Montauk Real Estate Market Shows Signs of Life

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High-end homes in the Hamptons are starting to sell again, spurred by recent positive trends on Wall Street. Photo by Corcoran Group.

With the real estate and homebuilding market bumping along the bottom, builders and investors in coastal markets are hungry for any optimistic news. Among the flickering signs of hope for a building industry rebound this month: Observers say the upscale housing market in Hamptons of Long Island, New York's, east end, may be starting to rebound. Southhampton and Easthampton, the towns out at the end of Long Island, are famous as a getaway and party scene for the rich and famous — home to rock stars, supermodels, and sports heroes. And "while the luxury real-estate market remains moribund in most parts of the country," reports the Wall Street Journal, "there are a few signs of a nascent turnaround in the Hamptons." ("Hamptons Show Signs of Life," by Sara Lin and Christina S. N. Lewis.)

Why are the Hamptons bucking the general slow trend? Economist David Lereah blogs that the Long Island market is heavily influenced by trends on Wall Street, which have been positive in recent months ("The Rich and Famous are Buying Homes Again," by David Lereah). "This is a case where wealthy households ignore market fundamentals," argues Lereah. "For example, large Wall Street bonuses were distributed to management, traders, and institutional salesmen in the second quarter. It is likely that many of these recipients waited until the third quarter to pull the trigger on purchasing a summer getaway."

Among this summer's eager Hamptons buyers was Today Show co-host Matt Lauer, reports the Wall Street Journal ("Matt Lauer, 'Today' Co-Host, Buys in Hamptons," by Sara Lin). Lauer paid the full asking price ($2.15 million) for a 1,500-sqft Cape-style house on the water in Southampton.

Sales are still off in comparison with recent years, the Journal notes — and so are prices. But some sellers have been offered more than the asking price, and traffic in real estate offices and at open house events has been brisk, according to realtors with Hamptons heavyweight broker the Corcoran Group.

One more sign of the times?

When Federal marshals put the confiscated home of convicted Ponzi scheme scammer Bernie Madoff up for auction, demand was strong — and the high bidder reportedly offered more than the government's asking price for the 3,000-sqft house, reports MSNBC ("Madoff's beach home sells for about $8.75M," by the Associated Press). What do you get for that? Well, the home's interior and decor is nothing special, according to reports; but the building's 1.2-acre lot in the Montauk dunes, plus "stunning" views of the sea, make it a prize catch for the anonymous high bidder. For a tour of the Madoff house, check out this page from CNN.com ("Madoff's Montauk home: Big views, modest decor," by Les Christie). Still on the market: Madoff's $9-million Manhattan town-home, and a Palm Beach house valued at around $11 million.