Sponsored Blog Post
By Roland Li
Designed and built by Catskill Farms, Cottage 28 is a charming 1,276-square-foot home with two bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms and a covered porch. Courtesy of Catskill Farms.
When Charles Petersheim left the city for the upstate county of Sullivan, he sought, like many new arrivals, to renovate his own historic home. Although he was a builder by profession, Petersheim soon learned the process took time â€“ and money â€“ a realization that was reinforced when he did the same for others.
Petersheim realized that while typical buyers craved the aesthetic of a centuries-old building, there might be a market for new properties, if he could capture the same atmosphere. In 2003, he founded Catskill Farms â€“ a designer and builder of new single-family homes that are customized for buyers, mostly Manhattan residents looking to stretchÂ their legs. His typical customer is a 30-to 45-year-old, many in a design or creative industry, who have been sheltered from layoffs or a plummeting 401(k).
By using classic materials like cedar, local stone, plank walls and ceilings and salvaged barn wood, the company not only emulated older neighbors, but exceeded them with energy efficient utilities and features. Spray foam insulation and high efficiency gas boilers reduce the costs of heating and cooling. â€œOur homes have a sense of history and style to them, said Petersheim. â€œAnd as importantly, they work.
The company has completed over 100 homes with around $32 million in sales. And although the recession has stymied virtually all new construction outside of major cities, Petersheim continues to churn along, finishing a home every three weeks, at prices comparable to the peak.
Homes are sold for around $290,000 to $420,000, starting at 1,300 square feet on five acres of land. Prices have stayed stable, with slight increases due to additional features like security systems, surround sound speakers and on-demand hot water.
â€œI think the real marvel is that our prices have held our own, said Petersheim Although construction labor prices have lowered slightly, materials remain about the same. The key to the company"s profits is its organization.
Catskill Farms takes a comprehensive approach to development, with in-house land acquisition, construction management, architectural design and relationships with local banks that provide financing for building, and occasionally buyers as well. Having been in business for eight years, Catskills has developed relationships with such lenders, and while underwriting standards are tougher, the company"s buyers are all well qualified for mortgages.
One of the developer"s first tasks, after securing a buyer, is locating a sprawling parcel of land. And while upstate doesn"t have the furious density of Manhattan, an ideal plot is still elusive.
â€œThere is a real challenge of marrying good land with the right house, saidPetersheim. But Catskills saves the buyer the headache of searching, and it assumes the risk of construction by assuming ownership over a project until it is completed, after which it is sold to the buyer.
Catskills also managed to shift one ubiquitous profession in-house: real estate brokerage.â€œWe found brokers couldn"t sell our homes, said Petersheim. Instead, the company uses digital and social media marketing, connecting directly with buyers.
Catskills has grown from three employees in 2008 to 14, occupying a historic steel building that has been converted to an office loft. It is now expanding to the neighboring Ulster County, and its pace of development has made it a small, but steady job creator and economic engine for the area, said Petersheim. The new arrivals also contribute thousands to the
county in property taxes.
Although he"s carved a niche for himself in upstate, and has experience in constructing commercial buildings in the city earlier in his career, don"t expect to see Petersheim breaking ground in Manhattan.
â€œWe"re happy to visit, he said.
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