Forget Hamptons Heritage, Buyers Want Modern New Builds

 Bates Masi Architects, Amagansett, NY

Bates Masi Architects, Amagansett, NY

When one thinks of the Hamptons, the immediate image coming to mind is one of decades-old shingle-style mansions rising from pristine beaches adorning the Atlantic shoreline. 

One thinks deeply of tradition, and the investment over decades to build the towns and villages comprising Long Island’s South Fork. The picture is of old money, and stasis, that of the Hamptons as a peaceful, timeless retreat for New Yorkers seeking to escape the bustle of Manhattan.

However, the times, they are a-changin.

According to a recent report by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the high end of the ultra-luxury market is down. Buyers are returning to the Hamptons, but they aren’t investing in multimillion-dollar oceanfront estates. 

What has been happening? Well, the Hamptons real estate market has steadily been experiencing an upswing trend from a new generation of buyers seeking modern homes possessing the latest amenities. And yes, those buyers are seeking less expensive modern new builds. 


Modern is Hot

 Bates Masi Architects, Amagansett, NY

Bates Masi Architects, Amagansett, NY

A dream home in the Hamptons is no longer the proverbial vine-covered labyrinthian twenty room, $50 million dollar oceanfront mansion. 

The style sought after now leans toward the modern aesthetic, having top-notch amenities with a fresh, open layout, comprised of crisp architectural details, lots of glass, and clean lines echoing the beauty of the landscape and the sea — under $2 million.

The modern objective is to bring the outdoors in.


New Generation of Buyers

What is driving this surge? A new generation of prime buyers has entered the Hamptons market, a younger clientele with a contemporary mindset, wanting a place to relax when away from their jobs in the city. 

This new generation of buyers wants modern design at lower price points. They desire an open aesthetic, featuring comfortable elegance, favoring simple, large, all-glass spaces. They don’t want the “compound”, an exquisitely expensive structure resembling their “parents” house, and the traditional historical heaviness inherent in those styles. 

According to the Southampton Press, during a recent real estate panel, Zach Vichinsky of Bespoke Real Estate validated the presence of the younger buyer.

“We are seeing younger people, 30 to 45 years, some in the finance business, as buyers,” Vichinsky said.  “Whether they’ve inherited their money or are self-made, they are younger.”

Younger buyers are not nostalgic, and want what modern architecture can offer — the elevated ceilings, 9-to-10-foot-high basements, an open kitchen and living room, and no formal dining room. They seek the lighter, brighter spaces of modern builds.

So, with the drop of interest in ultra-luxury estates in favor of more cost-effective modernistic homes, the demographics of the buyer market have begun to change, according to Hamptons broker Matthew Breitenbach of Corcoran in a Haute Living report.

“There’s younger money in the market. They average in their thirties, and love the Malibu/Miami vibe that the Hamptons represent,” Breitenbach said. “They also fall for more dynamic, modern homes.


Amenities Buyers Want

These new homeowners demand the latest building materials, interiors, and high-end technologies, combining sophistication, and simplicity, creating something original and personal with both the architecture and finishes.

 43 North Haven Way, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, Listed by Frank & Dawn Bodenchak

43 North Haven Way, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, Listed by Frank & Dawn Bodenchak

Buyers want all systems, including the heat, air conditioning, lights, security, and so on in their homes controllable via iPhone and tablet, with all features adjustable with the push of a button.

Buyers want to eliminate clutter, minimizing compartmentalization, creating a pleasing visual aesthetic while creating an easy, open flow between rooms.

They want big windows, bringing the outside inside, to make them feel part of the environment, building a direct relationship to nature. Buyers want high ceilings, an open floorplan, LED lighting, light colored oak floors, and transitional finishes, with clean, straight lines on paneling, moldings, and trim. 

High on the list is a professionally equipped chef’s kitchen for food preparation. Buyers want this kitchen capable of easily adapting to events when catering is desired.  And as in all luxury kitchens, oversized cabinets with double-thick marble countertops and high-end stainless appliances. 

They also want built-in leisure facilities such as spas, gyms, sports courts, and salons.

Outside, they want elegantly landscaped grounds, with stone patios, a full bar, grills, fireplaces, pool, and spa. The entire package. 

Summing up what buyers want in a recent article, Sotheby’s International Realty Top Producer Rylan Jacka reiterated that “A lot of people are looking for modern architecture” with high-end amenities because luxury waterfront estates are sometimes prohibitively expensive, building codes are getting more restrictive, and it’s harder to build a bigger house. Lower end new builds possessing all the bells and whistles are in vogue.

 233 Red Dirt Road, Amagansett, NY 11930, Listed by Rylan Jacka of Sotheby’s International Realty

233 Red Dirt Road, Amagansett, NY 11930, Listed by Rylan Jacka of Sotheby’s International Realty

“But modern homes with luxury amenities are harder to come by, and they usually go very quickly. Pricing appropriately becomes very important in today’s market,” Jacka said. “The kitchen is still the center of the house, and everyone wants two dishwashers, two sinks, a beverage center, and butler’s pantry.”

In a recent Observer article, Brown Harris Stevens broker Martha Gundersen pointed out that buyers want the price point and convenience of new modern homes, but also seek the loaded amenities associated with traditional builds.

“They’re after the immediate gratification of new amenities and designs,” Gundersen said.  “The bar has been raised in the last two years.”

And with every new modern build, according to Gunderson, buyers are expecting high quality resources.

“Existing houses either have a cottage feeling or you get a modern glass box with hard edges and minimal detail,” Gunderson said. “New modern homes are going to be a perfect combination of the two: an English manor house with traditional Hamptons styling, done in a clean, modern way, possessing the very highest-end amenities. It has a modern approach but a family-friendly feeling.” 


Trend is Toward Moderately Priced Modern New Builds

While ultra luxury estates are sitting idle, buyers are gulping up modern Hamptons properties priced under $2 million. As more people purchase homes, the supply is depleting, increasing competition for new builds. This frenzy, while increasing sales, is also propelling builders and realtors to pay more attention to this segment of the Hamptons real estate market.

Detailed in Newsday, according to Coldwell Banker Harbor Light owner Jerry O’Neill, buyers have been flat out accepting existing modern home pricing because competition for available properties is so intense.

“Many people are buying homes at the ticket price so that they will not risk the loss of a home,” O’Neill said.

Douglas Elliman broker Enzo Morabito, agreed in a recent article, saying “Properties over $10 million are sitting, and there’s a tremendous amount of inventory. But at the lower end, from $400,000 to $1 million, things are selling very, very briskly.”

What are buyers looking for? The answer is “new,” with turnkey convenience and high-end amenities, and without the logistic problems and time investment required for renovation.

 233 Red Dirt Road, Amagansett, NY 11930, Listed by Rylan Jacka of Sotheby’s International Realty

233 Red Dirt Road, Amagansett, NY 11930, Listed by Rylan Jacka of Sotheby’s International Realty

“Home development is picking up, and anything below $2 million sells fast,” Brown Harris Stevens agent Gayle Lopata said to New York Real Estate News, providing as an example a new build recently sold for $1.7 million.  

“Under $1.5 million is currently the busiest segment of the market,” Corcoran broker Peter Moore said in a Southampton Press article. “As houses come on the market, they get sold right away, so people are kind of circling, waiting for things to come on,” Moore said.

New modern homes now spend considerably less time on the market, often receiving a higher price compared with similar homes that are up for resale but older. 

“The dramatic shift has been the availability of newer construction,” said Corcoran’s Gary DePersia, to the New York Real Estate News. “Even a house built in the late ’90s or mid-2000s can feel dated to a buyer. People want their own homes.” 

Builder Joe Farrell of Farrell Building Company agreed, saying it’s much easier now to sell new houses. “I’d say 90 percent of buyers prefer new,” Farrell said.

Seemingly, a very small portion of buyers want traditional estates, preferring a brand new product offering high-end amenities such as dramatic entries, ground floor masters, and media rooms at a much lower price point, offering instant gratification.

“New construction has outpaced resale by a tremendous amount,” Halstead Property Managing Director Anthony DeVivio said in an Observer interview.  

“In terms of price command and length on the market, new construction is No. 1. The buyers tend to be younger, and aren’t interested or don’t have the time to DIY, they just want it done so they can come out here and enjoy it,” DeVivio said.


Written by Breck Hapner