The story, journey and learnings behind becoming weekender, first-timer cabin renovators.
Chapter 1 — There’s more to NY than NYC
I had this goal: I need to buy an apartment, a house (something!) when I reached 10 yrs of living in New York City. A month shy of that decade mark, I happened to be on my first west-of-the-Hudson-river AirBnB adventure with my then boyfriend (now husband) and our grumpy dog, Rufus. No offense, but Hudson, Beacon and all the beautiful towns along the Amtrak line did not mesmerize me as much as the Catskills did that week-long autumn-color-filled November in Woodstock. It wasn’t until that 2015 Thanksgiving getaway that I realized how easy it was to escape the cement city and find refuge in almost any direction you leave it! The getaway experience was on demand for the transient folk of NYC and I wanted a piece of it. I didn’t know a thing about flipping, renting, upkeep — the whole package—so I started by hitting up my past AirBnB hosts to see if there would be open to share tips and tricks.
Truth: It never hurts to ask. The owners behind the 5 cabins on this beautiful Woodstock property were in love with the town’s beauty, so much that they wanted to create an enchanted escape for others (they describe it as “a touch of Big Sur in the Hudson Valley”). The more I researched the Catskills and nudged other AirBnB hosts, I realized I was already sipping on the Catskills-investment-koolaid. We sat on this concept of maaaayyybe investing in a place upstate to flip it and rent it out—until 8 months later (after also having purchased a car) we revisited the idea. So what does one with a project management background do from here? Make an Excel sheet of course:
I never got it to a completed state but I’ll catch you up: I settled on Delaware county because it was truly the best for an all-season getaway house, had enough big towns for easy access to essentials and was far enough from the city (2.5 hrs) so that it’s not full of cityites (yep, that’s what locals upstate call us).
Chapter 2 — We are definitely buying a house but haven’t convinced ourselves it’s actually happening.
Research completed! Now on to visit properties! But wait, we had zero answers for what every real estate agent would ask us “Let me know your criteria for a property: area / acreage / sq. ft / features / budget etc — and I’ll be happy to send you available options”. So what do 2 creatives in tech do from here? Pick a few listings that best sum up our vision, shoot them over and see what happens! 4 consecutive weekend visits later, we had clear criteria list and an immense set of learnings from our stellar real estate agent. Alex is ex-NYCer himself, half Greek (remind me to tell you a good story about our connection here) living in his dream home (which he designed btw) and loving life in the Catskills. We felt at home with Alex (no pun intended) and were not afraid to be vulnerable with him, about not knowing a darn thing we were getting ourselves into. On our last visit, he snuck listing #106782 in our second to last stop. Having thoroughly studied the listing in advance (yep, picture highlighter and pen doodles on print out), I remember saying to Alex as we stepped out of his truck in the muddy driveway: “This is the one. I know it and don’t even need to step out of the truck to convince you”. Alex basically told me to simmer down and come on out. (But oh, was my gut right!)
Chapter 3 — Ok, we bought a gem and began to flip it. But there is a twist!
The 8 month journey from closing on the house, to completing renovations, we learned a lot and decisions evolved alongside the process. I promise to share additional chapters of the journey with all the detail, tips and tricks (to maybe convince you to follow our footsteps) but until then — the unexpected twist to this story was that we fell in love with the process of gutting a home to its guts, rebuilding it and redesigning it to call it our own. Our own labor of love (+blood, sweat, tears) that we selfishly were not ready to share with others. We were eager to plug into the AirBnB model and capitalize on our investment but caught ourselves in our tracks — we realized that having your own little slice of nature and a home to simply relax in, was truly amazing.
Almost 2 years later, with timeline, budget, material and technique learnings under our belt, we are ready to revisit our original plan: create an enchanted escape for others to enjoy as much as we do.
Stay tuned for the full story behind our Margaretville, NY cabin reno and our new journey on doing this all over again. (Catch the next chapter here)
Sneak peek into the full cabin reno: https://www.instagram.com/margaretvillecabin/
Real estate agent: Alexander Exarchos from http://www.catskilldreamteam.com/