The Hamptons

Real Estate in the Hamptons…an honest angle

michael braverman :: on the hamptons

One thing about the Hamptons: we’ve been unsparing in our efforts to see that no billionaire goes without a home. The absorption rate here for the moneyed classes is prodigious, and while it may not rank among the country’s top ten social services, it nonetheless provides wholesome activities for both the idle and working rich between their Aspen and St. Barth’s seasons. We made sure there was a fine shingle roof over each of those well coiffed heads.

When Mae West said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful,” it was loaded with sexual nuance. A couple of generations later, when there is no longer anything forbidden about sex, it seems a suitable expression for the way we live in the Hamptons. I’m worried however that this material meaning may be starting to fade.

I’ve had enough of the stock market blues and the mortgage crisis. I miss the old days (last summer, for example) when extravagance was part of life here. No questions asked, and no one felt guilty about it. Even though I don’t count myself among those free-spending sybarites, I’m feeling cranky about the changes.

The only ones happy are a few buyers and renters. The bargain hunters, after years of humiliation and meekly having to pay the price, are having their day. I see them strutting their stuff, hormones raging, egos proud and satisfied in beating down the price of a sale or rental this summer.

Admittedly, rentals, even those over-the-top trophy rentals, are small potatoes compared to the still stratospheric sales prices in the Hamptons, but this season is a victory for the high-end, highly competitive consumer, the kind who carries a lot more baggage than a weekend tote, and longs to bring a haughty Hamptons owner to heel.

Brokers kept inventing reasons for the slow season. Finally, everyone had to admit it was just a lousy rental season and a worse sales season. When word got out and the bottom fishers started circling, some owners caved and rented for half the asking price. Other owners held on to their pride and stuck to their pre-determined lowest price, sometimes renting and sometimes just savoring the satisfaction of saying no to the deeply discounted bids. Still others are nervously waiting for split-season and monthly rentals to bail them out.

We still see some spectacular sales. That one for $61 million on Gin Lane raised our spirits. But a lot of houses are waiting for buyers. And no matter what the brokers say publicly, what we hear in private is not encouraging.

The entire real estate community is nostalgic for the past few years. Those good old days when sales prices swirled up and up, and every broker and owner looked like a brilliant player. They were not actually particularly clever in the real estate market, but the seemingly unstoppable rising tide of sales carried them all. And the assumption in the rental market was that any house would rent at virtually any inflated price. A few owners are still trying to hang on to that world, but at this point they only need turbans on their heads to become the Norma Desmonds of the Hamptons. For most of us, 2008 was the year reality trumped.

Michael Braverman is Editor at Large at Hamptons Magazine and Contributing Editor at Gotham Magazine. He has been the Wine Columnist at The East Hampton Star and he also writes for the polo newsletters, Open Season and Morning Line. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard as well! He can be reached at michael[at] or via our comments page. Braverman is deeply involved in the East End community and serves on the boards of the Hampton Classic Horse Show, the Thomas Moran Trust, the Robert Wilson Watermill Center, and the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. He has lived most of his life in East Hampton, and was a partner in Braverman Newbold Brennan Real Estate. That business was sold to Sotheby’s International Realty ten years ago, after which he became a journalist. lifeguard stand

July 15th, 2008 Posted by | guest bloggers | no comments