Buying in the Catskills? Six Questions to Consider

Joseph Satto


Maximum Travel Time?  If your house is primarily a weekend escape, you probably want to be a maximum of 2 1/2 hours from the city. That threshold will mean different things, however, based upon where you live in the city and when you plan to come and go.

If you live in Brooklyn, you'll have to cross two bridges/tunnels whereas someone on the Upper West Side or Jersey City has a straighter shot north. It sounds obvious but it can make a big difference in the travel time.  And, a client that leaves the city Friday evening and heads back Sunday night, will face significantly more traffic than a client with a more flexibile schedule. Ultimately, we'll help you factor in these logistical issues in selecting the best areas upstate to consider.

​​​​​​​The good news, no matter your preferences, there are plenty of options in the four counties of Ulster, Sullivan, Dutchess and Columbia. Each of these areas has a distinct character and we can give you suggested itineraries that will help you get to know these areas and narrow your focus.

Access to Towns?  Some clients plan to make a single grocery run on the way up and plant themselves in their house for the entire weekend while others want access to the vibrant towns that are, or are quickly becoming, epicenters of Catskills culture (e.g. Kingston aka Brooklyn North).  Most areas in the various counties will give you fairly easy access to multiple towns with amenities so this isn't a tremendously limiting factor but, that said, you may need to exclude certain areas. During our initial meeting/conversations with a client, we walk them through a map (in person or virtually) and the various areas to consider.

Aesthetic? Are you looking for a specific look and feel (e.g. an old or newly renovated farmhouse, a converted barn, stone house, a chalet, modern, or new construction, etc.) The options are quite varied.  If you have a strong preference, it may limit your options but it will also give you focus.  If you're more open to possibilities, you'll end up seeing more houses and have more options.  Sometimes the only way to narrow your focus is to actually visit homes, a lot of times after seeing a few homes the essential needs will become readily apparent.  On our Curated Listings page, we compile a set of listings that will aesthetically appeal to the sensibilities of city dwellers or have the potential to do so with some TLC.

Turn Key or Weekend Project?  A turn key project is an attractive option to many city dwellers; buy some furniture and groceries and off you go. But prices for these types of properties are typically higher and there is more competition so you need to keep that in mind.  If you're willing to invest a bit of sweat equity, you'll have more options but there are various factors to consider when going down this road. Aesthetic projects (painting, floors, fixtures, appliances, etc..) will generally be significantly less expensive than issues related to the structure (e.g. roof, foundation, insulation, etc.) or the systems (e.g. heating, cooling, plumbing, septic, electric, etc.).  For those planning to go down the DIY route, I can anectdotally offer that when I purchased my house, I never expected to learn to build a deck, renovate a bathroom, or repaint the entire interior of a home but it turned out that with minor assistance from a local handyman all of these skills were entirely within my wheelhouse.

Land Features?  The terrain and land features in Catskills real estate are quite varied so thinking about what migh be essential will help you narrow your focus. Do you want open meadows and mountain views or do you prefer to be tucked in the woods? Is a body of water a necessity? Do you want a large plot of land to explore or a smaller, more manageable parcel? One thing worth noting, a lot of clients start with one list of criteria but upon seeing homes find that they priorities shift, sometimes quite dramatically. In any case, we regularly help our clients manage their expectations based upon what is available and what they can afford.

​​​​​​​AirBNB/VRBO Income?  If you're factoring in the potential for short term rental income as part of your buying decision,  you'll need to pay close attention to the regulations that are either already in place (e.g. Woodstock) or are being conisdered (e.g. Gardiner).  A good agent will help you suss out what to consider.  As a general rule, there are very few restrictions and, even those restrictions are manageable and shouldn't have a tremendous impact on your bottom line. That said, in certain areas there are pitfalls to avoid. 

Should you want to discuss any of the questions above or Catskills real estate in general, we're always happy to hop on a call or grab a coffee.

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