Categorized | Our Town


Posted on 25 May 2012

by Hope Harris

What do you think is happening in real estate?” I asked an owner/ manager of an East Hampton agency recently.

“Is it going up, down, what?”

“It’s going sideways”, he said.

Two weeks ago there was a frantic flurry of activity. This week it’s as if the phone lines have been cut.

Owners are calling asking why we haven’t rented his or her or their house, yet when we call to make appointments to show rentals, most everything is already rented.

No longer are people renting for the summer; they’re calling to find a two week or one month rental.

In sales almost every listing between $5,000,000 and $8,000,000  is being reduced;  chipped away at, bit by bit, week by week.

Yet really high-end properties are selling. At close to their asking prices.

For the first time in many years houses are selling in the 5s and 6s (not millions — hundreds) and anything priced correctly is selling.

Conversely, an occasional house, VERY special and most always on water, sells no matter how it’s priced. Overnight.

“Sideways”: one definition is “indirect, evasive.” Another: “facing to the side.” Another: “obliquely, askance.” Best of all: “crablike.”

“The market stinks”, a broker tells me. “Except the high end. The high end is selling.” Other brokers who don’t have high end customers or listings concur: the market stinks.

Of course, there’s Sagaponack. Sagaponack sells. Always. Overpriced, underpriced, modern or traditional; construction is on-going. Sagaponack. What is it about Sagaponack? It’s the South Fork equivalent of 740 Park Avenue or 15 Central Park West: there is no ceiling on how high the ceiling is or will go to in such tony buildings in New York City or the still most-coveted South Fork zip code, 11962.

“Look at all the activity on the streets!” a broker says on the first beautiful, perfectly perfect weekend. Blue skies, in the high 70s, not a cloud in sight (nor parking spot). The sidewalks are jammed. People are shopping, eating out, dropping into real estate offices to ask how things are “going.”

It sure looks like things are picking up. People LOOK like they’re spending money. There’s energy in the air and activity on the sidewalks and streets; in the restaurants. Will it translate to people buying? Probably. But slowly, bits and starts. We brokers still sense caution, so we see a deal get done and then fall through at the last minute, and we still see buyers looking and looking until there’s nothing left to look at and still they seem reluctant to put a foot in the water.

More like a crab … scurrying to the edge of the water, dashing to the right and left, then moving back from the water. Waiting, then making another dash. Not really moving forward or back. Just sideways.

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