When creating a Hamptons dream home, is it better to renovate an existing property or tear it down and start anew? A panel of East End brokers, builders, and designers discusses the options.
Listed by Cody Vichinsky for $27.9 million, the new home at 500 Old Town Road in Southampton combines state-of-the-art interior design with a traditional silhouette.
Our subject is "build or renovate," but since there are so few vacant lots these days, I’d say it’s “tear down and build or renovate.” Am I correct in that? SARAH MINARDI: It’s very correct. Because there are so few pieces of vacant land, and people are really specific about looking for a certain location, they’re more apt to find a home that they don’t necessarily want and tear that down and build new. I have a project in the Amagansett Dunes where it was an old cottage on about a third of an acre, and the person who bought it said, “I’m just going to start new.” It took almost 18 months for him to get all the permits before he could even demolish the house, so you should be ready for the time that it takes to get to that point. CHRISTINE CURIALE: We’re seeing a lot of people who are looking to either renovate their home to sell it for a higher value, or they can’t find what they’re really looking for in their price point. We’re probably seeing about a 25 percent increase in people looking for renovation money. PAMELA MULLER: We find that the majority of our tenants are longtime residents of the Hamptons and choose to renovate rather than build because of their prime locations. [My company] NouvelleView not only provides a temporary relocation moving service but often holds moving sales for existing furnishings, so they can have a fresh start when they return. CODY VICHINSKY: Teardown is actually not a bad thing in the eyes of a sophisticated buyer, particularly when you get towards the higher end of the market. It’s an asset, and [homeowners] can borrow against it much easier. There’s rentability in a lot of them. A piece of land is hard to really take advantage of while in the interim process of building a new house.
The Elizabeth II project’s large central space combines kitchen, living, and dining areas and features custom light fixtures designed by Bates Masi + Architects.
What type of guidance do customers look for in deciding? PAUL MASI: Most of our clients tell us that for homes built in the ’70s or ’80s, the value of construction was commensurate with the value of the land. Now the values of the land are so high that the homes built there don’t support their lifestyle, so they ultimately take down the house to build something for them. There are exceptions. You can identify whether it’s of historical significance, a lot of homes that are on the beach don’t meet the separation requirements—there are a lot of different factors to think about. CHRISTOPHER STEWART: Tax ramifications are huge in construction versus renovated properties. In East Hampton, they’re basing new construction on recently sold comps, so your reassessment only happens when it’s torn down. If you apply for a building permit, it’s done by square footage. You may have gutted your house, but your taxes won’t be reflecting that. KYLE MESSINGER: We’ll have customers that will mix, too. We’ll have a house that will be taken down, but there might be barns on the property that they want to preserve. MASI: Sometimes it costs just as much to renovate as it does to build a new house. But at the same time, sometimes the renovations are more interesting than the construction. We’re working on the Methodist church in Sag Harbor. It’s being converted into a home. You open up the walls and there are portions of it built from boats; there are inscriptions on the beams from the 1860s. Having that as a part of the story of the building is great, and it makes it just so much more interesting.
East Hampton’s 75 Toilsome Lane (listed by Sarah Minardi) was designed to resemble a classic shingled summer cottage, but with all the modern amenities.
What are the places where you should or should not compromise? MASI: That depends on each person. If you’re talking to a chef, it’s all about the kitchen. Someone who’s just out to be at the beach, it would probably be amenities, the outdoor showers and things like that. But really, the bones, the mechanical is something that’s worthwhile—from an energy perspective, performance, for sure, but also safety. ROXANE MOSLEH: You’ll see so many structures that look as though they’re on their last leg, but they just need paint. We actually own what was the Southampton Hunt and Riding Club. It was sound. It needed new wiring; it needed to be updated as far as becoming a residence. It was mostly cosmetic; it just needed a lot of paint and a new kitchen. MASI: What we tell people if they’re really serious about renovating is to live in the house for a little bit, if they can. Spend a summer in it. See what works. See what doesn’t work. CURIALE: The best advice I could ever give anybody is to talk to the builders, the real estate agents, the architects, the accountants, the mortgage company, and not talk to their cousin Joe who did it in Maryland for half the price. It’s really valuable to make sure that people are getting advice from professionals in the area who are familiar with the property, who are familiar with renovating in that town, and getting the information they need to actually make something that is going to be of value later.
What kinds of details are trendsetting now in renovations? MOSLEH: Modern interiors are definitely back, and that’s my forte. That’s where my passion is. Clients are looking for very clean environments, very minimal living, smart houses, and organized living. MESSINGER: Everything is light and bright; no more of the traditional dark floors. You’re seeing thin moldings, bringing indoor out, floor-to-ceiling glass, bi-folding. You’re still seeing the traditional Hamptons shingle, but you’re seeing mixes now of stucco finishes with metal roofs. MINARDI: There was a home that I had for sale in the Northwest Woods where it’s very traditional on the outside, but the inside is super modern. It wasn’t until I switched pictures to put the modern kitchen layout as the main photo that we really found somebody who just fell in love with it. MOSLEH: A lot of people come to me with hotels as references. They like the textiles, furnishings. The other factor that we also discuss with our clients is the kitchen and the open living plan, because most clients do not want a formal dining room. Most clients do not feel the need to enclose their kitchens.
Cody Vichinsky stresses that “tear-down” may not always be a bad thing in a high-end market.
Do you think that’s related to the growth of modernism in Manhattan? STEWART: A lot of my younger clients have something ultramodern but very high-end in Manhattan. Here, if they’re not on the ocean, they envision a country house; if this is a beach house, they’re going super modern. MOSLEH: I have one client who believes if he’s going to own an old home, it should really be old, and nothing in the US is old to him. He feels that if he’s going to buy something older, he’ll buy something in Europe, so when he looks at something new, he really wants it to be new, and new is ultra-contemporary today. MASI: Everyone has their preferences, and that’s what makes our area so interesting. But it’s about quality and being well-thought-out— that’s the most important thing, because those are the houses that are going to last. I have a deep respect for a lot of homes out here that I personally would never do, nor could I do, but I look at it and say, “Wow, this is done really, really well.” That’s what will enrich all of our lives.