The weather may not be an indication, but the calendar doesn’t lie. Summer is coming, and a hot summer rental market foreshadows the hotter days ahead.
Those with $800,000 to drop on accommodation for the Memorial Day to Labor Day season can enjoy summer at a 10-bedroom, 9-bath house on Meadow Lane in Southampton. At the other end of the spectrum, budget-conscious vacationers might still secure a lakeside cottage in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, provided they know where to look. But, according to a survey of local real estate brokers, the majority of summer rentals are already spoken for.
Signs of Hurricane Sandy are still abundant on the South Fork, but that storm has served, paradoxically, to encourage an even busier rental market, according to local agents. “My prediction,” said Htun Han, a broker at Hamptons Realty Group in Amagansett, “is we’re going to have a lot of people here for the summer. That’s primarily driven by the diminution of rental places in Fire Island, the Rockaways, and the Jersey Shore, having been damaged by the hurricane. There are fewer houses to rent there, therefore more people here.”
The national economy’s heretofore anemic recovery may be gathering strength, but it has not erased the long recession that preceded it, as Mr. Han observed. “For a few years now, I’ve noted a downward trend of the typical one family renting for the full season,” he said. “I think it is primarily due to the economy that they are unable to spend that amount of money from Memorial Day through Labor Day.” Rentals of two months, one month, and two weeks are more common, he said. “Obviously, everyone is adapting.”
At the high end, said Mr. Han, “it seems as if there are literally dozens of $600,000, $700,000, $800,000 houses in East Hampton and Southampton. No longer is it a rarity for people to drop three-quarters of a million for a summer vacation.”
In Montauk, “People have made their plans early as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” said Nancy Keeshan of Keeshan Real Estate. Her office has handled around the same number of rentals as last year, she said, “but they were gone sooner. Traditionally, the kickoff weekend is Presidents Day, but by then I would say 80 percent were gone.”
Despite Montauk’s increasing popularity, the hamlet continues to attract families to its pristine beaches, commercial fishing fleet, and wealth of kid-friendly establishments and activities. “Montauk is very, very hip and popular with surfers and whatnot,” Ms. Keeshan said, but “it’s also still popular with families, just a higher income group. It’s a different place — it really still is the ‘unHampton.’ ”
In Montauk, an oceanfront house for July and August can cost “two hundred thousand-plus, if you want every amenity you can imagine,” Ms. Keeshan said. “I have a house with four bedrooms, air-conditioning, and a pool that would rent for $75,000 to $100,000. Modest beach houses are between $30,000 and $40,000 — they were gone right after Christmas. It’s 90 percent rented, I would say, but there’s always stuff on the high end.”
Tania Valverde, a broker with Douglas Elliman in East Hampton and Manhattan, has noticed a healthy market populated by a high percentage of foreign clients renting in East Hampton and Southampton this summer. In addition to the beaches, Ms. Valverde said, foreigners and citizens alike are attracted to South Fork amenities including libraries, restaurants, and myriad opportunities to learn and create. “The Ross School has fantastic programs for children,” she said. “East Hampton and Southampton offer summer programs — tennis, golf, swimming, horseback riding. If they have children, they learn English, but the Hamptons offers many things outside of being beautiful. For writers and painters, they have the Parrish Art Museum, Guild Hall, and everybody loves the libraries here. Obviously, the economy has something to do with it too.”
Another factor that cannot be overlooked, Ms. Valverde said, is the severity of the preceding season. “The winter was awful,” she said. “When you have such bad weather for such a long time, people are desperate to get out, even for one month or two weeks.”