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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Deja Vu - Sullivan County Real Estate

So one of my first jobs in Sullivan County was painting the barn of Alexis Rockman, the painter, and his wife.  It marks the humble beginnings of Catskill Farms.  Even before I didn't know anything, I would pass this house between North Branch and Fremont Center, and say to the guys (Polish kids I picked up hitch-hiking) - that's a perfect house.  So I recrafted it, made it bigger, raised the ceilings, improved all the systems and structures and Called It Farm #1.  That was 100 homes and 10 years ago. I was just riding a bike loop with the owner of Farm #2 the other day, a purchase in 2004 that is still serving the same family - Richard said - 'it's the only thing that has remained the same' as they have changed jobs, changed apartments, had more children, etc...

I happened to be up in Hankins NY visiting one of first big renovations now that the family is back from a 5 yr stint in London, and I passed this old empty beauty the other day.  And I stopped and briefly reflected on this wild upstate sojourn.

Then I went to my local bank branch - Jeff Bank - and they are celebrating 100 yrs of community banking and lending.  We hooked up with them for house 1, where they gave me like 1/3 of what I needed (luckily I was too green to realize that and the inevitable problem of running out of funds - hello Credit Cards).  What was $100k one-off loan has probably now involved tens of millions of dollars loaned and returned, loaned and returned, loaned and returned.  I think it's my longest relationship ever.

The whole thing reminded me of 2002, when I moved out of the city, living in my 400 sq ft shack I bought for $23k on a credit card (notice the credit card pattern), with no running water, and no indoor 'facilities' for the first year, living with my Dog Bella, and my Cat Poker, who I don't think ever really did forgive me for taking over the home that she had all to herself before I came to the neighborhood.  It wasn't until the first or 2nd Thanksgiving where I had invited the folks up and they refused to come until I got a stove and a refrigerator - I had been cooking on a camping cooktop, and putting the food and perishables outside where it was cooler.  It's definitely one of those 'starting with nothing' stories, made even more unlikely because it was taking place in NY's 2nd poorest county, with power line battles, gas drilling battles, and a world-wide economic real estate collapse - all conspiring to undo the best laid plans (though, I by no means had any 'best laid plans' stashed away anywhere).  Considering all I've been through in this journey, it sometimes feels as if my perspectives and experiences have no parallel - not because they are that great - plenty of people do great things - but because the path was so darn unusual.  I'm definitely sure that the hurdles I've hurdled have given me a thick coat of armor of experience, strategy creativity and on-the-fly problem solving - skills I learned while everything hung in the balance - and when I say everything, I mean everything.  I think 7 of the last 10 years I've spent with everything wagered, doubled down, all or nothing.  It all creates a unique perspective.

I just rearranged my living dining room and I'm super excited about the reading nooks and reading lamps I've scattered around, as well as oriented the most used spaces and furniture towards the pond and woods and morning sun.

And now for the wood stove - I went with the one on the left.   Didn't realize the price tag was on it - how uncouth Petersheim.

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