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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cottage 24 - Sold

Cottage 24 was a home that we started back in October, with no predestined homeowner lined up - a spec home, in industry terms. Building homes without owners, designing them ourselves, paying for them, completing them, and then waiting around for someone to recognize our genius and buy the damn thing (just kidding, I have to be more careful now that I'm going to be celebrity TV guy doing our next project in front of 15m people - congrats to my homeowners, who with our constant sales see the benefit of homes that have constantly reinforced their value).

I mean, after selling through this Great Recession like a sharp knife through butter, we have constantly reinforced the value of our homes. We are selling homes for the same prices that sold back in 2009 and 2008 when prices for real estate plummeted uniformly, and for more than we were selling them during the height of the boom in 2007.

Cottage 24 is stained sage green, has a sharp front porch, a big wrap-around porch and 8 acres. Sold about a week ago to Mark and Jim, who after several years of looking all around upstate, found us, saw the house, and within 2 weeks we had made a deal - and 6 weeks after that, they are living large in their own piece of real estate - they own it, I think that gives my homeowners a big kick, since not many of them own their space in the city.

Old Jake is becoming a real picture hog, showing up slyly with every snap. He's over at Dog Mountain Lodge since Lisa and I are up in New Hampshire, at one of our favorite Inns, The Wentworth by the Sea. It's Lisa's first time away from Lucas. My mom came up from Lancaster to watch him, so we know he is in good hands.

Dean, the owner, is one of those upstate business people who nailed a niche, and regardless of how unpopulated this area is, there is plenty of room for good, niche small businesses. Take the River Mart in Barryville, the River Gallery in Narrowsburg, Catskill Farms, Catskill Harvest Market - just a few examples of businesses that identified a niche, executed well, and saw it through. The examples of this success are much less than the crash and burns, but that is not necessarily a reflection of the lack of niches. Other examples include the wine store in Callicoon, the Lazy Beagle restaurant in Livingston Manor, and others.

For example, a few businesses are in the pipeline currently - Eric and Alana Goldstein have started a home concierge service, coordinating such challenges as snowplowing, firewood, house surveillance, cleaning and just a general facilitation of making country life a little less chore oriented - not sure of the website, but I'm sure Eric can supply it if it is up and running yet.

And Amy Miller, starting another food oriented business up here - this one called Early Bird Cookery - specializing in catering and meal preparation for the weekenders.

Sure, Sullivan County didn't become the next Riviera, but there was enough forward economic momentum that while we prospered, moved forward, and then slid back, there was a net gain of economic vibrancy, however, modest. Towns like Narrowsburg, Callicoon, and Livingston Manor all saw dramatic investment, some that still sticks.

I hate mentioning businesses by name, since the worry is not including something worthy - but let's just say the list was not meant to be all-inclusive, and any reader can feel free to post one they like, and that has been around for a few years.

Below is Mark of Cottage 24.
Because there was no homeowner, I got to design the house myself, with the help of James. And, to be honest, I'm pretty good at it - this house I placed in a small valley between some hills, looking down over Luxton Lake and into Pennsylvania. At night, you can hear a lonely dog barking and see an odd light or two across valley and onto the next hill.

We do a lot of pretty cottages, and quintessential cottage/farmhouse style - on this one, I wanted to masculine it up, merging cottage with barn with adirondack. Giving it some heft.

We went down to Hall's salvage yard in Lumberland and picked up some great old beams, some antique barn siding, some reclaimed barn flooring. We sanded clean the remaining paint specs, and highlighted the paint and age with a couple coats of polyurethane - encapsulating history throughout the home.
You got the great black radiator, the horizontal barn railing, the fireplace and wide plank floors.

A clean kitchen with open shelves, a farm sink and helpful island.

Going up the stairs...

One of the bedrooms, with a simple galvanized lamp, a 5 panel door and a hand-crafted barn door at the closet. The sky light really lights the place up.
We had a bit a fun in the bath, with a barn red vanity, and lots of textured and contrasting tile.

Going down into the basement, which we finished off. We lined the foundation with brick, and the stair landing with stone.

The basement was finished off with simple approach - fireplace, wood ceilings, wood stained beams
One of the showers.

There it is - complete, unique, original and sold. All of those elements are challenging. You got to figure after 60 homes we would tend to get a little repetitive, but to be honest, we keep strumming those three chords a little differently.

It was a few years ago that I started describing our design process as similar to music, - not complicated orchestra, but simple rock and roll that uses 3 chords over and over, just mixing it up endlessly to create completely new sounds. So that's what we do - we're not aiming for complexity, grandiosity, showing off our double-gainers off the high board. The trick to what we do is a respect to simplicity and restraint - smart and tasteful, and in the end the challenge is in it's simplicity, and not overdoing it, not going too far. Clean, affordable, good design - it's a lot harder than it looks, judging from all the failures of our imitators.

I guess another big reason that we have been able to keep it going during this drug out recession (going into 4 yrs now) is that we never relied on mortgage tricks to sell our homes. Our contracts asked for 20% down, and never really wavered, and funny enough the time or two where we made exceptions, we got nearly burned. So, we were mostly always selling to well-qualified individuals who had thought their decision over for years. So, when the banks stopped playing dumb and begun demanding that home buyers could actually afford the homes they were buying, we were already there - we only sold to traditionally qualified buyers (20%, money left over), which, when times got tough, was a critical component in continuing to get people into our homes. A business that relied on financing tricks of no-money down, seller concessions, and the host of other tricks would have seen real problems real quick when the mortgage market snapped from too loose to too tight.

Small homes, priced right, built well. It's a simple formula.

1 comment:

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