After experiencing its hottest two years in living memory, our Hudson Valley real estate market is still sizzling. It’s a nationwide trend, of course; most areas within striking distance of urban centers experienced the boom. Hudson and Kingston, though, led the country for the most folks moving into cities with populations under 50,000 in 2020. Now, in 2022, the headlines can be confusing.
Are we seeing a bubble at risk of bursting, or an increase that’s fueled by systemic features like lack of inventory? What will happen when the Fed raises interest rates? Are last year’s buyers disillusioned, or living the dream? On any given day, you can read analysis predicting a cooling, analysis predicting a crash, and breathless accounts from realtors of bidding wars that are still blowing up.
What to do if you’re hunting right now? Have your financial ducks in a row, and be ready to move fast if you find The Place. But now that showings have gone live again, avoid sight-unseen panic purchases. There will be something else along. Promise. Someone will downsize or move up, someone will relocate to Houston, more homes will be built.
Do make an ally of a trustworthy realtor. The best ones know these hills like no one else, are gr
eat listeners, and will approach finding your home like a savvy matchmaker, with intimate knowledge of your wants and needs and of the homes and neighborhood.
Do pick the right town. There are subtle and vast differences between, say, Rhinebeck and Saugerties. Realtors try to give you some insight, but the only way to know for sure where you’ll fit is sneakers on the ground. Spend a weekend and a Thursday afternoon. Try a fancy dinner and a budget lunch, take the nearest hike, chat up the locals, and see if you can imagine daily life here. Maybe (this is extra credit) check out a town or village meeting on YouTube and get a feel for the governance.
And keep an open mind. “Many families live in managed buildings in the city, so they may have never maintained a home and want to buy a low-maintenance house,” says Alan Li, owner of Catskill Concierge. “Whilst they may be correct that a newly built home often minimizes such concerns and an older home may need more attention, there are, fortunately, local companies who specialize in the needs of weekenders. So go ahead and buy that beautiful Victorian home with all the charm of a bygone age!” If you’re looking to rent for a while—not the worst idea in the world—don’t be dismayed by the tight market. Do some research, or find a realtor who has, and check out some of the new developments under construction; there are some lovely ones building out this summer and coming online soon, and you may still be able to get in on the ground floor.
SHORT-TERM RENTAL INCOME
New neighbors, we hope you’re not among the disillusioned, and that you’ll find among these pages lots of new reasons to love your Hudson Valley home. If you’re on the fence—loving upstate, but missing the corner bodega and the concrete underfoot, the constant zinnng— you may be thinking about putting your upstate digs on the market some of the time as a short-term rental. A market study from vacation rental company StayMarquise analyzed Airbnb and VRBO statistics and found that the demand for short-term rental properties has surged. The supply of rentals grew by 9 percent in 2021; during roughly the same time period, the amount spent on short-term rentals grew by 99 percent, from $140 million to $278 million.
The market is definitely there, and it’s entirely possible to own a part-time Hudson Valley home that helps to pay its own mortgage. But it’s not as simple as it sounds, and it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it passive income stream. We asked some experts about the ins and outs of managing your Hudson Valley property as a part-timer, and here’s the word:
Know the rules of the game. “If you are planning on listing your house on Airbnb, or renting it for less than 30 days, it is crucial to understand the laws each town has in place for short-term rentals. Several towns upstate have strict laws regarding Airbnbs, which ultimately could affect property values,” says Erika Sampaio, founder of Manage This Home.
Be a good neighbor, even if you’re not always there. “It's important to understand if the neighborhood you are buying in is warm to the idea of having Airbnb guests or not so much, and going the extra mile to ensure your neighbors' comfort is key,” says Sampaio. What starts out as a warm welcome may quickly cool if your property becomes a source of noisy chaos, so screen your guests and set your rules with a neighborly mindset.
“I strongly recommend homeowners find a good property manager with its own network of service providers if they are keen on keeping maintenance up to date.”
Don’t expect things to move at an urban pace. “If you are a second homeowner coming from the city, it's important to calibrate your expectations in regards to services and timelines. While in Brooklyn and Manhattan people have access to virtually 24/7 everything imaginable, here in the Catskills it can take months,” says Sampaio.
“Whilst we do have very good local contractors, newcomers are often frustrated by the casual attitude that is too common amongst many others in our area. Persevere: You will find good construction contractors, handymen, cleaners, and whatever you need,” says Li. Expect a learning curve. “A lot depends on how familiar you are with the workings of a house, and how comfortable you are dealing with issues when they arise,” says Sampaio. “Houses can be complex, and they will act differently each season. Get intimately familiar with how things work, such as: septic, HVAC, drainage
systems, and boilers. Assemble a reliable network team with contractors, cleaners, landscapers, and emergency call-out person, make sure they are going to show up when you call, and have a plan B in case they don't.” Consider hiring a hands on management company, a step that can maximize your property’s earnings while protecting its value by resolving problems before they reach nightmare size. “I strongly recommend homeowners find a good p
roperty manager with its own network of service providers if they are keen on keeping maintenance up to date,” says Sampaio. “Alternatively, you could hire a full-service Airbnb property management firm. Trusting our team with your keys means you can skip all the potential headaches and simply enjoy your weekends, plus the freedom to earn money when it works for you. Help fund your next vacation, your remodeling, and all of life’s extras!”
The amount of time you spend here, and your level of involvement, may vary as time passes. What should remain steady is the joy you feel pulling into your driveway.
Written by ANNE PYBURN CRAIG
MARCH 22, 2022