Down by the Sea

People who say they’d love the Hamptons if it were a wee bit quieter there may finally get their wish.

The war, the economy—even the weather—have all but frozen the East End’s real-estate market. “Summer rentals are off to a very slow start,” admits Peter Turino of Dunemere Associates. “We’re used to lots of business in January, February, and March. This year, it will be April, May, and June.” Or so he hopes.

The President’s Day blizzard, on what brokers call “rental weekend,” was particularly ill-timed. Another piece of chilly news: Renters are slashing stays—from all summer to one month, or one month to two weeks. “I’ve only had calls for two-week rentals, and that includes people from California who I would expect to have money,” says broker Tina Fredericks. “It’s very disappointing.” Fredericks is also handling the late Warner LeRoy’s Amagansett estate, which went on the market last summer for $25 million and has now slid to $17 million. (See sidebar for other slow sellers.)

For the past seven years, London-based journalist Helen Kirwan-Taylor has rented with her banker husband, joining a slew of other English visitors. But few are returning. “Everyone’s feeling poor in London,” she says.

Brokers (unlike many locals) are pining for the baby Wall Streeters who once snapped up hot-tubbed houses. Elizabeth Clarke, of Century 21 Agawam Albertson, says her 25-to-35-year-old clients are hesitating to rent. Thanks in part to trop bon vivant types like Josh Sagman, unwitting star of last year’s Barbara Kopple docudrama, “house parties are not welcome, and people are wondering what they’re going to do at night,” says Clarke.

Perhaps more to the point, “they’re also waiting to see if they’ll get bonuses.”

Down by the Sea