Differing Data

One of the many views from a Gin Lane, Southampton, property that sold last year for $75 million. Sotheby's

       Last week “Company Town” offered a list of the top 10 house sales in 2013 as compiled by Town and Country Real Estate. We reported on that list because it was the only one we had in hand at press time. Later, however, Sotheby’s sent out a preliminary list of high-end sales, which included several not listed by Town and Country.

       The most notable was Wooldon Manor at 16 Gin Lane in Southampton, a former Woolworth family estate. At $75 million, it was by far the biggest sale of the year. Another house on Sotheby’s list was built by Michael Davis at 79 Parsonage Lane in Sagaponack; it sold for $21 million. These properties knocked out two properties in East Hampton and Wainscott on the Town and Country list, each under $17 million.

       We had tallied the numbers based on limited data last week and owe Southampton an apology for reporting that East Hampton’s sales out-performed those of its neighbor. When all is said and done, Southampton is most likely to be ahead by more than $50 million.

       It would seem that Judi Desiderio, the chief executive officer of Town and Country, had a bit of mud on her face because she had sent out her list before two major sales in December were recorded with the county. Twenty years ago, when she was the only broker sending out reports, she was able to wait a month or so till all the information was in, she said. Because of today’s competition, however, she had begun to release her lists earlier. “To remain relevant, I had to pick a date.” That date, she said, is going to change next year. “I think next year I’ll wait till the end of January to do my top 10.”

       Sotheby’s didn’t provide a top 10, but it reported that 12 properties went for more than $20 million. Unlike Town and Country’s list, the Sotheby’s list included vacant land. An example is 322 Ocean Road in Bridgehampton, which sold for $25 million. Two separate sales, recorded together as 50 Hither Lane, East Hampton, sold for a combined $21 million. John Gicking of Sotheby’s said the sales were listed together because they went to a single buyer who planned to build a compound.

       “This is how it can get very confusing, and how different agencies can choose different properties,” he said.

       Another reason agencies have different data is the lack of a centralized multiple listing system, which would provide all deed transfers when they are recorded with the county. Mr. Gicking said agencies here share an unofficial M.L.S., which they all subscribe to. According to Mr. Gicking, this system is “only as good as the information agents put on it.” 

       Chris Chapin of Douglas Elliman said the result was that “everyone is going to have a largely similar, but substantially dissimilar picture of what is going on. There’s always somebody who misses something that everyone thinks is common knowledge.”

       The accurate deed transfer reports from the county, can take up to six weeks to show up. Mr. Gicking said some agencies “wait a period of time to see what late-breaking data comes in.” However, were he to publish early data, he would put a disclaimer on it: “Based on info we have at this time.” He noted that the Parsonage Lane property showed on the county compilation only last Friday.

       Ms. Desiderio called the Parsonage Lane house sale the “most glaring” example of the problem with obtaining timely data. “The closing was Dec. 10,” she said.

       Meanwhile, as of Monday, there were at least 10 or 12 real estate agencies alive and well on the South Fork. Additional lists of top sales were a distinct possibility.