Joe Farrell’s not-so-sad saga

The developer’s East End compound is back on the market for the umpteenth time, but he sees benefits in the branding

Jun.June 11, 2018 01:00 PM

Illustration by Zack Meyer

Beyoncé and Jay Z. Madonna. Russian billionaire Valery Kogan. These famous faces are among the many who have summered — or at least weekended — at Joe Farrell’s Sandcastle mansion.

And though the estate has been on and off the market too many times for the developer to recall, the cachet of these bold-faced names represents a coup of sorts for Farrell, and, he said, helps to market his company, Farrell Building.

In March, the developer — whose detractors bemoan the “Farrellization” of the Hamptons, referring to his signature cookie-cutter McMansions — listed the 10-bedroom, 15-bathroom home once more, for $49.95 million.

The saga of the 17,000-square-foot Bridgehampton estate, with over-the-top amenities such as a baseball field, a planetarium and a 60-foot pool with an underwater sound system, has been the subject of much intrigue, vilification and curiosity over the years.

The new listing price is about $10 million less than the first asking price of $59.9 million in May 2009 and $6.5 million more than an offer Farrell claims to have rejected.

He listed the property as soon as it was completed, but he told The Real Deal that he had always planned to live there with his wife and three children. The family has been there nine years, throughout the multiple listings.

“When I finished it, friends and brokers said it was the best house in the Hamptons … So, I put it on the market for a while, but not seriously,” said Farrell. But, he insisted, “We’re really moving this time.”

Gary DePersia of the Corcoran Group is one of the brokers who has long lauded Sandcastle. He listed the property for the first time in 2009, again in 2011 and then again in 2016. He said he has done about $250 million of business with Farrell over the years on other projects.

The 10-bedroom, 15-bathroom Sandcastle mansion is listed at $49.95 million.

“You’ll want to have a comfortable pair of shoes on when you show [Sandcastle],” DePersia said. “It’s a little over 30,000 square feet in total, so it takes a while.” That size estimate includes all the amenity spaces and guest areas.

The estate does seem to have everything, including a bowling alley; movie theater with a planetarium; rock-climbing wall; half-pipe for skateboarding; baseball field; DJ booth and recording area; and regulation squash, racquetball, basketball and volleyball courts, among countless other amenities.

But having everything is not what generates returns for a developer. “If I had built to sell, I never would have put in so many of those things,” Farrell said. “Things you’d never get your money back on, like closets that were hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Farrell’s big builds don’t go over well with everyone. Some say the hype over megamansions is overblown, the building boom is out of control and the homes have a “lack of aesthetic architectural continuity” with the rest of the area.

“There’s so much building, and it isn’t just Farrell,” said Sag Harbor resident Donna Paul, who owns Designer Previews, a company that matches architects and interior designers with clients. “It’s all over the place. People just buy homes to tear down and build new and bigger. Who needs a 10,000-square-foot house?”

Celebrity branding

Sandcastle has proven that many people do want all that space, at least for a little while. “Some of the smartest, wealthiest, creative people want to use the house,” said Farrell. “The house has done great things for Farrell Building and our brand. I didn’t expect the amount of attention the house would bring.”

The first summer the house was available, it was rented for two weeks for $425,000 to the Russian oligarch Valery Kogan, who last year spent £3.5 million to hire Sir Elton John and Mariah Carey to sing at his granddaughter’s wedding. That same summer, it was rumored the Jonas Brothers were eyeing it for a rental and, in November, the house was featured on MTV’s “Teen Cribs.”

In 2012, Beyoncé and Jay Z paid $400,000 to rent the property for the month of August, and they brought a storm of media attention to the house.

In February 2014, Sandcastle was featured on HGTV in “America’s Outrageous Homes” special. That summer a Midwest family paid $300,000 for a week in August, setting a new Hamptons rental record, according to the New York Post.

(Click to enlarge)

Madonna used the house for five days in the summer of 2015, Farrell told TRD. And Justin Bieber tried to rent the home for a week while he was touring in 2016, but Farrell didn’t want to rent it because his family was using it as their primary residence.

“He started at $300,000 and went up to $550,000, but we didn’t do it,” the developer confirmed. Instead, Farrell gave him another mansion to use, for free. Bieber also stayed as a guest at Sandcastle last year for a weekend, Farrell said.

Last June, the developer said he also received an offer from a billionaire to use the place from June 25 to Labor Day for $2 million. He said he turned it down.

Farrell has turned down offers to buy the estate as well, he claimed. The mansion was initially listed at $59.9 million in May 2009. By December that year, it was down to $49.5 million. The listing dropped again in 2011, to $43.5 million, where it stayed until someone made an offer in late December 2013 at that price — but Farrell turned it down. He said his wife and kids didn’t want to move at the time.

Farrell doesn’t remember how many times Sandcastle has been listed. But he said he thinks the market has been looking up lately. “The last three months, I’ve never sold more houses quicker in my entire career,” he told TRD in late April.

Bespoke Real Estate is the exclusive broker for the mansion, but Farrell reserves the right to sell it himself. And there’s a two-week renter lined up for later this summer, paying $600,000 to be the king or queen of the castle. Farrell is also willing to rent out Sandcastle for free — in exchange for someone letting him charter a yacht, preferably somewhere in Europe.

“I’ve never rented a boat,” he said. “They’re too expensive.”

Beyond Sandcastle

By mid-May, Farrell Building had moved 17 properties since the start of the year, a spokesperson said.

The builder’s latest project is an 8,000-square-foot abode in Water Mill, which is kitted out with the latest in-home technology products. That includes a Sonos sound system, iRobot cleaning service and smart lighting, heating and air conditioning. Farrell and his team are working with Farrell Home, an interior design firm helmed by Farrell’s wife, Kristen, on the turnkey home. Farrell said the house is already under contract, but they are moving forward with a planned official launch in July.

The developer is now looking beyond Hamptons McMansions to multifamily projects in Long Island and upstate New York, including a luxury apartment development in Newburgh that will start leasing in spring 2019, he said. Although the project will have a number of amenities, neither a baseball field nor a planetarium is in the works. 

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