Seasonal Affect

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That’s it. Fall is here. Mrs. Violet Wiggins, anxious but loyal doggy companion, accompanied me on a walk to town on a gray, not-too-cold day and there is no denying it.

There were a handful of deep red Empire apples left on a tree in the yard of a home that will have a new owner by this weekend. No leaves, just apples. Other apple trees, wilder, less tended ones, are nothing but bare branches now.

We live on a hilltop town in the western Catskills. Winter is no joke here.  The wind is a near-constant presence. This is a town where, according to a history book I just read, the town’s entire industry of nationally-renowned long-hair sheep was wiped out in a vicious wind storm sometime in the last century. I cannot even imagine. But the locals switched to cows after that. Presumably they’re a bit more likely to stay on the ground in a heavy gale.

Yes, reader, I do want to know more.

Last year, even the locals were stunned when we had a twenty degree below zero night in November. The forecast for next week actually includes snow.

Mountain farming people are a self-sufficient bunch, but they also clearly know the value of social connections. When winter comes, the Farmer’s Market is over. But the artists meet every week at the local restaurant. The market crowd meets there once a week, too. There are social organizations, community organizations. Even the garden club meets all year. Winter meetings are about seeing friends and dreaming of flowers in the spring.

It’s also smart to have winter projects; things you enjoy that keep you occupied when the weather is so fierce that going outdoors unnecessarily is just plain stupid.

This year I’m going to find out about my house.

It’s a puzzle, this place, an architectural puzzle and an historical one. It’s known in town by the name of the people who most recently lived here longest – the Hillises. The people who bought it from them are already forgotten, it seems. They were only here five years.

But I want to know about Ernest and Flora Hunt. According to my deed, this was their home from the 1920s to the 1960s. My neighbor remembers Mr. Hunt as a gentleman farmer, someone with a small place, a few cows.

“He was a nice fellow,” he recalled. “Always there to help when his neighbors needed a hand.”

From what little history I’ve found so far, Mr. Hunt was a photographer. He owned a studio in a town that is about 30 miles away. That is quite far for those days. I wonder if it was the same person, or perhaps father and son.

I’d like to see pictures of the Hunts, and if I can find pictures of this house it would be amazing. The Hillis family modernized it and removed all the original woodwork and details. I’m sure it seemed like a wonderful thing at the time.

I’m hoping, in time, to restore this old farmhouse to the one Ernest and Flora would recognize. Until we’ve been here long enough to be remembered as the people who belong here, I think, for me, this is Flora’s house – the old Hunt place.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Sell Until You’re Ready

Preparation is everything. If you want to sell your home and you want top dollar, you have to do some work first.

I have a story to tell you.

What you see below are pictures of a very sweet old farmhouse in Davenport that went on the market in very early spring. It was listed with another agent for a year and it didn’t sell. It didn’t show much, either.

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When I met the owner and toured the house, I saw a ton of potential, but it was buried under stuff. One main room, the one pictured on the right below, was full of furniture but clearly was used for storage. The downstairs bath had no door, just a curtain.

I went through, room by room, and suggested rearranging furniture, removing excess items. He promised he’d do it.

This seller was as good as his word. He rearranged even that extra room to look open, bright and livable. He hung a bathroom door. He spruced up the outside and the pictures we got looked warm and inviting. It’s not fancy, certainly, but it looks about as good as it can look in its current reality. It’s charming.

We got a lot of showings, fast. We got an offer, too. It’s still in negotiation, so we shall see if we get to closing. But I’m not worried. This is a sweet place, a perfect little Catskills homestead with outbuildings and lots of land. It shows well. It’ll sell.

I didn’t train as an interior designer, but I’ve shown and sold enough houses to know what looks good and what photographs well. It’s an added value an experienced Realtor brings to a seller…a lot of us have picked up that skill.

But some places need even a bit more of an expert eye. This place, for example.

Frost Valley

It’s a stunner, no doubt about it. It sets on a hillside, looking a bit like a luxury liner. Designed by a prominent architect for an equally prominent writer, the interior was intended to be reminiscent of a Swedish farmhouse. A really big Swedish farmhouse.

That meant long, long expanses of natural wood wainscotting. A palette of browns and tans.

It was on the market for years. When I got the listing, I knew we needed color. But this one needed my expert – Kate Burnell Interiors and Design. Kate came in and proposed a soft palette of blues and greens in a couple of rooms that softened everything, made it more welcoming and warm.

She also swapped out some blah overhead lighting for something updated and interesting.

It sold.

If you want to sell your home, look at it critically. Look for the flaws. Look for the assets. And ask yourself how to minimize the first and maximize the second. Shortcuts here are shortchanging only you. Call in an expert if you just aren’t sure. But do it.

Remember that buyers walk in a property hoping to fall in love. But they’re not easy. You’ve got to win them over. Wow them and you’ve got a sale.

Do the work. Make your home irresistible.

 

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!