Dreams of Fields, Real Estate in the Catskills from NYT

High & Low | Northern Catskills Farmhouses

Dreams of Fields

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Published: May 9, 2008

FOR an urban second-home buyer, the allure of a farmhouse in the northern Catskills has much to do with the setting. There, rolling pastures are bordered by blue-green mountains that rise from the edges of patchwork farmland; languid cows graze in meadows bordered by stone walls; and stands of sugar maples line winding roads where silos and red barns are commonplace. There are log homes, chalets and manufactured homes, too, but in Delaware County, it is the indigenous farmhouse that defines the regional aesthetic.

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“Farmhouses have a special charm,” said Dorothy McArdle, broker and owner of Apple Tree Realty in Andes, N.Y. “For decades, second-home owners and artists have come and renovated them, but the greatest surge in this trend started in the 1990s.”

Today many farmhouses new to the market are fully restored.

“We get lots of calls from people who say they’ll take one even if it’s in serious disrepair, but so many of those have sold,” she said. “People are starting to look further north and west even though it will mean a longer trip from the city.”

Historical charm and pastoral views aside, farmhouse living isn’t for everyone. Most are over 100 years old with thin walls and little insulation. In Delaware County, where winters are long and cold, this means pipes could burst any time. Plus, indoors and out, even after renovation, these houses require constant maintenance.

Prices range from about $180,000 for an unrenovated farmhouse on two acres to about $1.3 million and up for a restored house on 70 acres or more. Ms. McArdle said most second-home buyers seek houses on 10 to 30 acres. In this category, the range is about $300,000 for a house that needs work to $800,000 for a renovated version.

Joe Massa, co-owner of the Roxbury, a motel in Roxbury, said guests he sees who are looking for real estate tend to fall into two main groups: 20-somethings, many of them artists and creative types, who are discovering the area for the first time, and urbanites in their 30s and 40s who remember the Catskills from their childhoods.

“Of course, they’re not all looking for farmhouses,” said Mr. Massa, who also sells real estate part time. “But the farmhouse remains a consistent draw. There’s just something about those houses that can’t be replicated. Efforts to create contemporary versions have failed —in appearance, certainly, but more importantly in how they feel.”

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