The sizzling pandemic-fueled Hamptons real estate market may be starting to cool, but in its wake is a renovation frenzy now upending the East End.
“What’s going on in East Hampton is a nightmare,” said one resident who is worried about having a not-so-peaceful summer. “The [new] Tesla parking lot is a complete eyesore, huge new houses take up entire lots, there are dirt piles and trucks everywhere. I miss the quaint days when the only thing stressing me out was a landscaper’s trailer parked on the edge of someone’s grass,” they added. “The construction is ruining the very reason we go to the beach in the first place.”
At a time of rising inflation and plunging stocks, falling behind schedule on renovations may be a first world problem, but it could also lead to a Hamptons nightmare: a beach house that won’t be ready by Memorial Day.
Another summer resident ranted about the sheer volume of work being done in her neighborhood—and the lack of the work being done to her own second home. “My own construction has finally broken me,” she said. “It’s like a faucet of money while the stock market is tanking. I don’t think my contractor fully understood the inflationary pressure and supply-chain disruptions. And we have to pay the bill.” But, she said, “we are at their mercy.”
Ten months into her own renovation, her contractor is difficult to pin down. Meanwhile, she said, “My street is a parade of trucks. The street behind me has chopped down a forest. I feel like I live in a construction zone.”
Jeff Corbin, a technology consultant, has also gotten caught up in the upheaval of pandemic buying and building. He found Hamptons house-hunting downright demoralizing. In December 2021, he came out from New York City, where he lives, and looked at 10 houses in one day, each “worse and worse and worse and more expensive,” he said. “The houses were teardowns—$2 or $3 million shitholes. It was just gross,” he added. “It was depressing. I was beginning to think, I’m never getting my beach house.”
When his buddy flagged a promising open house on his street, Corbin and his wife, Suzanne, raced over and made a same-day offer, and eventually closed in March. The Amagansett house had been on the market for a week, and needed work, but after what he’d experienced shopping for it, he figured renovations would be the easy part.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. Landing a contractor in the Hamptons is just the latest measure of status, like getting a dinner reservation at Le Bilboquet in Sag Harbor.
Corbin called several contractors and set up appointments to meet with them.
Only one showed up.
“I basically hired him,” he said. Feeling somewhat desperate to get into his new home by Memorial Day (not looking exactly likely), and hopeful he wouldn’t get price gouged, he didn’t ask how much the renovations would cost.
“It felt like a wild card, but he was the only person I could find,” he said. “I’m going on trust. He’s got a solid reputation in the community. Plus, I had no choice since there was no one else.” The contractor occasionally asks for payment, but Corbin doesn’t know what the final tally will look like. “When he asks, I pay even though I may not know what the final invoice will be. I just sent $25,000. I want to keep him and his workers happy and hopefully on schedule.”