The Inside Scoop on East End Real Estate

From homes with exquisite gardens to modern condominiums we've got the 411 on the most desired in Hamptons real estate.



Bauer Griffin


On August 17, the Artists & Writers Charity Softball game is celebrating its 65th anniversary, raising money for East End Hospice, East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, Phoenix House, and the Retreat. The summer ritual was born when some of the East End’s famous artists and writers got together to indulge their competitive spirit in a softball match. As real estate prices soared in the 2000s, celebrities started joining the ranks, including Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, Alec Baldwin, and Christie Brinkley, who, not surprisingly, looks great in pinstripes. A talented portrait artist, shell decoupage artisan, and real estate maven, Brinkley is selling a charming 1,400-square-foot home in Sag Harbor Village, saying she hopes that it will go to someone special. (She had bought and renovated the house for her parents, both of whom died last year.) The three-bedroom, three-bath, open-plan cottage on West Water Street features water views from almost every room and overlooks Sag Harbor Bay and the bridge to North Haven. “You can’t get a more convenient location,” says listing agent Tyler Mattson of Douglas Elliman. “It’s in the heart of the village, with iconic vistas.” The asking price is $2.8 million.


GARDEN DELIGHTS

Whether Adam and Eve had a McMansion at some point is neither here nor there. For them, the Garden of Eden was paradise.

The East End is as famous for its houses as it is for its gardens, from Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island—the oldest existing garden in the U.S., planted in 1653—to the late artist Larry Rivers’s “instant garden” at his home and studio on Little Plains Road in Southampton, where he created life-size wooden cutouts of trees and shrubs. Alfonso Ossorio designed the much mythologized gardens at the Creeks in East Hampton, where hordes of gardeners often changed planting color schemes overnight, and top contemporary landscape architects Oehme van Sweden, Edwina von Gal, Mario Nievera, Edmund Hollander, and many more continue to make their mark on the Hamptons’ hallowed turf. For many home buyers, the value in a property lies just as much on the outside as it does on the inside.

“A home that’s beautifully landscaped captures the imagination and is very appealing to owners and visitors,” says Mary Ann Cinelli of Brown Harris Stevens. “New Yorkers come out to the Hamptons to unwind and relax, and gardens can be a big part of that. Consider the proliferation of garden shops in the Hamptons: People want to create outdoor rooms with pergolas, furniture, and fire pits and enjoy special areas of the garden for sitting and reading.”



Gin Lane Gem This property is listed for $22.5 million with Mary Ann Cinelli of Brown Harris Stevens (631-537-4347).
Ossorio: Hans Namuth © 1991 hans Namuth Estate, Courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography


Cinelli represents a four-acre Gin Lane estate in Southampton including a seven-bedroom, six-bath house with a Gunite pool and magnificent gardens only 200 feet from the ocean, offered for the first time at $22.5 million. Built in 1982, the house is surrounded by meticulously tended rose gardens, specimen plantings, and meandering pathways and includes an outdoor dining pavilion.  

The gardens have been used for many weddings and parties over the years, reports Cinelli, who adds, “This property is unique because it’s on four acres, with the house sited to one side. The ample garden invites you to walk down a path and see what’s behind a gate or tree, or discover a fountain. When people stroll down the paths, they come back with an amazing look on their face. It’s almost like ambling through a park.”

That said, it’s important for garden lovers to remember that “landscaping can be extremely expensive,” says Cinelli. “It can cost hundreds of thousands and even up to a million dollars to landscape a property depending on the size. And gardens that are new take time to become established.” As any rose aficionado knows, the older the bush, the sweeter the scent.



Room To Breathe This sprawling property in Water Mill, listed for just under $4 million with Corcoran’s Julie Briggs (631-537-4114) and Debbie Loeffler (631-537-7773), features sumptuous gardens and a private dock.


Julie Briggs and Debbie Loeffler of Corcoran represent a two-and-a-half-acre Water Mill property on Mecox Bay with a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home, extensive lawns and gardens, and a private dock listed at $3.995 million. The stone terrace and second-floor deck enjoy southern exposure and bay and ocean views. “Buyers looking for a home in the country want breathing room,” says Briggs. “The sweeping lawns and lush gardens provide expansive vistas toward the water and multiple-use outdoor entertaining spaces. They not only create a sense of relaxation but also endless fields to play in.”


“Buyers looking for a home in the country want a sense of
relaxation and endless fields to play in”

 

Except for a grove of 100-year-old blueberry bushes and fragrant wild roses, the present owners started with a blank slate and mapped out a grand plan. The terrace leads to a series of gardens, including a secret white garden with boxwood planted around a fountain, a perennial garden, and a woodland garden with ferns. The gardens connect to each other via allées of sugar maples and Japanese maples that lead to the water, where native plants grow in abundance, and have been intentionally designed to provide visual interest throughout the seasons.



Glover Love Pear trees and a pergola feature on this historic property in Sag Harbor, listed for $1.595 million with Gioia DiPaolo of Douglas Elliman (631-725-0200).


One of the great pleasures of village life is a hidden garden. Historic homes are typically small, so an outdoor garden “room” is often a great addition. Gioia DiPaolo of Douglas Elliman represents a historic 1,500-square-foot home on Glover Street in Sag Harbor with three bedrooms and two baths on just .17 acres for $1.595 million.  The house has been featured on numerous home and garden tours, says DiPaolo, who adds that “in the spring, summer, and autumn, much of the homeowners’ entertaining takes place in the garden. It’s at its showiest in the spring, when several varieties of iris are in bloom along with lily of the valley and wild violets. Hydrangea blooms early and continues to bloom all summer.” The garden also includes hosta, rose of Sharon, a large butterfly bush, peonies, and potted herbs and other annuals. “My absolute garden favorites at this property are the espaliered pear trees on the east wall of the house that produce the most delicious pears in late July,” adds DiPaolo. “Dinners in the garden at that time always end with Prosecco and poached pears. The candlelit pergola and music from the outdoor sound system create a very romantic setting.”


THE MILLION DOLLAR MARK

There are a few magic numbers in real estate, and one of them is $999,999. Not only is there a psychological benefit to avoiding a seven-figure purchase price, but properties that sell for $1 million or more are subject to a 1 percent mansion tax. “In the spring of 2012, a much stronger sales market began taking shape in the Hamptons,” says Catherine Debackere of Sotheby’s. “One sector leader has been properties priced at $1 million or lower. A majority of first-time buyers have taken advantage of excellent home values and historically low mortgage rates, and the robust sales market has seen bidding wars aplenty.”



Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Anyway? Listed for $999,000 with Catherine Debackere of Sotheby’s (631-537-6000), this rare waterfront property in East Hampton is a vanishing breed, and even has room to expand. Plus, there’s no mansion tax on sales of less than $1 million.


But there are still deals to be had. Debackere represents a two-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath house on a shy acre of waterfront property in East Hampton for $999,000. “Finding a waterfront property priced under $1 million is a lifetime opportunity,” she says. “And in addition to the incredible water views, there’s room for expansion on the current home.”

Gary DePersia of Corcoran underscores the strength of the under-a-million market. “Things are moving, and this price bracket is doing well. People who believe that interest rates and home prices are going up are scrambling to buy homes. There isn’t a lot of supply to meet demand, so great homes under a million dollars are getting a lot of attention, whether they’re in Springs or on the fringe of the villages or in the woods. If people can be flexible on location, then they can make deals.”

DePersia, who estimates that 80 percent of his customers in the under-a-million range are able to obtain financing, is seeing a lot of interest in a half-acre property with a five-bedroom, four-bath home in Lion’s Head in East Hampton, a beach association on Gardiners Bay, listed at $895,000 with room for a pool. “The community has its own beach and marina, and you get a slip with the house,” he says. “There’s a whole wing separate from the house if you want to have a mother-in-law suite or a master wing downstairs.” He is also getting a lot of play on a house in Wainscott North, which features a 3,000-square-foot home with a fireplace and heated pool on .8 acres. The listing price is $999,000.

The key to the under-a-million market is a buyer’s ability to get financing. Mortgage broker Linda Assini estimates that about 50 percent of this sector’s buyers will have a mortgage contingency offer. “I think people can get mortgages, but the process is back to old-school underwriting,” she says. “They require a lot of documentation proving income, assets, and work history. Also, interest rates have popped up a bit. Depending on the product, credit, and whether it is a single- or multiple-family home, the rates range from the 3’s to the 6’s.”


“This price bracket is doing well. People who believe that interest rates
and prices are going up are scrambling to buy”

 

The surprise is the amount of products available to buyers. “There’s a good representation across the board,” adds Assini. “There are still interest-only mortgages with a seven/one ARM, where the rate is fixed for seven years and then adjusts after that. The interest-only loan is for someone who knows he or she is going to refinance, pay it off, or sell the property. If buyers plan on staying, they might look at a 30-year fixed.”

Some deals stumble at the appraisal stage. Thanks to the fluctuating economy, many current comps reflect purchase prices at the market downturn. “We have all seen some issues with appraisals,” says Assini. “Because the market has been so active, we’re expecting that by September it is going to be a lot easier to get appraised values, now that higher comps are coming in.”

That’s good news to some, though demand for houses for less than $1 million continues to be strong. According to Pat Ammirati of the Long Island Real Estate Report, sales figures for houses below the million dollar mark represent nearly 60 percent of all houses sold on the South Fork so far this year.


MINING THE PIT

The Beechwood Organization literally took a pit and turned it into a modern condominium complex. George Benedict and Steven and Michael Dubb faced little opposition to develop the site of a former sand and gravel pit just south of the highway in Southampton on Magee Street. The brand-new condominium units are positioned around Bishops Pond and feature a pool, concierge service, a clubhouse with a fitness room, and a tennis court. Perhaps a sign of a recovering economy—or possibly because certain buyers are allergic to mowing the lawn—the condos have been selling like hotcakes, with 35 of the 77 units sold in just two months.


Steven Dubb sees interest particularly from the 50-plus demographic, who don’t always want to deal with maintenance or might be downsizing from larger homes—as well as from younger buyers who want the bells and whistles of new construction and fancy amenities at a competitive price. “We saw an opportunity to build up-to-date condominiums for customers who want the finishes of a mansion, but in a townhome,” Dubb says, adding that the units boast high ceilings, crown moldings, unfinished lower levels, grand staircases, and garages. “In Southampton Village, for the same extras, you would pay well over $2 million.” The units include villas, townhomes, and attached single-family homes ranging from 2,800 to 4,800 square feet and range from $839,000 to $2 million.