Hamptons sales drop off in fourth quarter

Not surprisingly, the Wall Street meltdown slammed into the Hamptons real estate market in the fourth quarter with more force than it did Manhattan, a report released today shows.

The number of home sales in the South Fork of Long Island’s East End was 179 in the fourth quarter of 2008, down a stunning 49 percent from the same period of 2007, when there were 384 sales, according to a report compiled by East End-based brokerage firm Town & Country real estate. The median sales price was $875,000, down 6.42 percent from $935,000 in the prior-year quarter, the report showed.

The Hamptons fared considerably worse than Manhattan. According to Prudential Douglas Elliman, the median sales price in Manhattan increased 5.9 percent to $900,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008 from the prior-year quarter. The number of sales dropped 9.4 percent to 2,282 from 2,518 a year ago, and 14 percent from the prior quarter.

Desiderio’s report focused on the area of the South Fork, home to the Hamptons, and only looked at closed sales in the region in the fourth quarter from Long Island Real Estate Report, a local company that compiles real estate data, said Desiderio, CEO of Town & Country.

Much like Manhattan market reports, closed sales data in the Hamptons is a lagging indicator of the market, since closings often occur months after sales are made. Desiderio said she expects market reports from the first quarter of 2009 to be more reflective of current market conditions in the tony Hamptons, where asking prices of homes for sale are currently down 20 percent from their 2005 peak, she said.

She said while some very high-priced sales are being made in the area, a favorite vacation spot for wealthy Wall Street tycoons, some sellers are accepting very low offers.

For example, the oceanfront home on West End Road in East Hampton Village owned by financier A. Robert Towbin and his family sold in November for $26.5 million, down 30 percent from its asking price of $40 million in April.

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“You’re seeing some fantastic deals,” she said, especially in situations where sellers need to sell or where the buyer is offering to pay in all cash. Many families look to sell second-homes if they’re strapped for cash, she said.

“Cash isn’t just king — it’s emperor right now,” she said.

Her firm also released fourth quarter data on the North Fork of Long Island, which includes the Jamesport, Mattituck, Southold and Orient areas. The report showed that the number of sales on the North Fork fell 47 percent from the same quarter of 2007, though the median sale price increased 8 percent to $510,000. Desiderio said while there were fewer sales, those that occurred tended to be at the higher end of the market.

A closely watched Hamptons and North Fork report from Prudential Douglas Elliman will be released next week, said the report’s preparer, Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

Miller said that while his data set is slightly different from Desiderio’s, the trends she reported are similar to what he’s seen in the Hamptons.

“The Hamptons, like we’ve seen in the last several quarters, is experiencing a much lower level of activity, and with that comes a decline in prices,” he said. “Like any other market, the East End is subject to the credit crunch that we’re seeing now and layoffs on Wall Street.”