Hudson Valley draws NYC transplants

Buoyed by new (and hip) residents, area sees an increase in sales activity

The Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley

For all the ink spilled over the ever-higher prices commanded by the residential real estate market in New York City, less attention has been paid to another segment of the population: those who have left in search of lower rent and more living space. Enter the Hudson Valley, the area north of Westchester along the Hudson River.

As The Real Deal and others have reported, the once-depressed Hudson Valley — which includes Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties — has become an increasingly popular choice for young professionals opting out of the pricey real estate markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“I was born in New York and I love it, but it’s not the city I knew — it’s hard to do things there unless you are rich,” said Robin Horowitz, an agent with Halstead Property’s Hudson Valley office, who herself moved up to Ghent from the city nine years ago. “And how can you say no to three acres of land on a little stream for $500,000, instead of a studio apartment?”

New York City expats have sought refuge in the Hudson Valley for the past five or six years, earning the area the nickname “Williamsburg on the Hudson.” But the last two years have seen increasing interest, brokers said, perhaps due to the arrival new local arts events like the Basilica and O+ festivals. Young families are also heading to the area in search of good school districts, according to Gary DiMauro, head of his eponymous brokerage with offices in Hudson, Catskill and Tivoli.

This influx of young people and families has helped transform these quaint towns, which have struggled since businesses like IBM fled in the 1990s, into oases of modern bohemian living, complete with artisanal food and hip, local businesses.

So what does that mean for the real estate market? Sales activity in the Hudson Valley is up slightly from last year, brokers said: Closed sales year-to-date are up 4.3 percent in Dutchess County from the same period of 2011, according to Adele George, principal broker at Rhinebeck-based Northern Dutchess Realty.

“There is a general upswing in the market, and the young people are responsible for it,” said Joan Lonergan, owner of Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty, which has five Hudson Valley offices.

DiMauro said a number of buyers from the city have been working with local architects to build ultramodern houses throughout the region, often spending upwards of $1 million.

Still, the area lacks new housing stock, as well as local jobs.

“We don’t have the incredible job depth you find elsewhere,” said Lonergan, adding that the notable exception is New Paltz, site of one location of the State University of New York.

Despite the uptick in activity, market indicators in the Hudson Valley are mixed, with prices rising in some towns but not in others.

George noted that average sales prices in Dutchess County are down 13 percent year over year. She attributed that to the fact that the lower end of the market — homes priced under $350,000 — is where activity has picked up, as the Hudson Valley attracts more young, first-time home buyers than in the past.

“There is not a whole lot moving over $2 million,” DiMauro said.

Halstead said last year its sales volume for homes priced over $200,000 in the Hudson Valley plummeted from where it was five years ago. But in the sub-$200,000 range, sales are up from 2007.

This month, The Real Deal talked to local brokers about the real estate markets and the local flavor of the Hudson Valley’s most rapidly changing communities.


Downtown Hudson, which has seen a revival in recent years

“Sometimes people joke that walking through Hudson, you could easily think you are walking down the street in Park Slope,” said Halstead broker Chris Pomeroy, who is currently listing a three-bedroom Dutch colonial revival home outside Hudson for $395,000.

Hudson has an Amtrak station in town and has seen an increasing number of people making the two-hour daily train commute to New York City, said Angela Lanuto, an agent with Coldwell Banker who moved to nearby Catskill from Jersey City.

Others have started businesses in Hudson, Horowitz said, citing friends who sold a Soho loft in order to launch an interior design firm in the town.

As a result, Hudson’s small-but-vibrant downtown has seen a revival in recent years, brokers said, with new restaurants like Crimson Sparrow, opened in a restored colonial building by two chefs from the avant-garde Manhattan eatery WD-50.

“You had tons of vacancies on Main Street two years ago,” said Horowitz, “and now there are none.”

The cultural amenities in Hudson have multiplied in recent years as well. Performance artist Marina Abramovic announced in May that she would bring her Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art to the town, housed in a new building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas. August also brought the second-annual Basilica Music Festival, which is sponsored by the popular music blog, to Hudson.

The housing stock in and around Hudson is mostly single-family homes, often built in the colonial style, but there are also brick townhouses for sale. DiMauro is asking $695,000 for 8 Willard Place, a seven-bedroom colonial revival just blocks from the train station, while Horowitz is listing a three-story brick townhouse for $439,000 at 256 Warren Street.

In the last year, 46 homes have sold for an average of about $200,000, according to data from the Columbia County & Dutchess County Multiple Listing Service.


Dia:Beacon, one of the world’s largest art galleries, which opened in 2003

Since the 2003 opening of Dia:Beacon — at 240,000 square feet, one of the nation’s largest art galleries — artsy types have flocked to this town of about 16,000 people.

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“It was looking pretty bad there before Dia went in,” said George, “though there is some gentrification going on now.”

The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a boutique hotel with restaurants offering “quasi-street food” from all over the world, opened this July. And because Metro-North trains stop right in Beacon, the town attracts young people who commute to Manhattan daily.

Sales volume is up and approaching pre-recession levels, according to Trulia. And the city had an average sales price of about $243,000 last year, up from the previous year’s average of about $204,000, figures from the Mid-Hudson Multiple Listing Service show.

The housing stock in Beacon is quite varied, with Victorian homes and brick town homes as well as more modern single-family homes and condos. The relatively urban downtown in Beacon appeals to young people, brokers said.


Made famous by the music festival of the same name, Woodstock still has a 1960s vibe and a large creative community, brokers said. Ironically, those factors, combined with Woodstock’s natural beauty, have made the town consistently the highest-priced market in the Hudson Valley, brokers said.

The average sales price of properties sold in Woodstock within the last 12 months was $387,542, according to the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service, up from $355,197 in the same period of the prior year. Sales activity rose, with 97 properties selling in the last year, up from 85 the year previous.

Woodstock has a variety of housing stock, from farmhouses and colonial homes to new ultramodern homes, “at every price point from $150,000 to $1 million,” Lanuto said. Transit in Woodstock is limited — Greyhound is the only direct way to the city — so the area is populated less by commuters than by freelancers and people starting local businesses, brokers said. Lanuto said many buyers are also purchasing second homes in Woodstock.



Saugerties feels similar to nearby hippie haven and tourist mainstay Woodstock. But due to its relative affordability, the demographics of Saugerties are “even younger” than those of its neighbors, Horowitz said.

Saugerties has some recently opened boutique restaurants, like Diamond Mills Tavern, run by Italian chef Giuseppe Napoli, who made his name in Manhattan before moving upstate. The restaurant is attached to Saugerties’ first luxury hotel, which opened this January. In March, the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory, which is in a repurposed 1914 factory, had an opening gala that featured dancing, drama and opera.

Saugerties remains “very affordable,” according to Lonergan, but that may be changing: The average sales price in Saugerties is up to roughly $242,000, according to the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service, a steep increase from last year’s average of $191,000.

The town is also close to Catskills ski areas, such as Hunter and Windham mountains, brokers noted. “It’s a hidden jewel that is really finally getting its day,” Lonergan said.



Kingston was once a center of cement production, but in recent years has suffered from its lack of train service to surrounding large cities. It’s generally considered too difficult to commute daily from Kingston to New York City, brokers said.

Recently, however, it’s begun attracting artists, due in part to its affordability. The local government is also amenable to artists’ housing needs, Lonergan said, recently implementing zoning variances to let landlords rent empty retail spaces as residential. In 2007, Kingston was voted one of Business Week’s “Best 10 Places for Artists.”

Kingston’s Stockade District features a number of historic stone buildings, and much of the rest of the town retains a 19th-century Victorian feel, although many of the homes were modified in the 1970s.

“It’s a good place for small-city living,” Lonergan said.

Still, she described the town as somewhat “gritty,” noting that the town’s new residents are “not the artists who have ‘made it.’”

The feel of the town is exemplified in the O+ Festival — a local art show that will have its third-annual run this month — during which artists can trade their work for health insurance.

The average sales price for the 98 properties sold in Kingston over the last year was about $148,000, according to figures from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service. That’s down from the prior 12 months, when 121 properties sold at an average of roughly $171,000.


The village of Chatham

About 13 miles northeast of Hudson, the village of Chatham reportedly only has one traffic light, but much more to offer in terms of quaintness and cultural amenities.

Live off-Broadway productions at nearby Ghent Playhouse and the Mac-Haydn Theatre run during the summer, and the local restaurant scene has expanded in recent years. Our Daily Bread, a beloved local bakery, has begun serving gluten-free baked goods, and an annual “farm-to-table pairing,” as local blog Rural Intelligence calls it, brings together the many small farmers and regional chefs to test the local wares.

Modern and colonial-style homes, many set far back from the road, are for sale in Chatham, which have a median sales price of $155,000, according to listings website Trulia. The town is not readily accessible by public transit; Hudson is the nearest Amtrak station. As a result, Chatham is less trendy and more likely to attract families, offering a more rural experience than some other towns in the Hudson Valley.

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