Gansett Is Golden

When Isabel Carmichael and her brother put their house on Indian Wells Highway on the market this winter, they were advised to not ask for more than $1.8 million; they listed at $2.1 million and ultimately sold for $2.3 million. Durell Godfrey

To real estate agents, Amagansett is made up of four parts: the area north of the highway that includes the Bell Estate and Devon, the Dunes, Napeague, and the Lanes, the picturesque grid bordered by Indian Wells Highway on the west and Atlantic Avenue on the east and running south from the highway to Bluff Road. Most of the oceanfront below Bluff Road is preserved. 

That’s not counting the bit of Further Lane that weaves into the hamlet. Nor does it count the area south of Brent’s General Store that has been traditionally called Poseyville by locals, which is considered too small to get its own designation, thus is known simply as “Amagansett fringe.” Yet, Joe Farrell, the ubiquitous builder of large houses, has not discounted it, having built a clutch of houses there. So many of his characteristically large-scale houses have been built next to the area’s tiny houses, the kind with boats decorating front lawns, that some have renamed it Farrellville.

The keen interest that Mr. Farrell has shown in the area may be an indicator of the health of the hamlet’s real estate. Not only has he built a slew of houses there recently, and is in the process of building more, but he has also flooded homeowners with letters asking them to sell their properties to him. First. And directly to him, in order to bypass the middleman.

While Amagansett has been holding to a steady sales momentum over the past decade or so, the Lanes have picked up speed in the past year and a half, according to Htun Han, an agent with Hamptons Realty Group. “Values went up through the roof,” he said, citing a going rate of $2 million “for teardowns on half an acre.” Most properties in the Lanes are on half-acre lots, and their houses, by today’s standards, are fit for the bulldozer.

Going back a decade ago, he said that a house in the Lanes cost about the same as a much newer and bigger one on much more property in the Bell Estate, roughly $900,000 to $1.25 million. As property values in the Lanes have shot up, those in the Bell Estate languished, till about six months ago when they began to catch up, he said.

The appeal of the Lanes is that “you can’t get as close to the ocean anywhere else” going west to Southampton for such relatively bargain basement prices, according to Kieran Brew, an agent at Brown Harris Stevens. And both the beach and quaint Main Street are easily accessible by foot or bicycle.

When Isabel Carmichael and her brother put their house on Indian Wells Highway on the market this winter, they were advised by their listing agent to not ask for a price higher than $1.8 million. After “twisting arms,” they listed it at $2.1 million. Within “about a minute” an offer came in at just under asking from Peter Sabbeth, a builder and partner in Modern Green Home of Sag Harbor, which has a number of houses currently going up in the Lanes. Before the sellers had time to entertain that offer another one came in at asking.

Ms. Carmichael “did the right thing,” and told Mr. Sabbeth about the other offer. Mr. Sabbeth countered at $2.15. What happened next was interesting. The second bidder came it at $2.3, the final bid. Apparently he had heard that his competition was a builder. “I think he thought that it was Farrell and as he’d been burned by Farrell in the past, he wanted to blow him out of the water.”

At the end of the day, Ms. Carmichael was thrilled that the property, part of which had been built in 1860 and had been in her family since 1954, was bought by someone who is not a builder. When she Googled the prospective buyer upon his first bid she was pleased to find that he is a vegan. “I figured somebody crunchy wasn’t going to tear it down,” she said. She’s since noted that the house, now in his hands, has just been reshingled.

Another old house that could easily have been torn down but was rescued instead is on the highway just west of town. In the same family since the ’40s, it was recently bought by Chris and Lisa Goode, a film producer and founder of Goode Green, a roof-top garden company, respectively, who are in the process of heavy renovation, but in essence have “kept the spirit of the aesthetic,” said Mr. Brew, the listing agent along with his wife, Jennifer. The new owners moved it farther in from the road and enlarged it, making the profile symmetrical while keeping true to the roofline. Mr. Brew said that the house is old, but just how old is hard to say. “It was built prior to town records being kept.” One thing is certain: Its original foundation was built on locust posts.

Fortunately, said Mr. Brew, there are not a lot of houses being torn down in the Dunes, an area rife with quarter-acre lots. But there are renovations, especially of vintage midcentury abodes designed by such architects as Alfred Scheffer.

As for Napeague and north of the highway, values of both are “holding steady,” said Mr. Han, especially the area between Abraham’s Path and Oak Lane, where the inventory comprises “the least expensive houses in the Amagansett School District.”

Meanwhile, telltale blue-and-white Farrell Building Company signs are also sprouting up like weeds in the Lanes east of Indian Wells. The builder has five new houses on Old Station Place, a cul-de-sac off Atlantic Avenue, alone. With all the recent activity, some residents who don’t live out east year round might have quite a shock upon their return, said Ms. Carmichael.