The Money of Montauk: Unveiling the Secret World of The Hamptons
Updated: Feb 23
If you're from pretty much anywhere around the United States, when you think about a popular destination for a "weekend getaway," you probably think about white sand beaches or a mountain cabin getaway. Being in Atlanta, our options are stepping on broken Jack Daniels bottles at the Florida beaches or the Tennessee Smoky Mountains to get accosted by Dolly Parton and co. Head up there on a Friday, grab a condo or a cabin and enjoy a few days away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But what if you live in the northeast, munching on some clam chowder and thinking about charter boats? What if you're a finance bro working at Goldman or J.P Morgan and you need to disconnect for a few days on a government-mandated day off? Well if you're overflowing with cash and want to sit in the real seat of American power, you'll head to the secretive, shadowy stretch of state parks that few can afford to set foot in. This is the secret millionaire hideaway of The Hamptons.
The Hamptons seems like one of those places that started as some quaint small town and evolved into a luxury real estate behemoth, but that isn't really the case. Originally founded in the 1800's because of its "good potato ground" for farming, the perfect place for potatoes was quickly abandoned, due to its seafront nature, perfect weather in the summer months and proximity to New York City. Thanks to the Long Island rail road, the wealth found this place QUICK, and it quickly became one of the best places to spend your peak season. The New York Times wrote in 1893 about the area:
The beautiful villages clustering around old Southampton, including Quohue, Good Ground, the rest of the Hamptons, and the incomparable Shinnecock Hills combine to make as close an approach to Eden as can be found in a long journey. Exclusive—in the best sense of the word—society is here represented during the summer by its choicest spirits. Well-bred men and women find a congenial atmosphere, refined attractions in plenty, and innumerable charms about these quaint old villages.
It's made up of a collection of communities that inhabit the small outlet island just off the coast of New York State, along the easternmost tip of Long Island, with train and ferry service adding to the Montauk Highway that can now take you there. But why do people vacation here?
The homes! The homes are INSANE. Crazy. In 2016, Business Insider listed the 11962 zip code within The Hamptons as the most expensive in the U.S, with an average home listing of $8.5 million. The average Montauk beach house price retreated in 2019, according to the Financial Times, due to the Trump Tax Cuts that drove away potential wealthy buyers from the area who instead stayed in New York City. This was estimated to have driven the average prices down about 20% in 2019, before experiencing a rapid rebound in 2020. Why? Just like everything else, it was due to the pandemic. According to the New York Times, the average home price in The Hamptons skyrocketed 40% in 2020 due to the number of wealthy people looking to flee New York as the virus took hold, meaning the best time to hop into Lake Montauk real estate was right before you got sick of looking at New York's main street.
Let's say you aren't some New York finance magnate and you don't have a casual $10 million to drop on a 7 bedroom home. Can you still visit The Hamptons? Absolutely! Just get ready to pay out the nose, especially in the summer high season. Whether you're renting a private estate from some Hampton-based nature lovers with deep pockets, or you're booking incredibly limited space in a boutique hotel, get ready to pony up. This is the theme of Bravo's smash hit show "Summer House," where suspiciously attractive people rent a house in The Hamptons for the summer just so they'll have a great place to drink somewhere else. In scanning some real estate listings, you aren't exactly going through AirBnB for these homes. Offered through private property managers and rental companies, these homes come in at a median price of $33,000 a month during the summer. What do you get for this number? Well here is YouTube real estate personality Erik Conover to explain:
As you can see, the homes here are very unique and comically gigantic. As a result, the area attracts a lot of attention from celebrities. Back in the 1940's, famous painter Jackson Pollock had his own Westhampton Beach hideaway to create some of his best work. In addition to the aforementioned Summer House, the area also brought the Kardashian's in for a season of a spin-off show "Kourtney and Khloe Take The Hamptons," where madness rained on the area for six months. Speaking of madness, "The Real Housewives of New York" frequents the area for their episodes. The region has also attracted the attention of athletes, with several NBA players calling the place home in the off-season, including Cavaliers big-man Kevin Love. The most famous Hamptons-centric story of past few years, however, belongs to Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant's Players Tribune Saga
In 2016, free agent superstar Kevin Durant fled to the heart of downtown Montauk for a 10 day vacation to decide his future. Under the guise of his business manager, he anonymously rented a large property on Block Island that was "close to East Hamptons airport" for a number of business meetings. Those meetings, it was later disclosed, were a series of NBA front-offices attempting to court Durant to their teams. The winning team was eventually the defending champion Golden State Warriors, where Durant played alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, later nicknamed "The Hamptons 5."
Durant rented the home for 10 days at the cost of $100,000. He also featured the home as the backdrop to his Players Tribune cover story announcing his move to The Bay, giving the home, and the general Montauk Point State Park area, incredible exposure. However, even K.D couldn't save the home. The property at the time was listed for $21.5 million, complete with five bedrooms, 7,400 square feet of interior space, a private pool, separate hot tub and private walkway to the beach and close enough proximity to Sag Harbor to make your own lobster rolls. The home ended up switching listing companies and taking two pretty significant price cuts, eventually selling for $13.6 million in 2018.
The Bottom Line
New York real estate is something of an infatuation with me. From swanky NYC penthouses to shotgun brownstones, The Hamptons serves as the perfect extension of this style to me. I love The Hamptons, and am really excited one day to hopefully visit the area. But what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!