Luxury Properties on the Hamptons are Still in High Demand
Mary Prenon | June 16, 2021
From sprawling Long Island Sound estates to stately Hudson River manors, to expansive rural retreats, the Hudson Valley is home to some of the most breathtaking luxury properties in New York and the nation. But, this time of year, when people begin to think about where to escape for the summer, inevitably, the Hamptons come to mind.
Part of the east end of Long Island, the popular seaside destination has been famous for its opulent mansions, couture boutiques and of course, celebrity sightings. It’s no secret that residential real estate prices in the Hamptons rank are among the highest in the country, especially now as the exodus from New York City continues.
The Hamptons are actually comprised of a group of villages and hamlets in the towns of Southhampton and East Hampton, located in the South Fork of Long Island. Included within these towns are communities like Westhampton, Quogue, Hampton Bays, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Wainescott, Amagansett and Montauk, among many others.
The Hampton’s history as a summer playground for the wealthy dates back to the late 19th Century when the area changed from a farming community to a popular summer getaway. An 1893 New York Times article reported that “Society is here represented during the summer by its choicest spirits. Well-bred men and women find a congenial atmosphere, refined attractions in plenty and innumerable charms about these quaint old villages.”
Nikki Theissen, vice president of Partner & Visitor Relations for Discover Long Island, agrees that the sentiment reflected over a century ago remains the same today. “The Hamptons are world-renowned and international travelers continue to come to visit and to purchase properties here,” she said. “It has a history of being one of those destinations known for attracting the rich and famous, as well as anyone seeking a great vacation spot.”
During the height of the pandemic, New York City residents flocked to the Hamptons to get away from crowded conditions—some spending more time at their second homes and others renting or buying homes. “People are definitely staying longer. Both last year and this year, they started arriving in early spring and staying until fall,” said Theissen. “Some normal part-time residents even stayed year-round.”
Besides being a haven for “celebrity-watching,” the Hamptons have also been well-known for their expansive beaches, thriving art communities, vineyards, award-winning restaurants, and designer boutiques. “In fact,” added Theissen, “Cooper’s Beach in Southampton is always rated one of the top 10 beaches in the world.”
In addition, each of the Hamptons’ quaint downtown villages offer their own unique experience for first-time or returning visitors. “It’s literally like going to a movie set,” said Theissen. And where real estate is concerned, many of the area’s palatial homes may actually look like something out of a Great Gatsby-style movie.
One of the most expensive homes to hit the market recently is an East Hampton property listed for $69 million with Compass. The Spanish Colonial estate named “Cima Del Mundo,” which means “top of the world,” boasts eight bedrooms, seven-and-a-half baths, five fireplaces, a three-car garage, oceanside pool, pool house and panoramic views. It sits on almost three acres of land with 400 feet of ocean frontage. Originally built in 1925, the estate was renovated in 1994.
On Shelter Island, an exclusive historic waterfront property was recently listed for $14.9 million. Dating back to 1750, the 23-acre property is almost 3,000 square feet, and is the only one of its kind for sale in the Hamptons. It features six bedrooms, two full baths and two half-baths, as well as a barn with original beams.
The pre-Revolutionary War, wood shingled colonial named “Kemah”—a Shinnecock word meaning “in the face of the wind”—spans over Great Fresh Pond on the north side and Peconic Bay on the south. “This property was vital to the Native Americans who accessed fresh drinking water on Fresh Pond,” said Penelope Moore, the listing broker with Saunders & Associates in Shelter Island.
“Kemah” is one of the houses built by George Havens in 1698, a “newcomer” to Shelter Island. Other owners over its 271 years have included the Tuthills and the current owners, the J.D. Robb family.
“Few properties epitomize the history of the East End of Long Island amid the backdrop of American history more succinctly than Kemah does,” Moore said. “When you walk through the grounds, in the barn and in the home, and then gaze out onto the water, there is a feeling that the land has witnessed countless significant events and seen great people over its nearly 300 years.”
Many of the original details remain intact today including the wood shingles, the grand two-story 1,600-square-foot barn built in 1886, a hand-stacked fieldstone garage built in 1918, a water tower, chicken coop, a central chimney of bricks brought from Holland originally as a ship’s ballast, and exposed beams.
John Wickham Tuthill, also known as “Squire Wickham”, built the stone entry wall, hand-stacked fieldstone garage, and collected countless arrowheads, which he donated to the local library.
J.D. Robb, a scholar, writer and composer, traveled the globe recording chants and songs of diverse indigenous people from Nepal to South America and the United States, creating a collection included with more than 25,000 items at the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music. Robb also raised a flock of about 30 sheep on the property, using vegetable and fruit pigment from their crops to dye the wool.
“Many of the older homes on Shelter Island have fascinating stories to go with them,” explained Moore. “Back in the old days, it was actually considered improper to walk down from the main house to the pool in a bathing suit. People used to get changed in the pool house, and then change back into their clothing after swimming to return to the main house.”
Some of Moore’s other Shelter Island listings include a 6,600-square-foot house set on a peninsula with beach and dock for $4.325 million and a 5,100 square foot home on Gardener’s Bay for $4.249 million. “It’s difficult to find something on Shelter Island under $1 million anymore,” she admitted.
From Moore’s perspective, the lure of the Hamptons also includes the area’s unique summer events like the Hamptons Classic Horse Show, East Hampton’s Author’s Night at the East Hampton Library and a wealth of food events and fundraisers. Some of the celebrities she’s spotted over the years include musician Paul McCartney, and actors Alec Baldwin, Rob Lowe and Robert Downey Jr.
“Shelter Island can be a little bit more low key, and lot of famous people like to stay under the radar here,” she said. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, professional golfer Tiger Woods, comedian Louis C.K, and singer Billy Joel have been “regulars” on Shelter Island for a while.
“They like the fact that people will leave them alone here,” she said.
However, whether a typical Hamptons home buyer is a celebrity or not, one thing that sets them apart is the fact that almost all of their deals are in cash. “Most sellers now won’t even entertain a mortgage contingency,” said Robert Nelson, executive managing director of Brown Harris Stevens’ six Hamptons offices. “I recently had an agent who’s been in the business for a while ask me about helping her clients with a mortgage, since she hadn’t dealt with that in so long!”
Currently, anything listed under $2 million in the Hamptons is practically gone, with multiple offers as the norm. “The typical price range tends to be anywhere from $5 million to $10 million, and that includes a lot of new construction,” he explained. “People are looking for open floor plans, five to six bedrooms, with a very light, airy feel. Almost every home in this price range also offers a pool.”
In fact, noted Nelson, 10-year old homes are often considered “dated.” “I’ve actually seen tear downs of homes after 20 years, because it’s easier and less expensive for the buyers to start from scratch to get exactly what they want,” he said.
Nelson finds most Hamptons buyers are from the New York metro area, including international buyers who already own a residence in Manhattan. “Everyone purchasing a home is using it, and a lot more often than just the summer season,” he added. “This includes people who always thought about buying something here and then COVID was the catalyst.”
With inventory down considerably from the pre-COVID days, prices are continuing to soar. Just recently, Nelson’s agents closed two $60-million deals in East Hampton, directly on the ocean. “Sometimes it’s not even about the house—it’s about the oceanfront location,” he said. “There’s nowhere else in the greater New York area that has surf and large estates, and people are buying something they can’t replicate anywhere else within two hours.”
One of those $60-million deals involved the Otto Spaeth House, a mid-century modern house designed in 1955 by architects George Nelson and Gordon Chadwick. The home combines abstract elements, including a second floor viewing porch with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. It also features a formal and informal living room, each with fireplace, plus six bedrooms, and five baths.
Included among Brown Harris Stevens’ ultra luxury listings currently on the market is the newly restored Atterbury Estate in Southampton, offered at $35 million. Just steps from Coopers Beach, the estate was designed in 1939 by world-renowned architect Grosvenor Atterbury, credited with works such as the Parrish Art Museum, and the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It features 14,619 square feet of living space, 11 bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms, powder rooms, a custom solarium, a four -bay garage and a separate pool house.
For those looking to spend a little less, they can have a 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, seven-bath home in Amagansett for $8.895 million. The home sits less than one block from the ocean, with expansive ocean views.
As for vacationers seeking to rent a home in the Hamptons this summer, Nelson indicates they’re probably out of luck. “The rental inventory is basically gone,” he said. “Since last year, people have been rented for the entire summer or even the whole year, since no one still really knows what’s going to happen as we gradually recover from COVID. I think even when we get back to normal and people return to their jobs and homes in the city, we’re going to see more Thursday escapes for three-day weekends.”