Behind The Hedges 29.01.2020 15:17 Real Estate Professionals Reflect on 2019, Look to 2020

News & Features

Real Estate Professionals Reflect on 2019, Look to 2020
December 20, 2019
Hamptons real estate professionals have had a big year, with significant sales and big listings making headlines throughout 2019. Now, the East End real estate community reflects on 2019 and looks ahead to 2020. I think the biggest surprise was the new rental law that doesn't understand how short term and seasonal rentals work in many parts of New York State and the effects it has on both homeowners and tenants. It unfortunately didn't think through the implications it would have on our market and hopefully will soon be rectified. Secondly, the increase in movement of the luxury home segment. As we progress into 2020 and onward, the next decade will continue to see shifts in the way real estate business is transacted and the way buyer search for their properties. We must embrace these changes and challenges to continue to better serve our clients--Doug Sabo, Nest Seekers International What has remained surprising in 2019 is the fact that there is so much money in the stock market, mortgage rates continue to be historically low, and yet the luxury market in the Hamptons (and overall in the Hamptons) was not as robust as one would expect. It's apparent that buyers just don't want to overpay in a softening market for a discretionary vacation home, especially with such a slowdown in the Manhattan market. Sellers who priced their homes to sell, however, had much better luck at getting to the closing table. Some buyers are still waiting for the market to go down even more to get better deals. What I've learned in this business is that you just can't time the market. By waiting, you can miss out on some amazing opportunities. I think buyers are starting to realize that. While the first three business quarters were down by double digits, the fourth quarter--normally a slow selling time--has been surprisingly very active. Hopefully, this is a good omen for kicking off 2020!--Aimee Martin, Saunders & Associates 2019 was a great year, after a bumpy start in January. It's been my biggest selling year yet, and I'm looking forward to all that 2020 has in store with the ongoing renaissance taking place in Westhampton Beach. So regardless of the chatter, home purchases continue to be a good investment in the Hamptons.--Natalie Lewis, The Corcoran Group I was surprised by the resilience of the market during a year that struggled. Personally, I had a bidding war on one of my listings in Montauk with only two bedrooms in the main house that sold for almost $18 million. Another Montauk sale of vacant land nearby sold for $9 million. It had been on the market previously for several years. A sale of a 4-acre estate in Kean Development's Olde Towne in Southampton Village, that had been asking $35 million, was later joined by the sale to my same buyer of the adjacent 4-acre vacant lot--that hadn't been officially on the market--for $13 million. One of my buyers bought one of my listings that came with a renter for around $10M; and then got an amazing price for an August rental after the tenant vacated. The rental market for 2020 kicked into gear much earlier this year with some pricey decisions already made for all or part of the summer season. In November and December, I have been seeing some great new deals by brokers all over the market as I too negotiate some of my own listings. I believe you'll see some surprising closings in January/February. This points to great expectations for 2020.--Gary DePersia, The Corcoran Group The biggest surprise this year was, without question, the way the market shifted into a gallop as the leaves began to fall. While we heard from many of our colleagues that the market languished well into summer, this was a fall to remember. Strong. Active. Solid. Exciting. We'll leave it to the pundits to explain the many variables that led to this upturn, but for now we are pleased to have shared our confidence in the Hamptons market with our many sellers and buyers alike. Serious sellers are getting solid offers, and buyers are getting fair value. A balanced market is always our best market. With this great fall behind us, we head into 2020 with great expectations. We encourage sellers to "Get Real." Let your brokers list your home at a reasonable price­--the most important thing you can do to get this behind you. Buyers, do all the homework you want, but trust your broker to lead you to a reasonable offer. You can and will get fair value in this active market. All in all, we want to be the first to declare that we honestly believe that the market we're heading into will one day be remembered as the roaring '20s.--Ann Ciardullo and Keith Green, Sotheby's International Realty The market was brisk at the start of 2019! I found the political environment took a bit of a toll on the market. That said, 2020 is poised to be a stellar year. Global tensions are easing, and consumer confidence is expected to be on the upswing. I wish everyone a joyous holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you all in 2020!--Sherri Winter Parker, The Corcoran Group ​I was pleased to see that the number of transactions and pricing were not substantially affected by weakness in our feeder markets. The price range from $750,000 to $1 million saw a large increase in activity when compared to years past. Buyers below $1 million were more selective and negotiated harder than in the previous two years. What surprised me was to see that the number of closings and contracts written over $1 million are down about 20% in 2019. The highest price paid for a luxury residential home on the North Fork was $3,025,000 according to MLS data. Years past have seen more activity above that price point. Development Rights Intact Land and commercial property saw an increase in activity and interest. Looking forward, the North Fork market will remain busy below $1 million. Above $1 million will continue to be impacted by the challenges of the loss of SALT deductions. Interest in Development Rights Intact land and commercial property will remain as strong as it was this year.--Thomas McCloskey, Douglas Elliman First, I am very excited to enter into 2020. I think we have overcome a lot of uncertainty and we are at a great time in history in the market with low interest rates, good inventory, and an extraordinary place to live and enjoy life. I think the biggest surprise/happening in the market in 2019 was how the crazy increase in the stock market did not translate to the confidence in the real estate market. However that ship seems to be turning very slowly and people are finally recognizing the opportunity that exists in Hamptons real estate. Another interesting surprise was how the new rental law which was clearly designed for year-round tenants, but also applied to our season rentals created such a disruption. We are all complying however and are very excited to move to a very successful 2020!--Martha Gundersen, Douglas Elliman After more than three decades as a broker on the East End, this is the first time I can recall Wall Street hit a series of records in 2019 yet the luxury market on the east end was soft. I used to say our markets were "umbilically" connected--I can't say that after this year, in my opinion the geopolitical climate changed the game rules here. As we enter 2020, the uncertainty of our agreements with Mexico and Canada and separately china seem to be finding neutral ground--two of several distractions that hold buyers back from feeling comfortable enough to make such large purchases, which at times is a luxury item.--Judi Desiderio, Town & Country Real Estate For me, 2019 started out with a lot of uncertainties in our marketplace‎! I love my business, so I just stayed focused and worked harder. I will never forget the Spring season having several listing systems to now use as our tools for information. It was clearly three times the work! Then as the Summer season heated up, finally the market picked up and we saw many listings that were on the market for years finally go to contract and trade. This year is ending much better than it began and I have more closing in December than in the past years. I believe in 2020 the market will continue with a good balance of inventory and trading at market prices. No one wants to overpay for anything these days when we have access to a wealth of information. New real estate technology is going to come out more than ever in 2020! However, it is based on a year round marketplace and users will still need the insight of a knowledgeable broker in "The Hamptons" Resort market.--Maryanne Horwath, Douglas Elliman With over 20 years in real estate, the biggest surprise for me was the market in 2019. With the economy at an all-time high, low interest rates, record unemployment, low inflation, real estate just didn't mirror what normally should have been an auspicious year as in the past based on the data. There were many theories as to why, i.e. the new salt law to price corrections. However, going into 2020, there has been an upswing in the number of homes going into contract. As such, I feel, the New Year should be strong since most people are now moving from a "wait and see" position to one of wanting to live the Hamptons lifestyle.--John Christopher, Sotheby's International Real Estate
Real Estate & Law: A Look Back at 2019 and a Look Ahead
December 19, 2019

Over the course of 2019, there were so many pieces of newly enacted substantive laws that control the sales, rentals and litigation landscape of real estate. If we recapped each of these new 2019 laws, this article would likely span well over 50 pages. Yet, it is imperative that we all learn about these laws, because law is what controls our lives, livelihood and society.

My career is divided between managing a law firm, litigating on behalf of my clients and training real estate brokers to comply with the laws of their field. During 2019, I again and again was faced with a particularly acute dismissal of many of the laws that control our lives, from brokers, my litigation clients and even the purchasers and sellers who worked with my firm. This saddens me. It does not sadden me that individuals disagree with the law, because that is healthy and constructive. Instead, it saddens me that individuals believe they do not need to follow a law that they disagree with. Remember, a law is what it is until it's not. I share with you some highlights of the extraordinary changes to the law.

Chief among the new 2019 real estate laws were new rental laws, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which was enacted by way of a 74-page, single-spaced bill that changed the rental landscape throughout the state as we know it. This bill addressed rent regulated units, market rate units, conversions of rental units into owned units, and mobile parks. It is responsible for capping prepaid rent at one month, preventing landlords, and their agents, from employing many strategies to screen tenants, creating security deposit inspection and refund rules, providing a path for rent regulations to be enacted in new communities throughout the state, and so much more.

Beyond the new rental law typhoon, we had advances in housing discrimination laws and a renewed consciousness about the seriousness of these laws. First, there was a new statewide law that offered protection to tenants from being denied housing based upon their lawful source of income, which is the number one reason that housing discrimination claims exist in many communities where it was previously applicable. As a result, the act of demanding a W2 from a prospective tenant is an act of discrimination because it causes working to be a prerequisite to renting. Beyond new discrimination laws, we had a renewed focus on discrimination claims. We started the year with the #MeToo movement and ended it with Newsday's findings of their three-year investigation, "Long Island Divided." Now, congressional hearings are underway to combat racial steering in our communities and further protections are expected in the decade ahead.

Beyond laws about rentals and discrimination, 2019 also offered a bill that protected reverse mortgage borrowers by specifically requiring that such borrowers are afforded legal representation when closing on these loans. There was a law that gave disabled tenants the opportunity to cancel their leases if they needed to move into an assisted living facility. There was a law to protect domestic violence victims from being evicted if they called the police for self-protection from their abusers. This past year brought a new deed transfer notice law that provides for notice to the owner whenever a deed transfer is filed with the County Clerk so that homeowners can know if a fraudster is in the lurks. There was the LLC disclosure requirement, so that transacting parties could no longer hide behind a Limited Liability Company and pretend that they weren't the terrible sellers who flipped the house with ticky-tacky rather than nails.

The list of new laws goes on and on and on. Yet, these laws don't explain 2019 and what this past year was all about--2019 was about politics, plain and simple. We had impeachment, and nothing else seemed to matter. No, impeachment isn't a real estate law, nor did impeachment directly impact real estate law, but the polarized political landscape that swooped in with the impeachment hearings has affected everything.

As a society, our political climate has never been more charged. Politics has caused each of us to forget the distinction between our respect for the rule of law and our vision for a more perfect union. We have forgotten that following existing law is not a choice but, instead, an obligation with serious repercussions.

Yes, our opinions matter, and we should all be active in politics so that we can have our voices heard. We should write politicians, lobby and even run for office. However, during this past year we were charged to label anything that we disagree with as "fake news" and to challenge the legitimacy of laws or risk being labelled as traitors to our tribe, whether it be Democrat or Republican.

Please understand that this issue is not particular to either political party, but instead it is an issue of the tribal politics under which we now operate as a whole society. We now hear everything through a lens of evaluation where we must first take a position as to whether we agree with it as right or disagree with it as wrong before we decide if we have an obligation to follow it as a binding law of the land. Make no mistake, following only the laws that we agree with is very dangerous. It is very dangerous for individuals, in their personal lives, when they believe that their opinion matters more than it does, and this is particularly dangerous when those opinions are with respect to the legitimacy of laws that control our lives, including real estate laws.

So, as we bring in 2020, I ask one thing. Respect the laws that were made by those who you oppose. Respect those laws because the legitimacy of the law that you support demands that your opposition also gives your laws respect. For if we stop respecting laws, what do we have?

Andrew M. Lieb, Esq., MPH, is the managing attorney of Lieb at Law P.C. and a contributing writer for Behind the Hedges.

Top 10 Behind the Hedges Stories of 2019
December 18, 2019

The year that was in East End real estate saw its share of notable sales, a roster of remarkable properties hitting the market, plenty of bold-face names in the news and one particular announcement that could reshape the way we all search for homes in the Hamptons. Amid those stories, Behind the Hedges also covered legendary developers and historic homes, had some fun with the sanctity of secrecy that surrounds certain sales, and sparked plenty of buzz that generated the Top 10 Behind the Hedges stories of 2019:

Big News from the Bay The first can-you-believe-it news of the new year came in the first few days of January from Westhampton Beach in "The Highest Bayfront Sale on Dune Road in a Decade," which announced that the record-setting deal for a reported $6,425,000.

What's in a Name? You know the person who bought that property around the corner? No? Well, sometimes that's the point, as "Noms de Dune" so eloquently enumerates.

Boo "Is the Rogers Mansion Really Haunted?" asks the question raised by many who have heard the footsteps in empty halls, seen shadowy figures and felt ghostly presences in the famed Southampton building. Southampton History Museum, who occupies the mansion, called in Long Island Paranormal Investigators (LIPI) to investigate and offer some answers.

The Man Who Made Montauk In 1925, Carl Fisher bought the entire peninsula of Montauk, 10,000 acres in all, for $2.5 million (that's about $315 million in today's dollars). The developer of Miami Beach, Fisher had a dream to turn Montauk into the Miami Beach of the north and have the Gatsby crowd think, "Miami Beach in the winter, Montauk in the summer." You'll find out how in "Carl Fisher: The Most Audacious Real Estate Developer Ever."

Cellars Market The first Long Island wine to ever be served at a presidential inauguration was a merlot from the acclaimed Bedell Cellars that was served to toast Barack Obama's second term in 2013. Explore the beauty of the vineyard and how the property could become yours in "Grape Expectations."

Life's a Beach Romance? Recreation? Historic memories? Beach Hampton is indeed in the heart of Wonderland...and "Beach Hampton: A New World of Happiness" dives into how this mile of pure white sands, blue waters and silvery surf does sing to the soul.

The Price Was Right There's a reason people watch the Hamptons market like they do a major sports league. The biggest deals and the biggest players made for one of the biggest stories of the year in "The Top 10 Priciest Properties for Sale in the Hamptons."

What's in a Name, Too Does Gin Lane relate to Prohibition? Who was Stephen Hand and why does he have a Path? Find out in "Who Was Daniel and Why Did He Have a Hole?"

How Did We Lose Something So Big? The Hamptons of today is known for over-the-top real estate, but "Lost Mansions of the Hamptons" celebrates the grand and glorious estates of last century.

The Search Is Over...Or Just Beginning "Hamptons Real Estate Association Launches" broke so recently that it could still be considered breaking, but the news of a new online listings service in the Hamptons that hopes to take on other real estate properties of the internet still has the industry and potential sellers and buyers all abuzz.

Shelter Island Enchantment
December 13, 2019

The Hamptons is a place filled with unique homes, but even here this Shelter Island property is especially beguiling. On the north shore of the island, gentle breezes off the bay create waves that lap against the boathouse, where beds and chairs invite the visitor to rest for an hour or a lifetime.

An old barn with a tower offers views to kill for, while an American flag snaps against a flagpole made from a racing yacht.

The estate's origins date back to 1889, when "Alturas," as it's known, was built by William Ulmer, a Brooklyn brewer, for his daughter, Mrs. John W. Weber. (Her sister, Mrs. Becker, had a house built for her next door.) The acreage Mr. Ulmer purchased was called "one of the coolest and sightliest parts of the island" in the book The History of Shelter Island, 1652-1932, by Ralph Duvall (published in 1952).

Mr. Ulmer was an interesting businessman: he created a "pleasure park" in Brooklyn, just a few stops short of Coney Island -- near today's Bensonhurst. The liquor license described Ulmer Park as a "picnic ground, or open air pleasure resort, of about two acres." Scattered throughout, of course, were stands for Ulmer's beer. Today, the name Ulmer Park remains as a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and a bus depot.

Partners in brewing with Mr. Ulmer were his sons-in-law, Weber and Becker. In 1901 the Becker house was relocated and the Weber house rebuilt and moved closer to the shoreline. Over the years, the family added many nooks, wings and passages to the original structure.

One thing that was added was the flagpole, made from the mast of a vessel used by Sir Thomas Lipton to race for the America's Cup. Yes, Lipton of the tea company. Thomas Lipton (1848-1931) was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but spent several years in the United States learning American business ways. Then he returned to Scotland to found his business empire, based on Lipton teas and a chain of grocery stores. He was crazy about yacht racing, being the most persistent challenger in the history of the America's Cup. Very rich, Lipton was known as "'the world's most eligible bachelor." But he never married, saying that no woman ever could compare to his mother. (You can see where this is going.) In secret, Lipton had a 30-year relationship with a male shop assistant.

Added later, too, was the wide porch curving around the house, an inviting space for whiling away a hot summer afternoon, especially in the days before air conditioning. A nephew of the original owners recalled sitting on the porch with his aunt and watching schools of porpoise dance through the bay.

The house, which is 7000 square feet, has been updated thoughtfully and sensitively. It abounds with lovable nooks and crannies and built in window seats, including a round dining cabana. One notable feature is the current dining room, a copy of the classic German Weinstube or little wine bar, with carved wooden walls. A German artisan friend of the Webers created the hand-carved and burnt oak paneling. The room was originally a games room.

The grounds feature extensive fascinating outbuildings, including the barn with a windmill-like tower. The barn has been converted into a guest house with living and dining areas. There's 4.8 acres of land, much less than the original 54 acres for both this property and the Becker house. An old white gazebo is by the gunite pool; it was formerly used for relaxing by the old tennis court, now replaced with a modern court. There's also a basketball court.

The romantic boathouse is possibly the most beguiling part of the estate, next to the 80-foot dock. It's one of the newer additions to the place, replacing one destroyed by a hurricane in 1941. When the current owners bought the property, the lady of the house stripped the old tongue-and-groove beadboard walls back to the studs, painted the walls an incredible shade of blue, and furnished the building with shabby chic vintage furniture, adding shelves for souvenirs.

The house stayed in the Weber family for nearly a hundred years, until it was purchased in 1981 by the Tarlow family. Ad legend Dick Tarlow chanced to sail by the property and was struck by its beauty. A few months later, the house came on the market and he and his wife, Sandy Carlson Tarlow, who ran advertising for Ralph Lauren, purchased it. Today, it's often visited by son Jordan Tarlow, a musician, and wife Martha Quinn (original MTV veejay), who live most of the time in Malibu, and their children.

For Alturas, the days of Mr. Weber and guests arriving by steamer for the weekend may be over, but the estate still weaves a web of enchantment more than a century later.

Timeless, Modern Blaze Makoid House in Sag Harbor
December 12, 2019

We've admired Bridgehampton-based architect Blaze Makoid's designs for quite some time, and this creation--a modern Sag Harbor home that almost makes one of the land, water and sky--more than piqued our interest to discover more.

In today's Hamptons, where cookie-cutter McMansion new builds abound, Makoid is doing something different: designing houses that take the owner's lifestyle and personality into account as well as the unique possibilities of each site.

Makoid says, "When stepping onto the property one can see over multiple layers of water, beginning with the pond and extending out to the harbor. This inspired me to create a layered experience within the house as well. I wanted to integrate the indoor and outdoor living spaces, providing uninterrupted views of the waterside. This was achieved in part by opening the center of the house on both the north and south walls, via floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall glass panels. While the south end leads directly to the pool, the northern side opens to an expansive front patio. From the front door you can see through the entire house, to the pool and beyond to the harbor and cove in the distance."

Of course, homeowners always offer input into the design of their building. What did the owners request? "The homeowners often host family and friends, so they wanted a space conducive to year-round entertaining, one that would also take full advantage of the sweeping views across Sag Harbor Cove, the village wharf and a small, saltwater pond," Makoid says.

"The goal was to create a natural integration of indoor/outdoor living that would enable gatherings to transition seamlessly from waterside activities during the day to a quiet outdoor dining experience in the garden court in the evening. As the owners would be living in this home year-round, the design also had to have a very warm, comfortable feel that could easily transition throughout the seasons.

"Since the owners have children, the home needed to serve two different needs--at times simultaneously. The kids can run from the living room and jump directly into the pool, which is an exciting element."

"One of the main goals for this project was to create a space conducive to a variety of entertaining--during different times of the day, different seasons of the year, different age groups, and so on. I was there for a dinner party a few weeks ago and the house really does work well in this capacity. The house can completely transition from a play space for the kids to pre-dinner cocktails inside or outside, or for dining, or lounging around afterwards. These spaces work really well together. The layout is unique in the sense that it's not exactly an open floor plan, but more of spaces defined, not by walls, but by orientation and circulation. There is a natural flow that helps to define the separation between and, at the same time, unite public functions such as living, dining and kitchen areas."

What is Makoid most proud of regarding this house? He says, "The homeowners and I started off this project as good friends and I'm proud to say that our relationship wasn't jeopardized by the work. At times, mixing business and pleasure can be a tough balance!"

Hamptons Real Estate Association Launches
December 11, 2019

The Hamptons Real Estate Association (HREA) has announced the launch of a new advertising website designed specifically for consumers looking to rent or purchase in the Hamptons,

Commissioned by the HREA--an organization currently composed of The Corcoran Group, Saunders & Associates, Sotheby's International Real Estate Inc., Brown Harris Stevens, and Halstead, the site displays property listings from each of the different firms, offers potential buyers and renters robust property data and provides user-friendly functionality.

Some notable features users will find include listings on both the South and North Forks, robust search options for rentals, sales and land, agent listings and search by map.

"We are so proud of the new website," said Robert Nelson, HREA President and Executive Managing Director for Brown Harris Stevens in the Hamptons in a statement. "Through our close collaboration with owners and managers, we developed an easy-to-use product that enables residential firms in the Hamptons to showcase their listings in the same place, offering prospective homebuyers and seasonal renters a wider selection of properties in the region. This is a win-win for consumers and brokerages alike. We welcome other Hamptons brokerage firms to join the portal and add their listings to the website."

The website features easy mapping displays and a carousel of highlighted property videos from each subscribing firm on the homepage. In launching the new site, HREA worked to address and improve upon other listing systems prospective buyers and sellers might be used to. "A lot of time and effort has gone into its design, content and user experience. We are very proud of the result," HREA board member Ed Reale, of Sotheby's International Realty, says, noting that the website was designed to address issues specific to Hamptons users. "The various brokerage firms heard the concerns of their agents and the consumers, who were both looking for more robust sources of information and more robust functionality in an advertising site. Indeed, we wanted to create a website by Hamptons brokerage firms for the Hamptons agent and the discerning Hamptons consumer."

As for the broker side of the equation, Reale says that "The Hamptons brokers believe that public websites have to meet the Hamptons consumer's needs, and the only people who really know what those consumers want are the Hamptons brokers."

Reale does acknowledge that the current lineup  of HREA participants does not encompass all East End real estate organizations. "We have approached all of the other firms and are hopeful that they will elect to join," he says.

Learn more about HREA and visit the new website today at

Good Business, Good Life on the East End
November 29, 2019

When Saunders & Associates broker and real estate guru Alan Schnurman and Dan's Hamptons Media President and Editorial Director Eric Feil got together to write I Can, I Will, I Must: Buying the Hamptons, Building a Successful Future, Becoming the Best You Can Be, an essential question was posed to Schnurman: "Why Real Estate?" As they explored how the lessons, traits and practices that underpin a successful real-estate investing strategy are the same as those for a successful life strategy, the answer became clear...and the title of Chapter Two:

You can invest in anything. Throughout history, there's been no asset, no idea, that hasn't been able to seduce people to hand over their money to someone else with the hope of making it grow. Treasury bonds or Beanie Babies, rare coins or cryptocurrency, fine art or a fledgling singer's career. Domain names, bull semen, gold Krugerrands, parking spaces--there's a market for everything and people have stocked up on it all. And, let's not forget, there's the good old stock market. But none of it comes close in scale to one market that stands on its own.

Real estate, quite simply, is the largest financial market in the world. You could add all the stocks, all the bonds, every collateral debt obligation, and it doesn't equal real estate. And investing in real estate, at least the way I do it, plays to particular personality traits. Granted, some of these are innate. Others, however, can be learned.

When I was younger, I would invest in the stock market. When a stock would double, I would sell it, and then it would go up tenfold. And when a stock would go down, I would still have it, gathering dust in the closet. So I knew the stock market wasn't for me. But I've never lost money in real estate. Not one dime.

I've invested millions of dollars in real estate since the 1970s. I've seen mortgage rates in double digits and inflation at nearly 14%. I've seen the housing bubble take prices to unheard of levels and then watched the entire bubble burst at the start of the Great Recession. Olympic boycotts and big bank bailouts, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of the internet. Seven presidents have sat in the Oval Office while I've invested in real estate. Through it all, real estate has made me money.

You want more?

•Real estate is, by its very definition, real. You can touch and feel it. It's not some amorphous share of a company in some part of the world you'll never visit, not some enterprise that exists in the cloud without anything truly tangible.    

•You can invest in real estate while you have another career. Or more than one other career. Remember, I've been a lawyer, a TV personality, an internet pioneer, a public speaker...and all that time, I was building my real estate portfolio. When I was a lawyer, I didn't need the income from real estate, but I invested in real estate over a long-term basis. Things I bought 35 years ago, I still have.

•You can use your real estate to generate income. My partners and I have numerous commercial rentals that have kept cash flowing for decades--all the while appreciating in value--residential properties, retail properties, skyscraper office buildings and land with nothing yet built upon it.   

There are so many aspects to real estate: the guy who buys the land, the guy who builds the house. I try to diversify, so when my retail is soft, my residential is good. When they're both down, hopefully my land deals are going well, or the office market is going well.

•Real estate is a strong weapon in battling taxes and inflation. The laws change over time here and there, but taxes, interest, depreciation, maintenance and other financial factors should be taken into account when you're weighing the advantages of investing in real estate.

•Real estate does not suffer the daily volatility of the stock market, where ups and downs are reported and obsessed over on a minute-by-minute--or faster, now--basis. Do you really want to be investing in antacids because of your stock investments?

•There's never a bad time to start investing in real estate. When the economy is soaring, it's a fine time to get in. When the economy is sinking, it's a fine time to get in. People always need places to live, office space to house their companies, storefronts from which to run a small business, land on which to build a mansion. Regardless of whether they want to buy or rent, if you own it, these people need what you have. There's a demand for what you can supply.

•You're the master of your own destiny. When you buy stock in a company, you're now at the whim of the company's management, its workers, even its customers. When you create your own real estate deals, you're in charge of everything.

•Good-location real estate always, in the long term. grows in value. Always. It's that simple. There are no guarantees in life, but that's about as close as you can come. It won't happen overnight (although every now and then...), but over time, it makes you money.

By 2017, 31 of the top 50 metro areas in the United States saw median home sales prices get back above pre-Great Recession levels. Yes, that took almost a decade, but you can also think of it as, Wow, even in the worst financial situation our country has faced since the 1930s, real estate came back. And remember, that number is derived from a range of markets, good and not so good. When you invest in the best locations, that recovery is faster and stronger than anywhere else.

•You don't have to be a genius to invest in real estate. You just have to be patient. It's a slow, reliable, methodical investment vehicle. It's the easiest route to financial security that I have ever seen.

Alan Schnurman and Eric Feil will be speaking and signing copies of "I Can, I Will, I Must" at John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor from 3-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 1. For more information, visit

Timeless Kilkare: A Wainscott Icon
November 27, 2019

"Iconic" is the best word to describe the old house perched by the Atlantic. Just about every photo meant to evoke the Hamptons features Kilkare. It's closer to the ocean than most, so it seems to float like a lonely boat above the dunes.

Kilkare--the name is a Victorian whimsy, an Irish-sounding word meaning to "kill care"--has stood sentry between the Atlantic Ocean and Georgica Pond since 1877, a landmark for passing ships and beachgoers. It even survived the terrible hurricane of 1938. Many years of scouring sand and sea air have given the exterior a beautiful patina.

Indoors, time has stood still. The simple, old-fashioned furniture and sun-bleached fabrics give the rooms the look of a faded black-and-white photograph, the only color coming from the blue ocean visible through every window, as if the clock stopped ticking decades ago and it's always summer. A visitor wouldn't be surprised to see a ghost, and in fact, owner Eleanora Kennedy says that the ghosts of original owners Camilla and Jonathan Edwards were there when she arrived. "They watched to protect the house from the sea. They stayed until we built the sturdy stone revetment under the dune, then they departed happily."

In 1877 Camilla and Walter Edwards commissioned a shipbuilder to construct Kilkare in Georgica Settlement. This small patch of the Hamptons was founded in the late 1800s by about 20 academics--mostly New Englanders associated with Yale--who wanted a private place to think, read, write and play sports without outside interference. Now called the Georgica Association, the area still has just one road in and out, which is guarded. Camilla and Walter Edwards were New Yorkers, but Walter was a direct descendant of Jonathan Edwards, a New England Puritan philosopher and thinker.

Evidence that the couple used boat builders to carry out the construction is everywhere, from ships' knee braces to the built-in furniture in almost every room. The house took nearly two years to finish. And for nearly a hundred years after that, the Edwards family enjoyed summers at Kilkare, including the weekly baseball games and sailboat regattas for the children offered by the Georgica Association.

It was a stormy, foggy day in 1975 that the current owner, Eleanora and her late husband, Michael Kennedy, first saw Kilkare. In fact, the real estate agent had to convince them that the ocean was only 50 feet away from the house's southern deck, so thick was the fog. Eleanora says, "When I was a young girl my dream was a house by the sea, a man I revered who deeply loved me, and a daughter. Entering the driveway on a foggy, damp, cold February day I saw Kilkare in the mist and knew all my dreams would come true. It was love at first sight: much the way I felt when I met my husband, Michael." The house had been vacant for a while, so wind and water got in and caused damage. The Kennedys promised the seller, Kitty Edwards, that they would not compromise its essential character.

The restoration and conservation of Kilkare began in 1976. Woodwork was stripped and polished; the plaster walls, which use sand as an aggregate, were retained whenever possible. The ceiling of each room has a different pattern in thin strips of molding; each was dismantled and recreated in the original design. The house originally had no kitchen on the main floor (servants worked in the lower level), so a butler's room and pantry were transformed into an eat-in kitchen. Two bathrooms were another addition. (The house now has seven bedroom and seven and a half baths.) Everything was done as conservatively as possible, with the least possible change to the layout and the fabric of the house.

Many of the original furnishings were kept; newer pieces are of Anglo-Indian design with caning of mildew-resistant hemp. There are also some pieces of 1970s modern cement furniture by John Dickinson to provide a contrast. Yet all are in keeping with the natural color of sand and earth.

The dining room table is very long, necessary to accommodate many guests for dinner. At Kennedy dinners, shells serve as place cards, and they're piled, labeled with names, on the dining room mantel. Upstairs, the floors are bare. Vintage linens dress old four-poster and wicker beds.

Of course, a house this perfect has starred in many films, most notably the cult favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which implied the house is in Montauk), Interiors by Woody Allen, and even The Nanny Diaries.

But even perfection has an end date. With the death of Michael Kennedy in 2016, summers at Kilkare for the family are drawing to a close. The house is for sale. It can only be devoutly hoped that the new owners--who will be only the third family ever to call this magical place their home--will love and cherish the spot as well as the Kennedys have. As Eleanora says, "We spent 40-plus years at Kilkare making memories in a house that is filled with love, friendship and miracles. I hope the new residents will make their dreams come true too."

Property of the Week: 1421 Meadow Lane, Southampton
November 26, 2019
A onetime home of comedy legend Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Spaceballs) and his wife, the late Anne Bancroft (The Graduate, The Miracle Worker, The Elephant Man, Agnes of God, Curb Your Enthusiasm), 1421 Meadow Lane in Southampton is off the market. Represented by Michaela Keszler of Douglas Elliman--Mary Quatroche from Morley Agency brought the buyer--the house was in contract for two weeks and sold and closed in two months for full ask of $4.995 million Purchased and briefly owned by Brooks and Bancroft in 2000, the 1.33-acre property features a 2,304-square-foot, two-story shingle-style cottage built in 1960 and sited directly on the Shinnecock Bay, on the village's prestigious Meadow Lane. Directly across from the ocean, the charming four-bedroom, three-and-one-half-bath home boasts water views from every room. Other featured amenities include fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom, and a large deck with an outdoor shower. There is also room for expansion and a pool. "Original Hamptons charm," says Keszler, "and the most desirable oceanfront lane in Southampton make this a real treasure."
Home, Sweet Home: A Gardiner in Bridgehampton
November 22, 2019

Homes of the descendants of Lion Gardiner, the first English settler in New York, are scattered around the Hamptons, most notably on Gardiner's Island. But perhaps none are as extraordinary as the Gothic Revival pile constructed by Lion's descendant Dr. John L. Gardiner in Bridgehampton.

Sitting 200 feet above sea level and resting on a base of 475 tons of local rock, the house includes a 40-foot tower from which, in winter, Mecox Bay, the ocean, and other bodies of water are still visible. Gardiner called the place "Dulce Domum," or "Sweet Home."

John Lyon Gardiner, MD (1823-1908) was the eighth grandson of Lion Gardiner. His previous seven grandfathers were all named David, down to Lion's son David (1636-1689). His great-grandfather David was the sixth proprietor of Gardiner's Island, and he was cousin to the David Gardiner who wrote Chronicles of East Hampton, a series of articles first published in the Sag Harbor Corrector in the early 1840s, and who was the father of Julia Gardiner Tyler. Dr. Gardiner purchased the Captain William Topping House at 39 Lumber Lane in Bridgehampton in 1855 and lived there until he decided to retire from active practice and build his own house.

The site he chose was very elevated, part of the glacial moraine. In 1913, great excitement came when a bed of fossil shells belonging to the Tertiary period were found nearby, about 10 feet below ground and about 140 feet above sea level. And during the Revolution, a farmer named David Cook, who enlisted in 1780 at the age of 60, hid his cattle in a deep dell in the woods on what would later be the Gardiner property, known as Purgatory Hollow. Until then, the Hessian troops stationed in the area would steal his stock and farm produce. According to Memories of Old Bridgehampton (1916), "to call anyone a Hessian was the lowest, vilest epithet that could be bestowed."

Dulce Domum was built in the Gothic Revival style mixed with Shingle Style. By 1891, the Gothic style was fading in popularity in more urban areas, but was still popular in more rural settings. It was part of the picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting a taste for buildings inspired by medieval design rather than the classical look of Greek Revival. In a rural setting, the complex, irregular forms of Gothic buildings were thought to fit in better with a natural landscape rather than Greek.

The Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County (1896) stated of Gardiner, "At the present time he resides at "Dulce Domum" or "Sweet Home," and from that point he can see fifteen lighthouses in the Sound, and has a view of about fifty miles over the Atlantic. He can see all the vessels that pass the Sound, and Groton Monument, near New London, a distance of thirty-five miles. The Doctor's home is a very pleasant one, and he has many old Indian relics. His old nurse, Tamar Wright, a Montauk Indian, is still living, and would be queen of her tribe if she cared to return to it."

The tower at Dulce Domum is crenellated like a medieval castle. A crenellation is a parapet with open spaces for shooting arrows, and for many years the house's surrounding privet hedge was crenellated too, which gave rise to the property being called "The Castle" locally. Mrs. Gardiner personally chose the stones for the fireplace in what is now the music room, including a relic from the Civil War.

Unfortunately, Dr. Gardiner didn't get to enjoy his home all that long--he died in 1908 and is buried in Bridgehampton Cemetery. His widow lived until 1925.

Dulce Domum, known now as Tower Hill, got a new lease of life when purchased by supermodel Christie Brinkley in 1998 for $3.2 million. She restored and added on to the dignified old house, including outbuildings. One of the most extraordinary additions by Brinkley was a fire surround in the kitchen, made of local stones from Sag Harbor and beach glass, that spells out "Sweet Home," just as Mrs. Gardiner designed the music room fireplace.

There's now also a four-bedroom guest house, a greenhouse conservatory, a barn Brinkley uses as an art studio, and of course a pretty pool and spa. The grounds are especially appealing, with winding walking paths, an organic garden, and a tennis court, all on 20 acres.

To end, we'd like to quote Miss Hannah Elliston, who in 1901 visited and wrote a long, long poem called "Dulce Domum."

Upon a sun-kissed hill fair 'Dulce Domum' stands. In form like ancient castle seen in other lands. Here, crowned with years of honored. useful life, Lives Dr. Gardiner and his loving wife. Here let us enter, for we'll always find A gracious hostess, and a welcome kind. We'll chat awhile on subjects old and new, Then "go aloft," for you'll enjoy the view.

Sadly, we haven't the space to reprint all 14 stanzas, but rest assured they're all equally as good as the above.

Perry "Chip" Duryea
My Hamptons: Perry Duryea
November 21, 2019

A lifelong resident of Montauk, Perry "Chip" Duryea has witnessed many changes over the years. He recently sold his family's seafood business, Duryea's, which had been run by his father and grandfather since the early 1920s. Now his attention is shepherding the building work of the Montauk Playhouse community center, which will include an aquatic center.

BTH: First question: as a Montauk resident, when do I get my pool? I have the same wish. Mine is actually for the therapy pool, which is going to be part of the aquatic center. We are going to have the four-lane lap pool, but, also, we're going to have, right next to it, a therapy pool for people like me who just had a total shoulder replacement.

BTH: What do you think about the changes in Montauk over the years? Some good, some bad. Obviously, I've seen a lot of change throughout my lifetime, particularly the past five years, in which change has been accelerated. Some outside money has come in and rehabilitated some of these older, longstanding family businesses just like I did with Duryea's.

For better or for worse, we're only three hours from New York City, and this is a place where people want to be, particularly in the summertime. Sixty-five percent of our land is open space. We've got the beautiful beaches, we have the golf, we have the fishing. It's just a natural draw. But the key is to try to manage the popularity while also prioritizing the infrastructure of the community. The volume of people over Fourth of July weekend was tremendous. I think the key for local government is to come to grips with the demands that the number of people are placing on the infrastructure.

BTH: Of course, your father was very active in politics. Had you ever thought of going into just even local politics? I've worked more on the organizational side. As you know. he ran for governor in 1978 against Carey. I campaigned rather extensively for him, particularly upstate, because there was too much ground to cover. I was East Hampton Republican chairman from 1988 to 1997. I never got involved on the elective side of politics, although I was asked to run for everything from town to county supervisor to Congress. But I felt that my skills were more organizational, and also, I had a primary responsibility to the family business.

BTH: If you hadn't gone into the family's seafood business, what do you think you might have done as a career? I went to Colgate University for my undergrad. I began to work in downtown Manhattan. I then got my MBA from Columbia in 1974. I had worked for Marine Midland Bank downtown, and they really wanted me to come back after I got my MBA. I always felt the pull of the family business. I kind of figured that I was going to wake up here sooner or later because I grew up in the business. I began working there for my father when I was 12 years old, for 25 cents an hour, shoveling ice.

BTH:  If you could have anyone, alive or dead, at your dinner party, who would you invite? It would have to be my father. He had a tremendous influence upon me. He and I worked side-by-side in the seafood business for 35 years. I watched his political career from afar. He was a unique individual. I have picked up some of his traits, not all of them, but they only made one of him.

Chris Stewart
Douglas Elliman's Christopher Stewart Talks Work & Play on the East End
November 20, 2019

Surfing and skiing, barbecues and the beach, Springs and Sag Harbor... Christopher Stewart, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at Douglas Elliman, celebrates the joys of East End living.  

What is your overview of the state of the market right now?  The fourth quarter has been much more active, both in buyers looking and deals being made. Pricing is the driving force behind successful transactions  

How would you assess the year that was 2019, and what are you seeing/projecting for the market as we head into 2020?  As the real estate business evolves with technology, the marketplace continues to have its challenges and successes. I look forward to more growth in 2020.

What advice are you giving buyers and sellers right now?  Competitive pricing on both sides is key. Sellers need to preemptively address certificate of occupancy and maintenance issues to make the deals as seamlessly attractive as possible.

Is there any advice for buyers and sellers in this market that is timeless, regardless of current market conditions?  Location and pricing are timeless. However, that credo is being tested by some of the value being found further afield.  

What areas do you believe are most poised for growth and why?  North Sea waterfront is undervalued and extraordinarily beautiful. Sag Harbor's value center is continuing to expand. The affordability of Springs and the Northwest Woods in East Hampton will continue to push sales volume in those places.

What amenities are must-haves for a Hamptons/North Fork home these days?  Beautiful kitchens, steam showers, energy efficiency, high ceilings, natural light and storage. Always choose to add a garage over a pool house.

What about the East End continues to make it a great place to invest in real estate. The amazing forethought and continued protection of our stunning waterfront and open spaces coupled with a limited amount of land will always make the East End desirable.

What brought you to the East End originally? How did you decide to make real estate your professional pursuit?  My extended family has been coming to Amagansett/East Hampton since the 1940s. I moved here permanently 18 years ago to raise a child. Best decision I have ever made. Real estate is a natural fit for me.

What are your passions in life outside the work place?  I love to be outside. Surfing and skiing especially. I am a lacrosse enthusiast and have been involved in the local youth program for about 13 years.  

You have received a number of honors for your community work. What is most important to you about being involved that deeply in community affairs?  When living in a small town it's important to connect to the community and give back. This place has given me so much--I am forever grateful.

Describe your perfect day on the East End. Early morning surf and dog walk, day on the boat or beach with family and friends, outdoor shower, bbq with good music and good people, close a deal in there somewhere, sleep.

What aspects of life on the East End continue to surprise you?  It doesn't matter how long I live here, I am constantly amazed by the natural beauty surrounding me.

What are some favorite spots and activities for you--with and without the family--for fun in the Hamptons this time of year?  Surfing is a year-round activity that includes so many ages and walks of life. Fall is scallop season. Oddly, the adventure of driving to Vermont to ski in the winter has produced some of the deepest bonding moments with my son. Spring is all lacrosse, and summer is always just the icing.

What are some of the most surprising requests that buyers and sellers have made of you over the years? The most surprising shall remain vaulted. 

What is one aspect of your job that nobody could possibly imagine you do?  The amount of surprising things that we as agents do is beyond a simple description.

If you could have any three people at your dinner party, who would you invite and why?  Hmm. For the mind blow, I'd go with Buddha, Rumi and Hermes.

What talent would you most like to have? Born to be a rockstar with absolutely no musical talent. 

If you weren't in real estate, what else would be your dream job? Making people smile.

What is the last truly great book you've read?  The Overstory by Richard Powers.

What is the best advice you have ever received--personally and/or professionally? Tell the truth at the risk of losing everything.