North Fork realtors say high-end market doing just fine


The economy may be dodgy, but people are still out there buying houses. And on the North Fork, not all buyers are looking for fire sale bargains.

In fact, sales of high-end property — mostly waterfront — are surprisingly healthy, according to local realtors.

“Actually both the high end and the low end are doing well,” said Sheri Winter Clarry, senior vice president with Corcoran Real Estate. “And even the middle range properties will sell if they’re priced properly.”

It may seem counterintuitive that buyers are willing to spend more than a million dollars on a house in the midst of so much fiscal uncertainty, but it makes sense for a number of reasons, said Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Tom Uhlinger.

“Buyers see good value in the high-end waterfront properties that are available on the North Fork,” he said. “Prices have probably bottomed out. Add to that record low mortgage rates and the buyers come out.”

Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates in Southold agrees that there’s tremendous value on the North Fork compared to the South Fork — and prices here are very good.

“You can be on the water for a lot less money,” she said.

What kind of buyers are looking for high-end property on the North Fork? According to Ms. Clarry, the same people who have always bought on the North Fork form the core.

“There’s less pomp out here, there’s good food and wine and we’re family-friendly,” she said. “Some people migrate from the South Fork because they’re completely over the Hamptons. I’ve also seen an increasing number of Europeans interested in buying on the North Fork. We have such a good, warm and fuzzy feeling out here.”

Back in March, Mr. Uhlinger sold a four-bedroom Cutchogue contemporary for $1.75 million, and in June a four-bedroom waterfront Cape in Jamesport closed for $1.7 million.

Ms. Clarry has negotiated the sale of some spectacular waterfront homes within the last year, including a $2.4 million Cutchogue home and a $2.04 million property in Peconic.

Feeling extra-flush? Ms. Beninati can guide you to a Mediterranean castle on three acres in Mattituck, currently listed at almost $10 million.

Mr. Uhlinger cautions that he did see a bit of a sales slowdown over the summer in the high-end North Fork market.

“People want to be in for the summer,” he said. “It will definitely pick up again in the fall and then slow down again in late November.”

Ms. Beninati has also seen a slight retreat, which she attributes to the atrocious weather. Nevertheless, she maintains that waterfront property “is always going to be saleable. Right now it’s pretty good and we have a number of deals going in spite of the uncertainty. It does make buyers uneasy when the stock market fluctuates as it has been doing. They really want to do it and they say, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ ”

Overall, though, Ms. Beninati believes the stock market’s volatility is ultimately good for real estate.

“You get a steady appreciation that you won’t get at the bank,” she said. “You’re making a modest amount of equity these days, but at the same time you get to enjoy your investment.”

Ms. Clarry agrees. “I think people would far rather have money in a house than in the stock market right now,” she said.

Town & Country’s Nicholas Planamento wants to offer a word of advice to sellers of high-end properties that will have buyers buzzing. And he knows whereof he speaks, as he was recently involved in the sale of a Victorian on First Street in Greenport for $1.315 million, a very high price for non-waterfront property.

“We’re having an extremely strong year,” he said. “With the higher priced properties, it’s either a beauty contest or a price war. This was a beauty contest. This seller took the time and trouble to get all the details right and the property sold within 30 days.”

He says the buyer looked at other Victorians but was unable to resist the seller’s meticulous restoration.

“There are other houses out there, but a lot of times people have cut corners,” he said. “The buyers are definitely out there. Just make sure you’ve taken care of all of the bells and whistles.”