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Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Masterpiece - 50's Ranch #2 Sold (3rd one in February)

The thing is, dog, (I've been watching too much Randy Jackson on American Idol), that it is real early in the morning. Not even 4:30, but I really was pretty pooped out last night after just a whirlwind of activity in 100 million directions last week and went to bed real early. Just a sampling of this past week's activities include kicking more ass on the DIY renovation than genghis khan at the battle of Chakirmaut, continuing to build 6 new houses, getting the planning and construction ready for 5 spring starts, spearheading a new marketing push, spearheading a new PR push, managing about 9 employees, 20 subcontractors, 3 businesses, 24 pieces of real estate. Not mentioning being the perfect dad, husband and dog master (just kidding but I do do (note the dog pun) my best).

Not that I'm counting, or trying to rub it in those competitors who just can't quite get it done in this challenging real estate environment, but that's our 3rd sale this year, and leaves us with 4 homes under contract that will be closing in the next two months. Last yr we sold 14 homes, and it looks like we might be able to do that this year as well. And for an underfunded little niche boutique business like we were/are, that's a huge amount of homes.

Wow, 50's Ranch #2 is a masterpiece. I mean, you all know I'm pretty biased about these houses - that i think their size, pricing, value, design collaboration, land selection, land placement, etc... is just about as good as it gets- but this house just really has that one-two punch of great design and owner-risktaking that worked out about as well as it could. What I like about it as well was the fact that I was able to pull a good well-framed picture of the future owners - most times my portraits are so pathetic.

What didn't hurt either for this post was just a perfect sunny friday morning for picture taking, with cool shadows and fun accents.

Like I had mentioned earlier, Tony and Laurie had been contacting us throughout their upstate getaway search - which lasted a few years. A long search is not that uncommon, since it's a big decision, becomes almost part of a family's lifestyle (looking for homes upstate on the weekends), and, in the end, is a pretty difficult decision because there are a lot of towns, and for the most part, the architecture is not incredibly appealing.

So, after going in that direction, and then this direction, and almost buying a place way upstate, they decided to come into our clan, and I think everyone is pretty confident it was the best decision the Owners could have made - especially when the combined talents of them and us produced this mid-century classic.

And that's the thing the losers who try to copy us don't understand - our homes aren't static, they don't stay the same, we are always pushing the envelope of what is possible design-wise and construction-wise, we are always taking chances, moving one way, then another, then another. I had a guy telling me the other day that he's aware of several companies that are out there studying our stuff with a microscope - but, in the end, a microscope can't capture soul, or that feeling people get when they walk into our homes.

Our homes emote a strong design personality- and that is something that is not easily mimicked.

What is overlooked as well in our originality is what our homeowners bring to the table. It seems like everyone we work with has great taste - some work in creative fields, others do not, but either way it seems like the customers who are attracted to us have a strong creative bent and a real creative itch they are dying to scratch.

Granted, it may be considered a bit over the top to scratch that itch by building a home, but hey, I'm not judging.

I mean there is so much debate about what constitutes value, especially in these turbulent times - but there is little debate among our new homeowners, who can easily see a well-built, well-designed, inexpensive to operate, upstate getaway is valued in many ways other than dollar and cents.

What I love seeing as well - loving healthy competition and respecting it's ability to force us to continually raise the bar - is when one of our bad imitators (and believe me, they are all bad for some reason) buys the land, has the house designed, builds the house, tries to sell the house, lowers the price 10 times and then finally overpays a commission (if they ever sell it), is the realization that there is no money left for the developer/builder. From the outside, it appears Catskill Farms is raking it in (granted, we do make a nice living and try to compensate everyone reasonably) but once you try it, you realize how expensive it is - the nice piece of land, the curved driveway, the distance the house is from the road, the placement, the wood siding, the metal roof, the security system, the audio system, the very cool radiators, the fine kitchens, the tile, the backsplashes, the perfect lighting, the wide plank floors, the railings, the crowns, and details and details and details.

Believe me, we exasperate our competition with our vertically integrated ultra efficient process. It's a military operation in it's efficiency.

Fireplaces, radiators, cantilevered countertops, wide plank floors - on time, on budget.

The key to what we do is two fold - one, I'm diversely talented with a good eye and a pretty good appetite for risk-taking, and two, it's our team. I mean, I have developed a team that is motivated, quality-conscious, forward-thinking, and always improving - we don't have a weak link in the chain. And, as opposed to say that going-nowhere-fast Bethel Farms project where everyone is just trying to milk the cow for as long as possible (check out their Cottage here - you have to wonder what Irace Architecture was smoking when he designed this one - unattractive from every vantage), our team of engineers, surveyors, excavators, painters, plumbers, electricians and dozens of other professionals have our best interest in mind, go the extra mile, understand the opportunity and position we occupy is based on a wide array of people doing their best work. It's not perfect work - but it's work done with a good attitude, with attention to detail, with respect for me and my customers.

I mean, you got to love it - 60 little unique homes scattered about in the woods, hardly there. It's such a modest proposition - build small well designed homes, stand behind your work, keep experimenting with architecture and materials. Keep the prices low.

Famous sliding barn door above.
Big window of one of the bedrooms.

And even our stairs to the basements look good. And some feedback -
"Thank you, we couldn't agree more. It's amazing what can happen with the right combination of talents. Thank you for your vision and expertise."

So, there you have it. It's 5:33am, I'm listening the BBC, the cats and dogs and baby and wife are sound asleep and it's just me and the creaking old house in Eldred, NY.

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