Hamptons Real Estate or Catskills Real Estate?
Years ago the Catskills just weren't considered to be as cool and as hip as they are today. A decade ago we didn't have any clients who were weighing the options of a weekend home in the Catskills vs the Hamptons. Now we have clients who are actually choosing to sell their home in the Hamptons and come live the country life with us in Upstate NY. We have more and more of these clients every year!
I'm lucky. I've spent the last 15 years splitting my summers between the Catskills and the Hamptons. I actually feel equally attached to both of the major NYC second home spots. So, I feel pretty qualified to make a fair assessment of the pros and cons of both places.
We'll start with the deal breakers, then get down to the nitty gritty.
Well, the Hamptons are more expensive. I'm sure you know that already. Duh, right? But, I tried to find you a really good comparison just so that you can have a clear understanding of the difference in value. Here's one of our listings. It's in Hurley which is right between Kingston and Woodstock - two of the hottest areas in the Catskill marketplace. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 4 acres, outbuilding and a pool. It's also ridiculously beautiful. Filled with amazing original details, several fireplaces, a huge kitchen and a grand staircase. It's exactly what you imagine a country home should be. It's move-in ready too. (click the pic for details)
Here's a similar listing in Southhampton. It's a lovely house on two acres. 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, a fireplace and a nice pool with a pool house that has a shower. There's also a tennis court. You can bike into the village of Southhampton for movies, dining, shopping and cocktails (if you want to be sweaty when you get in there!) and to the beach so you can forgo waiting in the beach parking lot line - especially if you get a cooler that hooks on your bike! The house is not as grand as our Catskills option. It's more suburban looking, but nice and completely move-in ready. These listings are similar enough that I feel like it's fair to make a price comparison. (listing courtesy of Nest Seekers via Realtor.com, click the pic for all the details).
While there are some lower priced properties in the Hamptons, you should plan to spend a million dollars for something in a decent location that hasn't spent the last 20 years being a share house. Yikes! If that's out of your price range, your decision is made, give us a call!
Mountains vs Beach
Which picture makes your heart sing? If the other one does absolutely nothing for you, then your decision is made! If you'd rather sleep in a tent on the beach than have a great cottage in the Catskills, we're not going to try convince you that you have to buy here. You should have what you want!
Now for the nitty gritty. Imagine price is no issue. Imagine that you don't have a preference between beach and mountains, salt water and maple trees. Now we can get down to it!
When thinking about your friday evening trek the first thing to consider is where you are buying in either of these places. If you live in NYC and you're going to buy in the Hamptons, there's a huge difference in how long it will take you to get to Southhampton every weekend, and how long it will to take to get to Montauk. My family had a house in Montauk and now rents in Southhampton. On a Friday night it took us at least 2 more hours to get to Montauk than it takes to get Southampton. Same deal in the Catskills. If you're going to Woodstock or the Accord area it's going to take less time than getting to Windham. Here's the deal though. In the Hamptons, unless you're super savvy about backroads and have charted a path to your home that includes no left turns, you're going to be spending some serious time on route 27 and some serious time on the LIE. When it comes to getting Upstate you're going to deal with a lot less traffic. The Thruway and Taconic can handle a lot of volume. Maybe it won't always be this way, particularly if people keep abandoning for the Hamptons for the Catskills. But for now the weekly trek to the Catskills probably won't cause you road rage.
Let me say up front that I hate a "scene". I don't want to feel obligated to dress a certain way or ever wear uncomfortable shoes. I prefer a small house party and a board game tournament to champagne and a cocktail dress. I despise bar hopping. But I have great friends who love a scene. They're great people. I don't think it's weird that they love a scene, I'll even stomach the scene just to hang out with them. This is where there is a real solid difference between the Hamptons and the Catskills. In the Hamptons during the summer season you can find a scene any day of the week. In fact, your friends will expect you to show up at one, or a series of scenes every weekend.
The "scene" in the Catskills is much less extreme. Dinner parties, dinners out, movie nights, arts events, and political and arts discussions on your friends couch are what you can expect. If you like your weekend to include bottle service at a club the Catskills are NOT for you! (photo on left via Hamptons Magazine)
Both the Hamptons and the Catskills have great farmers' markets and farm stands. If you're making your own food and you want fresh local produce, you are good to go in either region. The Hamptons have a very serious advantage when it comes to fish markets. The Catskills have the advantage when it comes to grass-fed and organic meat vendors, especially if you want to buy in bulk directly from a farmer and stock your deep freeze.
As for the restaurants - here's where I'm going to say something really controversial. The restaurants in the Catskills are better. I know several restaurateurs in the Catskills. There is a spirit of creativity, an attention to detail, a striving for freshness, and, most importantly an unsnobbish desire to please and surprise everyone who walks through their doors.That's not the vibe (or the food) that you get at the restaurants in the Hamptons. In my experience the folks in the Catskills aren't such a hard drinking crowd as the folks in the Hamptons. Catskills chefs don't have the easy cover that knowing your guests have had 3 martinis at the bar before they're seated provides. They have to bring it. Every time. And by and large they do! (photo via The Phoenicia Diner's Instagram)
To me the shopping is a flat out tie. Of course both areas have shops that have price points commensurate with the housing prices, so take that into consideration. But, they both have great shops. Particularly if you, like me, are a home design junky. You can spend hours upon hours searching out that perfect piece in Hudson or Saugerties and you can do the same in Southhampton or Sag Harbor.
Here again, the Catskills win out for me. Yes, I know, the Hamptons have plenty of arts events. This is true. However the Catskills is one big community of artists. That's different. On any given night -year round you can barely throw a stone in the Catskills without hitting a couple of really high quality arts event. It will be easy to get tickets. It will be affordable. Heck! It might even be free! It's very likely your friends will be there (they're there because they're friends with the artist! And so are you). Not to pull out a Woodstock cliche, but, arts events in the Catskills won't be a scene, they'll probably be more of a love-fest. For example once a year the town of Phoenicia which has a population of just over 300 people hosts a huge festival, The Phoenicia Festival of the Voice. World renowned classical singers join stellar local talent for a 5 day long lallapalooza of beautiful singing that thousands and thousands of people attend! This event is put together and supported by artists who live in Phoenicia. That's pretty amazing for a town of 300. That same weekend you could have seen "Singin In the Rain" in Rhinebeck, music at Maverick Concerts in Woodstock, music at the Falcon in Marlboro, Shakespeare in Woodstock, gone to a Swing Dance Brunch! You get the picture. The Catskills provide lots of choices, no traffic.
For The Kids
Both the Hamptons and the Catskills have great camps where you can drop your kids for the day and they can be outdoors getting exercise. There are more of them in the Catskills because of the size of the area and the availability of camp-appropriate land. Here's my guide to some great arts camps in the area.
With kids we're met again with that all important question of beach or woods? Kids have a great time at the beach. They love it. I love taking my daughter to the beach because she is entertained and happy while I sit, read a book, don't work for a change, and keep an eye on her for safety. Kids also love the woods. Here's the issue. If you want your kids to really love the woods there are a couple things you need to be willing to do. First make sure they have enough playmates. If you've only got one or two kids they'll need some extra friends to truly enjoy the woods. The bigger the group of kids, the easier it is to build a fort - or even two rival forts that pelt one another with acorns! YES!!! You also have to be willing to let go a little, be ok with acorn pelting. Kids have the best time in the woods if they're allowed to follow a little stream by themselves. If you have a hard time giving them that much freedom there's a chance they might end up inside the house, avoiding the bugs (the risk vs. reward just isn't there if they don't have enough freedom) and playing video games. If that's how it's going to be, choose the Hamptons or, you know, just send them to sleep away camp.
In the Catskills, anything goes. Particularly if you are somehow expressing your personality through your clothing or wearing one of your artworks. I know people who find this a little annoying or weird. If showing up at a cocktail party wearing a great dress and finding your fellow guests in sweaty shorts they just hiked in and a weird hat puts you out - the Catskills may not be for you. If you don't want to be dressed in designer clothes, heeled sandals, a great pedicure and something with diamonds when you go out to buy toothpaste, the Hamptons may not be for you.
The Hamptons: swimming, boating, paddle board, cycling, golf, fitness as usual (your daily run, just in a nice spot), or reserving a spot at the gym/yoga studio and fiercely defending it when you get there.
The Catskills: swimming, boating, hiking, fewer gyms but no fight, fishing, hunting (not really fitness, but I feel I should mention it), yoga, yoga, yoga, pilates, skiing, skating, roller blading, rock climbing, hang gliding.
My husband and I used to love to leave the city in February and head out to Montauk. Why? Total peace and quiet and the singular experience of visiting a place we recognize as vibrant and packed with people, that has been transformed into a chilly ghost town. It's sort of romantic. We'd shop for groceries before we headed out there. Over the past decade winter social life and business has slowly gained a small foothold in the Hamptons. But it's still a completely different place than it is in the summer. You might enjoy that - we do.
The Catskills on the other hand, is a year-round community. Businesses are open, events are happening, and people are here every day of the year.
Amy Wallace - Marketing