By Diane Saatchi
If you’re already fantasizing about lazy Hamptons beach weekends: It’s time to start looking at homes to rent or buy.
It might seem premature, but after 30 years working in Hamptons real estate, I can promise you that people are already getting their ducks in a row for the summer. Below, I’m sharing the steps you should take now if you want to buy or rent a house for the summer.
If you want to buy a house:
I tell people that the right time to buy is when you can and want to. If you can afford to, and have found the right home, there’s no reason to wait — even if said home’s summer-y potential is currently obscured by a layer of frost.
There are a few things to keep in mind, if you’re planning to buy a home that you want to live in by the summer:
Get pre-qualified for financing now.
If you’re going to get a mortgage, get pre-qualified as soon as you know you want to buy something. That way, you’ll know how much money you’ll have, and you can look at homes at the right price point, instead of wasting time looking at properties outside of your budget. On average, with a loan involved, it should take about 10 weeks from accepted offer to close, which puts January shoppers at March closings — in a best-case scenario. When summer is your deadline, there’s not as much time as you might think.
Remember that the home will look and feel different in the summer.
You’ll need a strong mind’s eye to look at a home wrapped up for the winter and envision warm afternoons by the pool. A few things that don’t often occur to people: During the winter, you can see your neighbors more clearly, and you can hear traffic more clearly. Both of these are due to the lack of leaves on the trees, and the traffic noise is compounded by the lack of ambient noise you’ll hear in the summer. Mid-winter, there are no pools running, air conditioners humming and leaf-blowers blowing, so each car on the road is much more noticeable. That said, it will be better in summer, but you have to be realistic. In very few cases will it be dead silent.
Take the weather into account for any renovations.
It’s perfectly fine (and common) if the house you want needs work but bear in mind that it’s not the time of year for outside work. Any renovations or changes will have to be inside, due to the weather. Most large-scale projects need more time than you think, with the exception of adding a pool or tennis court, assuming variances not needed — you can plan and get permits now and do the actual work in April and be all set for the summer. If you’re doing new construction or putting on an addition, you might not have time to finish by the summer. But that’s OK — you’re buying the house forever, not just for the season. And, it’s never a bad idea to spend a season living in a house before making major and lasting changes.
Don’t discount how much time it takes to furnish a house.
Furniture might feel like an afterthought, but if you’re ordering custom pieces or working with a decorator, you’re going to need substantial lead time — usually about three to four months. You’ll probably find that the furniture from your previous house just doesn’t fit in this one. As for your decorator, you’ll want to give them a heads-up sooner rather than later.
I don’t mean to make anyone who’s set on being in a new house for the summer anxious. If you’re uncomfortable making a decision now, you might consider choosing a rental instead, and continuing to shop with the idea of being in a home for the following summer. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about buying while the “market is good” — I’ve never seen “timing the market” work out. You’ll ultimately pay market value.
Renting is less complicated
Being a renter is a much simpler proposition. You can sign on virtually any time of year, and you primarily need one thing ready: the money.
Once you pick a house to rent, you’ll need the cash on hand for a non-refundable down payment. Typically, renters are asked for half of the agreed-upon price to secure the rental upfront, and the other half before taking residence.
Bear in mind that the price is not the only cost to the renter: There’s also usually a 10% security deposit, and a flat fee up front to cover estimated utilities for your term in residence. While you’re in the house, you as the renter assume the costs for everything but the homeowner’s insurance, property tax and capital improvements. It’s not like checking into a hotel — you’re going to need more money.
Beyond the money, there are a couple of smart things you’ll want to do before moving in for the summer:
Google the landlord. A quick search can make sure there are no liens or problems with the house. In all my years of doing this, I could count the number of problems like this on one hand, but better to be safe than sorry. The landlord will probably Google you, too, and/or require references.
Look into getting a beach permit, if you want one. To park at the beach, your car will need a permit, which the towns start issuing early. East Hampton Village, for instance, offers permits to non-residents starting in early February, and they go fast. You’ll want to find out what you need to get a parking sticker for your town and/or village — remember, they’re two different entities that monitor access to different beaches.
Start researching childcare, summer camps, personal trainer, housekeeper, a chef, caterer, etc. Most of the popular one’s book months in advance. Its always a good idea to engage the owners’ household help and best to do that before they take other jobs.
Find out what you’ll need to bring. While your landlord will provide basic comforts, you can’t expect they’ll have an air fryer or an electric margarita blender (really, they are not standard). In the past, I’ve taken photos of the inside of cabinets and cupboards, so the renters will know what’s there and what’s not. Some people prefer to bring their own pillows, blankets and bed linens.
Whether you hope to own the house you’re in for the summer or rent it, you’ll want to start planning for summer right now.
© 2019 Diane Saatchi