Getting Real (Estate)

REalEstate2We had a knock on the door last weekend; it was our new neighbors, crossing the street to introduce themselves. They bought that nice house down the street that had been on the market for about two years. It’s a weekend home for them; they live in Forest Hills, a section of Queens, which is a borough of New York for those lacking NYC scope. He used to have a weekend home in Hudson, NY, but this time wanted to be a little closer to the city. Says he loves Millbrook and Millerton, which are at 90 degree angles from Amenia; we being the fulcrum. “We chose Amenia because it’s more…” I believe “gritty” was the word he used.
Compared to Millbrook and its horse country, we are grittier. And Millerton overcame its gritty cycle about six to ten years ago, before we moved into Hilltop House. Back then you could still find real estate in Millerton with only its famed Movie House and the Oblong Book Store. Over time, much of that real estate has been gobbled (shades of Thanksgiving) up. Millerton had good bones, and it attracted the kind of people like our new neighbors who are buying up Amenia right now—those committed to a more laid back lifestyle, escapees from Gotham who wanted to farm, eat organic, raise chickens, pick up the pieces after 9/11 and well, you get the picture.
No, I’ve got the pictures! I shot these just a few days ago so you could see what Amenia looks like as you drive up from Brewster and points south. There are lovely rolling hills here in Dutchess County amid the maple groves, the llama farms, the dairies and the horse breeders that line Rte. 22 heading north. Many are drawn here as Metro North terminates here in Wassaic, just a village south.
Come to think of it, I’ve had many couples, young and older, lodge with us while scouting out the real estate up here. The older ones who’ve sold their house in the Hamptons and are looking for a weekend home; for the most part, younger couples looking for a weekend or full time home. They love Amenia. It’s a hidden gem they say.




Are Bed and Breakfasts Awkward?

AreBBsAwkwardListen, the word awkward is awkward. But do people wonder about the awkwardness of Bed and Breakfasts…

Is it like sleeping in your friend’s mother’s house now that the kids have moved out and the father ran off with the single parent neighbor down the street? Or is it like a room from your memory of an old college dorm where one of the students played Judy Collins all night as part of her nighttime ritual and you haven’t been able to get the sound of whales’ mating calls out of your head after all these years?

BNBs are enormously appealing if you like quirk or history; if you like the quality of place over a Quality Inn. I mean, what’s there to remember or write home about in a Quality Inn or any commercial overnight? Access to parking spaces = views of parking lots. Not too appealing. And speaking of awkward, what about the pool? Last few commercial overnights I was forced into, I passed on the pool. It was more than awkward, it was a likely health hazard.

Bed & Breakfasts grew up in Europe after WWII, and in America after the Bicentennial of 1976 when the country put some tax benefits into refurbishing historic buildings. The precursor to a B&B is the Guest House—which became popular during the 1930s depression era in the U.S.—places where those on their way somewhere else with enough money to buy a room stayed.

B&Bs are limited by the number of guest rooms—it varies by state—and beyond that limit, the establishment becomes an Inn and not a B&B. No one seems to have a quick tap as to how many B&Bs there are in America today, but one out-of-date estimate put it at 50,000 to 100,000. Nice close approximate, huh?

To try to cut through any awkwardness, let’s break this down: There’s the BED. Usually the bed reflects the décor of the BNB. Ours are countrified. And comfortable. No two beds in Hilltop House are the same. Most beds in B&Bs are different and lodgers will book a room first and foremost by the bed in it.

BREAKFAST? We don’t make you pour your own waffle batter—if you’re lucky to find that commercially. I’m into pleasing people on a daily basis, and that’s about the food part. Food is my variable and my passion. I see who comes in; how late they arrive. I inquire as to what the stay is about—and get a feel for what food they would like or if they have food allergies. The beds will make them comfortable enough to forget who’s in the next room, but the food—finessed and fit around seasonal offerings and “reading” the collective guests inspire my morning table. That’s my poker game. I don’t get my information from the nightshift supervisor. It’s more personal than that!

The “AND” part? The “AND” is about everything else—what do the windows face? Is there street noise? Does the bath have perfectly heater water? Is the place close to where I want to be at 7AM? Is there free wi-fi? AND you can get most anywhere; it’s the price of entry.

Put it all together… Bed & Breakfasts, B&Bs, BNBs, Bed and Breakfasts offer uniqueness. They provide an atmosphere where a guest can imagine living in an historic era other than the one they live in now: where food is homely and wholesome, maybe locally grown, where individuals who run these establishments are usually the owners who have chosen to open their doors and show you what hospitality was and is all about.

Awkward? Au contraire. People dream of opening B&Bs and I–for all the work it takes—live it. My door is open.