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.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Ranch 68 SOLD

Had a pretty good vacation, and also did a lot of monetizing and movement while I was gone. We closed on Ranch 68, closed on Ranch 66 and went into contract on a resale that the owners of 8 years were kind enough to let me list and sell. That's about $2.2m of transaction value while on the beach in the Riviera, if anyone is counting.

This house, even though it wasn't the first to close was the first to go into contract as a result of a food truck open house I had about a year ago. Was it only a year ago I hadn't sold a house there?- wow, hadn't thought of that way. Anyway, this young Ukranian handsome couple who had their first child while we were building the home, was the first the sign up. I often joke - at least I think he knows it's a joke - that here is was acting like a rookie home/land buyer, with his foreign naivety going up against and aged and veteran Catskills deal maker, and by moving first and having a good eye ended up getting the best deal in the project - literally picked my pocket!!! And picked a winner of a piece of land when it was pretty hard to decipher what was going where, etc.... My no problem - early movers, the ones that take on a little extra risk, usually get rewarded with better pricing. Same thing happened to me in St Pete's, where I was one of the first 15 buyers in a new downtown condo and got about a $200k first mover, developer needs sales, discount.

So good for them. I'll do a quick aside - you know what they didn't have while navigating the duty and work and stress of a pregnancy - they didn't have build drama. Sure we had our issues and problems to work through, which we did and now they are moving in. Pretty much on time and pretty much on budget - 2 things you don't encounter much in this business - plus a really fun and creative and tasteful home that will meet their needs for a long time to come.

If you zoom in you can see the baby with a huge smile.

A 2400 sq ft 3 bedroom Ranch on 7+ acres. The acreage we are able to offer up there is unheard of in this market. With land itself going for $250k+ for questionable quality, what we are doing up there in terms of the whole package pricing is simply not touchable for most of my competition. That's why I took the leap and did the subdivision, even though I knew the risks of time and money it would entail.

Beautiful home. Lovely clients. Another notch in our 24 year track record belt of designing, building, selling homes and pairing them with best in class pieces of land.

A brain is a funny thing to waste on over-focusing on problems and their requisite solutions instead of the glory of the sale and all the relationships - I guess the issue is the 'win' is static and defined, while the problems are fluid and evolving.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Back from france and back in the saddle

Ok, I was probably a little hard on American Airlines.  In fact, I’m probably a little hard on everyone, but everyone’s hard on me, so what’s good for the goose….

Getting ready for the beach.

I only mention the AA reevaluation since the flight home was so perfect, probably a mindset and reset after a fabulous time away as much as anything.  I’m starting to get a glimpse of a lost personality that was just overwhelmed with work and responsibilities going on 4 years now.  I guess ‘overwhelmed’ is the wrong word - being a word person - overwhelmed infers ultimately defeated, and that didn’t happen here.  But I was fully employed to say the least, fully engaged, tested stressed and taxed every moment of every day for years.  Starting to emerge from that test.  I passed.   But I was tested.

I saw something once, and then again recently, and it’s true.  If you are a motherfucker who won’t quit - seriously won’t quit, just won’t do it- that’s a serious person as a friend or adversary.  I’m that guy.  I heard someone calling it ‘callousing your mind’, meaning you get used to doing things you don’t want to - be waking early, a Saturday or Sunday meeting, a late night, a long drive, a tough conversation and a hundred other examples - just as tradesman develops callouses that protects his hands, a calloused mind enables to you just get in there and get it done.  Lots of softies out there - a hard working calloused mind is a serious thing.

Seven hours into an eight hour flight.  Went pretty fast.  I’ve been eating a lot of sweets, will have to tip the scales and see the damage done when I get back.  If I could get back to Riviera next year too, that would be a win for sure.

Have to pick up the poor dog who’s been kenneled for 2 weeks and then on Friday drive to Penn State to watch my son’s QB varsity career get started with a 7x7 at one of the Penn State facilities on Friday.  Got weekend client meetings, a baseball game on Sunday.  Hitting the ground running but it’s in a decelerating fashion - if I’m doing a 1/3 of the business next year this time I’m doing now I’ll be surprised.  My run is over and now the 24 year cash flow grind is settling and not being re-deployed immediately and rashly.  Will be interesting to see what that looks like come December.  The decision to hang it up, not to be putting up the most homes in the Hudson Valley at the greatest value for a large number of homeowners, didn’t come easy, but I tried for 16 months to build a team around me that could scale, and I failed.   I tried, and we mixed it up a few different ways, and built some great homes and worked with some good people, but in the end, I got left continuing to do the heavy lift.  In fact heavier, since now I had a more human resource bullshit to deal with.  People! People have been the story of this whole journey of course - and the relationships therein have been amazing, but I'm not a natural people person, and especially not a natural under the stress and strain I put everyone around my under as we always push the boundaries of what is possible with enough strategic thinking and attention to peak efficiency.

I definitely see how the company I want to have should be organized, I just failed to find the people to do it with.  Probably mostly my fault - I just didn’t have the ability to manage the intense nature of the operations, and the tedious nature of personnel management, at the same time- the techniques and methods for resolving each were too different and I was unable to summon the disparate hats needed to pull it off.  I mentor, and have mentored, in life changing ways - dozens if not hundreds of people but the failure to build an office staff stemmed from the whiplash nature of people, their needs, idiosyncrasies, problems, quirks, talents, deficiencies, etc…. Just too much and the sand in the hour glass ran out before I got it figured out, got rested up and got recharged.

It’s fine.  I couldn’t be more relieved.   Feels good to decrease the RPM’s on our race car.  Vrrromm, vrrrooom.  Now I get to see how it feels to hop off the hamster wheel of building and selling, rinse and repeat.   I guess the values of our existing homes go even higher with an even greater scarcity.  

Above, the church steps I decided to sit on at 11:30pm on night and check in with 20 members, one by one, of the team - since it was 5:30, just after work back home. I didn't work a lot, but I did check in and I'm a morning checker-iner - so I had to refrain till mid-afternoon to check in for their morning. That was interesting.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Day 5, Nice

We sold two homes last week for $1.8+/1.9m free cash flow. Fun watching 26 months of work start to return on investment. The homes turned out great and more on that shortly.

Let me start by saying I’m no foodie.  Not a connoisseur, not a kitchen person, never worked in a kitchen or restaurant and don’t have a discerning palette.  So this won’t be about ‘the food’, which seems good to a layperson, and pretty recognizable, other than the Brazilian tapioca flour tortillas we had today.  Seems like each civilization has a go-to cheap bread - the naan, the tortilla, american bread, Native American fry bread, the tapioca, etc… Seems like the Far East aren’t big bread eaters, settling in for the grains of rice.

And besides not being a foodie, I’m also only in one city (or several Riviera cities) so my perspective is limited to that of course.  But what there aren’t are convenience stores on every corner selling junk food - chips, candy, licorice, doritos and all the other non-food we consume because it’s shoved in our faces all the time.  There are plenty of fruit markets - small 200 sq ft stores of fruits and vegetables.  Lots of bread and breakfast goods.  Lots of coffee (though by the bag is harder to find than you’d think).

Soda, no problem.  Fast food here in Nice is limited to one Burger King and one McDonalds, both busy.  No Starbucks or dunkin’ - those goods are more local.  Candy, at least the pre-packaged suite of M&M’s and related, harder to find and really, out of sight out of mind.  Or inversely, in sight, in mind.  I mean as a traveling man who puts 35k miles on my cars every year, I need to stop at my fair share of gas stations and convenience stores for coffee and gas and half the time to take a piss, but usually for the latter I’ll detour down a country lane to water a tree.

We are mostly eating in restaurants so I’m sure that comes with the basic issues of restaurant eating - butter, salt, and big portions - but eating at home seems to be a much more unprocessed experience, based on the goods that are easily found and purchased.

The argument that most of American eats shitty food, is served shitty food, is regulated into a shitty food box is hard to debate.  The over-processed, highly marketed, low nutrition diet is hard to avoid.

I haven’t seen this much smoking since NYC circa 1999.  A lot of smoking, so much so that I started taking pics of the ashtrays found during our ramblings for a coffee table book I’m going to label “Ashtrays of the Riviera’.  Smoke, flick the butts, vape, etc....

Dogs run off leash - a lot of poop not picked up.

Lots of English on the coast of course, since even the French are self-spiteful enough not to cater to the english-speaking hordes that pass through.  But just inland, like during our 10 miles electronic bike ride this morning, the ability rapidly decreases.  I almost began to think the clichè of French people not speaking English was overblown.   Also, perhaps the niceness, politeness and accommodation is reserved for the coastline as well.

A last thought on the electronic bikes - maybe not all electronic bikes are the same as the lime edition where each pedal is assisted.  That would make more sense, since the bikes we are riding can hardly be termed bikes except for the fact that you are rotating your legs in a bicycle rotation. Even the 3000-5000 ft climb today from sea level to higher Nice elevation was powered by the electric of the beast.  And there’s a job called juicers, and they are in charge - on a contractor basis of course - of recharging the bikes at night and redelivering them to an assigned location.

And I still can’t believe people have remote jobs where they are being monitored by their keystrokes and mouse movements. That is an existence that seems more from the industrial revolution belts of the Ford factory or meat-packing industry than college-educated persons.

slave word on laptop - Stock Illustration [14475412] - PIXTA
Saturday, June 1, 2024

Nice, Day 4

Day 4 in Nice.  Bonjour.  Sitting in a cafe on the Riviera writing.  Now that’s an unexpected marker of success - being a poor English writing undergraduate from Pitt back in 1993 to writing from a position of leisure in the leisure capital of the world.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a staple of any free-thinker with a liberal education.  Among many takeaways from the book, a single one I recall easily is his instructions to his students - he was a professor out west somewhere - to get past the overwhelming nature of trying to capture everything with your writing - which many times leaves you at a loss to where to begin or end - and instead start with something small.  His example was a building - don’t begin by trying to capture the hundreds of details that make up any particular building you may be studying but instead concentrate on a single brick and work outwards, slowly.  It’s important quality as I begin to construct my memoirs. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : Pirsig, Robert M.:  Livres

I come across that thought in my memory bank as I organize my thoughts from this trip - thoughts that span food, thai massage, beaches, the Riviera, French small business, lack of American franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin, personal debt, Fitzgerald/Antibes, trump news 4000 miles away, smoking, family, updated Malibu thoughts, small Riviera towns and thoughts, the embarrassing count of massages and treatments and shaves and haircuts I’ve gotten here, and what I will cover here this morning, - from a coffee house from south Nice - electronic bicycles and the short term rental scheme of Lime.   I know, it’s an active mind.

The coffee house is a little outside, a little south, of the tourist district on Rue de France.  It’s the weekend now so we are experiencing a quickening of the pulse of the Riviera.  We arrived on a Tuesday, and now it’s Saturday.  Ports are full of yachts, reservations are a must, and traffic has picked up.  Currently, 7 men past 40 and mostly past 50 are drinking beer, coffee and shooting the shit.  I guess this is café society.  It’s lively, and most people here seem like they frequent the place and are well-acquainted with each other.  It’s an intimacy America lacks by every measure, especially for middle aged+ men, who are most vulnerable in the US for lack of the emotional support from any angle that sustains mental health.  Empathic loud comfortable conversation with no obligations with fellow men - it’s rare in America outside of church. It’s why American men are so lonely, and have such mental health and related quality of life related issues - it’s just a lonely existence of obligations in all directions.

If you can’t beat them join them, so I just got a beer for 3 euros.  It’s 11:45.  A.M.  My nephew rolled in around 4am, so I haven’t seen or heard much of him yet today.  Here in this coffee shop there is a sense of home I feel even though I can’t understand a word anyone is saying.  There’s not a rush, not a hurry.  They are here to socialize. Day drinking in Nice.  

(Just heard from my nephew by text who rolled in from a Nice party Friday around 4am - can’t wait to hear the stories).

I’m a bicyclist.  Own I think 3 nice bikes - mountain bike, road bike, and now a gravel bike (made for non-paved rail trails).  Probably around $12k in 2 wheel transport.  Light, fast, durable.  But I had never ridden an electric bike and looked at them with disdain for the ease of effort they demand (I was guessing since I never had ridden one).  But here in Nice, the Lime bikes are all around.  No docking like the citibanks of NYC - no app needed.  Linked directly to your Uber account under ‘2 Wheels’.  So I hop on one of these, after being told several times the electric boost is just a helping aide going up a hill, but fuck no - you push on that pedal for the first time and off you go at a speed you’d be hard pressed to maintain even as a moderate rider.  The bike literally takes off when you press the pedal - sure you push the pedal, but you are only doing the act of peddling, the motion - the electric does the rest. Is it pedaling or peddling? To lazy to check.

These French lime bikes have these handy bells built into to each handle bar for easy alert, and a basket in from to store your carry-ons while riding.  Once we got the fever, we really came down with it, and now we plan our days - not just our days, but our next vacation - around knowing the convenience these bikes offer.  You can cover some ground, and anyone who rides bikes knows, life is different on a bike - the views, the action, the perspective.

(The man in the wheelchair drinking a beer was just rolled outside over the non-handicapped 8” entry ledge so he could enjoy a smoke.)

Don’t get me wrong - none of this is replacing the arduous nature of a 30 mile road bike ride in the Catskills or the 15 mile mountain bike ride along the Delaware River on the McDade trail, but there is a time and place for these machines.  They literally are like a moped.  I guess in some ways, that’s where the differences begin - at least on the electric machine, it’s not like a hybrid car where you are using gas or using electric.  On these machines, you are always on electric, and the act of riding without it is futile and fruitless as the bikes really aren’t made to ride without the assist, so contrary to what I thought - that you get a boost when you need it on an incline - the electric bike is a constant assist - you literally don’t break a sweat.  I’m sure there is some exercise involved in the constant pedalling but as for increased heartrate and beneficial exertion, there is nearly zero.

(The buzz of the conversation is constant, though the characters keep changing.  It’s noon.)

That doesn’t change the fact that there is certainly a place for these bikes in my life, especially if you live in a small town or city (say St Petes) where getting short distances (say under 5 miles) is common.  The ease of transport, and quality of transport is amazing and more helpful than a moped in terms of getting un-motorized lift to your destination.

So, you take a picture of the scan code, get a reading of the mileage left on the bike, and off you go.  When you finish, you ‘finish your ride’ by parking in the right location and with a push of the button wallah, you are done.

We did learn a few things - in fact, half our plans or more on this trip were met with unexpected zig zags along the  completion journey.  One of our first important lessons, and this involved some sub-lessons as well, is that these bikes operate in ‘zones of operation’ meaning you can’t just go anywhere - sure, obvious in retrospect but what isn’t.  So when we concocted this great plan to take our enthusiasm for electronic biking to the next level, we devised a plan to ride from Nice to Antibes, a ride of maybe 15 miles, which isn’t much on a regular bike but is still a bit of an adventure for the average person.  

Turns out, the zone of operation ends where Nice ends and that’s about 10 miles outside of Nice and 5 miles short of Antibes.  And this is where the mechanical nature of the electronic bike comes clear - once the electric power gets cut - which is what happens when you pass the edge of the zone of operation, these big cumbersome bikes turn into a crossfit Assault bike where the harder you pedal, the more the bike resists - it literally is not meant to be ridden without the electric assist, which was completely unknown to me.

So we scratch our heads, thinking the electric charge was low, finally figured out it was in fact a zone of operation issue, and had to limp back a few miles into the zone of operation so we could find an allowable place to leave our bikes.  And then Ubered to cap d’antibes to lunch at Le Rother, literally within the shadows of where Scott and Zelda wrote, drank and disintegrated as his early rise gave way to an early denouement of a shooting star - but that’s a different topic for a different day, as detailed in paragraph 2.

(Just ordered beer 3 - they are smaller so it’s not as bad as it seems - but now the bartender/barista is keeping an eye on me as he spots a serious professional who needs his refills.  The Cafe has mostly emptied, it’s 12:30, and just a table or two of talking and some laughs). 

Just this morning, I found a bike and cruised up to Castel beach club where we had reservations for the day which I canceled since I have no idea when my nephew will be waking and the winds were whipping off the ocean at 20mph, and then cruised over the Port of Nice, over into North Nice and back again on the Promenade des anglais.  The beach club goers in 20 mph ocean winds reminds of the beach goers in Miami when it’s cold and overcast - just sort of sad, or the skiers who insist on skiing bald mountains in March.  

Turned out to be a nice sunny breezy day in Nice at the beginning of the 'the season'.

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