Coronavirus

NYC exodus jolts Hamptons market to life months in advance

This six-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath at 126 Somerset Ave. in Southampton is available immediately for $45,000 a month.

NestSeekers

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2020
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New Yorkers looking to flee the city and its skyrocketing coronavirus caseload have created a new, early-spring market for Hamptons rentals.

It’s a very privileged group, to be sure, who can ride out the pandemic out East, now that schools and non-essential businesses have closed, and New Yorkers are being told to hunker down and maintain a distance of six feet from each other. 

But it’s not like the houses were ready and waiting for New Yorkers to drive (or fly) out—owners were not expecting renters until May and are scrambling to prep large houses to receive tenants. According to Out East data, there has been a 33 percent increase in short-term rental searches on the site this March compared to the same time period last year.


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Traditionally, deals are made in late December through January, with a last-minute rush in spring, and the season is typically Memorial Day to Labor Day, says Eddie Shapiro, founder of brokerage Nestseekers. (You may know him as the boss of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” star Ryan Serhant.)

Under normal conditions, “no one takes occupancy until Memorial Day,” Shapiro says. But these are not normal times, and Shapiro’s phone won’t stop ringing. He’s getting calls from New Yorkers en route to the Hamptons, asking for houses.

“I got a call Monday from someone willing to spend $250,000 and he was in a house by Thursday,” Shapiro says. 

That’s how much some New Yorkers are willing to spend for two or three months, and many will likely renew and stay put for the summer, he says. This will likely upend the summer rental market.

There is a precedent for this sort of demand, if not the timing. Shapiro says a similar exodus happened after 9/11, but this time the urgency is different.

“The city feels dangerous,” he says. “If I go to the supermarket in NYC, hundreds will have passed through already. If I go to King Kullen in Bridgehampton‚ it’s a smaller population and that reduces exposure.”

Shapiro says many of the deals are off market. Some are the result of sellers and developers putting sales listings on the rental market. And there’s a spill-over effect happening in the sales market: Buyers who were hesitating are now pulling the trigger.

Similarly, Dylan Eckardt, an agent at NestSeekers who was born and raised on the East End, is tapping his local network to find houses. Not many are ready right now, but owners are scrambling to make their places available. His phone is also blowing up with calls from boldfaced names, offering top dollar for large houses in the coveted, south-of-the-highway enclaves. 

“This has never happened before,” he says. “This scare is changing everything.”