IN A RENTER-FRIENDLY MARKET, PRICES ARE GETTING SLASHED By this time last year, most of the prize properties in the Hamptons had been claimed for the summer for record-breaking prices: Lee Radziwill’s oceanfront East Hampton estate would get $500,000 from leveraged-buyout giant Thomas Lee, and Bryan Bantry’s Goose Creek, on Georgica Pond, with a 100-seat screening room and a beauty salon, would get about $30,000 a week from former record executive Ted Field. But this year, both properties–and many others–are still available for the season, which kicks off in less than a month.
Many Hamptons regulars have stopped paying rent and bought homes. But others want to pay a lot less in rent this year–and they can. “People should take advantage of this opportunity to get into homes they couldn’t get into in past years,” said broker Elizabeth Clarke of Agawam Realty. “It’s a prime opportunity. People should be very excited.”
It turns out plenty of people are. Like Ted Fields, Meg Ryan, the Hamptons’ latest recruit, is likely to be noticeably absent in the Hamptons this summer, said several brokers. She’s not shopping to replace the East Hampton home she and her estranged husband Dennis Quaid used to rent, the brokers said.
But Howard Stern is combing the area for a $200,000 rental. “He wants to have a dynamite [oceanfront property], and we’re fairly sure we can nail it down in the next two weeks,” said Jerry Preiser, owner of East Hampton Village Realty, about Mr. Stern.
And Aby Rosen has closed what Paige St. John of Cook Pony Farm Realty calls “the deal of the season”: The 40-year-old German developer bought the house at 600 Meadow Lane in Southampton for $6.8 million earlier this year. Having a drink at Bungalow 8 on a recent night, and wearing a pale pink silk shirt from a shopping spree in Paris, Mr. Rosen, a co-owner of RFR Realty, told the story of how he’d visited Argentine socialite Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat at her Upper East Side apartment to convince her to sell him the house, on 3.4 acres and with a price tag of $10 million. “She asked me what I was going to do there,” said Mr. Rosen. “And I said, ‘Party!'”
They have the same idea in Bridgehampton, where MTV’s House of Style host Molly Sims bought a house last winter, where venture capitalist Adam Dell will be a return renter and where last summer’s “Synergy Spa” will be reincarnated as “HAVEN” (Hospitality Added Value Environment). The company organizing HAVEN, Incompass Group/Hiebrid, is paying about $200,000 for the six-bedroom house on the border of Water Mill and Bridgehampton, where all summer long famous folks will be invited over for a few nights of product bombardment. The company’s president, Alexandre Wilson, said he looked at between 30 and 40 houses before choosing a place with a pond, a pool and a tennis court. The company has enlisted model Carmen Kass and clothing designers Alice Roi and Charlotte Ronson to decorate different rooms.
In Southampton, a smaller version of the same thing seems to be in the works at the Noyack Road home of Conscience Point owners Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. Their house is sponsored by Stuff magazine this summer, said Mr. Tepperberg. Their corporate sponsors are throwing in bathrobes, Guinness beer on tap and a Skyy Vodka bar. “It will be used for photo shoots, a series of spontaneous coordinated gatherings and afternoon barbecues and cocktails,” said Mr. Tepperberg, who last year played host to hotel heiresses Nicky and Paris Hilton, who officially stay at their parents’ house in Southampton.
Not apparently in need of sponsorship, and not interested in staying–or paying–for the entire summer (like others mentioned by brokers), are Tamara Mellon, managing director of Jimmy Choo shoes, and her husband Matthew, who have rented a house in Southampton for August.
The scene will not be as rowdy in Water Mill, where several Hamptons regulars have settled on places. Alexander and Alexandra von Furstenberg and their daughter will be in a three-bedroom house on the ocean on Flying Point Road in Water Mill, which they rented for about $100,000, said a broker. For the past two summers, the couple has rented 1131 Flying Point Road, a four-bedroom house that was bought last year by Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks for $2.9 million. This year, the von Furstenbergs are two doors down.
Richard Gere and Carey Lowell will also be in Water Mill, in the $2.5 million house at 70 Halsey Lane they bought earlier this year. So will designer Shoshanna Lonstein, who recently paid $540,000 for a three-bedroom home with a 40-foot vinyl pool in Water Mill North.
Also trying to blend in are Kate and Andy Spade, who bought a farmhouse at 207 Sag Main Street in Sagaponack for about $2.4 million a few months ago, and lawyer Johnnie Cochran, who bought a house on the water in Sag Harbor for more than $3 million.
Some kids are creeping into East Hampton this summer, but they’re claiming they want some peace and quiet. Jake Spitz, a 26-year-old P.R. executive, and Jon Schwartz, a hotelier whose father, Barry, is the chairman of Calvin Klein, have opted for a two-bedroom, $15,000 cottage in East Hampton. “I think part of the summer is about relaxing,” said Mr. Spitz. “East Hampton puts you in a pocket where you can get some peace.” But one broker said he’s working with rapper Jay-Z, a Hamptons fixture, on a deal for a rental in the town.
Out in Montauk, the Brant family has taken over again this year. Interview magazine publisher Sandra Brant will spend the summer with the magazine’s editor, Ingrid Sichy, in a house Ms. Brant bought for $5 million this year from TV and radio host Dick Cavett and his wife, actress Carrie Nye. For the third consecutive summer, Ms. Brant’s ex-husband, Peter Brant, the chairman and chief executive of Brant-Allen Industry Inc., has rented the large house on Andy Warhol’s former compound for polo season (from mid-July to Labor Day) for about $100,000, said brokers. Mr. Brant, 53–who co-founded the Bridgehampton Polo Club–his wife, model Stephanie Seymour, and their two young sons, Harry and Peter, usually want to be around for the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge, which takes place on Saturdays in July and August.
Maybe the Brants will finally buy the place. Broker Tina Fredericks, who sold Mr. Warhol the compound in 1972 for $220,000, said Mr. Warhol’s former partner, Paul Morrissey, who owns the compound, has put the whole place on the market for $50 million, but “he might take a little less,” said Ms. Fredericks.
“I think people are going to be very lucky this summer,” said Ms. Fredericks, who is also trying to rent a six-bedroom house on 14 acres with private ocean access on Further Lane in East Hampton for $350,000–slashed down from $375,000. “Especially if they waited until now. There’s so much left, and people are calling every day to say they’re becoming flexible and negotiable–words like that.”
Then there’s the very negotiable last-minute option adopted by photographer Patrick McMullan, among others. As usual, Mr. McMullan said, he was planning to spend his summer in the Hamptons as “a glamorous house guest.”
–Additional reporting by Tom McGeveran
UPPER EAST SIDE
TWO C.E.O.’S SHUT OUT BROKERS IN $7.75 MILLION TRUMP TOWER SALE Ken Levy, chairman of KLA-Tencor Corporation, a company that makes tools to identify semiconductor defects during manufacturing, is a do-it-yourself kind of guy. In 1997, when KLA Instruments, the company Mr. Levy founded in 1976, merged with their biggest competitor, Tencor Instruments, it was Mr. Levy who put the deal together after meeting Jon Tomkins, the chief executive of Tencor, at a Christmas party. And sources say Mr. Levy put a more recent deal–the purchase of an apartment on the 65th floor of Trump Tower for $7.75 million–together all by himself also.
Mr. Levy’s new apartment in the 1983 building at 721 Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th streets, never officially came on the market, according to brokers. And it seems that the seller, Rafic Bizri, president of the Hariri Foundation, an organization that sends Lebanese students to American universities, was emphatic about keeping brokers from getting in on the deal. According to one source, there was a note at the concierge desk specifying that only Mr. Levy should be allowed to see the apartment. “I guess other people were trying to get access,” said the source.
Mr. Levy’s new apartment is the result of a combination of three apartments done by the previous owner. In the late 1980’s, brokers said, most of the 64th and 65th floors belonged to Verina Hixon, a socialite, who tried to put a pool into the apartment. She built it, but the condo board wouldn’t allow her to fill it because they were afraid the building wouldn’t be able to withstand the weight.
Since Ms. Hixon left, the apartment has changed hands several times and has been divided and combined into several different configurations. Brokers said the place is currently in mint condition and done with the finest finishes. The sale was final in mid-March.
UPPER WEST SIDE
310 West End Avenue
Two-bed, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $859,000. Selling: $865,000.
Charges: $1,631; 44 percent tax deductible.
Time on the market: three months.
POTTY-TRAINING THE CAT The young couple who bought this 1,400-square-foot co-op near 74th Street on April 20 will soon start redoing the place to their taste, but there is one detail they intend to preserve: a small “cat door” from the kitchen to the maid’s bathroom. The little swinging door was put in by the previous owner, a writer and producer of music for television shows. For roughly seven years, her three cats used it to access their litter box, stashed away in the otherwise unused bathroom. “Her 14-year-old cat is named Chelsea,” said the seller’s broker, Naomi Davis of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, remarking that that’s also the name of her new neighborhood. Apparently, the producer was concerned that her invention be preserved. At the closing, Ms. Davis observed the producer teaching the couple how to get their kitty to use the little door. Did anyone suggest a play date and tutoring session with Chelsea?
188 East 78th Street (the Empire)
Three-bed, two-and-a-half-bath, 1,664-square-foot condo.
Asking: $1.825 million. Selling: $1.825 million.
Charges: $860. Taxes: $87.
Time on the market: one day.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN When a stockbroker and his pregnant wife agreed they needed more space, they sold their old place and bought this one–the last three-bedroom condo to sell at the Empire–for $1.4 million through Michael Shvo of Douglas Elliman. But their new condo, near Third Avenue, wasn’t completed by the time they had to move, so they rented an apartment at the Savoy, at 200 East 61st Street and waited. When the apartment in the Empire–and the deal–was finally finalized at the beginning of February, the broker thought that, just for fun, he’d see how much money he could get for it. Mr. Shvo put the place back on the market the next day for $1.825 million, and someone immediately offered to buy it for exactly that amount. The broker decided to take the money, selling the place and moving his wife and new baby to Long Island. But they were there only two weeks before the broker decided to see what he could get for that place, when his company sent him to Florida to open a branch office. He made $200,000 on the Long Island place and bought a home in Florida.
96 Perry Street
Two-bed, one-bath, 650-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $375,000. Selling: $360,000.
Charges: $800; 60 percent tax deductible.
Time on the market: three months.
SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING Sure, this apartment is small. And the fact that it has a bedroom, a “den” and a living room–all in 650 square feet–makes it seem even smaller. But when the record-cover designer who bought the place saw it for the first time at an open house in January, he was charmed sufficiently to come back and take a second look. First of all, it’s on the corner of Perry and Hudson streets in the West Village. Second, many original details have been preserved–including original wood cabinets in the living room and oak window moldings. But when the designer returned to check out the place more closely, he discovered among the sellers’ belongings–the young couple was on their way to Seattle–a book published by the company he works for about record covers. You might say the place’s karma started to feel pretty good to him. “He felt he had a good connection with them,” said the exclusive broker on the deal, Jill Meilus of the Corcoran Group.