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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.

June 27, 2024

Ranch selling and a trip to Martha's Vineyard

After a night in NYC and dining at the mid-town seafood joint Milos, I drove back upstate, managed the bills and payables for the week, packed and then headed out for Martha’s Vineyard, via the Wood Hole ferry.

We have another house queued up for sale in Narrowsburg, which my friend Tony has been sending me a bunch of articles being written about the area.  From my experience, when that starts to happen, typically there is someone new in town with some press connections who is getting us in the news.  I’ve literally built 50 homes in Narrowsburg, first when it was a true tumbleweed town with a good diner, from there a few hardy small businesspeople who have stayed put and anchored the town.  I can’t say our clients single-handedly built that town with their discretionary spending, but there’s no doubt their weekend leisure spending helped create the sustainability that small businesses crave.  I’d walk into the Heron when it opened in 2009 or so, and literally, and I mean literally, every table would be occupied by a Catskill Farms homeowner. That type of consistent customer means a lot to an establishment.

More than that, our marketing efforts were more robust and effective than the visitor’s association at the time, our digital footprint easy to find, and our pencil sketches of life upstate - be it the blog, or the houses, or the presentation - drew in a whole new set of eyeballs on the area.  From 2002-2015, we were one of the only companies putting up new homes geared to the weekend crowd.

Homes have - to use a favorite phrase a business school grad taught me -  not only an economic cross-multiplier, meaning buying a home is just the first of many purchases and investments a homeowning family will make, but there is for sure a continued marketing residue of them owning a home upstate - talking about it, going up there, inviting friends, expousing through social media network about their little dream escape upstate.

The house we have just about ready to sell sits up on a little hill with fantastic tree-filtered morning light hitting an expanse of windows positioned just right - accidental perfect house placement, I think not.  It’s a lot of value for what they are paying in today’s market.

I came across an article listing, in breathless tones, the salaries of cardiac surgeons, etc… and I have to say, I was surprised by the modesty of them.  Spend 15 years in school and make $600k.  My mason probably doubles that.  My one excavator who has his fingers in lawn care, hardscaping and dirt work, definitely meets or exceeds that.  I haven’t seen those levels in 5 years and typically double, triple or more that.    I tell you, there is a ton of money in the trades, and you can definitely be making $100k at age 22 with no student loan debt with a good plan - that puts him/them on a route to be $700,000 in earnings more than the college graduate.  And if that college person is coming out with debt and making $60k a year, by the time the two different routes hit 30, the tradesperson is a million dollars ahead. And even in future earnings, there’s as much advancement potential for the trades than there is for white collar, and more often than not, the trades actually reward accumulated skill whereas white collar is half bullshit and the other half faking it.  Of course, that’s too strong of a characterization, but a lot of white collar stuff is nonsense - staring at a screen, acting busy.

I don’t really believe everything I just wrote, but there’s truth to it.

Now, back to Martha’s Vineyard.  During summers at the University of Pittsburgh, where I was the first person in a large family attempting college (I have 100 first cousins), I met up with some guys and became friends and we ventured to Martha’s Vineyard one cold weekend in winter, 1989, looking for work.  Farmer Jim Athearn of Morning Glory Farm hired us on the spot (for $4.25 minimum wage) for that coming summer in the comfort of his living room.  This was pre-Clinton, who raised the profile of the Vineyard, followed by some boom years, then Obama sought it out, so the trajectory has been growth and more growth.  The farm was a nuts and bolts operation back then and now its got an international brand.  Lots of people know Edgartown and Morning Glory Farm.

So my friend Leo, from college and the Vineyard, now lives in Sonoma Cty California, and my friend Justen, has called Martha’s Vineyard home since 1994.   So we are all up here, they with their wives, me solo, telling the same stories of the glory days of end of farm work week downing large quantities of Southern Comfort and stumbling around town.  While we weren’t part of it, the children of the New England blue bloods abounded.  I haven’t been up here in a bit, and you forget about the polished safe leisure good-looking life of the Ivy League Upper Classes.

 I brought my bike, and did 35 miles in a stiff wind around the island.  Packing my bike in my Benz coupe, working with rachets, and tools and the like and trying to get it into the trunk and more or less just looking like a fool, reminded me of something I’ve known for a long time but kind of keep quiet - I would never hire myself for any of the field work required for the success of what I do - even as a laborer.  Both my aptitude for it, and my attitude towards it (when I’m doing it myself, I greatly admire and respect the work of others) both are lacking, and it shows quickly when put to the test.

Lucas' summer is getting off to a fast start, with a week at Virginia Beach and then a week at my house leisuring caped off with an epic day of friends and a sleep over.

Half of this crew and others dyed their hair blonde.

The room temperature down in the TV room was like 95 degrees with all the heating engines of teenagers.

It occurred to me, while riding my bike, that most town I've lived in over the last 40 years have been on an upward trajectory, economically - Lancaster, PA - Pittsburgh PA - Martha's Vineyard - NYC - Catskills - Milford - Hudson Valley. I'm sure that economic 'brighter day' has served as a strong rip tide in my overall business investment optimism as I launch ventures, or stick with it in hopes the tide turns my way.

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