By Diane Saatchi
Every so often, I receive a phone call from someone who wants to buy, or rent, in “the Hamptons.”
“Which Hampton?” I ask?
As a real estate agent, I am often asked to describe the different locales and to help customers decide which may be best suited to their interests.
With an apology for the generalizations, I’ve long enjoyed matching the towns, villages, hamlets and streets to neighborhoods and streets in New York City. Way back when, one could draw a line from primary to second home locations by careers. For example, there was a time when psychologists and psychiatrists claimed Amagansett as their favored weekend and August getaway. For the most part, they lived and worked on the Upper West Side and could be found in Zabar’s during midweek session breaks. The painters who had homes in the Springs lived in Soho lofts. The writers with homes in Sag Harbor Village lived on the Upper West Side. If you owned a home on Gin, Meadow, Lily Pond or Further Lane, chances are your apartment was on Fifth or Park Avenue and someone in the family worked in the financial industry.
For all sorts of reasons, neighborhoods go in and out of style and demographics change. The changes are slow and often are not even noticed until they are well established. Price, traffic patterns, travel time, new businesses, zoning regulations, taxes, weather and fashion all influence the changing personalities of neighborhoods. As by nature we tend to be tribal, and want to be with our own, there is a natural migration to our comfort zones. Given this, it makes sense that many choose the same or nearby primary home and second home locations as their friends and colleagues.
So, when asked these days to describe the different Hamptons, I use parallels that are usually familiar to the questioner: New York City neighborhoods.
Amagansett, Montauk and Sag Harbor are popular among the youngest second homeowners, who most likely call Downtown and Brooklyn their primary home. Until recently, these were the least expensive and undeveloped Hamptons. Each with their own attractions. Amagansett offers an un-Hampton-like village center and “affordable” properties on the south side of the highway. Montauk, the best surfing beaches also has an active club life. Sag Harbor, a year-round village with history, restaurants, shops, a theater and activities for children.
There are two groups of owners of homes in the estate sections of Southampton (including Quogue) and East Hampton. Those over 60 can be found in Palm Beach in the winter and on the Upper East Side or certain buildings on Central Park West for the remainder of the 180 days they can spend in New York State each year. The younger and more recent comers to the same estate sections are in the same New York neighborhoods when not out east, but because they are still employed, cannot take advantage of residency in income tax-free states.
Remsenberg, Westhampton, Hampton Bays, Water Mill, North Sea, North Haven, Bridgehampton, The Springs and the unnamed parts of Southampton and East Hampton which are North of the Highway were not specially linked to New York neighborhoods. With the exception of waterfront properties or those with proximity to open fields or other expansive views, these hamlets are most like the not as desirable streets in otherwise favored New York City neighborhoods, or rear and low floor apartments in top buildings.
The Great Divide
About the same time the West Side became socially acceptable, so did North of the Highway. Until that time, Route 27, as did Central Park, separated the haves from the have-nots. Those who crossed those divides were pioneers seeking larger properties and apartments or simply more value than they could find or afford on the other sides. To this day, you may notice real estate ads mention when a property is south of the highway and simply the town, village or hamlet when located north.
Nothing is more prestigious, or competitive, than waterfront property
It’s estimated that 6% of the residential property in the Hamptons is on a body of water.
Please don’t hold me to this, as it’s a number I’ve often heard but have not been able verify — though sounds about right, if not a bit high. Oceanfront properties along the 53-mile stretch of The Hamptons are the most expensive and usually the most requested. Regardless of market conditions, it is not unusual to have fierce bidding wars when prime oceanfront properties are listed for sale. Prices are determined by the locale, property size and relative chance of flood damage. Homes on Lake Agawam, Mecox Bay, Sagaponack Pond and Georgica Pond are the next most desired and expensive. North of the Highway bayfront homes follow. Because of added zoning restriction, set backs, floodplains and special insurance, waterfront properties, at any price, are not for the faint of heart.
Anything from celebrities to traffic lights can move neighborhoods in and out of favor
There is definitely more interest shown in a neighborhood following a story on Page Six about where so-and-so just purchased an estate. I am not sure that translates to sales. However, when so-and-so moves into a neighborhood and soon his or her fellow celebrities do likewise, trends can be noted.
As mentioned above, many other factors create trends to and from locations. Some years back, when Sagaponack was named the Wall Street Journal’s number one zip code in the nation, some would-be buyers came running and some homeowners considered it the time to sell.
And, sometimes strange things happen.
A new traffic light installed a few years ago in Wainscott was cited as the reason many did not want to look any further east than Bridgehampton. Yet, that same season, there were a record number of sales at record-breaking prices in Amagansett and Montauk.
It seems not everyone agreed.
© 2018 Diane Saatchi