AUGUST 26, 2016
By MARCELLE SUSSMAN FISCHLER
The Hamptons’ star-studded cachet has long tilted east of the Shinnecock Canal to the highly prized — and high-priced — areas of Southampton Village, Bridgehampton and East Hampton Town. Expansive oceanfront estates, fashionable shops and chic restaurants add to their aura as premier seaside resorts. But when it came to buying a summer house, Will and Lynn Bagliebter of Scarsdale, N.Y., stopped short of the canal. They had no interest in going east.
“Having been to the Hamptons many times over the years, and suffered through traffic east of Southampton, we were determined to find something, initially to rent and then to buy, that was west of these traffic issues,” said Mr. Bagliebter, 65, a lawyer, adding that being “down to earth,” he and his wife had “no use” for a social scene. “Getting stuck in traffic in our minds would be a major drawback and irritation to buying in the Hamptons.”
Traffic worsens east of the canal because the divided highway ends and the road narrows. So for those who believe that an easier trip to the beach as well as comparatively lower housing prices are more important than a fancy ZIP code or celebrity sightings, west of the canal is an increasingly sought-after option.
“It is no longer a stepchild,” said Todd Bourgard, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. West of the canal includes Hampton Bays, which straddles the canal; Quogue; Westhampton Beach; and Remsenburg.
In January, the Bagliebters paid $915,000 for a shingled 2,400-square-foot Cape Cod-style house with an in-ground pool on an acre in Westhampton Beach. This summer, even before a planned $500,000 renovation, the house was catnip for their children and grandchildren.
“West hampton Beach offers us everything we could possibly want in a vacation home. Frankly, we are not sure what the east offers that the west doesn’t,” Mr. Bagliebter said. “The beaches here are as nice as the beaches on the other side of the canal.”
Mornings, the couple stroll into town for breakfast at the Beach Bakery Grand Cafe; evenings “the kids walk into town to get ice cream,” added Ms. Bagliebter, 61, a banker. The couple also can walk to the movies and the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. He plays golf; she attends services at the
Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach.
Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said that rising automobile traffic to the east “is perhaps a factor for the greater growth in sales west of the canal over the past five years.” The 21.9 percent surge in sales volume west of the canal compared with five years ago, he said, ”represents the shift in demand to west of the canal from buyers being priced out of the east-of-the-canal
During the second quarter of this year, the average price of homes west of the canal was $1,005,758, slightly less than half of the average $2,015,387 east of the canal, where eight-figure price tags are commonplace.
Over the past five years, sales prices in the Hamptons west of the canal experienced more growth, with a 15 percent uptick, while east-of-the-canal prices dipped 4.8 percent, Mr. Miller said. West of the canal, prices in the second quarter of this year were up 8.8 percent over the same period last year; on the east side the increase was 2.9 percent.
Housing stock west of the canal is more “skewed toward lower-priced homes” than it is to the east, Mr. Miller said. According to the Hamptons market report he prepares for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 53.1 percent of all sales in the second quarter were for less than $1 million, which is “inconsistent with the general perception of the Hamptons housing market.”
Residents say the way of life in the western beach towns also is more low key than that to the east. As the sun set on a recent Wednesday, Pamela Glazer, 62, a local architect, ordered clams at the Beach Hut, a packed waterside concession at Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays. An enthusiastic crowd was dancing to Mambo Loco, a local band. Children played in the sand, and paddle boarders plied the Great Peconic Bay.
“Life out here is about being on the water,” Ms. Glazer said. “If you are coming out for the scenery, there is no reason to go further east.” But she noted that those seeking “a certain prestige” and the “lifestyles of the rich and famous,” are “not going to be happy” in the western Hamptons.
Growing up, Oliver Freundlich, 43, an architect who now lives in Brooklyn, spent weekends and holidays at his parents’ Bridgehampton spread up tony Jobs Lane from Mecox Beach. But when he looked for a summer place with his wife, Britta von Schoeler, 41, and their daughter, Wilhelmina, 7, buying east of the canal “was absolutely out of the question financially.” Nor, with busy work schedules, did they “want to run the risk of tearing our hair out on three-hour drives back and forth.”
Ms. von Schoeler’s family rented a place in closer-in Hampton Bays, which opened his eyes to “traditionally more blue-collar neighborhoods” with smaller lots, he said, “but, most important, still in joyful proximity to some of the greatest beaches on the East Coast.”
In July, the couple paid $700,000 for a white-shuttered shingled house with five bedrooms and two and a half baths on 0.66 acre in Westhampton. It included a resident pass to Rogers Beach. “The combination of being 68 miles from the city and eight minutes from the beach hit our sweet spot,” Mr. Freundlich said. With waterfront restaurants like CowFish and Rumba that you can pull a boat up to, Hamptons Bay is hopping, Mr. Bourgard of Douglas Elliman said. Sales in Hampton Bays, which he called the Hamptons’ “most reasonably priced area” are up 25 percent from last year, and “last year was a booming year.”
Among Hampton Bays listings, he said, are five bayfront homes for under $1 million, 10 between $1 million and $2 million, and eight from $2 million to $3 million.
Recently, one of Mr. Bourgard’s listings, a nine-acre shorefront property for $4,995,000 in Hampton Bays, went into contract with a client who had been renting a house in Bridgehampton. “Now they are seeing the value,” he said. “It takes as long to get from Manhattan to Hampton Bays as it does from Hampton Bays to East Hampton.” Sharon and Joop de Korte came to Hampton Bays because they wanted to change their lives as well as start a new business together — she was in market research and he was a sound engineer for rock ’n’ roll bands and for Rachael Ray, the television personality. So starting about three years ago, they began buying fixer-uppers to rent or flip, eventually amassing six, two of them waterfront, in Hampton Bays and East Quogue. For capital, they used an assist from her father and the proceeds from the sale of a twobedroom Upper East Side co-op for just over $1.2 million in 2015.
They themselves live in East Quogue, in a waterfront cottage with three bedrooms and one bath that they purchased for $450,000 in 2015. They added a sunroom and now enjoy the “peace and quiet and accessibility to the city,” said Mr. de Korte, who is 62.
“We go out to have lunch in the backyard, and there are swans that come up to the dock,” Ms. de Korte, 53, added.
As for their business: “Our broker is begging us to sell waterfront properties because there aren’t enough of them, and the prices are climbing much faster than homes not on the water,” said Mr. de Korte, who has cut back a bit but still works for Rachael Ray.
For 17 years, Enzo Morabito, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman, sold luxury properties in Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk. Seven years ago, when he moved west to Westhampton Beach so his son could be in its school district, Mr. Morabito began concentrating on luxury waterfront sales from East Quogue to Remsenburg. “The price differential is so great it is unsustainable,” he said, with the eastern Hamptons “getting priced out” across the board.
Gary DePersia, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group, said he expected the west would soon start making inroads on the cachet and prices of the east. His $24.95 million listing for a six-year-old shingle- style oceanfront house with nine bedrooms on three acres in Quogue, the priciest of the western beach towns, “would be $60 or $70 million on Meadow Lane” in Southampton Village, he said.
“Someone will come along and say, ‘Why shouldn’t I be buying this here, instead of spending two or three
times the amount east of the canal?’ ” Mr. DePersia said.
Summer rentals are also less expensive to the west. In Quogue, a 1993 contemporary house, with eight bedrooms and eight and a half baths, a three-bedroom guest apartment, a pool and a 50-foot deepwater dock on Penniman Creek, rented from Memorial Day to Labor Day for $225,000, Mr. Morabito said, adding that a similar house farther east would rent in the mid-$300,000s.
Robert Olstein, the chairman and chief investment officer of the Olstein Funds, called the Hamptons west of the canal “an undiscovered paradise for the wealthy.” In 1992, Mr. Olstein rebuilt a six-bedroom house with a pool on Duck Point in Remsenburg with panoramic views of Moriches Bay, purposely avoiding his Wall Street friends.
“People need to be five minutes from Billy Joel, and I don’t care about Billy Joel,” said Mr. Olstein, 73, whose house is on the market for $6,950,000 because of an illness in the family. “I didn’t want to be out in the hub of society and the parties. I do that all week. I wanted to escape, be out there in an hour and a half and respectfully turn down every invitation.”
Developers, of course, are also striking out for the west. Before ground was broken earlier this month for the Estates at Remsenburg, a 23-acre subdivision of custom houses, half of the development’s 19 lots had sold, said Lawrence Citarelli, the developer and owner/broker of First Hampton International Realty.
“There is a steadily growing demographic shift of people wanting to sell east and buy west,” he said. “It is for those who want a little bit of quiet, not the pound-the-chest mentality.” With the beaches, shopping and concerts in the gazebo on Main Street in Westhampton Beach, and jet service at Francis S. Gabreski
Airport in Westhampton Beach, he said, “no matter how you slice it, this side screams value.” Construction is scheduled to start next spring for 37 townhouses with three bedrooms and three baths at the Boat Houses at Shinnecock in Hampton Bays, which will have boat slips and a dock on the eastern bank of the canal. The price tag? $1.6 million-plus each.
“Hampton Bays is a special location with a lot of waterfront opportunity,” said Gregg Rechler, a managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners, the developer of the project. He’s a boater, he says, and to be able to get to the ocean, Shinnecock Bay and Peconic Bay “is kind of amazing.” Across the canal on the west side, he is also redeveloping the old Canoe Place Inn as an inn and catering hall. “The great thing about Hampton Bays is you are between two of the best towns,” he said. Westhampton Beach is about 20 minutes west; Southampton Village is roughly 20 minutes east.
At the 24-unit townhouse condo Ponquogue Point in Hampton Bays, six units have sold, some with water views. Prices range from the mid-$600,000s to $1.6 million, Mr. Citarelli said. Maria Cunneen, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group, said east of the canal “will always have the allure,” but many younger buyers seeking a nice place out of the city to hike, surf and paddle board are having “that aha moment,” realizing “west of the canal is offering them a lot more bang for the buck.”
“Boaters want docking and access to the water,” Ms. Cunneen added. “It is untouchable east of the canal for them.