6:26 PM EST, February 7, 2008 If you think it's too early to book your summer vacation in the Hamptons, think again. The first buds of spring may be weeks away, but in the Hamptons, real estate agents say, the rental season is already going full throttle.
The season traditionally begins during Presidents' Week, says Judi Desiderio, president and chief executive of Town & Country Real Estate, whose main office is in East Hampton.
"By the end of that week, 50 percent of the summer rentals are gone." This year, the season took off at least a month earlier, she says.
By early January, the company's Bridgehampton office had already leased 20 homes, several in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, for Memorial Day through Labor Day, says Town & Country vice president and managing partner Janet Hummel.
Desiderio says the hottest areas are the villages: Westhampton Beach, Southampton and East Hampton. Sagaponack is also popular, "but mostly with buyers," she says. "People love to have something in a village so they can get off a bus or a train and walk to the house or to shopping."
Sought-after amenities by renters include pools and central air-conditioning, decked-out kitchens and, on the higher end, tennis courts, elevators and access to the beach. But clients looking for oceanfront rentals "had better hurry up ... there are few left," Desiderio says.
This year, would-be renters in the ever-strong Hamptons will find higher prices and increased competition from abroad for a place to lay their flip-flops, despite the downturn in the rest of the housing market. Gary DePersia, senior vice president with The Corcoran Group's East Hampton office, says prices are about 20 percent higher than last year.
Higher prices, he says, have not deterred his European clientele, who, with the weak dollar, "feel they are getting a good deal for their euro."
Desiderio agrees: "This is the first time in over 26 years of doing real estate that so many of my clients are coming from Europe ... A good percentage of those are coming from the U.K."
Hamptons' full-season summer rentals start at about $18,000 for a one-bedroom condo in Westhampton Beach to $1 million for an eight-bedroom Sagaponack estate, according to Hamptons Real Estate Online, a listing site for sales and rentals at hreo.com. At least one other home, an oceanfront mansion on Meadow Lane in Southampton, has also hit the $1-million mark. Prices vary depending on location, size and amenities.
"Larger houses, more bedrooms, designer furnishing and proximity to the beach will bump a rental up to five figures," DePersia says, advising that extra expenses also need to be factored in. "On a $500,000 rental, expect to pay another $40,000 to $50,000 for upkeep and maintenance of lawns, pools and tennis courts." Desiderio adds that higher-priced homes "usually come with staff."
"This will be a banner rental year," predicts Lori Barbaria of Prudential Douglas Elliman's Bridgehampton office. "The rental market is extremely strong." Barbaria says she's already sealed the deal on a $475,000 Bridgehampton oceanfront rental, and she has good prospects for a similarly priced home in Water Mill. "I've had nonstop showings."
Here's a sampling of what's still available:
SAGAPONACK: If it's privacy you want, look no further. This newly constructed 12,000-square-foot home on Parsonage Lane offers modern amenities on four acres of land surrounded by farm fields. The traditional house has eight bedrooms, nine baths and two half baths, a gym, a wine cellar, a sauna, a billards room and a pool with a spa. The Sagaponack address puts you in proximity to rocker Billy Joel, who bought two homes there last year. Listed with Beate Moore of Sotheby's International Realty.
SHINNECOCK: This gated eight-bedroom, 9½-bath villa offers 300 feet of private waterfront on Shinnecock Bay, with panoramic views of the bay and the ocean beyond. Amenities include an elevator, heated infinity pool, indoor lap pool with Jacuzzi, two saunas and private steps to the beach. Put friends up in a guest cottage with a full bath and kitchen. Listed with Anita Bennett of Brown Harris Stevens.
EAST HAMPTON: Hobnob with neighbors such as Steven Spielberg and Martha Stewart when you rent this 7,500-square-foot, six-bedroom, nine-bath secluded dwelling on idyllic Georgica Pond. Stroll among five acres of trees and English gardens, take a canoe on the lake, play a game of tennis or basketball on an all-weather court or relax in a pool and spa set beneath an Indian teahouse pavilion. Listed with Gary DePersia of The Corcoran Group.
SAGAPONACK: A relative bargain compared to the $1-million rental nearby, this 9,000-square-foot house on Wilkes Lane has six bedrooms, 8½ baths and a kitchen with a Viking range, a Traulsen refrigerator and other high-end appliances. The two-acre property has a heated gunite pool, outdoor shower and cabana, and mature gardens. Listed with Jane Gill of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
EAST HAMPTON VILLAGE: On Further Lane, just a quarter-mile from the beach and close to the venerable Maidstone Club, this five-bedroom, five-bath house sits on three acres of manicured greenery. Amenities include a pool with a poolhouse. It's available from July to Labor Day. Listed with Bryan Midlam of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
SAG HARBOR: Watch the sunrise as you sip coffee on the patio of this five-bedroom waterfront house with a dock on Sag Harbor Cove. The house, on Whaler's Walk, just a 10-minute walk from Long Beach, has a heated pool and views of the North Haven Bridge. Listed with Michael Daly of RE/MAX Beach Properties.
AMAGANSETT: Walk to the ocean in less than five minutes from this 3,200-square-foot renovated contemporary owned by fashion photographer Don Ashby. The five-bedroom, 4½-bath dwelling features ocean views, a heated pool, central air-conditioning and a living room with a fireplace. It is next to a reserve. Listed with Bill Stoecker of Town & Country Real Estate.
WAINSCOTT: Antiques lovers will want to check out this 1840 five-bedroom house at the foot of Beach Lane. Buy your produce at Babinski's farmstand just across the street and walk less than a mile to the ocean. The 2,500-square-foot home features a heated pool, an outdoor shower and views of a nature preserve. Listed with Bill Stoecker of Town & Country Real Estate.
BRIDGEHAMPTON: This 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home on Butter Lane has cathedral ceilings, a stucco fireplace and an indoor-outdoor dining area. The home faces west, overlooking 60 acres of farm fields, and has a heated pool and informal gardens. Listed with Jane Gill of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
MONTAUK: If surfing is your thing, this four-bedroom, two-bath renovated 1950s surf shack could be for you. The house with a pool is within three blocks of the beach, and the interior has just been redesigned to make it whiter and brighter for summer. Listed with Rich Dec of the Corcoran Group.