The Weekenders: Interview with Wannabe Weekenders

Keith & Clint's dog Karl daydreaming about his future country home

Keith & Clint’s dog Karl daydreaming about his future country home

Since by now you are probably pretty sick and tired of hearing about Mr. Sticks and myself, I thought I’d try to do a few different ‘interviews’ with other weekender types – both people I know here in NYC as well as people we’ve met upstate.

There have been several discussions on Upstater recently about how people found their place upstate, and where are good places look online, so I thought I’d start  by talking to my neighbors in Brooklyn, Keith and Clint (and their dog Karl) who have begun their search for a place upstate.   They are the “Wannabe Weekenders.”

Kim:  What is your current timeline for finding a place?

Kieth: Financially we’re ready.  That’s not the question.  We just need to find the right place.

Clint: We want to find something soon.  We’re wondering if the market going to accelerate in the next six months or a year.

K: It’s a big risk.  Interest rates are low and inventories are low – this could be seasonal because people take things off the market in the winter.  The market seems to be more active.  We’ve had a couple of realtors tell us that but we don’t know if that’s just what they tell everyone.

Kim: Are you currently working with a broker or agent?  If so, how did you find them?

K: We’ve looked at some places with someone in Kerhonkson, but we aren’t committed to them.  Our question is if we go for a curated realtor who has selected properties, or one who has everything, or just go to Zillow and make our own list.  We’ve also found it difficult because we haven’t found a specific area we are truly interested in and it seems like all brokers seem to specialize in specific areas.

C: We haven’t really narrowed it down to a specific area.  We think we want to be on the east side of the Hudson.  The tricky thing is that  you see a house with a decent piece of land and a decent price, it’s not near the road – you need to think about sunlight how the building is positioned north south east or west.

K:  Parts of the Hudson valley can be very dark.   Our friends are landscape architects and biologists.  We send them photos and they can comment on the soil and types of trees and what’s growing there and what the light will be like.

C: We don’t want to be in a shadow of a mountain with only one hour of sunlight, especially during the winter.

K: In certain parts of the Hudson valley, you might have a mountain range in front of you that when the sun goes pretty low, you don’t get much sunlight.

Kim:  Do you want to be in an area closer to town where you can get groceries and go to a restaurant or bar?  What’s your thinking on town vs. country right now?

C: This is the dilemma when we drive through parts of the world, Keith will say I need to be somewhere where I can have a decent meal, but then we also don’t want to be close to anybody.

K: I want to drive 20 mins for the decent meal.  I don’t want to drive an hour to a decent meal because I don’t want to drink and drive.   But having something like the Bear Café close by would be fantastic.

As a gay couple I do worry a little bit about people being gay-friendly.  That’s hard to feel out.

C: You hear things like people will look scary but they end up being really, really welcoming.  I think the more disturbing things I’ve heard aren’t a gay/straight thing but more city/country thing.

Kim:  What would be helpful for you as far as narrowing it down to the right location?

K: We hope it’s just about taking a couple of trips.  Get a feel for the roads and driving around.  You really need to sort of plant yourself up there – have a friend to stay with or renting a place for a few months.  You could roam and solve problems.  Where do I go for X where do I go for Y.

C: Boots on the ground essentially rather than looking virtually.  The area is so vast you don’t really know how to limit things.

K: Being near the train is huge on our list.  Or the bus, but getting too far from those things scares me a little bit.  You can take the dog on Metro North on a leash.  We’ll drive with the dog, but people are more likely to visit if it’s close to some sort of public transportation.

Kim:  What about fixer-upper vs. turn-key?

K:  We don’t think we want to get a place that’s been recently renovated, and has been renovated in a style we don’t particularly like.  We’d almost rather get something that needs work so we can make it what we want.

C: With your house, do you ever worry that you’ll be finished with all of the work you want to get done and will that be a disappointing for you?

Kim: I don’t think we’ll EVER be done with projects.  The projects our contractor has been working on will hopefully be done by the end of this month, then we’re going to take a break on doing any big projects – just do some interior painting ourselves – for the summer and see where we are money-wise in the fall.  But, I think there will always be projects to do, it’s just a matter of what priority we’ll give them.

What other sorts of information do you feel like you need to help you make a decision about a place – either an area or a specific house?

K:  General costs. It’s one thing to know the costs of an apartment, but what are the costs of a house?  It would be great to have a worksheet of some sort that lists price ranges.  Things like grounds keeper, garbage, a second electric, second cable and a second heating bill, wood for the fireplace.  I’m sure all those things add up really quickly.  Also, what are some of the things you didn’t anticipate?

C: The whole tax thing seems really perplexing.  Is it county by county or by town?  It’s really hard to tell from the listings what the real taxes are.

My other concern about moving – how do you balance out where you spend five days and have that still be an interesting place to be, and then you have this other place that inevitably is going to suck up a lot more of your time and money, and you spend less time there?

K: For me it’s an investment in the future.  It’s for when I’m ready to go part-time freelance fifteen years or so before retirement.  That’s my summer home, then we buy a house in Boca!

It’s also about how do you balance the investment in time and money in the weekend escape with “I want to see the world”?

C:  Also, Resources – some ways it’s more time than money – I don’t know how you balance all of the commitments.  We both would like to do more traveling.

Kim: Would you ever consider getting a place that you could rent?

K: Sure.  That’s what I did with the place I rented on Fire Island for a few summers.  I would sublet it out for several weekends during the summer to help defray the cost.   It was a pain in the ass.

C: I’m not sure I want people looking at personal photos and in my dresser drawers and stuff.

K: You can’t LIVE in a house that has regular rentals.  It has to be clustered into your house with your stuff and the rental house with rental stuff.  Otherwise the set up  and break down is painful.

C: Ideally we’d like to have a guest cottage or guest house.

K:  Rentals are great for defraying the cost, but they are more work than you think they will be.  Both in finding and managing the renters, breaking it down and bringing it back up.  Ensuring the basics are there – that there is a basic level of quality.  Until you find regular renters – friends of friends and people you trust so you don’t have to worry about things.   After you find that it’s easier, but before that it’s painful.

Really we don’t want to have to be depending on that money.  A lot of people assume that it will be easy to find rentals.  We were in a beach community on Fire Island and it was hard to find people.

So you would give up NYC entirely?

K: Ideally we’d keep that, but it depends on finances.  We have a NYC apartment which is a great asset.  As long as the building is good, we can rent it out and cover our mortgage and maintenance there.

Anybody with any tips or links to great listings that you think Keith, Clint and Karl might be interested in, please add them to the comments.

Category: Gay-friendly, Real Estate Market, Top Stories, upstate new york, Weekenders

By: Kim | 15 March 2013 12:00 PM | 5 Comments

5 Responses

  1. Michael Guy Infield says:

    I am a gay man with a farm in Delaware County – the western most of the counties in the Catskills. My boyfriend inherited his family’s summer home here, and then I purchased a 52 acre farm down the road. I have been coming here on weekends and in the summer for nearly 20 years. It is quiet and friendly. We are near Oneonta, Delhi, Stamford, Hobart, and Franklin. If you live in one of the towns, and not a village, your taxes will generally be lower since you are not paying village taxes if you live in the town. Yes, you need a car for groceries, trips to Home Depot/Lowes, etc. But, there are lovely places to walk and I enjoy riding my bike on the country roads. There is also the Catskill Scenic trail – a 25+ mile “rails to trails.” Perfect for hiking, biking, walking the dog, horseback riding. We cook nearly all of our own meals, so we don’t have a need for restaurants, nightlife, etc. We have good relationships with our neighbors. We enjoy gardening here. I stay every other weekend, late April to November, and also for an additional 1-2 weeks during the summer. Yes, there is a financial commitment. Buy what you can comfortably afford. There are so many wonderful towns and villages, that I too, am always on the lookout for additional properties to buy. For me, I didn’t need to choose an area since my boyfriend already had roots here. So, I would recommend that rent for weekends in different places that you think you might like. Explore those areas to see what they have to offer you. You don’t need to take on a full summer rental – check out vrbo.com, airbnb.com, etc. and just rent for a weekend in different areas. And then, if you find an area that you are drawn to, rent for a week and see how it goes. As I said, I own a farm, but there is no house there yet. I’m now having to decide whether to build or buy an existing house, which seems like a better idea for me. Taxes would be lower, and a new house just doesn’t have the characteristics that make so many older homes much more fun. I plan to retire in 8 years, summer in the Catskills, and winter in Florida. But, I will still find time to explore the world as I desire. Explore all of your options and decide what is right for you. Don’t worry about your friends too much. If they really want to come and visit – they will find a way to get there. I searched for land for nearly 5 years, but ended up with a property that I love. I was hoping for 10 acres, but the location of this parcel was exactly where I needed it to be – it just happened to be 52 acres – more land than I ever dreamed I would own. I love the Catskills for the peace, serenity, beauty, cool summer weather, and overall, just a friendly group of people. And, if you’re able to drive a little further, please include Delaware County in your search.

  2. Country Sean says:

    Great interview! You may want to try renting a place or two. It can help you get used to different areas and also makes the looking process easier. My husband and I were looking for many of the same things you are looking for Keith+Clint. After searching in Greene, Ulster and Dutchess counties, we fell in love with Hudson in Columbia County. Many cute, affordable places in the small towns surrounding Hudson. Claverack+Philmont! Good Luck!

  3. http://www.upstater.net/your-real-estate-listings/
    Kerhonkson Farm with Catskill views being sold by owner. Lots of sunlight, close to the bus, 20 minutes from everything. A truly magical property. I’m the owner, I love this house. Keith Clint and Karl sound like they are a beautiful match to this property. I would love to show them my place if they are interested.

  4. Realtors aren’t feeding you a line when they say inventory is tight. In all of the upstate second home areas, available inventory is lower than it’s been in years, especially in the moderate price ranges ($250K to $300K in Sullivan, $350K to $500K in the Woodstock-Saugerties area, not sure what that range is in Dutchess or Columbia.) It’s not something that Realtors are just saying to buyers. At a recent state meeting of Realtors, the big topic among us was the inventory shortage. There are plenty of buyers looking, but not enough houses to show.

    Notably absent in this interview was any discussion of price range. One of the big challenges I’m finding with second home buyers from the city is they want the perfect house and setting, but at a ‘deal’ price, and aren’t willing to compromise very much on their ideal. But that ideal comes at a price. I spend a lot of time listening to the wish lists of buyers, and can peg pretty closely what that wish list will cost here in Sullivan. A charming 3 BR house in good condition on a few acres quiet country road with a view or water (pond, creek) and a studio/outbuilding will likely cost $350K to $400K, but buyers say they want all of that, but for somewhere between $200K and $250K. When I say it isn’t possible, the response is often “We can wait, we’re patient.” But it isn’t a matter of waiting. The market is firming at the moderate price points, and pricing forecasts are more up than down over the next year.

    • Kim says:

      Thanks for the comment, David. When we bought our place a little over 2 years ago, the market was different than it is now, but we saw a lot of places within our price range (we were looking for something up to $300k) that varied greatly in quality and condition. Really dumpy places in not great locations for over $300k, others nice, but maybe missing one of the elements we wanted for less than that.

      I still see a lot of for sale signs in our area of Greene Co. (in the SW corner). Maybe it’s because we’re outside of the commute time sweet spot (we are 3 hrs, most people put their limit at 2.5 hrs.). I think the biggest challenge for most people is trying to figure out if it’s more important to find the right town/location, or if they should go more on just the house itself. You do a great job on your site of describing different areas around the Catskills (we referred to it often!) but really the only way to figure this out is to drive around and check out areas for yourself.

      As a property owner, I’m glad to hear that you see pricing forecasts going up!

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