If the Hamptons have been the hare in the real estate price race, the North Fork has been the tortoise. While the northern hamlets haven’t seen the meteoric rise of their southern neighbors, their slow and steady value increases of 10 to 13 percent in each of the past few years keeps them in the race. According to Suffolk Research, the median price of a single-family residence in Southold Townis now $540,000 compared to $753,000 for Southampton Town and a $910,000 median price in East Hampton.
Setting a new precedent, however, is the $22 million price tag affixed to a 135-acre Peconic estate listed with Sheri Clarry of the Corcoran Group. “The second you walk onto the property you’re transformed into another world,” says Clarry of the compound, which has a four-bedroom, five-bath main house with a greenhouse extension, a large pool, sauna, cabana, tennis court and 15 acres of Little Creek waterfront with a dock nestled in its own wildlife sanctuary. The plum of the property in this case, however, is the grape. Planted in 1981, a 19-acre working vineyard is the attraction for buyers interested in starting their own label (currently the grapes are sold to Wolffer Vineyards). Present owners transformed an old potato farm into a picture-postcard working farm with two barns, workshop and garage, guesthouse, grain sheds, sheep sheds, equipment storage, office and facilities for vineyard personnel. Move over Mondavi.
Clarry sees the gap narrowing between prices of North and South Fork waterfront and notes a growing demand for new construction with amenities. She maintains those wishing to escape Route 27 traffic and return to their agrarian roots are attracted to the area still filled with farm fields and vineyards, part of an active preservation process. Boaters enjoy the bay and sound, and even serious golfers are interested because of a proliferation of courses without the hefty club fees seen in the Hamptons.
Barry Novick of Brown Harris Stevens notes a shift to more second-home buyers in the market coming not only from Manhattan and New Jersey but California, Colorado, the South and even overseas. Another segment consists of Connecticut and Massachusetts buyers who commute via ferry. “The days of flipping properties may be experiencing a hiatus, but there are still good values,” notes Novick. Orient Village set the high price point last summer, but each hamlet on North Fork, he explains, has its own flavor and attraction. One of his exclusives with partner Nancy Cervelli, a renovated 1900 Victorian farmhouse with wraparound porch and pool in Southold, looks like a steal at $650,000. He also has a private bay-front estate with restored 1900s shingle-style main house and guesthouse with views over Southold Bay across from Shelter Island listed at just under $3 million. With 20 years in the business, Carll L. Austin of Town & Country Real Estate just opened an office in Mattituck this spring. He notes a growing clientele, which wants privacy, peace and quiet and a more laid-back life-style. With easy access by Jitney or train, the area attracts those who like village living in Greenport, which he believes will evolve into another Sag Harbor. Great buys still exist, he reports, noting his $599,000 Mattituck custom home listing, which is just a walk to shopping or a deeded sandy beach or his $849,000 Cutchogue Colonial on landscaped, private 1.4 acres adjacent to a vineyard or an Aquebogue Country Cape at the same price with a pool in a private bay-front community.
Some have complained of the North Fork’s lack of fabulous restaurants and shopping compared to the Hamptons. That also is changing, says Patricia Wadzinski of Corcoran, who represents a Greenport restaurant and residence, an elegant 1870s former captain’s house that contains a French restaurant on the first floor and second-floor residential flat, renovated in 1999. Listed at $1.45 million, the property has attracted serious interest from New York City restaurateurs interested in creating a flagship presence in the area and embracing local produce and wine. Having reached the 30-year mark of maturity with its vines, the first being planned in 1973 by Alex and Louisa Hargrave in Cutchogue, North Fork Wines are winning national competitions. The wineries are currently leading the social scene with not only tastings, but music, movies, literary events and even a fashion show with television’s Project Runway designers.
While it’s premature to call the North Fork the next Napa, collective advice both commercially and residentially from local agents is, “get in before the rush.” For now you’ll just have to live without Gucci or Tiffany’s.