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The Chapin Estate

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Less than 2 hours from Manhattan, in the heart of Sullivan County, lies some of the most spectacular and untouched real estate in the region – the Chapin Estate. The Chapin Estate is pretty incredible, a 2,500 acre estate with lakefront on two of the largest lakes in the area, Toronto and Swinging Bridge. It has the feel of the pristine Adirondack lakes, but is 4 hours closer to the city.

Development has been quite limited. The first phases (The Peninsula, Top Ridge, Misty Acres and Swinging Bridge) had 195 parcels, with a minimum 5 acre lot size. A new phase, the Preserve at Chapin is being developed with 188 non-lakefront parcels on 1,518 acres. There are extensive covenants to maintain the natural environment as well as protected eagle nesting areas and preserves for wildlife.The developers have exercised tremendous restraint, and could have probably made a lot more money with higher density or more extensive development. But from the beginning, they have taken their responsibility as stewards of the land very seriously, and the result is an unparalleled natural setting. One of the most telling things about Chapin is that both of the principals in the development, Howard Schoor and Steve Dubrovsky, have built houses here for themselves..

Chapin is in the exclusive league of world class developments, like 3 Creek Ranch in Wyoming, the Ford Plantation in Georgia, Hammock Dunes in Florida or Corde Valley in California. Yes, Chapin is pricey, but in that class of real estate, it is surprisingly affordable. 5+ acre lakefront lots run from about $400,000 to $1.2 million. On some of the Adirondack lakes, a tear down on a nice lakefront parcel can easily run upwards of $1 million. Chapin also has 5+ acre non-lakefront parcels, with access to all of Chapin’s amenities, starting around $150,000. There are no townhomes or condominiums, only single family homes.

The Chapin Estate is large and quite varied. There are lakefront lots on both Toronto Reservoir and Swinging Bridge Reservoir, along with a variety of non-lakefront options, from open meadow property to creekfront parcels to very private wooded sites. All of the lakefront lots available from the developer on Toronto (with the exception of 2 larger 8 to 9 acre parcels priced at $1M+) have sold, but a handfull of resales from current owners are available. Both developer and resale lakefront lots are available on Swinging Bridge. In general, Toronto is more expensive than Swinging Bridge, but a resale lot on a cove on Toronto might well be priced less than a ‘straight on’ lakefront lot on Swinging Bridge.

Chapin does not have any spec homes for sale, as all construction is custom. They do have their own builder but unlike in some developments, you aren’t required to use the on-site builder; you can bring in your own. However, there is an architectural review process to ensure that homes blend into the natural environment. For example, only natural exterior materials are permitted — no brick, stucco or vinyl siding is allowed. If your dream is a very modern, Hamptons-style glass and steel house at the lake, it just wouldn’t pass muster. Using Chapin’s builder, you can expect construction costs starting at about $250 per square foot. An elaborately detailed home, with wood carvings, hand painted tile work, and dramatic custom features can run to more than $400 a square foot. One of the great features about Chapin is that you can build two structures on your property, a main house and a guest house. So if your budget is somewhat limited now, you might choose to start out with a smaller house now which will become your guest house when you build your main house later.

There is no golf course planned for the property, but there are a number of excellent courses within a 15 or 20 minute drive. Chapin has a private Lake Club on Swinging Bridge. The first phase is open with an outdoor pool, lakeside pavillion that serves brunch on weekends, boat docking facilities for non-lakefront homeowners, a swimming beach and a large deck on the lake where yoga and Pilates. Tennis courts are planned. And while the use of snowmobiles and ATV’s is discouraged on the Chapin property, there is access to neighboring state land.

Like all great things, there are a couple of downsides. Property taxes at Chapin can be very high. The house pictured at left, a 4 bedroom, 3,600 sq. ft. lakefront home on Swinging Bridge, has an annual tax bill of about $28,000 Even a modest 2,500 sq. ft. non-lakefront home at Chapin can get hit with property taxes around $20,000. How you view this depends greatly on where you’re coming from. New Jersey and Long Island homeowners aren’t particularly surprised, because they come from areas with notoriously high propert taxes. But Floridians who have homestead exemptions on their primary homes, and homeowners in New York City (where residential property taxes are surprisingly low relative to value) are often shocked.

Another factor, which isn’t really a downside as much as a consideration, is that there is a requirement when purchasing a lot from the developer that you start construction within 5 years. There is an option to get a couple of years’ extension for a fee, but given this build time requirement, buying and holding for investment really isn’t a great option here. From the beginning, Chapin has been focussed on building a community and discouraging speculation in property here.

Resale Property. The Chapin Estate is now 7 years old, and we’re starting to see some resale properties come on the market. Over the past year there have been 3 lakefront houses on the market, ranging in price from $1.99M to $3.15M. As of January, 2009, there were two lakefront houses on the market in the upper $2M range, with a third possibly coming to market soon in the low $2M range. There are also 3 or 4 non-lakefront houses, ranging in price from $699K to $2.3M. Lakefront resale lots range in price from about $400,000 to $1M.

The Next Steps

If you think Chapin is something you’d be interested in, I’d be happy to get you more information as well as arrange an appointment to show it to you – and most importantly, help you decide if its right for you. Please give me a call at 845-468-5710 or drop me an email at davidk@beechwoods.net. Note that there is no price difference whether you work with Chapin directly or with an independent broker. There are also some resale lots and houses listed with brokers outside of Chapin that I can arrange to show you, as well.

Please note that if you’ve had any contact with Chapin directy — via email, phone or have previously visited the property with their sales staff — they consider you their customer and will not permit an outside broker to work with you. If you haven’t yet had direct contact with Chapin, and would like to consider having me represent you in the purchase of property from the developer or property listed thorugh their resale arm, Chapin Realty, please get in touch with me before contacting Chapin. If, however, yoiu have had contact with Chapin, but would also like to consider other options as well as Chapin resale properties listed through outside brokers, please do get in touch with me and I’d be happy to discuss options listed through outside brokers.

If you’d like to read more about lakefront in Sullivan County, or other higher end property options here, you may want to read my pages on lakefront and higher-end property.

I look forward to hearing from you. Please give me a call at 845-468-5710 or drop an email to davidk@beechwoods.net.

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