Hamptons Average Home Price Jumps as $5 Million Market Rebounds

The average home price in New York's Hamptons, the beachside retreat for financiers and celebrities, jumped 20 percent in the fourth quarter, lifted by a surge in sales of properties priced at $5 million or higher.

Hamptons homes sold for an average of $1.9 million in the quarter, compared with $1.59 million a year earlier, New York- based appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report today. The median price fell 2 percent to $900,000, reflecting deals across the spectrum, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

"The mix is returning to a normal distribution of sales," Miller said in an interview. "On the upper end, the activity is more robust relative to the lethargic level of activity over the last couple of years."

Luxury demand is returning as New York City employment rebounds and buyers take advantage of Hamptons prices that fell as much as 35 percent from their peak. There were 38 home sales of at least $5 million, the top 7 percent of the market, in the Hamptons and the North Fork of Long Island in the fourth quarter, the highest in three years of records at Miller Samuel and Prudential. A year earlier, there were 24 such transactions.

Jobs, Bonuses

New York City's jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent last month, the lowest level since April 2009, the state Labor Department said Jan. 20. Financial firms, whose employees' bonuses drive the Hamptons market, added 6,500 jobs last year. About 56 percent of Wall Street finance professionals in a survey said they received a bigger bonus in 2010 than a year earlier, the job-search website eFinancialCareers.com found in a tally of 1,009 people this month.

The number of sales overall in the Hamptons fell 1.5 percent from a year earlier to 403. The median price of homes that traded hands was 13 percent below the peak, Miller said.

"People at the high end, they felt that prices weren't going to drop much more," Dottie Herman, president of Prudential Douglas Elliman, said in an interview. "They went after the trophy properties and they got them at a discount from what they would have gotten four years ago."

The report defines the Hamptons as Long Island's Southern Fork, a collection of towns, villages and hamlets stretching east from Westhampton to Montauk.

The median sales price of luxury properties in both the Hamptons and the North Fork, defined as the top 10 percent by price, climbed 44 percent in the fourth quarter to $6.5 million, according to Miller Samuel and Prudential. Sellers of luxury properties pared an average of 14 percent off their asking price in order to strike a deal, compared with 17 percent discounts the offered a year earlier.

Discounted Sales

"The properties that are selling are those that were discounted over the prior two years," said Rick Hoffman, regional senior vice president for Long Island's East End at New York's Corcoran Group brokerage.

"It's not like it was a year and a half ago when we were trying to scrape up buyers," Hoffman said. "Buyers are here. The issue here is finding the property that's priced right."

Corcoran Group and brokerage Brown Harris Stevens also issued reports today on the Hamptons. Corcoran said median prices in the 15 towns and hamlets rose 3 percent to $860,000. The median price for luxury properties on the South Fork and Shelter Island fell 7 percent to $5 million, Corcoran reported.

Brown Harris reported that median Hamptons sale prices fell 1 percent to $973,000. Earlier this month, brokerage Town & Country Real Estate said sales were little changed in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, while the median price of those transactions declined 4.6 percent.

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