As with garments, house layouts go in and out of fashion. With a frock, the hem might go up or down or the seams fit tighter or looser. Houses can go from warm and cozy to light and airy. These days, a master bedroom on the first floor is as de rigueur as skinny jeans, and it goes without saying that the bedroom must have a bathroom of its own.
“It’s a trend that’s been going on for a while and has percolated to every price point from under a million to multimillions,” said Nanette Hansen of Sotheby’s.
The absence of one might not be a deal breaker, according to Bruce Pellman of Brown Harris Stevens, since “everything is selling [right now],” but if the seller wants to get “close to the asking price” he’d better have a first-floor master suite. “A house without [one] will also sell, but at a discount from what the seller had in mind.”
The graying of the population is surely an issue. “Buyers are no longer willing to walk upstairs to go to bed,” Mr. Pellman said. “Unless they’re very young buyers, people with money are thinking, ‘I don’t want to be climbing up stairs in 10 years.’ ”
Gene Stilwell of Town and Country Real Estate agrees. “All of us baby boomers are getting bad knees, and don’t want to climb stairs. One of the biggest mistakes we made five years ago,” he said, referring to a renovation of his own house, “was to put the laundry room upstairs near the master. In about five years I’m sure we’ll be putting it back downstairs.”
There is also a trend toward “multigenerational living,” according to Chris Chapin, an agent at Douglas Elliman, who believes that a shift is occurring in which the postwar nuclear family is giving way to a larger family unit that includes grandparents. “There are huge benefits to having several generations” living under one roof, he said. “Studies have shown that there’s a higher survival rate for kids, and that they’re more well adjusted if their grandparents, who have life experiences that can be critically important, are around. This is bigger than real estate . . . people want to have their loved ones nearby.”
And if anyone has the wherewithal to keep several generations living together in peace, it’s affluent Hamptoners who can afford to tailor living arrangements for optimal comfort and convenience. “It’s about privacy,” said Mr. Pellman. “Back in the day, bedrooms and bathrooms were upstairs. Now people want a wing dedicated to the husband and wife, away from the children.”
Even if a couple does not live with their parents, “buyers in their 30s and 40s will often have them visit, and sometimes grandparents,” said Ms. Hansen.
So a ground-floor master is “a big deal,” said Mr. Chapin. It’s not only a question of keeping one’s own family close at hand, it’s also a question of rentability. “If you don’t have it, you’ve eliminated a big pool of prospective tenants — people 60 and over, people with bad knees.” Or, the children of that demographic.
Real estate agents, who have their fingers on the buyers’ pulse, are advising builders to make sure they build first-floor masters. Not that there are many local builders who haven’t figured it out. But with builders increasingly coming from farther west breaking into the Hamptons market, “if they come to us with a plan, where’s there’s no ground-floor master, we’ll say, ‘No, you have to do it,’ ” said Mr. Chapin. “If it’s just as easy to put it in, why not?”
Not only new houses are following the latest style. “People are retrofitting older houses where they had a den or extra room, and repurposing them with a bedroom and bath,” Mr. Chapin said.
Let’s not ignore the fashion for multiple bathrooms. “If a house has four bedrooms, we’re recommending four and a half bathrooms, or five and a half would be better,” said Mr. Chapin. That translates as one bathroom in each bedroom for the requisite en-suite configuration; then extras. “The high-end houses have 8 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms,” he said. “Or 7 bedrooms and 8 baths.”
Another trend in the same vein is a demand for houses with elevators. Ms. Hansen recently sold a house in Sagaponack for circa $3 million with “all the bells and whistles . . . the builder earmarked huge closets in a column for a future elevator.”
Believe it or not, she said, “They’re actually quite common. I’d say the majority of recent construction and renovation in high-end houses includes elevators.” She pointed to examples on Further Lane and Lee Avenue in East Hampton. “They’re not that expensive. They can cost as little as $30,000.”
For those who don’t want to go that route yet, said Ms. Hansen, “for people thinking ahead, it makes sense to have two master bedrooms, one up and one down. It makes a lot of sense.”