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Monday, July 5, 2010

1 Street, 1 Year, 8 Homes and 16 New Catskill Farms Family Members

It was only 14 months ago that I contacted David Knudsen to broker a deal for me on a property I had been watching for some months. It fit all his criteria for a good deal - it was on the market for some time, it hadn't seen much action, it's owners had owned it for a long and family-raising profitable time. We made an offer, negotiated, and made a deal. It was height of the world-wide panic.

We made a big contrarian bet, and the bet was simply that the world was not ending, that our homes were cool and in demand, and our local bank - The First National Bank of Jeffersonville - would stay behind us like they had for the past 6 years. And the bet paid off - a huge project by present day Sullivan County's measure stick - successfully purchased, developed, designed, built and sold. All in-house. Not a single dollar of real estate commissions were paid since we reached out and marketed and described and sold and convinced and persuaded and earned the business of 13 highly sophisticated-been around the block-seen it before - been there done that - urbanites.

Like I've said before - the more elevated the education and sophistication and research efforts of our clients, the more I welcome it. Cause James and I were just talking about it the other day - I mean, we aren't ducking the battle of Competition. We go head to head - no smoke and mirrors, no sleight of hand. It's like here's what we got, and here's what we can do for you - can you find better? And if you can, then we know which way to direct our future training and improvement.

I mean, we go head to head with the best companies out there. Pricing, style, design, ability, talent, speed, quality.

"We were drinking like the Irish
But we were drinking scotch
Bartender turned on a movie
Everybody turned to watch
And every single eye was gleaming
As he reached the final scene
Well, at least mine did
Here's lookin' at you, kid

I mean, seriously, it's the biggest real estate crash since the great depression and we are selling homes like it's 2005. It's serious. Definitely serious when you understand the rather narrow foundation of our business existence.

And this project started with the existing house on 44 acres that was in place when I bought the parcel. The original cottage was so perfectly Catskill Farms - it was like someone said, 'Ok, here's a fair start for once'.

Richard and Nancy gobbled this one up - naturalists, teachers, tinkerers. They now look back and claim it was one the best moves they've ever made. They still live in the city but Richard has the summer off, and I can imagine he is experimenting with new fish and algae forms in his small pond.

It was a great cottage with a little barn workshop, 2+ acres, stone walls and even a frickin pond. I mean I think I sold it for some crazy low price considering its magic.

Actually, that may be true for all we sell - how can you nail down a price for magic? for perfection? for peace and quiet and a lack of drama and lack of calls to all the subs who were supposed to build the house right the first time? What is the accurate price for met expectations? For living up to your promises on the biggest financial move in most of your clients life? Considering the stories out there about the bait and switch and the immediate loss of equity.

Now, you got to remember I started this house in June of 2009 - a month remembered for its historic economic ugliness. Warts. herpes. bad breath. and body odor. I'm trying to hire an executive assistance currently, and the amazing applications that flood my anonymous google email account boggle the mind - and have a loose motif - 2009, spelled the end of employment. It's going on 12 months for tons of professionals who have probably been working full-time since age 15. It's extraordinary.

And it's extraordinary that a business like mine, one that started from nothing - thin air - is now having the opportunity to interview, meet and hire a professional set not beyond of what I know but definitely of what I have learned to accept and expect from prospective employees. I think most of our customers and readers would be shocked at what confronts us as managers on a daily basis - not really on the job sites, but in the office as we try to ramp up our professional staff - it's absurd, confounding and exhausting.

I often caution people thinking of starting a business up here that the number 1 issue they will run up against if they have a good idea is the lack of talent, staff and potential employees. It's not a joke - it can sink a business quicker than lack of business - and it's always overlooked in the planning. I know good help is hard to find anywhere, but it's a mighty strong example of that locally. The team we have put together took 8 years of constant effort, constant disappointment and constant brainstorming.

But now the team is kick ass, top tier, give-us-your-best-shot ready.

Courtney and Bronson signed up early for this little Cottage 22, and as I have mentioned before, then went on to pioneer one of the greatest design advances in human history - the open basement staircase.

Cottage 22 - 980 sq ft of floor space, 1.5 baths, full basement, 5+ acres, seasonal stream, private, 680 sq ft of porch - great details like wallpaper in the powder room of their Manhattan neighborhood, significantly simple lighting and hand hewn/cable rail stair systems. The closed in September, 2009.

Justin and Jason loved the look of this cedar shake beauty and had big ideas of lots of cooking and outdoor porch living.

Cottage 19 - 960 sq ft, screened in porch, cedar shake siding, bucks county ledgestone, 5 acres that remind me of Ireland, and a fully open first floor floor plan. This cottage closed in October, 2009.

My friend Gayle from Cottage 15 turned her friends Bryce and Thom onto Cottage 17 when it was just getting started. Now it's all about the new landscaping, and watching the bears go by.

Cottage 17 - 1300 sq ft, 2 full baths, big porches, and nearly 8 acres. Closed in October, 2009.

Then across the street, Richard designed and purchased Barn 2 after seeing the article in the NY Post about Albert from the Strokes. So inspired by the full-on music studio barn we built for Albert, Richard signed up pretty much immediately.

Barn II - 1100 sq ft, 1 bedroom, big open great room, 2 baths, 3 acres. Sold in March, 2010.

Daniel found us as well, and after giving up the dream of fixing up this old run down cottage, we put him in his little new cottage that he helped design.

Micro- Cottage 3 - 750 sq ft, 5 acres, 1 bath, perched on a ledge looking down. Closed in April, 2010.

Farm 12, John and Wendy's dream country escape is just plain shaker and simple. It's simply a homerun of met expectations.

Farm 12 - 2400 sq ft, 800 sq ft of porch, 3 bedrooms, 7+ acres. Sold in May, 2010.

And old Cottage 25 inspiration, weeks before it was torn down.

And the newly visioned Catskill Farms Cottage 25 - collaborated on with Steve from Hoboken.

Cottage 25 - 1300 sq ft, workshop in the basement, wood stove, radiant heat, great high cathedral dining room. Sharp red cabinets. - -Sold in June, 2010.

That's how we kept busy during the panic of 2009. Building value, selling respite.

In retrospect, a pretty ballsy endeavor. Glad it all worked out.


  1. wow you must be the smartest guy in the catskills. how can you even look at the locals .
    do you also import fake friends from the city so as you have people with your intellegence level to talk to.
    this blog is a joke with blather and self promotion that is way over done. pat yourself on the back some more why dont you.

  2. His company has sold so many houses in one of the worst housing markets in years. He must be doing SOMETHING right. Yes, he's bragging, but he's bragging about closed sales, i.e., facts. Have you, in your own career, accomplished as much that your bashing of his business should be taken seriously?

  3. Sounds like sour grapes to me...Chuck just keep on doin' and congratulations to you for all of your success!!!