The New New

The current must-have for many Hamptons real estate customers is a new house.
Newly built houses like this one on Old Orchard Lane in East Hampton are what many buyers seem to want these days. Morgan McGivern

    When money isn’t an object, you want things exactly the way you want them. No compromises. You want things to be easy. And to run smoothly: no annoyances, no surprises. These are some of the reasons that, according to several agents polled, the current must-have for many Hamptons real estate customers is a new house.

    “New is the new new,” quipped Douglas Elliman’s Patrick McLaughlin, who, as a former TV producer, knows his way around a sound bite.

    “What’s flying out the door is new construction or newly renovated [properties],” said Bruce Pellman, who works in the East Hampton office of Brown Harris Stevens. “People may be calling to see something in Sagaponack, Wainscott, Southampton, it doesn’t matter — they’re more interested in getting a house that doesn’t need work. People don’t want projects.”

    Part of this is a reflection of the area’s being a secondary home market. Summer colonists come out here to play, not get embroiled in hundreds of decisions, from which bathroom tile to which fireplace surround. Today’s roll-off-the-tongue terms in real estate parlance are “move-in condition” and “turnkey,” the latter suggesting that the most labor required is to simply open your door.

    “Of course there are always people looking for bargains or fixer-uppers,” Mr. Pellman said. “But most [buyers] don’t want headaches.” They want to know that the house doesn’t need new faucets or a boiler replacement. And a warranty, which most builders give, is a nice plus.

    Another reason today’s homeowner doesn’t desire a house that’s not right off the presses is an aversion to other people’s dirt. “They don’t want someone else’s kitchen or sink or tub,” said Michael Shaheen, an agent with Douglas Elliman in Southampton. He equates the appeal of a new house to “the new car smell.” It just has that new, never been used, even gently, feel. “What’s selling the quickest and commanding the highest prices are new houses,” he said.

    Even a five-year-old house is considered a bit worn around the edges. For such a property an owner would be smart to give it a look that’s new and improved — not only slap on a fresh coat of paint, but also make any improvements that will make it headache-proof. The work might cost $25,000, but it might fetch $100,000, according to Mr. Shaheen. “It sells quicker and brings in more potential bidders.” For the buyer looking for a new house, the agent can then legitimately claim that the house is “almost new” or “just like new.”

    Another factor is aesthetics. “It’s a new generation,” Mr. Shaheen said. “If you look at what’s being purchased in New York City, condos are very, very hot. People want clean, modern spaces — new construction parallels that sleek, uncluttered look.”

    The days when most buyers were seeking character, charm, and warm and fuzzy are long gone. “Now they want modern and up to date,” said Mr. Pellman. “The builders know this.” Thus, there are a few pockets, such as Old Orchard Lane, off Cedar Street in East Hampton, where contemporary houses with all the trimmings are popping up.

    The current desire to reside in a village, any village, coupled with the desire for a new house has led many owners and builders to fold contemporary interiors inside traditional exteriors. “There’s a lot of renovation going on,” Mr. Pellman said. “Everybody wants to be in a village, but they don’t want to live in an old house. They can take an old house and make it new.”

    Alas, this desire for new is a driving force behind teardowns. “There’s not a lot of land out there,” said Mr. McLaughlin. So the buyer who wants new is forced to property where the house is nothing more than a nuisance. “Something that isn’t necessarily a teardown becomes one,” he said.