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Where to Rent or Buy in an Upstate N.Y. Bungalow Colony

We’ve had several requests for more information about renting or buying in bungalow colonies in Upstate New York after our first post about Lake Huntington Summer Community. Readers, voila: a preliminary list of Catskills bungalow colonies that offer rentals or have properties for sale–affordable second homes or cheap vacation rentals near New York City. If you know of more, please email us!

Lansmans
This is one of the few colonies to successfully transform into a 21st century version of its 50s heyday self (they have a website for folks who want to reminisce about the mid-century colony). Per the website: “100 beautiful wooded acres off Murphy Road in Woodbourne, NY. The approximately 85 summer cottages are situated throughout the grounds. Lansman’s sports a grand in-ground heated pool, four tournament tennis courts, full court basketball and paddleball courts, baseball and sports fields, the premier summer day camp, a casino and restaurant, weekend shows, a card room, full time maintenance staff and much much more.” They have bungalows for rent or sale including a one-bedroom bungalow with deck–$4,500 for a full spring-through-fall rental, or $12,000 to buy.

Buffalo Colony
The Buffalo Colony, also in Woodburne, N.Y. has a swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts and a communal building, and 30 units spread out over 103 acres. Many of these are larger homes, suitable for families or groups of friends, including an early 19th century schoolhouse — which looks very nice to us. They have bungalows for rent and for sale.

Fiume Bello
The name means “beautiful river,” so-called for the Mamaketing Brook that bisects it. Located in Spring Glen, N.Y., the colony is a co-op of 12 bungalows on eight acres, a common building called the Casino, and a pool. One bungalow is currently for sale, profiled last week on Upstater–the $26,500 bungalow that is one of the most affordable vacation homes in the Catskills that we’ve seen. They don’t officially rent here, or let you sublet, so the way in is buying. Taxes: $2,400/year. No train, but the Short Line bus goes to the Post Office on Old Route 209.

Spring Glen Corners
Spring Glen Corners, also in Spring Glen, N.Y., has 22 bungalows, a children’s play area, pool, landscaped grounds, a garden, rec room, laundry room and communal canoes. They do allow rentals and suggest that’s a good way to get in with the community. Currently a unit for sale for $59,000, with annual taxes and fees of $3,600. Here’s more from the owner: “It’s a double bungalow in Spring Glen Corners with more than twice the usual space of a typical bungalow because we also have two sleeping lofts and a huge yard that no one else uses. We’ve completely modernized the electric system and put on a new roof. We’re selling equipped and furnished (except for the kitchen table and my daugher’s bedroom set) so it’s completely turn-key.” Contact the owner if interested. The NY Times wrote up the colony in 2005.

Rosmarins
Rosmarins has 100 cottages, a lake, pool (one for grownups and one for kiddies), tennis courts, playgrounds, a snack shop, a day camp for the kids and a Saturday night lounge act! It’s in Monroe, N.Y., 39 miles from the George Washington Bridge, and, if you tire of colony life, 10 minutes from Woodbury Commons.

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Weekend Escape: Hillsdale, N.Y.

A tiny house in Hillsdale NeighborsWe’re very lucky to have friends with a house in the Hillsdale Neighbors development in Hillsdale, N.Y. The 130-acre property, shared among 13-families, is the rare combo of community and privacy–your own country house and land, plus a communal pond, tennis courts, nature walks. (Check out the NY Times article about it here.)  More a compound for Upper West Side literati, artists and academics than a bungalow colony, it has individually architect-designed large private homes, all spaced very far from each other.

The place was started in 1971, when the land was purchased for $80,000 and subdivided in a very special way–everyone owns their houses outright, but the land is owned communally. The founders managed to convince those in town wielding the red tape to allow them to parcel out the land this way, something harder to do in today’s world of strict zoning policies. Probably the closest to a modern version is “cluster zoning,” which allows higher density in some parts of subdivisions in exchange for keeping large parts of the land forever free of development. Hillsdale Neighbors is a wonderful model of country house development, something I hope others can figure out how to replicate (12 interested families, please contact me!).

Their configuration sometimes adds a few problems to paradise–a little like dealing with a co-op board far out in the country (minutes to past neighborhood association meetings are available here. It includes some amazing photography by our friend Bruno, who also runs the site.). But I’ve been here many times, and have only experienced the good–folks stopping by for dinner, but otherwise keeping to themselves. We looked at a home for sale last year–a three-bed, tree house-like place asking, and apparently getting, $295,000. Many folks in the community were surprised that it could fetch that much, especially during the downturn, but the specialness of the community, and the fact that you can rent it out during ski season, apparently made it worth it.

If you’re considering Hillsdale for a country home, see our Towns page for its pros and cons.

Wanna Buy a Bungalow Colony?

As I mentioned last week, the proverbial one [piece of real estate] that got away for me was a bungalow colony in Sullivan County, put on the market before the real estate balloon of the mid-2000s.

The good news is that there are a number of other colonies and camps for sale upstate–all faring better than the places on Vanishing Catskills–and I came upon Taylored Real Estate in my search for a new property. Not a great UI on the site, but there are a number of colonies, camps, old hotels and resorts for sale. They range from $3.9 million for an old 225-room resort in Liberty, N.Y. (behold the beauty of pink carpets and sky-sized crystal chandelier) to $345,000 for a fixer-upper resort with 10 buildings on 60 acres in Greeneville, NY.

There are plenty of camps and bungalow colonies at prices in between–somewhere between the $1 and $2 million range, which, split among at least 10 folks, hovers in the realm of affordable even for freelance writers. I have yet to find one that I’m willing to drag my pals up to see, but I’ll be looking. Has anybody else considered buying a colony or camp with pals?

When We Say Depressed Real Estate Market…

An abandoned bungalow, a mile from the photographer's home

Since one of us bought a house up here, and the other one devotes far too much time to investigating the purchase of an upstate house, it’s clear that we believe there are deals to be had in the current Upstate real estate market.

Another ex-New Yorker, Raymon Elozua, believes the same, and moved up to Mountaindale, N.Y. to live among the ghosts of buildings that he found around him. (Mountaindale, by the way, is part of that same general area covered in yesterday’s Bungalow Envy post–the Sullivan County stretch that still has plenty of functional, happily inhabited places, as well). His project is Vanishing Catskills, a pictorial map of abandoned Borscht Belt buildings within 10 miles of his home. Sadly, there are a lot of them.

He sees them as ruins, as testaments to Sullivan County’s heyday and decline, but also as interesting on a sculptural and architectural level. We see them as full of potential. We truly believe that in these tough times, folks are searching for economical getaways, and that reviving the bungalow colony is a great way to do it. We’re going to come back as developers in our next lives.

Another interesting thing about Vanishing Catskills: you can buy Elozua’s photo books directly from Apple. Definitely worth having as a coffee table book if you’re joining the ranks of Upstaters.

Bungalow Envy: Lake Huntington Edition

In August of 2001, I dragged 15 New Yorkers up to Liberty, N.Y. to look at a bungalow colony for sale: 19 buildings, a weedy pool, 17 acres, which would have required each of us to put up $5,000. Yes, it’s the one (or the 19) that got away, if only because the real estate agent gave us bad directions and we never found it. The next week I took off for grad school in Arizona, and the bungalow colony dream died.

Or, rather, it slept. But in the last few years I’ve become aware that the dream is actually alive and well, with a number of bungalow colonies thriving Upstate. Most of them seem to be in Sullivan County, a fair drive west of the Hudson, which isn’t the best location for me, as it’s far from my brother in Tivoli (aka Shangri-la). Still, this one intrigues me. The Lake Huntington Summer Community, self-described as “a warm weather redoubt for generations of city dwellers looking for a fun, relaxing, affordable vacation,” has all that I dream of in a communal-ish vacation scheme. There’s the, you know, lake, plus a pool, woods and fields, tennis and tree houses, privacy and community, both, with emphasis on community. You can rent a place for as little as $650 a week, although the ones with the word “quiet” in the description give me pause about the potential loudness of the others. Read the rest of this entry

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