If you want to know something about me, here goes. I enjoy long walks on the beach, movies that make me cry, quiet evenings at home snuggling on the couch and Thai food.
Ooops … sorry, that’s for another site. Let’s try this again.
I’ve lived in Sullivan County since 1999 and have been selling real estate here since 2001. So I’ve gone through a full cycle of the market going up, falling back down and starting up again. Old hands in the business say you’re not really experienced until you’ve ridden a full cycle.
Unlike most transplants to Sullivan County, I didn’t move here from New York City. I came here from the Pacific Northwest, where I split my time between Seattle and an off-the-grid cabin in north Idaho. In Seattle I was co-owner of a successful corporate travel agency, which also developed travel management software for companies, so I have a geek side. The cornerstone of the success of that company was providing better information to our clients along with the analysis to make decisions. That was in an era when travel companies often hoarded information and doled it out in bits and pieces.
When I entered the real estate market here, I saw the same opportunity. Real estate companies controlled the flow of information, and provided little analysis to help buyers and sellers make informed decisions. They were in the “show and sell” business, a situation that largely continues to this day. The real estate business is at least a decade behind the travel business in opening up access to information for consumers. For example, the multiple listing systems in this region still prohibit “sold” listings from being displayed on Realtor websites, so consumers can see what houses actually sold for. It’s close to impossible to find historical performance data and there are no channels where buyers can comment that a house that looked great online actually sucked in person.
From the start of this website, catskill4sale.com, in 2001, a central focus has been providing information to buyers, not just listings to search. I’m a data geek, from my days in travel business where tracked historical airfare performance for years and applied that same approach to real estate here. In 2002, I started tracking real estate sales data here which led to my monthly Current Market Conditions Report, which has been a feature of this site for 13 years now. I’m likely the only person in Sullivan County with that much historical real estate sales data.
My “information forward” philosophy isn’t just about historical sales data. On this website you’ll find dozens of information pages about the the region and county, villages and hamlets, lake communities, property taxes, buying land and building and lots of other topics, along with hundreds of blog posts throughout the years. None of it is canned, I’ve written every word myself.
Another key point is that the integrity of this site is very important to me. Catskill4sale.com gets about 250,000 page views a month, which is a LOT for Sullivan County. I’m regularly approached by mortgage lenders, home inspectors or other service providers to pay to place ads or do featured posts on the site, and I turn them all down. I don’t want an ad from a mortgage lender on this site that may not be a good choice for my clients just to earn a couple of hundred bucks a month.
Likewise, a listing agent can’t pay me to put a listing on my favorite pick list. The only way to get on my favorites list is if I think it deserves to be one. When you use the MLS search on my website, the results aren’t biased. On most Realtor MLS searches, the result set returns the listing agent’s properties first, followed by properties listed by other agents. On most third party sites, listings agents pay to get their properties at the top of the list.
People, both in and out of the business, often ask me why I only work as a buyer agent, and don’t take listings — since inevitably I leave some money on the table, because I never have both sides of a transaction. For me the answer is simple. It’s clean and clear, and it frees me up to be opinionated. I tell my clients if I think a house is overpriced, or if there are some significant downsides or if I think they should wait for a house that better meets their needs to come to market. I don’t have to put lipstick on a pig.
I handle about 12 to 15 sales a year, and pretty much stick to my knitting — focusing on working with second home buyers in the mid to upper range, starting in the $200’s. (My colleague, Kathy Rieser, focuses more on the under $200K market, and Judy Siegel, the broker for Catskills Buyer Agency, handles more primary homes.) I don’t do what I don’t know, because I can’t adequately represent my clients outside of my areas of expertise. For example, for a buyer looking for a $125,000 getaway, I don’t know the inventory well enough to confidently suggest adding this or that house into a search. Likewise, I don’t handle commercial or investment property, smaller raw land parcels, or property outside of Sullivan County. But I know the $200,000+ second home market here like the back of my hand.
I’m also quite proud of the fact that I have a close to 100% close rate after an accepted offer. I think through a deal at the front end, before an offer even goes in, to anticipate any glitches that might like crop up, like an appraisal shortfall or the lack of a road maintenance agreement on a private road. Of course, issues pop up. But most deals fall apart because something that could have been anticipated wasn’t.
A little bit more about me, since I don’t just leave, breathe and eat real estate.
I live on 18 acres in the western part of Sullivan County, near Callicoon, in an area farmland. But I’m not a farmer or even much of a gardener. God blessed me with a black thumb. I love ripe summer tomatoes, and thankfully live in an area with great farmers markets, because I can’t grow them for the life of me.
I split my time between the country and the city, and have an apartment in RIverdale in the Bronx. I love theater, and go once or twice a week during the Sullivan ‘off season’. I also have a great gig in the city, doing live audio description of theater in the city for the blind and visually impaired. I describe 6 to 8 shows a year, and yes, it’s as fascinating and gratifying as it sounds. If we go out on an appointment, ask me about it and I’m happy to tell you how it works.
I love dogs, and my current canine is Stella, a 13 pound Shih-Tzu-Terrier mix. If you have dogs or have kids who love dogs and want me to bring her along on an appointment, just ask.
I also have served on a number of boards here in Sullivan County, including the Board of Realtors and the board of directors of the Sullivan Multiple Listing Service. I was one of the founders of the Day To Be Gay Festival in Sullivan County, as well as the charitable Day To Be Gay Foundation. I currently serve on the Board of Assessment Review for the Town of Delaware.