Big Hamptons Buyers Are Back, But Not Interested in Mega-Mansions
Mansions in the Hamptons are finally selling again, after a long period of inactivity. Sotheby’s International Realty broker Beate Moore told Bloomberg News, “We’re coming out of a really down market. It was very frustrating. But the market has picked up, and we’ve seen a surge of huge sales.”
Last month’s reported numbers support this. 48 homes costing at least $5 million were sold during the second quarter of this year, which is the most in nearly one and a half years, according to a report by Miller Samuel Inc. and Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Bloomberg reports, “Now that wealthy second home buyers are returning to the southern tip of Long Island, they have noticeably different criteria than their predecessors of 10 or even five years ago. Prices might be the same or even higher than before, brokers said, but the needs of an often younger, lessshowy buying set have changed.
One of the pronounced differences in taste has to do with scale. Drive through the Hamptons today and you’ll see mega-mansions built over the last 20 years or so, many with dozens of roof lines and such a variety of windows that it appears owners were given a catalogue and asked for ‘one of each.’ Echoing a trend already evident in places like Greenwich, CT, these monoliths have fallen from favor.
Paul Brennan, a Bridgehampton-based broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, told Bloomberg, “Those great big huge houses from the 1990s and early 2000s, they’re sitting. I think that conspicuous consumption isn’t in vogue these days, and that’s why bigger isn’t better. The taste is: ‘I want it now, and I don’t want it huge,’ and those substantial houses haven’t come down in price enough to either knock them down or renovate them to a certain standard.”
Besides personal taste, it seems that many people are realizing that it is not necessarily very fun to live in a mega-mansion.
Moore said, “I think there’s a different awareness. If you have a really large family, with grandchildren and staff, of course you want to accommodate everyone graciously.” When a house is too big, though, “that almost suggests an alienation factor between families, where everybody is in their own wing.”
It all really comes down to ease of use, when you are spending tens of millions of dollars you want to vacation in your vacation home, not work.
Corcoran Group broker Debbie Brenneman said, “If you have a house that’s easy to maintain, obviously you don’t have to put as much time and money and energy into maintaining it.”
She added that smaller is merely relative. “If you go from 13,000 to 8,000 square feet, it’s still a large home.”
Just because a home is smaller, does not mean it is any less luxurious. Brennan said, “The bells and whistles are inside the houses. There’s no lack of that.”
Bloomberg reports, “Buyers of houses— even ones fronting the ocean—want to have pools, while ‘smart’ homes filled with tech, elaborate outdoor seating areas, and homes with socalled ‘flexible’ layouts (meaning they’re open plan, rather than having dedicated dining, living, and entertaining rooms) are in vogue. Brennan points to the
home theater as emblematic of the trend.”
Brennan said, “Before, everyone’s theater had to be bigger than the next. Now they’re doing flex-rooms, where the screen can come down, but when it’s up, it can be a rec room for the kids.”
Once considered a symbol of greatness, tennis courts are also no longer popular with big spenders.
Moore said, “It’s not an imperative for most people.” People who do have courts, rarely use them, it is more just for show.
Brennan said, “Some people still seem to like the fact that they could at least put a tennis court on the property. But they don’t use it.”
Bloomberg news explained that many of the brokers in the Hamptons agree that what buyers are looking for now is value.
What is exactly meant by the term “value” is debatable. It is generally determined based on three qualities: location, construction quality, and potential for flipping for a profit.
Location, for the Hamptons area, is about how close the property is to the beach.
Moore said, “That’s what people come out here for. You want to be as close as you can afford.” This week, Moore listed a 5,000-square-foot house on the beach for $55 million.
In the Hamptons, the quality of construction greatly varies. She said, “The poorly slapped-together spec houses with more quantity than quality are just getting very little play.” The final test is more about whether the buyer perceives the property as a good deal. Brenneman explained, “There are still people who are willing to do the work. They’ll buy something, come in, and fix it up.”
However, there are a lot of people who want to “walk in with their toothbrush,” Brennan said. “That’s one end of the spectrum, but those houses aren’t flying off the shelf.”
32 Middle Lane in East Hampton, which has more than 8,000 square feet, and is listed for $29.95 million. (Photo Credit: Douglas Elliman)
420 Ox Pasture Road in Southampton, which has 6,700 square feet and is listed for $29.995 million
The library, which comes with a fireplace, at 8 Dartmouth Road.
8 Dartmouth Road in Sag Harbor. It has 4,000 square feet and is listed for $5.3 million. (Photo Credit: Corcoran Group)