Lots of folks I've been talking to lately are just starting out shopping for a second home, and few have much knowledge of Sullivan County (or the other Catskills counties for that matter). Their wish lists are often diffuse or not really defined beyond minimum numbers of bedrooms and possibly a price range — which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because a long and detailed wish list can be difficult to meet, but a curse because a blank canvas opens up a huge number of possibilities. Its kind of like going to Macy's and saying, "I need a new wardrobe."
Helping clients narrow down choices and get to the essence of what they'd like is something I do very well. But it can be very time consuming, particularly because Sullivan County is so large and I can only show only a limited number of houses on a single 4 hour appointment. (I'm hesitant to have longer appointments, because in my experience, when you get up to 5 or 6 hours the houses all start merging into mush in the buyer's mind, and folks start to get a little grumpy even with granola bars.)
It can take two or three trips to hone in on the type of home, setting or location someone would like — lake community, wooded privacy, rolling farmland, area of the county, size and style of house. I do a lot of 180 degree turns with clients as they begin bringing lifestyle into the picture. Then once they have a better definition of what they'd like and where they'd like it, they want to see everything on the market that comes close, which can be another couple of trips.
Its an important process, but not necessarily a very efficient once. The initial stages, in particular, involve a lot of wheel spinning as buyers start to understand the differences between, say, Woodbourne and Narrowsburg, or the tradeoffs in various settings for privacy and seclusion versus convenience to town, the difference between rolling open farmland and more wooded settings or busier roads versus country backroads.
Recently I've had three potential clients who wanted to spend a first trip up just doing drive bys of houses to get a feel for the area and the settings of various houses. It was a great idea. They emailed me listings they'd found on internet searches. I gave them my comments on the ones they found, and suggested some others they might want to include to give them a broader range of examples to consider. Each couple ended up with a list of 15 to 20 houses. I provided them with addresses and directions and suggested a route. They came up and spent the whole day driving around. Afterwards, they called to talk about the houses, what they learned, what they liked and what they didn't. All of them commented on what a great day they'd had, how much information they'd gleaned and how it helped them understand the market better.
In one case, the couple decided that Sullivan wasn't really for them. Another couple narrowed the list of 15 to 20 houses down to 5 they wanted to see on another trip. The third couple (who had very specific setting desires) actually narrowed it down to one.
For the two clients I'll continue working with, I got huge amounts of information from their feedback. Based upon their choices, I can make much more intelligent suggestions of other houses they may want to consider.
From my standpoint, of course, it was a very efficient use of my resources, because I didn't spend a lot of time and gas taking people to places they ultimately wouldn't like. But what was somewhat surprising is how all 3 commented on how much they liked the process. They were on their own schedule, could pace themselves, stop for lunch when they wanted and make detours. One couple noted roads they particularly liked, and took digi-pics of a few houses that really caught their fancy (even though they weren't on the market.)
For first-timers not familiar with Sullivan, a drive-by tour can be a great information gatherer. But its not an approach for everyone. There are some folks I talk with that I know the best first trip is to arrange a "tasting flight", showing 4 or 5 very different houses in their price range to get their reaction to the various factors and trade offs. For others who have a very specific idea in mind, it can be most useful to sample 4 or 5 of the best options within their category.
But for a lot of folks new to Sullivan County, a drive-by day can be a great introduction.
Update on this thread May 29, 2008: If you're coming to this
thread for the first time, the comments below may not make a lot of
sense. This thread got totally out of control, with personal attacks.
More troubling, though, is that some commenters impersonated other
commenters (by using a signature just slightly different than another
commenter). I've removed a number of comments on here, but tried to
leave the general tone of the thread intact.