The Architect Effect

       Since the 1960s, when Charles Gwathmey dotted the landscape with square houses, South Forkers have had a love affair with architects. In the ’80s Robert A.M. Stern introduced Postmodernism to the Hamptons, quickly followed by Francis Fleetwood, who also built Shingle Style abodes reminiscent of the fashion predominant in the early 20th century. About a decade ago, Modernism reared its head once again, and local firms that had been designing contemporary domiciles began to flourish.

      We are getting out of a period where “everybody wanted immediate gratification,” said Judi Desiderio, chief executive officer of Town and Country Real Estate, a condition that led to the proliferation of builders’ houses. Now “more and more people who have made it by their own rights want to make a statement with their home; they want to capture the essence of their dream house.”

       Does an architect-designed house have added value? Yes. Does it elicit a higher price? Yes and no.

       “I don’t think it’s like a painting that can rise in value based on the artist,” said Ms. Desiderio. “As far as putting a dollar value on who the architect is,” she said, the house needs to “strike a chord . . . that makes that buyer come running.”

       Having an architect-designed house, she believes, is just another of several selling points that include such aspects as “a garden designed by famous landscape architect . . . Summerhill or Marder’s . . . a home graced by Waterworks hardware . . . a Christopher Peacock or a Clive Christian kitchen (which sell for the price of a small house) . . . who the interior decorator is — all kinds of things come together.”

       An architect-designed house will often sell faster, according to Ray Lord of Douglas Elliman. He cites a house by Bates Masi Architects, a Sag Harbor firm known for its edgy design, which sold recently at Startop Ranch, an upscale development in Montauk promoted as an “equestrian estate.” 

      “Modern is the in thing,” he said. “It sold in two weeks for the full

price.” Buyers especially like “modern with a warm tone,” a style he attributes to Maziar Behrooz, an architect with offices in East Hampton and New York. The Curve House, an American Institute of Architects award-winning house, designed by Mr. Behrooz on North Ferndale Place in Montauk, is on the market for just under $1.95 million and boasts such features as endless decks, “windows in the living room that fold open, turning the space into an extension of the outdoors, automatic screens [that] pull down for protection, [and] notably the first green roof garden in Montauk,” according to its listing.

       It took only four weeks for Bill Williams of Sotheby’s to sell a house designed by Fred Stelle 18 months ago, and that was before the market picked up. The “Malibu-style beach home with jaw-dropping 270-degree forever-protected ocean and bay views, spectacular great room with wood burning fireplace,” which was built in 2010, went for $14.25 million, shy of the $14.5 million asking.

       “Fred Stelle has a reputation for maximizing light and views in oceanfront property.  That’s why the owner chose him, and that’s exactly what the buyer was looking for,” said Mr. Williams. 

       The fact that an architect designed a house is not necessarily the selling point, but the style and pizzazz he gives it is, and the fact that the materials will be top-notch. When realtors say a house is built by a spec builder, “people cringe,” said Mr. Lord.

       “If you say it’s a Robert A.M. Stern house,” said Ms. Desiderio, “people sit up and take notice.” As for Norman Jaffe, a modern architect whose work flourished here in the ’70s and ’80s, she said: “If you have a customer who’s modern and bold and looking for [his] earth-meets-wind-and-fire look, when they see the name, they want to take a look.” But, she stressed, it is a small segment of the customer base. “People either love or hate them.”

       One of the factors that adds value to an architect-designed house, according to Mr. Lord, is that “architects are able to think ahead to things that others aren’t.” As an example, he pointed out that architects will often “have pipes laid into a wall” enabling the homeowner to “tap into them later if they want to expand their home.”

       Though they may not command higher prices per se, architecture-designed houses “probably hold their value better,” said Mr. Williams. And, of course, with the architect’s fees and superior materials, they cost more to build, a cost that will carry over into the resale price. “A Farrell house of the same size, where he uses the same three or four models over and over, would be less expensive than a house designed by Frank Greenwald,” he said, referring, respectively, to a prolific local builder and a well-known local architect.

       Despite the attraction to modern design by a young, affluent, avant garde crowd, older architect-designed houses still offer appeal. “Who doesn’t like the look of a Francis Fleetwood from the outside?” asked Ms. Desderio. With its “timeless, beautiful sweeping lines, it’s a work of art,” she said.

       On the other hand, even some modern designs are considered teardowns. A Norman Jaffe house built in 1978 at 12 Heller Lane in East Hampton was sold for just under $5 million in April. Mr. Lord said that its neighbors considered it an eyesore and are relieved that it was torn down and that a new house is going up in its place, something that will be more in keeping with the house built last year just next door on Further Lane, which is on the market for just under $13.5 million.