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Revamped Modern in Willow, N.Y., $395,000

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There’s a reason the pictures of this renovated lodge for sale by owner in the Catskills looks so good: said owner is himself a professional photographer, and his artist’s eye sure has done the place right. I find this Willow, N.Y. home, 10 minutes from Phoenicia, to be just the right combination of updated and rustic–doesn’t look completely Design Within Reach (which has always been out of my reach), nor does it feel too earthy and outdated. All 70s hippie on the outside, all metro Brooklyn on the inside. And the pond! And the European HVAC system! And the kitchen!

Taxes are nothing to sneeze at–$500 a month–but you get three acres and a pretty decent location, if you’re interested in the left bank of the Hudson. As always, I wish floorplans were provided, because much as I love an open floor plan, I prize the ability to shut the door, and the noise, for a heavy country sleep.

Catskill Mountain Contemporary (NY Times) GMAP
Asking Price: $395,000
Square feet: 1,700
Beds: 3
Baths: 2
Land: 3.09 acres
Taxes: $500/month
Distance to NYC: 118 miles; 2 hours, 25 minutes
Transportation: Bus to Phoenicia

How to Pay Your Monthly Mortgage in One Weekend

I started seriously entertaining the idea of buying a second home in upstate New York (as if I own a first one) after agreeing to rent this place in Accord, N.Y. for a holiday weekend with friends. That’s right, we are collectively paying $1,300 for four days in an upstate New York rental house:  a mid-60s place with a ping-pong table, outdoor fireplace and a pond. (In our defense, we decided to do this late in the game and there weren’t a lot of choices left–and the place is very nice.)

I looked this Accord, N.Y. house up on Property Shark and found that the owners bought it for $160,000 in 1999. Even if their down payment was small and they renovated, a weekend rental surely covers the monthly mortgage (to rent it for a month is  a whopping $8,000!). And there must be thousands of nincompoops like me who will pay top dollar to get out of the heat. Upstater’s own Alia rents her place out to non-nincompoops on VRBO to help pay the mortgage and it works.

If you’re thinking that the market is still soft up there, take note: this house is currently assessed at $620,000! I can’t imagine anyone paying that much for it, but then again I never thought I’d pay this much for a weekend in the country. So this reaffirms my search for a vacation house upstate–it will save me a whole lot of money on rent.

Creekside Bungalow with Two Studios, $229,000

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I could almost get excited about this house for sale in Boiceville, N.Y. First, I’m crazy for bungalows. Second: waterfront property in the Catksills (okay, yeah, the water is a creek, but that’s good enough for me!). Third: two studios with electricity, for novel-writing and for stashing visitors! Plus, a wrap-around screened in porch big enough for a ping-pong table! My beef with upstate listings, as opposed to NYC listings, is that they rarely include floorplans or maps, two things that would greatly influence whether or not I want to go the next step and actually make the schlep to see this place.

I talked to some folks at FreeStyle Realty, based in Phoenicia, N.Y., who pointed out many of the property’s attributes: it’s had only two owners, and much of the original furniture remains in the house and will be for sale–separately–as well. It has a two-car garage and three-and-a-half acres of property. It has a stone fireplace and sits 1/10 of a mile from tennis courts, also plusses.The listing has few interior pictures, which raises my suspicion, and the word “charming” can mean “needs renovation” in real estate speak. The MLS listing notes the condition of the place as “very good,” so nothing structural, but we can assume the kitchen is vintage–and not necessarily in a cute, kitchy way.

A minus: The road that runs along the Esopus Creek is Route 28, a highway that cuts west from the Interstate deep into the western Catskills. The broker says a row of trees separates the property from the road, and you can’t see the property from the street, so that’s good. Another minus: the one bathroom… although perhaps one of those studios could be turned into a freestanding bathroom!

So what’s the vote, folks? Is this one worth a look? At current mortgage rates, with 10% down, that’s about $1400 a month with taxes, an amount that might be recoup-able with weekly rentals.

Enchanted Getaway on the Creek
Asking Price: $229,000
Square feet: 1466
Beds: 3
Baths: 1
Land: 3.5 acres
Distance to NYC: 115 miles; 2 hours, 15 minutes
Transportation: Bus to Phoenicia

What $2200 (or less) a month gets you in Ulster County, NY

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This one is for all the bitter renters. I love ogling affordable homes for sale, but looking at rental listings can be just as fun, and perhaps more realistic. If you’re not ready or able to plunk down the cash for a deed, you can still enjoy living in a real house (with stairs and views and lawncare) in beautiful Upstate New York—and probably for less than you pay for that Brownstone Belt floor-through. Plus, test driving by renting is a great way to see if a community is a good fit and to find out more about the market through on-the-ground research.

Ulster County, NY is a good comparison test case. It’s relatively accessible via the New York State Thruway and the Adirondacks Bus line, and it’s one of the most desirable of the Upstate counties. The hippie college town of New Paltz is there, home to a SUNY campus and its related university activities. The even hippier Woodstock is a little farther north. It also offers a lot to do, as well as many options if you’re in the market for homemade candles. My favorite Ulster County town, though, is undoubtedly Saugerties, which looks like the East Coast’s answer to Cicely, Alaska and is home to Love Bites Cafe, the best lunch spot in the universe. In sum, Ulster County offers natural beauty, a range of pleasant towns to choose from, and isn’t so far off the grid that your city friends won’t track you down.

On to the listings. This lovely, tasteful 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath farmhouse in Saugerties rents for $2200 per month offered by Westwood, Metes & Bounds. (You need to register on their site to see the listing details.) It sits on 2 1/4 acres and offers a spacious wraparound porch and great country views. No neighbors in sight and within walking distance to the Hudson. The chef-y looking kitchen is HUGE, as are the common areas, so it looks perfect for entertaining.

My favorite of the bunch is this renovated barn in Woodstock, NY renting for $2000 per month. Close to town, gorgeously renovated, and with a vegetable garden to boot, you’d have to pry me out of this one when the lease was up. I love the sauna-style bathroom and terracotta flooring. The realtor, again Westwood, Metes and Bounds, is also offering the barn as a July and August rental for $3800/month. Jump on it!

Finally, there is this spacious, rambling farmhouse in New Paltz for rent, spotted on Craiglist. 4+bedrooms, 2 baths, 16 wooded acres, all for $2000 per month, lawncare and snow plowing included. It’s 4.5 miles north of town, and you could roller skate on that wraparound porch. Available August 1st and certainly worth asking if they’d be open to a shorter-term rental.

Ulster County NY Gmap

Repurposed church in Hudson, NY perfect for decadent parties or your industrial music career

This $399, 000 former church is called Mission Grange Hall. That sounds like something out of the Wind in the Willows or Game of Thrones, either of which would be fine by me. I think all country houses should have names, and the name of this one doesn’t even seem particularly aspirational. It has a bell tower, after all. And who wouldn’t want to have their bed placed on altar?

The interior still offers the vaulted ceilings and stained glass of its former life, as well as the open floor plan. Mission Grange Hall is basically two huge floors—one with a catering-size, galley kitchen–plus a choir loft. This set-up could work very well as live/work space, and while the listing doesn’t specify dual residential/commercial zoning, it has been used as a gallery. Alternately, you could create rooms (and with 8,000 square feet, they could be spacious), but that sort of seems like a shame. When I was house hunting, I looked at a beautiful converted church with a similar set-up. Realizing I’d never have the proper attitude for such a place—I like doors—was one of the moments where I also realized my own limitations. I’ll never live in a converted church (or be an Italian movie star), but I hope someone quite fabulous and deserving scoops this one up.

The price seems a little steep to me, especially as such a specialty property would be challenging to resell, but the town of Hudson is experiencing a long boom, and this property offers country views along with access to the town’s galleries and restaurants. A city of 7,500, Hudson is well-known for its antique shops and charming, recently restored downtown.  Plus, it has its own Amtrak stop, which makes this an easy commute for second homers.

Update: A Hudson-dwelling reader has reported that the church is “is next door to the city’s high rise projects, which makes the price completely insane.” If you go to see it or submit a bid, let us know!

Hudson, NY Google map
Distance to NYC: 126 miles; 2 hours, 35 minutes
Transportation: Amtrak to Hudson station
Land: .93 acres
Water: River views
Bedrooms: 1
Baths: 4

Country House with Curb Appeal in Hunter for $279,000

This one looks so pretty with those stone walls and established flower beds and the terrace overlooking the mountains. I’m already imagining all the sunset cocktails I’d drink. Plus,  it’s on 6.1 acres and located in the village of  of Hunter, so it would work well as a four season escape and occasional ski rental. Home sales are have been on the decrease for the past two years in Hunter, and this house is well below the average listing price of $384,00.

The inside has it’s pluses, too: four fireplaces, hardwood floors, a claw foot tub in one of the three bathrooms, but we didn’t love the interior as much as the exterior. It seemed a little too Twin Peaks ski lodge, not enough airy country house. How do you all feel about the wood paneling to regular walls ratio? At this price, I’d find a way to work with it, or renovate.

Village of Hunter, Google Maps

Distance to NYC: 114 miles; 2 hours, 30 minutes
Transportation: Adirondack Trailways to Hunter
Land: 6.1 acres
Neighbors? No
Water: No
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 3

Caretakers’ Cottage with Snob Factor Appeal for under $300,000

My real estate fantasies generally don’t involve gated communities, but the Onteora Club is a worthy exception. I have to drive through gorgeous, wooded, Gilded-Age mansion-speckled Onteora Park en route to my own little house. I’d use the cliche and say exclusive Onteora seems a world away, but it doesn’t, quite. Even the humbler towns in Greene County have lush mountain views, winding roads, black bear sightings and Lyme disease. Onteora Park, though, is home to some of the most beautiful homes in the Catskills, and residence also offers you the opportunity to join the private club, which sounds like a cross between a Cheever short story and Dirty Dancing: private lake, heated pool, tennis and golf, and an “enchanting Tudor-style library.” Nearby is the wonderful Mountain Top Arboretum, a beautifully maintained 23-acre foliage sanctuary that’s free and open to the public.

All of the above is a long way of explaining why I was so excited when I saw this listing with Gordon Realty. Most of the “cottages” (ahem) in Onteora are well out of the second home price range of most folks I know. This cottage is actually a cottage, and it’s lovely. Built at the turn of the century and recently updated, it offers great outdoor space as well as beautiful details inside. I’d happily care take this one. Check out the interior photo on the jump. Read the rest of this entry

The $26,500 Bungalow

Upstate New York bungalow colonies offer some of the most affordable second homes in the Catskills, but this one has got to be the deal of the decade. I first saw it advertised last year for $30,000, when the owners, a Park Slope couple, were relocating to Vermont. It still hasn’t sold, and they’re now far away, so the price for this 700-square-foot one-bedroom is now reduced to $26,500. Taxes are $2400/year, payable in three installments.

It’s part of a community of 12 bungalows called “Fiume Bello”–beautiful river–that began in the 1950s. It was essentially rescued from ruin by a co-op of families in the 70s, and the children of that wave of settlers now inhabit the bungalows, which are spread out over eight acres in Spring Glen, N.Y. They have a pool and a big field and big group dinners and bonfires if you want to participate in the group activity. Read the rest of this entry

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?

Snow White-ish Saugerties Stone Cottage

Can’t you just see the Seven Dwarfs stumbling out of this one? Maybe that’s because some of those exposed-beam ceilings look rather low. Other than that, it’s pretty hard to find fault with this tastefully updated 1700’s stone cottage. It’s on 12.7 wooded acres, which include a gurgling brook, private pond, a covered gazebo and two other outbuildings. It’s also in Saugerties, which I see as the Catskills’ answer to Cicely, Alaska. The list price is $259,000. I wonder how long this one will stay on the market …

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