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I’M MORE BULLISH THAN EVER on Kensington, the Philadelphia neighborhood north of Center City where I bought a small row house for investment in 2007. Eight years ago, the area was full of crumbling, sagging buildings. Now it’s being spiffed up and built up everywhere, with new low-rise residential construction in formerly vacant lots, and the conversion of the area’s many disused textile mills and factories into rentals and condos.

In Philly this week, I wanted to see the area around Norris Square, above, a leafy park I remembered as sketchy several years ago, when small row houses near the park were going for well under 100K. They’re a bit more now (though still under 150K), but the area felt cleaned up and more friendly on a walking tour of the neighborhood with my son Max and his dog Roma.

We ambled up Hancock Street and down Front, under the elevated train, where industrial buildings are being renovated left and right for commercial and residential use. Here, in approximately this order, is what we saw.


The carriage houses that carry tourists around Center City are stabled on Hancock. In the background, one of the many brick factory buildings that have been converted for residential use.


This former feather company building is being developed after a community battle to save it from demolition.


Admiring the newly painted signage on a Hancock Street building, we were invited in for a look. Federal Distilling is a vodka distillery, soon to open with a bar selling house-made products.


The area’s row-house architecture is very similar to that of nearby Fishtown.


Right around Norris Square, the houses are larger and more detailed. Must have been elegant in their day.

IMG_0016Circling around to Front Street, where a milk-bottle-shaped water tower sits atop an old dairy building.


Something afoot here on Front in what looks like an old bank building.


Oxford Mills is a mammoth rental building completed a couple of years ago in the shell of a former textile family. Public school teachers get a break on rent.


On this block of Jefferson Street, a typical mix: some old row houses, a couple of modern interventions, and a former casket factory developed as apartments.


The side of my property is visible, covered with ivy, in the photo above. The new construction across the street was a vacant lot two years ago. The grassy field has been sold to developers and will become 17 new townhouses. The brick building behind mine is one of the neighborhood’s earliest loft conversions.


Lunch was here, in the shadow of the El, at the Good Spoon Soupery (they have salads and sandwiches, too) on the corner of Front and Master — a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

To see my previous reports about the area, go here and here.


A REMINDER OF THE VAST SPACES and great bargains still available in bucolic Delaware County, this mid-19th century farmhouse, currently owned by an artist and writer, was once the centerpiece of a farm called “The Overlook,” and it does indeed sit on a hill above the hamlet of Meridale, N.Y. The 6-bedroom, 2-bath house is just one of a complex of buildings, including a massive barn and a charming old storefront, not to mention nearly 30 acres of pastureland. Taxes not bad either — under $5,000/year.

I can’t say it better than Lynne Resch of Two Stones Realty, who has the listing right here, where you’ll also find more photos to dream on. See below for Lynne’s words:

Not unlike the nearby Hanford Mills Museum, this charming homestead is “intact”. This is how folks lived in the 19th century. A complex of buildings servicing their needs in a cozy, contained environment. Very much, if not exactly as it was when it was the engine of “The Overlook” Farm. And the property does indeed ‘overlook’ the charming hamlet of Meridale.
Full disclosure… I am in love with the store… having passed it, and its enormous turn-of-the-century crock on the porch, hundreds of times on the way to Oneonta.
The immediate live/work complex with big red barn would be satisfying enough. But the nearly 30 acres includes pastures and long-range views that put this offering at the top of the list. Spectacular views and open meadows hosted the owner’s own wedding and could provide the ideal for weddings to come.
The location is perfect for work or play… for a Catskills entrepreneur to a NYC expat/escapee. Keep an eye on the store while rocking on the porch, toiling in the studio, negotiating that wedding party, or tending the flock and herd in the barns. The options satisfy a wide range of interests. Literally midway between two college towns… Delhi (15 mins) and Oneonta (15 mins) you will want for nothing. Mere walking distance to Greenane Farms’ bounty, their amazing CSA, The Dutch Deli for that quart of milk and the charming hamlet of Meridale’s Post Office.
Area attractions nearby include The Hanford Museum, The West Kortright Centre, Stone & Thistle with Fable Dining, Harmony Hill, and the entire Western Catskills. 3 hours from NYC, easy access to Delhi and Oneonta, area attractions from The Hudson Valley to the Glimmerglass Opera, Fenimore Art Museum, and not-to-be-missed Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, make “Wedding Hill” a base for any dream.
And yes, a Trailways bus stop, cell phone service, high-speed internet!… pinch me!
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THIS IS THE GENUINE ARTICLE for old-house fanatics — a true Colonial from the 1720s, when Connecticut was an actual colony. It looks to my eye like Dutch-style architecture, with that gambrel roof shape.

4129862_44129862_6It’s on six-tenths of an acre in a National Register Historic District, in Rocky Hill, central Connecticut, with a bit of a river view. At 1,600 square feet plus basement and porch, with three bedrooms and two baths, it’s neither tiny nor overscaled. Just right.

I was alerted to the listing by an email from the National Trust for Historic Preservation site. Their listing says — and to judge by the photos, there’s no reason to doubt it — that the house has original flooring, paneling, plaster, doors, and fireplaces. It all looks startlingly original, like a historic house museum. It also looks like someone took renovations to a certain point, then gave up.


An exterior paint job (love the green) is evidently part of the completed work, along with other major items, including upgraded electrical, structural fixes, new heat, plumbing, an upstairs bathroom, and attic insulation. The work left to do perhaps explains what seems like an awfully low asking price.


The Coldwell Banker listing has 35 photos online.

Anyone besides me think this looks like a great project (for someone else)?

2703301STEPS — NO, REALLY — STEPS TO BEACH. Lots of real estate listings say it. In this case, it’s true. This is the third house in from the water at Maidstone Beach, East Hampton, below, a long sandy crescent on Gardiner’s Bay that I never get tired of touting as the Hamptons’ best-kept secret (actually there are a couple of other equally well-kept secrets, but it’s one of the top three).


The house (at left in photo at top) is a shingled cottage from the 1950s, probably, with a glassed-in front room that probably used to be an open porch, and a garage out back. Two bedrooms, two baths, a working fireplace, and a whole lot of clutter, which I hope you can see through.


2703301_10 2703301_4

It’s been on the market for about two months, which surprises me. I should have thought it would be gone by now.

You can see the listing, with more photos, here. 



THE MONTH OF MAY hasn’t been so much merry as schizy (though there have been some undeniably merry moments). I spent the first two weeks of the month saying goodbye to my former home, a vintage cottage in East Hampton, N.Y., enjoying its deck and outdoor shower every chance I got. I gazed into the woods, wondering how I was going to survive without that particular view.

I had one last yard sale, then moved my remaining “staged for sale” furnishings from the cottage to the other house I bought last year — a mid-20th century L-shaped bungalow, below — a quarter-mile away. A few days later, I sold that beloved first cottage, five years and a day after buying it in 2009, and six months after putting it on the market.

It was the first time I ever sold a property (I still own a few; see my About page). Did it feel momentous? Nah. I had experienced all my emotion in anticipation, it turned out. Closings are non-events, I’ve realized. No ceremony, no festivity — just attorneys and a title company rep passing papers back and forth to be signed. No one says congratulations; you’re lucky if get hello and goodbye. Afterwards, I ran to the bank, and then — except for sharing a bottle of champagne with a friend — pretty much forgot about the whole thing. It’s out of my hands now. If the garden on which I worked so hard and long reverts to nature — well, so be it.

Below, views of my “new” house and landscape, as it looked earlier this month:







Now I’m all of a piece — all my things in one house, responsible for only one garden and one Town of East Hampton tax bill. Most significantly, my focus and attention is now in one place. I’ve furnished the rooms comfortably, and I’m doing the best I can to control the indoor climate in my unheated, un-cooled house, alternating space heater and fan as weather demands.



I made a conscious decision to make no decisions for a while — to call no contractors, no deck guys, no guys at all. There are big jobs ahead: replacing the deteriorating deck and installing windows in a long hallway where now there are boarded-up holes, to name two major priorities. But I’m not ready to move on anything quite yet.


Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying my new borrowed view, of dogwoods in the neighboring yard, above, and the rhododendrons have come out, spectacularly, to greet me.





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