Earlier this year — after nearly two decades of owning a vacation home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania — interior and product designer Ghislaine Viñas was ready for a change. The Hamptons, of course, were an option, but “they’re a little too Upper East Side-y,” she says, referring to Manhattan’s oldest “old money” venue. And Bucks County – whose rural beauty so captivated Viñas – now felt almost too rural, she says, especially during the isolation that has accompanied the pandemic.
A growing number of his clients had homes in the Hudson Valley – the region rich in farms, culture and creativity two hours north of New York. Viñas began to spend more time in the area and was struck, she says, by the sense of community. So earlier this year, she put her Pennsylvania home on the market and closed off a 43-acre parcel in the tiny village of Tivoli with a 1920s Arts and Crafts bungalow for $950,000.
In addition to planning a major renovation, Viñas has now opened a design studio on the property to handle an increasingly heavy workload in the Hudson Valley. “Having a community that understands and thrives on contemporary design is really exciting,” says Viñas. “The amount of arts and culture here really makes you feel like you’re in New York’s backyard.”
Viñas is just one of many design insiders with a newfound affection for the Hudson Valley – an area best known for cities such as Kingston, Woodstock and, of course, Hudson. Less populated — and less expensive — than the Hamptons, the Hudson Valley’s popularity has surged since the pandemic began, sending real estate prices skyrocketing.
In the Hudson Valley, the city of Kingston in Ulster County has seen the fastest rising house prices in the United States twice in the past two and a half years: an increase of 18% in a single quarter in the summer of 2020; and, recording annual gains of 34% in July 2021, with sales volumes jumping 90% year-over-year.
Last year, 83 properties in Ulster County sold for more than $1 million – up from 17 in 2020. Today, the average home price in Ulster County is 461,000 $ – much higher than pre-pandemic levels, but a far cry from the Hamptons at $3.17 million, according to local realtors Corcoran Country Living.
But the boom seems to be running out of steam. With mortgage rates rising and workers returning to offices, demand in the Hudson Valley began to decline. In the first half of 2022, new contracts signed were down 20% year-over-year, according to real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller.
Most buyers come from New York, particularly Brooklyn, says Corcoran agent Jason Karadus. While international buyers are still scarce, he says, requests from Chinese investors have increased so much “that I just took on two Mandarin-speaking brokers.”
In recent years, a number of luxury projects have been built in the region to meet the needs of people coming from big cities. There’s the Silo Ridge Field Club, a golf and riding development with 245 homes that ranges in price from $2.3 million to $15 million. Popular with celebrities, it was created in 2017 by Mike Meldman, who co-founded Casamigos tequila with George Clooney and Rande Gerber.
There’s also NevelHaus, a 44-acre project in Stone Ridge with eight modern “farmhouse-style” homes starting at $1.59 million. And Hudson Woods, one of the area’s first turnkey developments, all of which have sold – some for over $3 million.
We will see more developments like this, says Karadus. “There’s a lot of inventory available here, but not much of it is modern,” he says. “Some people want the country lifestyle, but want it to look like a Tribeca loft.”
That wasn’t the case for Amy Ilias, a lifelong New Yorker who bought a 19th-century Italian Revival three-bedroom home in the town of Hudson in 2017. She and her husband moved there. moved full time just before the pandemic. “The house needed a lot of work,” says Ilias, the former executive vice president of art and design at ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan. She spent three years meticulously restoring and transforming the property, which she named The Lavender Ghost.
Ilias and her husband personally tackled nearly all of the renovations, leading to a “totally unexpected” second career in residential interior design. She says she had “no idea if we would meet anyone here” and chose a bigger house to ensure room to visit family and friends. Now embedded personally and professionally in the region, she says she feels “a sense of belonging that I had not felt in the city for a very long time”.
A similar sense of belonging was felt by Bradford Shellhammer, a former eBay executive, who bought a 13-acre estate in the nearby hamlet of Stuyvesant for just over $1 million in September 2020. The property , whom he nicknamed Rode Barnsis anchored around an original 1840s farmhouse with eight additional structures – all restored by Shellhammer to create a family-friendly party space.
Rode Barns is the third home Shellhammer has owned in the area, a place he says has never felt more relevant. “It’s not a scene like the Hamptons or Fire Island,” he says. “It’s quiet, romantic, with […] beautiful fall foliage creating a spectrum of colors in all directions.
What you can buy. . .
19th century house, Kingston, $849,000
A three bedroom house dating back to 1810 with 3,128 square feet of living space. The sale includes a separate two-bedroom cottage. Available with Compass.
Contemporary residence, NevelHaus, stone crest, $1.595 million
A turnkey contemporary three-bedroom barn-style NevelHaus residence with 2,285 square feet of living space. Available with corcoran.
Log cabin, East Durham, $2.175 million
A custom built three bedroom, two bathroom log home on 20 acres in the town of East Durham, north of Woodstock. Available through corcoran.
An increase in the number of buyers buying homes for rent on sites such as Airbnb has led to new efforts to limit short-term rentals in several Hudson Valley towns, such as Newburgh, Kingston, New Paltz and Poughkeepsie.
The Hudson Valley price spike has also affected farmland, with prices in Columbia County rising 62% in the two years to January 2022 – much of the increase has been attributed to lockdown-weary city dwellers looking for a rural escape.