UPDATED June 13, 12:12 p.m. The past year was a slower one for the East End housing market, but as usual, that didn’t stop some well-heeled buyers from shelling out for a number of pricey homes. From a sprawling estate owned by a fashion designer to the house where Jackie Kennedy summered as a child, a handful of historic and noteworthy mansions were plucked off the market — though they weren’t immune to the price chops that most properties faced.
While brokers saw especially tight inventory on the North Fork, the buyers there were eager to snap up lower-priced properties but still hesitant to look at those with higher price tags.
The Real Deal spoke with some of the agents who brokered the year’s top deals to get their takes on the state of the East End market.
Top sales in the Hamptons
The most expensive of TRD’s rankings of the priciest single-family home sales in the Hamptons from April 2017 through March 2018 was part of the sprawling Water Mill estate known as Villa Maria. The former convent on Halsey Lane, owned by late designer Vince Camuto, hit the market asking $100 million in 2008 and had been on and off it since with increasingly diminishing price tags. This time, the 20,000-square-foot, 11-bedroom mansion and 11 acres of land went to one buyer for $36 million; a second buyer purchased a smaller cottage and a vacant piece of waterfront land on the estate for $13 million, said Cody Vichinsky, one of the founding partners at Bespoke Real Estate, whose firm handled those sales.
“When they reduced the price of Villa Maria … people started looking at it, because they knew they couldn’t ever duplicate it at that price,” explained Sotheby’s broker Harald Grant, who brought the buyer to the table.
A four-bedroom house at 134 Murray Lane clinched the second spot. It sold for $32 million in an off-market deal, according to Vichinsky. The home’s Southampton Village location, lawn extending to the beach and privacy were among its attractive features, he said.
The third spot on the rankings went to a historic four-bedroom carriage house at 328 Gin Lane, which sold for $31 million. The Southampton home has tennis courts, a pool and a gazebo on the dune, said Sotheby’s broker Beate Moore, who exclusively listed the property.
Last year saw the sale of Lasata — the storied East Hampton estate at 121 Further Lane, where a young Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent her summers. The main house sold for $24 million, while a back lot sold for around $11.3 million, according to Douglas Elliman agent Eileen O’Neill, who listed the property along with Douglas Elliman’s Carol Nobbs and Corcoran Group’s Susan Breitenbach.
Many of the 1917-built home’s original plantings and trees are still there, O’Neill said. The historic home was “one of the most incredibly restored properties I’ve ever seen out here,” added Breitenbach.
“There really aren’t a ton of the old homes left on Further Lane — a lot have been knocked down or modernized,” O’Neill said. “This is sort of one of the few old guards that are still on Further Lane.”
Teardowns still trending
For a number of brokers, 2017 saw the continuance of a teardown trend that will likely persist beyond 2018. A number of homeowners shelled out millions for homes they intend to raze and replace with more modern — and in some cases grander — abodes. Even the home at 134 Murray Lane near the top of the list of priciest Hamptons homes won’t be around for long, Bespoke’s Vichinsky said. While its new owners intend to live there for some time, they eventually plan to build a new house at the location.
“The location was the driving priority, more so than the house,” Vichinsky explained.
No. 3 on the ranking, 328 Gin Lane, was only spared a teardown because the historic home can’t be razed, Sotheby’s Moore said. The property first hit the market in 2014 with a $39.5 million price tag. “The stumbling block was always that every buyer we came up with wanted to tear it down, and since that wasn’t a possibility, it sat there for quite a while,” Moore said.
Corcoran broker Tim Davis said he, too, witnessed more of the teardown trend this past year.
“There continues to be a drive toward purchasing these higher-end properties and tearing them down,” said Davis, the listing agent for the home at 1510 Meadow Lane that clocked in at No. 8 on the list of priciest Hamptons sales.
On the flip side, some homebuyers are actually looking for houses that have an antiquated appearance — without sacrificing modern amenities in the process. Corcoran’s Breitenbach said buyers were more and more interested in “transitional” homes with traditional exteriors and modern interiors this past year.
Buyers have also been interested in homes that smoothly integrate the outdoor space, with features like folding doors and outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, brokers noted.
An “ultracontemporary” home at 1285 Flying Point Road had floor-to-ceiling glass windows on both sides of the house that disappeared into the floor at the touch of a button, Saunders & Associates broker Vincent Horcasitas recalled. It sold for $20.5 million and ranked 15th.
What the market says
Several East End agents said they saw a slower market in 2017 and into 2018 than they had in past years. Buyers were being more price-conscious, and a number of properties took price chops.
“If you want to sell your house at the moment, then you’ve got to price it accordingly, and that means bringing it down,” said Douglas Elliman agent Paul Brennan, the listing agent for 32 Middle Lane in East Hampton South, the seventh-priciest sale on TRD’s Hamptons list.
Saunders & Associates agent Lilly de la Motte, the listing agent for 14th-place 675 Hedges Lane, said the slowdown last year was due in part to political uncertainty, and a resulting lack of clarity regarding tax implications.
“Uncertainty is not good for real estate, and I believe buyers were taking a ‘wait and see’ approach,” she said. “Now that there is clarity, more buyers are stepping up to the plate.”
By the fourth quarter of 2017, South Fork sales “showed a sharp improvement” compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, when “activity was suppressed due to the election,” according to Corcoran’s 4Q 2017 East End report, which includes Shelter Island in its data. The number of sales reported, 581, was closer to 2015’s sales than 2016’s, and the median sales price hardly changed year over year, although the average price dropped by a substantial 13 percent, the report said.
Moving into the first quarter of 2018, South Fork sales saw a decline, with 528 reported — a 21 percent year-over-year dip, according to Corcoran’s Q1 2018 East End report. However, the average sales price increased by 10 percent year over year — coming in at $1.97 million — while the median sale price increased by 7 percent year over year, coming in at $1.07 million. Bridgehampton and Sagaponack were the only areas that didn’t experience the downward trend, Corcoran’s report noted.
The North Fork and Shelter Island
Topping the list of single-family home sales on the North Fork and Shelter Island from April 2017 through March 2018 was a home at 27 Shore Road on Shelter Island. The property was once home to the 19th-century Manhanset House Hotel, a three-building property with hundreds of rooms that served as “one of the refuges for the elite of New York and Boston” before it burned down in 1910, Sotheby’s agent Jonathan Smith said.
The current, 1980-built home listed at $13.95 million back in 2014 and ultimately sold for $9.5 million, tying with 10 Lari Lane — which sold in 2014 — as the most expensive individual residential sale on Shelter Island in the past decade, according to Smith.
“I think in some ways this property transacting set a new standard for high-end luxury properties on Shelter Island,” he said.
A second Shelter Island home, at 25 Winthrop Road, took second place on TRD’s list, with a selling price of $6.8 million. Three other homes that made the top 10 — 27 East Brander Parkway, 11 Westmoreland Drive and 34 Little Ram Island Drive — were also on the island.
“Shelter Island is coming into its own,” said Jon Westervelt of Georgiana B. Ketcham Realty, the listing agent for the East Brander Parkway and Little Ram Island Drive properties. Buyers looking for waterfront homes head to Shelter Island to avoid the crowds in the South Fork, he said. While Corcoran’s quarterly reports list Shelter Island as part of the South Fork, Westervelt and Smith both said they consider the island a separate market.
Rounding out the three priciest sales on the North Fork and Shelter Island list was 12700 New Suffolk Avenue in Cutchogue, which sold for $5.3 million. The property had been in the same family for several generations before it sold in March, and derived its value from its sugar-sand beach and the three structures — including a three-bedroom home — that stand upon it, said Carol Szynaka, the East End sales manager at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s and one of the listing agents for the property.
The North Fork and Shelter Island weren’t immune to the teardown trend the Hamptons saw this past year, several brokers said. The North Fork, for one, has seen a spate of construction within the past 12 months, with homeowners knocking down older homes or ranch-style homes and building “magnificent properties, particularly on the water,” according to Karla Dennehy, Douglas Elliman’s executive manager of sales of the North Fork region.
“We’re seeing a lot of that where we hadn’t seen much of it before,” Dennehy said. “People are very confident in building these large properties now in the North Fork, whereas maybe before they might have done it on the South Fork.”
The new owners of 9775 Nassau Point Road — the fourth property on TRD’s priciest North Fork and Shelter Island list — will most likely knock it down and build a new structure, Szynaka said. And she wouldn’t be surprised if the new owners of 12700 New Suffolk Avenue did the same. “Both of them brought in high-end architects with the intention of creating a new home,” she said.
“You’re not pricing what’s there — you’re pricing what could be there in the future,” she explained. “Very few people are purchasing homes that were built 50 or 60 years ago with the intention of keeping them original.”
The Little Ram Island Drive house on Shelter Island, which placed eighth on the list, will also be a teardown, as it was in need of a renovation, according to Georgiana B. Ketcham Realty’s Westervelt.
“The location on Little Ram Island Drive is very desirable,” he said, adding that the house “sold at land value.”
What the market says
The fourth quarter of 2017 was a strong one for the North Fork, with sales up 11 percent year over year, according to Corcoran’s 4Q 2017 East End report. The area saw a dip in the first quarter of 2018, however, with sales down 26 percent overall, Corcoran’s 1Q 2018 East End report noted.
Douglas Elliman’s Dennehy said she saw a “decent amount of sales” among the North Fork’s higher-priced properties, but said they weren’t moving rapidly. That wasn’t the case for properties with lesser price tags, she said.
“Inventory is tight all around — the lower-price properties are moving off the shelf very quickly,” she said.
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s broker Nancy Cervelli, one of the listing agents for 6970 Indian Neck Lane in Peconic — ninth on TRD’s North Fork sales list — said she, too, saw a “much lower inventory” than in years past.
“If a property is priced correctly it sells very quickly, but if it’s overpriced it doesn’t, even though the inventory is scarce,” she said.
Though the beginning of the year was slow, Dennehy said she predicts a lot of activity in the North Fork through the rest of the year.
“I’m expecting very good news,” she said. “The difference … now, compared to years past, is people were discovering the North Fork, and now they’ve discovered it.
This article has been amended to reflect that Matthew Breitenbach of Compass sold the property at 719 Ocean Road in Bridgehampton alongside Linda Nasta of the Corcoran Group. In addition, Gary DePersia of Corcoran Group represented the sellers at 1285 Flying Point Road, along with agents at Saunders & Associates and Douglas Elliman.
Correction: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect sale price for 134 Murray Lane. The price has been updated.