Even in a scorching-hot market, some long-term listings in the Hamptons still won’t sell. Why do these homes linger on the market for years, in the most desirable of areas, where investors are plentiful and inventory is scarce?
Common culprits include persistently unrealistic asking prices, cavalier design choices that simply miss the mark or plots of real estate that seem better in concept than in practice. Often, it’s a mix of the three.
To be clear, any property will eventually trade if the price drops low enough, and some of these actually have. For others, the best home improvement they can hope for may be some gasoline and a match.
Location, as we know, is probably the most important aspect of any property’s valuation. It’s essentially the one thing about a house that cannot be changed. In the Hamptons, it’s a phenomenon aptly summarized as “Someone has to live on Montauk Highway.”
But even an oceanfront location can’t redeem Pointy House. On Beach Plum Court in Amagansett, the building was designed by an architect who must have been imitating Norman Jaffe, but it turned out to be a disaster.
For more than 10 years after the spec house was built, it bounced around the market unsold. Its asking price was as much as $9 million back in 2005, then was dropped to $6.3 million, hiked back up to $7.9 million, cut down again and so on. Despite its proximity, the beach cannot be seen from the house.
“I toured this house years ago. I literally walked in, turned around and walked out. It is awful,” said one prospective buyer, who wished to remain anonymous. “Every room is angled with angled ceilings and walls. A nightmare to decorate and furnish. The couch has to go in the middle of the room because the room is star-shaped.”
The property finally sold in 2018 for under $7 million and is now a rental.
Other issues that make a property hard to sell: dated interiors that require too much work. Think glitzy decoration in the style of Carmela Soprano. And then there are the houses that are just weird and out of place, such as a particularly unsellable property on Old Montauk Highway.
The Montauk home has some rather nice details: a beautiful staircase and large wood sliding doors carved with a rendering of “The Chariot of Aurora,” an art deco wall relief that once graced the French luxury liner S.S. Normandie. But that’s about where the niceness ends. Nearly all of the floors (and most of the walls) are made of uninviting, cold marble, which likely worked great for Fred Astaire as he sailed the high seas aboard the Normandie, but this is a beach house, not a 1930s ocean liner.
The asking price has fluctuated wildly for more than a decade. Back in 2009, the ask was $35 million. The owner then raised the price to $50 million six months later. Sure, that makes sense. The price has since gone up and down with the tides, from a high of $55 million in 2016 to a realistic $29 million in late 2019.
The current ask is $54 million. For that, the buyer gets 37 acres of oceanfront land, including a large pond. But there isn’t a pool. What’s more, much of the 37 acres are preserved, so it’s unclear what could be built there.
Another weird house in northwest East Hampton completed in 2008 ultimately cost more than $2 million to build. The Bioscleave House was designed by artist couple Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa as part of an effort to cheat death itself. They thought that continually stimulating the senses through architectural surprise — bright colors, weird uneven floors, a lack of doors — would stimulate the immune system. They dubbed the dwelling a “Lifespan Extending Villa.” The couple has since died.
The house has been on and off the market for years. In 2018 it was asking $2.5 million; the owners (an LLC and the couple’s foundation) were hoping someone would buy it, move the house (possibly to a museum site) and save it from demolition.
“If none of the rescue attempts prevail by January 2019, the house will be sold to a local developer who would likely demolish it and rebuild an entirely new structure,” the Architect’s Newspaper reported at the time. Well, it’s still standing as of June 2021. The current ask is $975,000, which, with 1.1 acres, is land value. All the new owner has to do is rent a bulldozer.
Another nightmare is on Noyac Path in Water Mill, a house known as “Island in the Sky” because of its high elevation. Designed by Setsuo Ito, its interiors can best be described as “1980s mall.” The atrium resembles a food court. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’ve just treated themselves to some Panda Express while in their Hamptons mansion?
The property was famously featured in The Notorious B.I.G.’s music video for “Juicy” — a single which, we should note, hit airwaves 27 years ago this August.
Ito put the place on the market in 2007 for a ridiculous $30 million. It was asking $9.9 million by 2011, before selling for $3 million the following September. It was put back on the market a year later for $10.975 million. It did not sell then, perhaps due to a stipulation of the previous sale that the home cannot be torn down.
The home is now asking $4.475 million, which includes 12,000 square feet of concrete that can’t be removed, a bizarrely shaped pool and a jarring 32-foot-tall pyramid of aforementioned hip-hop fame.
Finally, there are the properties that are basically fine but have been on the market so long they’ve lost that fresh feeling.
One such property on Old Montauk Highway boasts a house designed by British starchitect David Adjaye. It was put on the market for $29.5 million in 2015, along with six acres of oceanfront land on the bluffs. From then on, the property listed at various prices along with varying amounts of land.
The last listing price was $17 million, with three acres. Still, no one purchased it, and the owner yanked it off the market. The exterior of the house is attractive in a Hamptons style, but the interiors are claustrophobic and gloomy with shiny polished wooden ceilings. Unfortunately, like so many other immovable design quirks, they are just not what a Hamptons homebuyer is looking for.