High end real estate deals escalate

COURTESY PHOTO | Higher priced than typical for Shelter Island, but still not at the top of the market, the property known as the Ryan Farm property carries an asking price of $5.85 million.

Trend? Or a blip on the screen?

A new block of listings with prices typically seen in the Hamptons raises questions about the Island real estate market. Who are the buyers eyeing astronomically priced property here rather than in the Hamptons? And if these extremely deep-pocketed folks move to the Island, will they drive the development of even more upscale restaurants and shops?

For generations, Shelter Island has been a community of people with mixed fortunes — some old-time family estates interspersed with more modest houses.

After three, four or five generations of families occupying upscale compounds, some younger owners around 2000 opted to sell, according to some brokers. Those who bought may not have loved the older houses. But they chose the properties for waterfront views and large expanses of land and had money to knock down what they didn’t like and build what they did, said assoate broker Angelo Piccozzi of Dering Harbor Real Estate. Now some of those houses built 10 years ago are coming on the market, he said.

There were also those high rollers who, beginning in 2008 when the stockmarket cratered, pulled out and opted to “park” their money in real estate. One place was Shelter Island. Now that the economy is beginning to recover, the buyers are looking to turn over those properties, Mr. Piccozzi said.

“We’re no longer the un-Hamptons. We’re the new Hamptons,” broker Georgiana B. Ketcham said. “The only thing is we have a curfew,” she said, referring to the ferry schedule.

“In the last five or 10 years, Shelter Island has been discovered,” said broker Melina Wein. Buyers “love the quality of life here.” The Island offers easy access to the Hamptons “but you don’t have to live there,” she added.

“Shelter Island is being seen as the valuable real estate it is,” said associate broker Susan Cincotta of Daniel Gale/Sotheby’s. People who want to buy here like that the Island is dominated by the Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve, she said.

“Buyers are realizing this is a precious jewel,” she said. They like nightlife only a short boat ride away in the Hamptons. Want bucolic over glitz? Vineyards and farmlands are nearby on the North Fork.

Good press has spread the word about Shelter Island. Attractions such as the Perlman Music Program, relocated to Shelter Island from East Hampton in 2000, and recent publicity about Sylvester Manor from an exhibit at New York University about the history and development have attracted attention, Ms. Ketcham said.

Shelter Island still remains family friendly, with light traffic safe for children to ride bicycles wherever they want to go, Ms. Wein said.

Ms. Ketcham is meeting potential buyers who are comparison shopping, hunting on Shelter Island at the same time they’re exploring the Hamptons.

What a buyer can find here for $8 to $10 or even $20 million, would likely cost more than $35 million in the Hamptons, said Nick Planamento, secretary of the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association and consultant to Town & Country Real Estate.

Similarly, Saunders & Associates broker Penelope Moore traces today’s soaring Shelter Island market back to 2003 when people had money to spend, chose beautiful waterfront properties and frequently replaced long-standing older houses with more palatial quarters.

Hedge fund manager Marco Birch is among those who created his dream house on Little Ram Island Drive. He and his wife Katherine now spend more time in New York City and decided to sell their Shelter Island house. It’s on the market for $28.5 million.

Paard Hill Farms, the equestrian center established after much community angst back in 2000, is reported to have been sold for about $8 million, although some details of the sale are still being worked out. Ryan Farm Open Space LLC is selling the property known as the Ryan Farm. The parcel has 4.2 acres of land that can be developed adjacent to 63 acres of preserved land, and is being marketed for $5.85 million. Members of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club purchased that property for $15.9 million this year. And there’s still much debate over the future of 25 acres of St. Gabriel’s property on Coecles Harbor that’s seen an asking price as high as $19.9 million.

There are other major properties quietly being shopped and more will probably surface if buyers snatch up those currently on the market, but it’s anyone’s guess whether such sales will generate more of the same, Mr. Piccozzi said.

Given zoning restrictions, he speculated Shelter Island would always remain a financially diverse community.
When a couple of transactions happen, they send ripples through the market, said Corcoran Group Senior Managing Director Joseph DeSane. He believes there are more buyers for high-end properties in the wings.

No industry insiders see the tranquil ambiance that marks Shelter Island changing, even if the super rich roll in to settle. (But it’s fair to say that they wouldn’t say otherwise, since peace and quiet is part of their pitch.) Those people first exploring Shelter Island as an alternative to the Hamptons and finding it doesn’t have a party scene, like the idea, Ms. Moore said. They’re looking for a quiet place to relax where there are recreational activities for their children.

But it’s hard to ignore some sudden changes. There are more gourmet products carried at the IGA, and foodies are happier by the day at Reddings and Vine Street’s market, Ms. Moore said.

Ms. Wein pointed to the upcoming opening of Schmidt’s, an upscale Southampton market, where Fedi’s operated for many years in the Center, as an indication that there’s an appetite for pricey food items.

“Sylvester Manor brought us up a notch” with its organic farm, Ms. Moore said.

No doubt: The high-end real estate industry, fueled by buzz, has focused on the Island. And it’s only May.