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Thursday, November 25, 2010

ThanksGiving 2010

The above picture was taken by Adam, Amy's man, last Friday while Lisa was out of town. It was the day before deer season opened the town and small restaurants were hopping. If you are not a hunter you don't realize how many people actually hunt - schools close, business slows down. The first weekend of deer hunting is always a bit precarious since it is yahoo-central with a bunch of 'hunters' coming up to drink beers, drive around and shoot stuff. It's actually the month prior to hunting season that can be a bit much since all the hunters pull out ALL there guns and do some practicing all weekend long so gun shots ring loud and close. During the actual hunting season it's a less noisy, since hunters are trying to be sly and quiet and get some killin' done.

Adam was just shooting my camera off after a few rounds and these are the leftovers I found in the morning.
Thanksgiving has been held at my various homes for the past 7 years, ever since I moved up to Sullivan County. The first year at the rock house, where my family refused to come unless I put a driveway in and buy a refrigerator and a stove - you know how demanding families can be. And that's an interesting look-back on our journey up here - from heat and water-less 400 sq ft cabin where I used to put stuff outside to keep it cold, to king of the hill, builder of more than 70 getaways, country concierge to many a family, large local employer, major provider of taxable real estate in our local towns. It's a cool story with lots of drama and interesting characters along the way.

Here's the foundation of our resident Dr of Chemistry. She's doing a farmhouse, and a carriage house on 7+ acres outside of Narrowsburg, NY.

Then the house.
Then the clean up and tyvec.

And you all have seen it before - the roof, windows, framing, foundation and just the incredible day to day progress of an organized, lean, non-top heavy little engine that could.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Makin' The Roundz

Some mornings each week I 'make the rounds', checking out job sites and progress and seeing first-hand what the obstacles are that are staring us down.

This the Mitchell Farmhouse, up in Callicoon Center, that we just finished. They say you can't have good pricing, quality and speed - but we proved 'em wrong on this one. 4.5 months from start to finish. The Owners were planning on a January or February closing -

And sweet little Cottage 29 outside of Barryville, NY in the morning sun.

We furnished it to make it more homey.

Cottage 33 rounding the corner. Painting and loose ends, then the floor finishing, then the loose ends and punch list and wallah, it's finished and ready to turn over in the new year.

And Micro-Cottage 2 - all 725 sq ft of it.

On 7+ acres.

And Farmhouse 15 with garage, with the foundation in and the garage prepped and ready for Dean and his framing crew. This house is outside of Narrowsburg.

And the drive into Cottage 34.

And the foundation...

And Cottage 31 looking real sharp in his cedar shake overcoat.

Insulation in and sheetrock up. This house has partial radiant heat which we got up and running early, so it's all nice and toasty in there.

And little ole Shack #2. It's our first Shack, but our 2nd design. 500 sq ft of simple mountain living.

And Lucas - he's only had his hair cut once in his life, and that was a while ago.

And Norm (or is that David Hasslehoff?)

And me, mid-summer, on a big hill looking south. Calm your wildly beating hearts, ladies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sullivan County Showcase Awards

The 2010 Sullivan Showcase Awards, featuring the finest architecture being offered up in Sullivan County presently, occurred last night. Catskill Farms had a good evening, with 6 nominations that evolved into finalists, and 3 winners.

Interestingly, in the under 2500 sq ft category, there were 4 nominations and Catskill Farms had them all, with the eventual winner being Norah and Jeffrey's home in Barryville, NY - Cottage 21.

I think we brought home similar honors in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

It's a good one - 1300 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a finished basement, great piece of land. They purchased it about a year ago and are settling in comfortably.

We also took home the honors for my personal residence, - "Best New Addition", and got a 'Special Award' for our part with the DIY TV show. Lisa thought that that was real perfect that I got 'the special award', but I think she was referring to 'short bus' special, not over-achiever special.

The River Reporter, our local newspaper, did a big spread on this year's entries, and ended up writing a nice article about us. I'm not sure about the 'donald trump of small homes' line, but a good article nevertheless. Just go to our Press Page, and read "Barryville Retreat'

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New York House Press

On of my favorite regional magazines just gave us a big shout out -

NY House Shout Out.

What's neat about this shout out is what has been profiled in the past. Mostly super high performance NYC skyscrapers. And here we are - little ole us, with our small little homes.

Cottage 2 Resold

I mean for all my thrice weekly bloggin' bluster about the value of our homes and how all these smart folks do a bunch of due diligence and then decide we offer real value - I mean besides passing that test over the past two years (and boy what a test that was), there is something independently legitimizing about Catskill Farms resale efforts.

For instance, when the Carr's wished to sell this farm house, they found a buyer who had an appraisal done that verified the worth of the house actually increased since they bought at the top of the market in 2007 or 2008.

And then this Cottage #2 (photo below) just sold for 10% MORE than the woman paid for it in 2007.

These are incredible facts - that our homes, maybe the only homes in the country, in the nation, are selling for more than people paid for them at the height of the biggest real estate value bubble in 80 years. It's totally validating and great news for all of our existing and future homeowners.

I think that means two things - 1. We are charging fair prices for the value of what we are offering and 2. good thoughtful design at reasonable prices can hedge the downside of real estate risk.

I mean, our customers don't have trouble refinancing since the homes hold their value, and our new customers don't have trouble getting their 4.3% financing. I've said it for years when prospective customers ask about resale and value - I have always said that while we can't predict the escalation of value, we do seem to believe that we have hedged the downside - and that's a pretty good pitch in this day in age of complete catastrophe regarding real estate value.

Now, granted, these resales didn't exactly fly off the shelf - but that's the hard lesson I learned early - if your real estate rep doesn't spend money on marketing the home, it's gonna take some time. Here at Catskill Farms, I probably spend in a month what most regional real estate companies spend in a year on marketing, and that possibly provides credibility to the old adage 'you need to spend it to make it'. I remember waiting for months, after months for some of our first homes to sell and in the end decided if selling two or three homes a year was going to be considered a success by my real estate reps, I wouldn't be in business long. My definition of success was much bigger than that. I mean, I love McKean Real Estate as much as the next guy, but should you really be broadcasting the fact that you sold a house after all this time? Seems a bit counter-intuitive, but you never know I guess - maybe some people are impressed with 14 month sales cycle.

Now, of course, none of our homes, or actually a lot less homes in the entire county would be selling, if Catskill Farms would not exist anymore, or suffered the same fate as real estate focused companies nationwide by disappearing, because by god, I swear our previous sales are used in nearly every sale in the county over $200k as sales comps.

So, congrats Cottage 2 owner and congrats McKean and congrats Catskill Farms homeowners, It's all good for everyone when a new house of ours or an existing house of ours sells.

And on that note, it appears Farmhouse 14 is heading to contract. That's not a bad thing at all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Men (and Women) at Work

So Tito was up at Mitchell doing his final paint touchups.

And the Electricians were over at Farm 15 running the underground primary and secondary electric.

And Norm was over at the Shack cleaning it up a bit with the big machines.

And our spray foam insulation company was finishing up sealing up Cottage 31.

And Orange and Rockland Electric was hooking up the electric at Cottage 33.

And Curtis and Edwin were taking care of some loose ends at Cottage 29.

And the other BCS employees were finishing up the interior at MicroCottage 2 (floors and wood plank ceilings).

And Casey and Janice here at the office were working on an 800 envelope Ecotech Sprayfoam mailing.

And James is upstairs managing the 9 projects via phone and computers.

And Lisa is in the kitchen over at the Hills Country Inn in Callicoon Center, helping Amy cook for a catering event, and prepping for the big NACL theater farm event on Sunday.

And me, little ole me - I'm just sitting here remembering the days when I had a lot less to do but was a lot more busy. They say good help is hard to find, - but towards the benefit of both my sanity and my customers satisfaction, I think we are operating on a level I've aspired to for years.

Now home to Lucas, who is obsessed with both choo choos and dinosaurs at the moment (although he has his first chore each day, and that is to help me feed Jake each evening - I hate to tell him he probably won't always be as enthusiastic about his chores as they grow in number as time goes on).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Way up on the Hill

Marcus and Courtney have built a house up on a hill on a few acres outside of Callicoon NY. It's a nice spot, to be sure.

Now, I don't mean to blow our horn again, but cheese and crackers we only started this dang thing in late June. 800' driveway, full design, 900 ft of underground primary and secondary electric, literally moving a couple of tons of earth to carve a homesite out of the hillside, 3000 sq ft of customized design with wide plank floors, a lot of beadboard and wainscotting, etc...

Final site meeting walk-thru this weekend. Count it - 4 months. That's fast anywhere, and triply impressive up here in nowheresville.

Like I said, I would pit our team up against any team, any where. It's not just a matter of talent, which the team has in great supply - it's also a matter of attitude. You figure if 35 companies and 130 individuals working for those companies all give just a little extra effort, go the extra mile, at the end the customer reaps the benefit of these little extra efforts which cumulatively add up to something of real value - a lot of times the value is a little hidden, since it is a result of powering through the 100 unforeseen issues and problems without passing along annoying little change orders to me or my clients. Norm may stack some cool boulders we found on site, John may snake a switch to a new location, Tito may knock 'em dead with his final paint review and touch ups, the King brothers may address some heating or plumbing issue without using a box of tissues.

It's always a big synchronized dance on the final few days with too many trucks, too many people, shitty weather, and lots of chaos - just how I like, borderline chaos.

I love this picture below for its subtle reflection of our precision. Floors all covered with paper, and high traffic areas with cardboard as well. Cardboard on the countertops. Protection on the refrigerator, and even thicker masonite underneath that heavy beast.

Lots of great colors. Pushing the envelope a bit on the jazzy nature of the selection but never going too far.

I'll tell you what - it's a lot easier to build a big house than a small house. A big house you can scatter shit around and work in places other people aren't. Small homes everyone is just right on top of each other.

Looks messy, but to my construction management eye, it's all looking good.

Up the stairs.

2nd floor laundry with Curtis overseeing.

Job and Bryan cutting some trim on the front porch for the final push of fine carpentry.

One of the two wings of the house.

And the other.

Looking in towards the master bedroom, with his and her sliding barn doors at the closets.

Deck off of this bedroom.

And there you have. More pic next weeks after we pull back the covers.