Category Archives: Margaretville

Five Figure Fridays! Upstate for cheap(er).

Hello and welcome to Five Figure Fridays!  I’ll be your faithful correspondent from the bargain basement of upstate real estate.  We’ll cover anything that gets your price of admission down below 100 large: a big wooded lot with an Airstream, a 3-season cabin, an off-grid retreat, or any of a wide array of handyman specials.

To kick off this new column, we have not one but 5 properties – all available for five figures.  Depending on your financing, that’s less than $500 a month (plus taxes, insurance, maintenance, travel, etc. etc.).

Details and more pictures of each are after the jump.  From highest to lowest:

Wurtsboro 4BR - $99k

First up, a rare bird: an affordable, presentable house within the 2-hour “golden circle” of driving time from NYC.  Specifically, Google maps claims you’ll make it to this one in 1:53 from Park Slope (ahem).    Nice woodwork, a cute front porch, a stainless steel fridge and a remarkably peach-colored whirlpool bath!  Just $99k.

2 Cottages Arkville - 2BR/1BR - $95k

Next comes a 2-cottage property, one with 2BR and one with 1BR, plus garage.  Backs right up on a pretty steep rise, so it doesn’t look like there’s much yard, but the stone around the patio is awfully cute.  At $95k for both, you can share with a friend for only $47,500 each!

Woodbourne 3BR - $74k

The Craigslist ad for this 3BR in Woodbourne called it “Arts & Crafts,” which might be stretching a bit, but this is a cute as a button cottage with some original woodwork and a fireplace.   Grey wall-to-wall and a wonderful 70s tulip light fixture in the kitchen (don’t worry about the ceiling tiles falling down – that’ll fix right up).  $74k.

Pine Hill House and Barn/Garage - 3BR - $69k

Downtown in Pine Hill (the town the Trailways bus line is named after!) is a 3BR/2BA with a barn (workshop/2-car garage).  Commercial zoning means an artist/craftsman could swing a live/work situation.  The interior has gone crazy with paneling, which as a child of the 70s I appreciate.  Just $69k.

Smallwood "Handyman" - 3BR - $29k

Finally, the bargain of the week for those who don’t scare easy.  A seasonal Smallwood cabin which, to put it gently, has some needs.  It also has 3 bedrooms, a somewhat scenic creek, and an existing well – which could mean it’s winterizable.  The realtor assures us that “Seller will consider all offers!” and will offer a $1k bonus if it’s sold by the end of the year – which brings the total to (drumroll) $28,900!

After the jump: links and stats for each, plus a big gallery with a bunch more photos.  Happy bargain hunting.

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Dem Apples

Washing apples

It’s apple season in the sticks and it’s been a bumper crop so far. Trees so loaded with wild apples the limbs are brushing the ground. Which means the fruit needs picking. And pressing into cider. It’s also this very week Cider Week thanks to the Apple Project, which is dedicated to getting us to rethink cider.

And by cider they don’t mean those sippy bottles you give your kids. No, they’re talking the hard stuff. Applejack – fermented fizzy, that’ll give you a buzz. And, that was once a staple on Upstate farms.

Here in my part of the Catskills we went with friends and 24 bushels of apples to press cider a couple weeks back at Hubbell’s. They’ve been making cider in the barn there since the 1860s, back when every farmer came with a wagon of apples and the cider was a necessary part of life – both the vinegar and the fermented beverage. Now the farm only does private pressings. They don’t filter, there’s no pasteurization so don’t bring any apples that have been on the ground (we all want to avoid e coli, no?).

The operation is amazing. Some cross between Rube Goldberg and Willy Wonka as apples are spun and washed and chopped and then pulped into a press. The operation spreads across three floors and when we were there three generations of Hubells were operating it. The press was put in around 1864 and the engine running it in 1918 – it used to run a thresher and sawmill too.  Now it only makes cider from early October to early November – call Bob Hubbell 845 586 4777 to schedule an appointment. He’s the 4th  – of 7 – generations to be working the press).

If you leave it to age you’ll get hard cider, and others around here – like the descendants of the industrialist Jay Gould – lay up their own apple brandy and something akin to champagne. If you can’t make it up to Margaretville to make your own cider, the Apple Project promises cider friendly dining at such places as the Gramercy Tavern and the Breslin all week. Apparently even the lovely wine shop Dandelion Wine is in on the act.

Margaretville’s New Normal

Margaretville / Arkville Flood Dump

The flood. Life in Margaretville now feels measured in before and after. And, the after I’ve been avoiding writing about. Nothing feels profound enough. I can never say enough and my take is not important enough. So where to start? Maybe with the piles of rubbish stacked on Route 28. Among the tires and shipping pallets, lumber, even an intact round wooden picnic table, was the cerulean blue siding of the Valkyrian Motel in Fleischmanns. It floated downstream, killing the one woman left inside. The sight is incredibly sad, the building reduced to stacks of kindling.  The temporary flood dump in Arkville is testimony to the destruction: mountains of debris – refrigerators, furniture and trees all separated out. Or, there’s the person who set fire to his building on Main Street last weekend to collect on insurance. Everything feels transformed and oddly normal at the same time. But, when the air raid siren for the volunteer fire department goes off, you get an inner quaking of not-again.

The grocery store: gone, CVS collapsed and a row of shops on Main Street condemned with police tape around the doors that now stand perpetually open. One of the biggest issues here is the housing stock. Not the kind of fancy for second home-owners, but apartments and trailers, places lived in by the folks with the least. If that condemned row on Main Street is torn down (along with its 25 apartments) rebuilding there will be virtually impossible. Building standards would require it to be at least 8 feet high, the height of the highest flood.

The day after the flood I found an undamaged red, white and blue striped candle in the Freshtown parking lot. Now that candle is just the sort of thing I’d have thought tacky the day before, but among the slabs of torn-up asphalt, it seemed like hope itself. I put it at the foot of the store’s mascot, a chainsaw bear I wrote about in my first post on Margaretville. If anything is a marker of pre or post, it’s that the bear remains, and the area is tenacious in its rebuilding.

The region is open and businesses need support. If you love (or even like) Upstate New York, this is the time to visit. Leaves are turning, foliage beginning to take that brilliant hue of fall, and money is needed. Things are back to normal, or whatever the new normal is. And, despite the lingering raw feelings, businesses all along Route 28 are open – including most in Margaretville, Arkville and Fleischmanns.

How Has Irene Affected the Catskills Real Estate Market?

This Stamford Victorian was reduced to $149,000 post-Irene, but not because of the storm

I posed this question to a couple of real estate brokers from Delaware County, folks located in or near hard-hit Margaretville. And, you know, what are they gonna say? The market is dead, come on up and take your pick? No, of course not. One broker sent via email a completely pollyanna response (she’s never been more optimistic about the Catskills real estate market), and the other was more forthright on the phone about at least the temporary effect of Tropical Storm Irene in upstate New York: interest has slowed. But…

John Tufillaro at Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties told me that, indeed, he’s had fewer calls in the aftermath of Irene, and business is definitely down in what has historically been their busiest time of year, just before leaf-peeping season. Still…the calls are coming, folks are inquiring. While a few properties saw price reductions just after Irene, Tufillaro says they’re not storm-related. “[The owners] could just be motivated to sell now, ready to move on with their lives,” he says. Business will probably be slow for a while. Tufillaro admits that some towns — Roxbury, Middletown — aren’t looking their best. They’ve been flooded, some buildings are collapsed or condemned, streets are roped off. “People aren’t getting a clear sense of the communities right now,” he says, although they are getting a clear sense of how folks are coming together to help those communities.

And I hate to sound like a real estate predator here, but I do think this makes it an extra good time to check out Catskills real estate for sale. Already, the market was soft; now it’s at a (temporary) standstill. Even properties that were unaffected by Irene will still cause a little hesitation among some buyers, which means those of you who are more intrepid should probably get your rears in gear. After all, roads and homes may be damaged, but the stuff that matters is still there. As Tufillaro says, “The advantages of coming up here are the clean water, the clean air and the natural beauty…and they’re still gonna be coming up for that.”

In Margaretville, Teens Pitch In to Help, Post-Irene

Our Margaretville correspondent has penned this missive from the trenches of post-Irene clean-up, where area teenagers have been trudging through the mud, doing the hard physical labor of recovery. What’s more, they’ve volunteered, unasked. “There have been countless heroic moments this past week, some small some big, but in this all the local kids have shined,” she writes. Makes me think that Margaretville’s a darn good place to raise a kid.

After Irene, Should We Rebuild?

The NY Times asked an important question this weekend: should we rethink rebuilding in the very spots that Irene ravaged? After all, at least a little built of the destruction came from a human miscalculation about, or perhaps willful ignorance of, building on the flood plain. “Are there communities that simply can’t be protected adequately and should be relocated?” asked Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill.

Cahill goes on to say that the communities with the strictest building codes tended to be the least damaged–a vote for big government, I guess, and that dirty word regulation. The decision has to be made based on what folks in the article term the “new normal”–the more severe weather patterns expected to continue due to climate change.

The town they focus on is Phoenicia, a favorite of ours for its sweet little inns, the great tubing, the beauty of the Esopus Creek…which is also it’s most potentially menacing aspect as well. And they mention poor Margaretville as well, where business owners are now second-guessing their choices.

“…the destruction left by the tropical storm has already begun to alter the mind-set of some business owners and homeowners. Last year, PSK Supermarkets, which operates a chain of Foodtown and Freshtown stores in New York State, spent millions of dollars to open a store in the Village of Margaretville, in Delaware County, about 20 miles west of Phoenicia.

Noah Katz, a co-president of the company, said he knew he was building on a flood plain and was aware of the damage that major storms had already inflicted on the village. But since a couple of 100-year floods had already occurred in the past 15 years, the likelihood of another such storm anytime soon seemed slim.

‘We thought we had a hundred years,’ he said.”

Photos of Margaretville, post-Irene

An Upstater reader sent us these photos, taking by his Margaretville-based friend Marty Rynearson. Should give a pretty clear sense of what folks are dealing with. Head over to Watershed Post for more info about volunteering, donations and other ways to help.

Volunteers Needed in Margaretville

Our Margaretville correspondent reports that many buildings outside town, ones that house a lot of poor and elderly folk, are condemned and structurally unsound. They’re looking for volunteers to come to the Catskills and assist the elderly who “need help cleaning their homes of mud and others whose homes are awaiting inspection where they will need help either with cleaning or getting the stuff out if it’s condemned.” Volunteers should bring gloves, shovels and old gloves.

Help will be needed, she says, through the end of next week long after people forget the disaster.

Money donations can continued to be made through the MARK project (If you send a check, mark that it’s for flood/hurricane relief):

PO Box 516
Arkville, New York 12406
845 586 3500

Recommended Margaretville Real Estate Agents

Flicker/The Tim

Our Margaretville correspondent has compiled a list of local real estate agents that she finds above board–not so easy, as those of us house-shopping can attest to.

In the UK they joke about realtors like we do lawyers. No one trusts them. Everyone thinks they’re pushing something shoddy. And if there’s anything we have in the sticks, it’s a copious amount of real estate agents. And properties. So to weed wheat from chaff and keep you from spending a day in a car with someone you can’t stand, here’s a list of a few (five, in fact) I think good.

All but one are downstate transplants – with one a Mark Twain-quoting ex-graphic designer, another a ex-airline exec, and a third who worked in interiors. The last manages to use the word “puissance” with one of his listings – a bit of linguistic jujitsu that would land him on the list even if he weren’t so knowledgeable. Our broker (the ex interior designer) John Tufillaro had the patience to show us our house more than five times as we dithered making up our minds. (We looked at nearly 30 places in all).

All of them are willing to show other agent’s and agency’s properties, while John gave us boxes of Haagen Dazs after our closing because we met while eating ice cream outside his office. Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties (the local realty powerhouse with the most agents and offices) is across the street from the Bun & Cone, and they have a line that ice cream eaters aren’t buyers. We proved them wrong and also happened to luck out with a good relationship.

Jean Orr has been in the business the longest and other brokers revere her knowledge and willingness to play well with others. She says you should interview brokers like you would a brain surgeon. (I was thinking more of a shrink myself). Jeffrey Ashton agrees simply because for so many downstaters, this can be the first time they’ve ever bought (as Alia pointed out last week).

He worked with close friends of ours and managed to find them their perfect house that wasn’t even on the market yet. (It’s got views that look like Maine, towering over the Pepacton Reservoir.) Lynne Resch has her own agency – Two Stones Realty (the name comes from a saying here that you get two stones for every bit of dirt – something to consider if you want a hobby farm). Once with Coldwell Banker here, she put out her own shingle to focus on a select and curated group of properties. Also like me she once lived in Carroll Gardens. Before the good restaurants.
On the jump: a list of offices and links.

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Village Victorian with Pool, $249,000 (or $180,000?)

Okay, this one has genuinely piqued my interest, although more for a full-time move than a part-time one. The price is right, it has a pool, it’s at the end of a dead end street abutting a patch of trees but is right in town. It’s decently restored, although this is one of several homes we’ve looked at suffering from an affection for avocado green paint. It has six bedrooms, so if you don’t have kids, you better have a lot of friends to fill them!

I was fishing around for the exact street address, and found what looks like an identical listing on several other sites, all listed for $180,000. Weirdly, these ones say it has four beds, but it’s the same house. So, um, I’d contact them first! Stats on the jump.

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