Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cottage 38 - Stone Ridge - Going into Contract


8 days on the market. In a brand new area. Using my new real estate/marketing team.

Bam - Sold. Just like that. My realtor's jaw is still dragging the ground.

For us over here at Catskill Farms, just another day at the office.

Man I can feel the pins being applied to my voodoo likeness in offices across the Region.

Nice Work Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty.

8 days on the Market. All the listings around it were on the market for 349 days, 569 days, or best yet, the 772 days.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gettin' Ready for Christmas

Here's Lucas with Santa on a train ride in Honesdale PA. Asked what he wants for Christmas, he said 'trains, lions and Thomas.' But we will back to that a little later...


My good friend David, who is the official stat keeper of all things real estate in Sullivan County, posted there were 9 sales above $300k in Sept-November. Our homes are not included since they are not sold or listed through the official Multiple Listings Service (we sell our homes privately, direct to the client). Interestingly, we sold 4 homes over $300k in the months Sept-Nov, meaning if you add our homes into the mix we owned 31% of the entire $300+ market - take out the 2 super-high priced aberration sales and it rises to almost 40%. Catskill Farms owns 40% of the Sullivan County sales above $300k - and why shouldn't we - the houses look good, they work, they are unique, they come with a great piece of land, close to town. In sum, they require very little compromise to embrace, to enjoy. People can envision a very easy upstate transition in our homes - and that gets them to pull the trigger - not an easy action in today's real estate reality.


A couple of weeks before Christmas while his Mom was in VA for her grandmother's birthday, Lucas I made a weekend of it - spotted all over town like Santa and the NORAD tracking. We were there, then here, then over there... We definitely were on the move, across several states, with common themes of trains, friends, clients, and parties.

It started out in Livingston Manor, first visiting the legendary surveyor George Fulton, then heading down the street to a big model train setup. We got to see the train go round and round a few times, while also learning a lot about the guy who set it up and back problems, life issues and so on and so forth.

He's sporting his snowgear that he wears at his pre-school.

The next morning we started off with some pancakes at the Whistle Stop, one of Sullivan County's best diners, in Narrowsburg NY. It's right along the tracks, has a great train motif running through the place from the menus to the wall borders to the posters of assorted trains.

Across the street is an 'antiques' store with this random Thomas engine sitting out front. Perhaps a trick out of the McDonalds playbook - appeal to the kids to get the 'rent's to stop.





Then Joe and Robin were in the house, checking us out and getting excited about possible homes and choices. They are coming back up next week to delve in a little further. We have a lot of commitments for next year already - The Big Barn, Ranch VI, Farm 18, Barn VI and now it seems maybe (and I shouldn't be saying this) maybe Cottage 38 - presently a hole in the ground in Stone Ridge NY - may have a deal going on it. Plus a guy is doing a house inspection on the Shack next week. Pretty busy indeed. Merry Christmas to Me.

Sometimes I take Lucas on my Saturday appointments. He always an unpredictable element to the whole situation. People without kids are little intimidated sometimes by the kid thing - the crumbs, the outbursts, the amusing things that come out of their mouths, the naps, the meltdowns, the general variable of having something a little beyond our control in the mix.

In Eldred, a couple of guys who bought up the 'corner' the other year do a Santa thing - putting a big tado on the back of an 18 wheeler and going around from Town to town - eldred, narrowsburg, liberty, and a whole bunch of towns in between.


Po;ice escort and all. I had just stopped by Heather's MicroCottage before Santa's expected arrival, and shared some beers and she had some friends up and their kids and then we all headed over to The Corner, where I kept losing track of Lucas, who would dart in and out of packed crowd.

The GingerSnap man, and the other guys... That's Lucas next to the guy in the red hat sporting his stripped cap.


The toymaker...


and believe it or not, that's Janice and Vinny (janice is my assistant) on the traveling Santa caravan.



The manger scene.

And some Santa time who got rushed by the kids. Lucas had no problem pushing his way to the front, same thing happened at Halloween.








They even had a caroler along for the ride.

Candy cane never hurt anyone.


Then high-tailed it down to Region General Store, opened this year by the Owners of Cottage 17. Showcased in this pic are Jason and Justen from Cottage 19, and Jeanne and Deb from Cottage 14 (real old-timers). That's Deb hiding, which we pointed out just makes people look all the more.

Fun picture - Heather from the Micro Cottage in the front left, and behind the twig reindeer is Jim and Mark from Cottage 24, two of the nicest guys I know - they had their parents with them. That's Jeff from the new barryville wine store next door cut off on the righthand side of the picture. I don't know of any store less kid-friendly in terms of general reachability of most fragile products, and here there were like 5 kids bumping into stuff, knocking into stuff, touching stuff. I had to get Lucas out of there before he did some real damage.


So we meandered up to Courtney and Bronson's Cottage 22. They had invited us over from general get-togetherness and to talk about this new building they had bought in the neighborhood. I think Lucas' first actions were to crawl on the ottoman, then get his dirty shoes all over their couch.



Surprisingly, he wasnt nearly as impressed as I was at the two rad cherry motorcycles in the basement, which we finished last year. Courtney and Bronson have two English Bulldogs - I think they are English Bulldogs, anyway.

He didn't like the motorcycles but he loved the stone bulldog door stop that weighed as much as him - so he started lugging that around everywhere he went.


And after all the festivities were over, Courtney went in for the 'meltdown save', like trying to pet an angry cat...



She lost - Lucas went to the floor, and did his best dead-weight imitation, which is pretty good by anyone's measuring stick.

And on Sunday we went to Honesdale for a Christmas train ride through the PA countryside...







With a singing and mandolin playing elf,

(picture of the snow breaking train engine)


Rudolph was along,


and so was Santa (note my narrative trick of starting with the ending topic - just seen that done in "The Debt", a real tried and true technique of suspenseful story telling - The 6th Sense was another among many that used it successfully).

And then we went to Hawley, PA to pick up some gifts and best of all, add to my antique typewriter collection. This was a real winner - I've never seen anything like it.



I thought this was pretty funny, with benches labeled according to political inclinations.


And they had some big draft horses doing a loop de loop around town.

And what all-american town would be complete without a huge, giant blow up snowman. Which reminds me of a funny story from the couple who just signed up for Farm 18 - they said one of their problems in finding a home up here was a seemingly pretty fair request that no above-ground pools, blow up Santas, or multi-purpose blue tarps be visible from their front porch.

Ice Bears Melting,



So it's Christmas and I'm in NYC. Saw the Knicks play today, first NBA game of the season due to the strike. It was like a TMZ episode - Bloomberg, Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Matt Modine, Alicia Keys, Whoppee Goldberg and a bunch of others were there rooting away. DMZ did the halftime show - jeez, you ever want to see the diversity of NYC, go to a Knicks game, that's for sure.

Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Catskill Farms Christmas Party

Well, another year and another 15 houses or so. This was our second year for our famous party- and I kept saying the same dumb thing when people came in - "I got 4 words for you," I'd say, slurring a little more each hour - "Free food, free drinks". That's Deb from our amazing book-keeper with Wayne and George from Jeff Bank, who has been powering Catskill Farms with our financing since the very beginning in 2003. I didn't realize it, but this was our 10th year in business - true, the first year or two did not have a whole lot of excitement attached unless you count the thrill of sinking deeper into to debt, the excitement of unfunded ambitions and the sensation of sinking into a hole of no return. By 2003 we had started Farm #1, by June of 2004, we had finished it and sold it. Took a little while for sure to get that one off the balance sheet.

Here's Melissa - co-proprietor of Baker's Tap Room II- in Yulan, NY. A little out of focus but you get the idea.



And the big hitters from Pro-Build, Jeff Bank and Ulster Savings Bank.


Shane, the other half of the proprietor team.


And my take-home stash - a fancy watch, antique typewriter, bunch of booze and a signed copy of Peter Peterson's memoir. Mr Peterson is the co-founder of the BlackStone Group and former Secretary of Commerce, and is the direct boss of my good friend Deb from Cottage 14 fame.

Well, the party was bigger than these pics show, but I Got a big problem, at least it seems big at the moment - and that is my blogger thing just alerted me that my blogging memory is all filled up - 4 years of thoughts and occasional strokes of genius - hitting a wall of memory restriction. Now I got another thing to figure out - but judging from our track record, should be able to hurdle it 'fore too long.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My New BFF's

My entrance into the Ulster County real estate market has been a huge success to date. We are building Farm 17 (picture below) which is set to sell in a month, and we have just finished Cottage 37, which is set to sell the first week of January. One of my too-often-repeated is that I came to Woodstock and Saugerties, and sold $1,000,000 of real estate myself before I even knew where the grocery store was.

Above is a picture of my new BFF. Her name is Joan and she owns Coldwell Banker Village Green Real Estate, which owns 30% market share in Ulster County. She started out, on her own, in the early 90's and has now built a real estate business with more than a 1/2 dozen offices in towns like New Paltz, Windam, Woodstock, Stone Ridge, etc... She has completely embraced us a business.


You got to remember the lack of support I've experienced in Sullivan County when I was just getting started to really understand how much I appreciate her efforts for us thus far. In Sullivan I was never offered open houses, no marketing money, no marketing strategies, no special treatment even as we exploded with creativity and sales. I not talking down about Sullivan - damn, I love this county, and love what it has provided me and what I have given back to her - but it was determined effort, a lonely effort. As an entrepreneur who specializes in making lemonade out of lemons, the lack of marketing strategy support forced us to become our own best salespeople, since I knew our homes were a viable product and idea in the marketplace. the lack of support forced Catskill Farms to become serious marketeers, and it turned out we had a real knack for it, and it wasn't too long after that our sales doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled, and maybe we pay one sales commission a year over here. We do our sales ourselves -

Actually, we do everything ourselves - we buy land, we develop land, we design homes, we build homes and we sell homes.


But now that we hope to get started in Ulster County, while building the same amount of homes in Sullivan. And we've been welcomed in Ulster with open arms - which we should, cause christ, give me a break, we are a big deal and are totally capable of making people some serious dough.

But the contrast, the tale of two counties from our vantage, could not be more different. Joan, the owner, who has 60+ agents, administrators, helpers and assistants, yet there she was, in the pouring down rain, putting up direction signs, carrying in bottles of wine, orchestrating a very well-attended open house - even more impressive considering the house is kind of 'out there' and the weather sucked - it poured all day long.

You got to understand - I've sold 100 homes in Sullivan, invested $32,000,000 in this community and not an open house or realtor sponsored event ever. Oh well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and we are strong strong strong.


A catered event at our finished Cottage 37, so show the local real estate pros what we do, and how it feels up close and personal.

It wasn't long before the whole place was packed with women - that Joan likes to surround herself with accomplished women, for sure. Nary a man in sight. And everyone was so happy to see each other. It was kind of amazing and you could see why she is so successful - people enjoy working for her.



And another bad 'one-liner' I like to use is 'our homes are so finished at the end of the job that even the clocks on the appliances are set correctly!" Oh well, not everyone can be David Cross.

And then Farm 17, and my new Jeep Grand Cherokee ride (thanks to our 14 new 2011 clients for helping out with that).

Just got a great big super classy gift basket from Region General Store from Matthew and Sarah of Cottage 36.



It's all coming together so nicely it almost brings tears to my eyes.

I said almost.