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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.

March 28, 2024

Ashokan Acres - 2 Sales.

I think it's hard to overstate how much work I've put into the 9 lot subdivision in Olivebridge New York. I don't subdivide much, mostly because it's a risky endeavor, high cost endeavor, extremely taxing on the cash flow endeavor, indeterminate outcome endeavor. So when you buy 70 acres in a small town in Ulster County, and navigate through the myriad of tasks necessary to come out the other side with some sort of profit aspiration, you've actually done something of note. Unlike some people who are literally 18 months into building one home and are barely 35% finished, not mentioning any names.

The work was hard. First a year in the planning board - and some of that was my fault since my engineering team changed 3 times during the process before I found a team that was actually going to meet the rigorous demands of the planning board. And they were rigorous, had sought and hired an outside engineering team from Albany to take the town lead, and they pretended we were in some hyper high-density area and really demanded one of the most detailed and revised plans one could ask for. The upside to that/this process is I learned a ton but more than that, if I wanted to do it again, I have the team in place I could leverage in a much more fluid and lower-stress process.

But here we are, two years of laying out cash (and amazingly, it was cash not debt, which would have been a scary ride indeed) and solving every imaginable problem - and not just solving every imaginable problem, but knowing the market well enough to design something that would be attractive to the buyers in the market. It was a challenging piece of land, and challenging brings, obviously, challenges, but also opportunities, with every topo change, rock formation, stone wall creating a chance to do something neat and well-thought out. All over the Catskills are examples of projects that haven't met the expectations the 'sponsor', ie developer, with sales and prospects much thinner and slower than ever expected. I go into these projects with that expectation - that things are going to be hard - and then we work it out from there.

Friday night at 5:30

But two years of investment and problem solving and spending is a long time. Bringing nine new building lots into an area 1, starved for them, 2, is one of the strongest markets literally in the country, 3, I had been locked out of for 18 months because land prices had risen so fast and so high - bringing these lots to market was a career-defining move. And now, 2 years later, I get to begin monetizing my efforts, and it should be rewarding.

It's rewarding because I know I'm changing people's lives - our homes always do, over and over for 23 years. They work, they have value, they feel good to the soul and pocketbook. The process is reasonable, and importantly, not interminable. It's rewarding because I set out to do something, and mobilized and motivated a diverse team to get it done. It's rewarding because I'm going to make a lot of money, which is fair since I did a lot of work and took on a ton of risk, and dialed in a game plan that accurately forecasted what the market would support - and make no mistake, the only people who think designing, building and selling homes is a no-brainer and sure thing are those people who don't do it, or quickly realize they shouldn't have done it.

And of course, unlike a lot of people who get involved in these things and it's their main focus, we had a lot of other stuff going on - like say, building another dozen homes through the Catskills, managing a large single family home rental portfolio, navigating a gigantic shift in my office infrastructure, managing absurd wet weather that is literally zapping all the fun out of what we do - it's literally been raining since September, and before that it rained like 14 weekends in a row. And of note, for the most part, most of these I'm selling myself, without the 'help' of a realtor, which is another pretty serious lift.

Then you have family stuff, life stuff, dog stuff, house stuff, and personal stuff - you have employee stuff, insurance stuff, warranty stuff, surprise stuff, client stuff, - and you are just coming out of the pandemic that left everyone bruised and battered and acting un-naturally - and you look back and just say 'wow, that was something.' I lead a whole group of people - employees, subs, clients, etc..., a whole group of people with families and goals and problems and wins and losses - I lead a whole group of people, honestly, with integrity, with a transparent commitment to hard work and producing a good product, - I lead them through and impacted each one of their lives.

I guess to achieve goals like that - where you literally are materially impacting the direction of people's lives - you can't expect that to be easy. And it's not easy. And hopefully, someday, when I'm out of the trenches, I look back on the people and events that made up this journey with true affection, since I can't believe you can live a much more day to day life of unpredictable swings of wins and losses than I have, and do.

So Today we close on a house. And of course it wasn't easy or a soft landing for us - it was so for the clients because I solve problem after problem, but is there any reason the heating system has a problem (fixed) the weekend before, any reason it has to rain every day, any reason that the closing documents didn't arrive on buyer's desk so this morning I'm running around signing new ones and having an employee drive it down for a 4 hour round trip so we can keep the clients on track, and reason why my air mattress had to slowly deflate every 1.5 hours? No, there is no reason any of this needs to be happening, and then we go back to a post a few weeks ago, where always having some gas in the tank is a good idea, that endurance - that ability to solve one more problem, leap one more hurdle, confront, navigate and resolve one more head scratching high stress time is of the essence issue- that ability, across every aspect of what we do, is critical to keep it moving - and if it ain't moving, then it's losing, and lose too much and you really aren't around very long.

And then Tomorrow we close on a house.

And then every 6 weeks for the rest of the year we will close on a house across 3 counties of the Catskills.

And that's just the way we do it. We don't stop. We don't fail. 23 years and 300 homes later, the impact of me getting up every morning and going to work - regardless of the optimism or pessimism - has had a serious and real impact on a lot of people's lives, including my own.

My baseball coach, back in Lancaster PA, in the 80's - and we were really good, and we practiced and played a lot - long before travel leagues and year round commitments - he was one of those types of coaches you could never get away with being today - and he told me something that has been proved true over and over - he said, because we were from Lancaster, where a hard and honest work ethic was modeled everywhere you looked - where Republican presidential campaigns (before the party took a turn for the weird), where they'd always stop to tout the American spirit and ethos of small business and hard work - he said, 'dont forget you are always going to have an advantage, because you know how to work harder than most people.".  And that was before I had ever had a job - he was just aware of what being surrounded by people who get up and work, and treat each other fairly and squarely, of operating from both a position of hard work and integrity, is a long term competitive advantage that is hard to beat.

And at least in my case, he was right on the money with that .

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