy, views, comfort.
All wired up and ready for some of that high-class insulation we've been braggin about.
And some last shots of Farm 10 before she gets handed off to the new owners, Albert and Agyness.

From the kitchen to the living room.

From the living room to the dining room.

The rock and roll bathroom hazed in a dream (actually this was not some technical photoshop but rather my lens was just fogged up).

And the barn, all shiny and ready to go. Very nice structure. And just to clarify that hole in the chimney is not the fireplace but rather the area where all the cables, wires, and stuff comes out from the sound room on the other end of the building.

The compound.

So there you have it - worked all week, worked all weekend - just like I've been doing for 6 years. At least I got something to show for it, if a great little family, 50 houses, 9 great employees and over 100 persons calling my homes theirs, counts for anything.