By Scott Kauffman
General Info: New York’s Long Island is the largest island on America’s East Coast – spanning a total of 1,682 square miles. It extends 120 miles eastward from New York City, encompassing two New York City boroughs (Brooklyn and Queens), congested commuter towns, the farmland of the North Fork, and the renowned summer resorts of the Hamptons on the South Fork.
The seaside villages of the Hamptons, some dating from the 1600s, stretch west to east from Westhampton Beach to Amagansett; at the tip is the fishing community of Montauk. Locals and jet-setting out-of-towners annually escape to the Hamptons for its rolling farmland and vineyards, bucolic estates and ranches, exclusive country clubs and wonderful Atlantic Ocean white-sand beaches.
Some historians say the “Hampton mystique” began in Westhampton Beach. In 1870, residents began renting out rooms to travelers who reached the area on the newly constructed Long Island Railroad. Soon the practice spread and it was not long before the Hamptons became one of the most attractive destinations in the world.
The heart of the Hamptons is Southhampton, Bridgehampton and East Hampton.
The town of Southampton was established in 1640 by English colonists and was the first settlement in New York State. Southhampton is probably best known for famed Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, its historical museum, excellent windsurfing and chic Job Lane Shopping District.
Elegant Bridgehampton, located just to the east, is noted for having heavenly horse country. Each year, this town plays host to the prestigious Hampton Classic Horse Show and the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge.
East Hampton is arguably the crown jewel of the Hamptons. Founded by farmers in 1648, agriculture remained its lifeblood until the 1800s, when the town began to develop into a fashionable resort. Today, East Hampton’s considerable wealth and Puritan heritage make for a particularly understated prosperity, and much of the village remains as it was during the 18th century.
Land Value: There are few places on the planet with pricier real estate than that of the Hamptons, where an entry-level home starts at around $800,000 and can go up to $100 million. To get a better idea of how exclusive it is to have a piece of the Hamptons, a typical oceanfront residence for the peak summer period of Memorial Day to Labor Day rents for as much as $350,000 and up, according to Alice Bell, vice president of Sotheby’s International Realty East Hampton office.
Availability: Vacant land tracts are few and far between, if you’re even fortunate to find a parcel. “Truthfully, there is very little land available,” says Bell, who has one 18-acre parcel for sale in Sagaponack for $45 million. “People are buying homes and tearing them down if they want to be in the estate sections close to the ocean.” What can someone expect to pay for such a tear-down parcel? Probably in the neighborhood of $4 million, Bell says, for a 1.2 to 1.3-acre tract with a historic home.
The Market: Despite a national real-estate market slowdown, record-breaking deals are a daily occurrence in the Hamptons, where 99 percent of the buyers do not get mortgages, according to Bell. Last year’s enormous Wall Street bonuses — $36 billion by some accounts – didn’t hurt the local high-end market defined by Bell as property that starts at $8 million. “Basically, the high-end market is still strong,” Bell adds. “If the high-end property is priced correctly in a good location with an exceptional house, we have a number of buyers. We’ve had a flurry of activity in recent months.”
Bell did concede the “low-end” market, properties below $2 million, has slowed down a bit. “There’s a lot of people looking around waiting to see what happens,” Bells says. “But we’ve been advising people to buy. It’s a very good time to buy.”
FYI: How big is Hamptons real estate? In May, Ron Baron, founder of Baron Funds investment company, paid a reported $103 million for a residential property in East Hampton. The record price for the 40-acre estate topped the previous mark set in 2004, when Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman sold his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for $70 million to Dwight Schar of builder NVR.
Meanwhile, one of the most expensive property listings in the world is Three Ponds in Bridgehampton. Situated on more than 60 acres of rolling farmland, this $75 million waterfront compound features a 25,000-square-foot main compound designed by Allan Greenberg (White House, Princeton University and Rockefeller Center fame), 14 gardens, a 75-foot-long swimming pool and its own U.S.G.A.-rated private golf course designed by acclaimed architect Rees Jones.