Catskills - Sullivan County - Ulster County Real Estate -- Catskill Farms Journal

Old School Real estate blog in the Catskills. Journeys, trial, tribulations, observations and projects of Catskill Farms Founder Chuck Petersheim. Since 2002, Catskill Farms has designed, built, and sold over 250 homes in the Hills, investing over $100m and introducing thousands to the areas we serve. Farms, Barns, Moderns, Cottages and Minis - a design portfolio which has something for everyone.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Reduced screen time on a Southern Holiday

Killing time in Gainesville.

It’s always hard to gauge big-picture progress.  There are just too many small picture operational fixes and issues to deal with to a lot of the time to fully appreciate what has been built and accomplished, in the grand scheme of things.

It’s also hard to really put into words how hard I personally worked over the last 20 months in order to take advantage of the business opportunities that came our way. It’s one thing to sign people up for homes - by no means a small task of sales - it’s another to actually rise to the moment and get the work done, in an environment where every task is complicated in a new way by the pandemic and aftershocks of the disruption.

Sometimes I look at all the house keys sitting on a key rack and their sheer number is visually telling about our efforts.  Sometimes its when I’m changing up the website, and are navigating through the multitudinous pictures.  But recently, on a micro level, a metric has become more analagous to my efforts than others, and that’s my screen time reports, which show a marked decrease in my phone use.  It has dropped from 7-9 hours daily, to under 2 hours.  Which makes sense, as I reflect on it.  For nearly 2 years, in order to keep this Catskill Farms barge moving in the right direction, I have woke at 4am, started sending organizational texts out before 5, and continued all day long until I went to sleep,  7 days a week.  I eliminated all artificial boundaries on my work day and work week - I was on, never off.  Considering I drive on many days 3-4 hours to jobs sites, etc…, and out of service a fair amount of time, it shows me that when I was in range, I was on the phone managing the operations that resulted in a doubling of our revenue and an increase in net profits of 400%, with little accompanying increase in fixed costs.

I know my business well, and what was true over the last 20 months is that I understood what it was going to take to take advantage of this opportunity and provide our best to our clients - and that was my effort, leading, from the front, tackling the hardest problems, clearing the way, - and my effort was needed everyday, every hour.

Honestly, without the pandemic lockdown, such an effort would have been impossible.  There would have been vacations, and school events and parties and just enough distraction to cause slack in the line that needed to be taut.  There was no room for error, and for a guy who likes to work and is good at what he does, I really got to flex over the last 20 months.

Lucas and I are on a holiday, with stops in Charlotte to see Brady and Gronk play the Panthers the day after Christmas. The next day we got caught in the Covid flight chaos, and woke to our 9am flight to Miami being cancelled, with an alternative 'kindly' booked for us to Gainsville for a 5 hour layover, where we sat in the tiniest of airports on pins and needles hoping our flight to Maimi in the last afternoon wasn't cancelled. Since from Gainesville, you can only fly to Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, and those only once a day, it wasn't the type of connection you hoped got sidetracked. it didn't, and while we lost 5 hours of surf, all and all, just fine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Danger of Finish Line Expectation

In my mind, September 2021 was the end of the pandemic sprint - from 2020 through the 3rd quarter of 2021 we embarked on a grand adventure of doubling in size while confronting endless challenges and obstacles, many never navigated before.  We had planned on delivering 10 finished homes to waiting buyers from September to December and were looking forward to the deflation of the mind-bending effort it took the team to get there.  But it was not to be.   Like the tik-tok guy that randomly pops up in my feed, an army ranger or navy seal, who tells the story of the foolhardy recruits who manage their mental stamina by counting on a predictable finish line, only for the instructor to continue the training, the run, the lifting, the swim, the sleepless drill long past what was expected - teaching the recruits that counting on, feeding off the ‘finish line’ can be dangerous and deadly, since allowing the mind to begin to relax creates a situation doubly difficult to reignite from.

Same for us, same for me.  September was my month to throttle down, though we had plenty of work ahead of us, the really heavy lift and risk was behind us.  But then Ida came, and poured 110,000 gallons of water into a home I own near Valley Forge PA.  And a lead man quit without notice.  And I caught covid.  And a guy I hired who I think will be quite valuable is going to take a lot more mentorship than I expected, then I caught a cold which was twice as bad since no one got sick last year.  Even though vaccinated, then I got covid which kicked my ass.  And I sold another 4 homes to be built.

So, the moral or summary of the story is don’t expect the finish line, since if doesn’t come, and you don’t have any gas in the tank, the risk is real.

Now it’s December 28th.   I’m in Miami with Lucas.  The sprint did come to an end, it just wasn’t when I was expecting it, and there was no victory without being able to find those reserves to see us through.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Covid, cold, booster and writing

Wow, got a serious cold in early November which I guess was doubly bad since no one got sick last year, then I got covid which sucked even though I'm vaccinated and in few high risk situations, then I got my booster which knocked me on my ass. But I swear, over the Christmas holidays I will catch up on this damn anchor around my ankle.

I've been writing for The River Reporter, a small newspaper in Narrowsburg. I donate my pay to the Narrowsburg food pantry. First few articles were about a masking debate at the Delaware Valley School District, not because I'm a fanatic one direction or another, but because that was the school board top du jour for a month. Here are the articles written to date -

DV Board, Admin spar over Mask

Mask policy sows confusion

DV moves past mask debate

Judge pauses new DV mask policy

DV challenges its own expert

DV reward pandemic leaders

The changing face of masking

Multi-pronged attack on masking

Milford Columns, expanded

Friday, November 5, 2021

Dusty Abandoned Blog - Pandemic Wrap-up, Part I

I feel like I should let this blog die the respectful death it deserves instead of these harried resuscitation attempts I do every few weeks. I used to rail, perhaps in these pages right here, about the plethora of websites that had a blog page but when you went it hadn't been updated in months, or as likely, years, with generic content. You could page back through the posts and see the early enthusiasm replaced with a gradual decline, and finally, and abandonment. Though, few took their blogs down, in a perverse judgement that the earlier posts were worth something, though I would disagree and tender the opposite. A non-updated blog is not a good look.

I stayed the course long after most, with this blog tracking progress, or the lack of, for 15 years, with a pretty steady hand. You have to remember that a lot of us small businesspeople do a lot of writing - marketing, emails to clients and vendors, website work, pr work, so to sit down and then put out some quality, discretionary material is a big ask. Add to that the fact that we've been busy, and also my new website, which I like for the most part, has a hard time with picture management so every time I think about writing one I think about the hassle of posting related pictures. And truth be told, I think I like to write because it is a 'release' for me, and allows me to think issues through. For the solo entrepreneur, without the crutch of a partner or intra-company colleagues, the ability to think something through, tease it out, is important. As the business grew and matured (with a parallel maturating of me in my position of CEO) there was less need to vent and explode and explain and celebrate since most occasions for extreme emotions became a 'been there, done that', lessening the novelty of the experience.

I've been writing (and reading) from early on, and I guess that is a motivating factor that keeps this blog going. There certainly is no shortage of things to write about. We've had a gigantic year, good and bad. I think the volume of work we've done, and the associated problems we solved, over the last 18 months, make it hard to condense without a constant tracking, and time and energy for reflecting after the work that went into doing, was in short supply.

Mostly, 2021 was a gigantic year, monetizing a lot of deals we made last summer at the beginning of the urban flight. We signed up a lot of houses, and then the houses took longer to complete than we had hoped - every problem in the book prevented us from our typical delivery efficiency. And truly there were problems everywhere. Big problems. Very big problems from labor scarcity, to municipal confusion, to COVID-19 changing rules and regs, material shortages, and insane material price increases. I've said this more than once, that American society benefited from the pandemic in many ways (notwithstanding those who suffered loss and illness), and one of those is that anyone who was in a leadership position got better at leading, because the problems were just so original and unprecedented, so 'now', so critical to solve, and so unclear as to what the right path should be.

So, just now, starting 60 days ago, did we start monetizing pandemic pricing homes. Others had been sipping the cream off of transactions since the summer of 2020, but since our production cycle includes the sale, design, build and sell, it can take a year. We might have booked 20 houses to build or more, but we then had to build them, leaving our profit period starting in summer of 2021 and continuing through 2022. Interestingly, we might have started a little slower in booking pandemic profits, but we should be seeing them longer, since we are producing inventory at a snappy pace, and that inventory is badly needed in the marketplace. I think we have 16 homes to deliver in 2022 already, and that's with playing coy on the sales side and not getting right back to people.

I've been writing for a little local newspaper which has been fun, and allowed me to dust off the cobwebs in terms of vocab, putting together sentences, finding the right words and staying with it for awhile as the story develops. This has allowed me to fill some time, and stop the brain from hyperventilating over the details of my business.

I'm going to try and track the last year. We will see how that goes. Just sold this beauty in Cochecton to two Doctors from Manhattan of Indian descent.

Charles Petersheim, Catskill Farms (Catskill Home Builder)
At Farmhouse 35
A Tour of 28 Dawson Lane
Rock & Roll
The Transaction
The Process
Under the Hood
Big Barn
Columbia County Home
Catskill Farms History
New Homes in the Olivebridge Area
Mid Century Ranch Series
Chuck waxes poetic...
Catskill Farms Barn Series
Catskill Farms Cottage Series
Catskill Farms Farmhouse Series
Interviews at the Farm ft. Gary
Interviews at the Farm ft. Amanda
Biceps & Building
Catskill Farms Greatest Hits
Construction Photos
Planned It
Black 'n White
Home Accents at Catskill Farms, Part 2
Home Accents at Catskill Farms, Part 1