Long Island’s North Fork wineries are yielding another harvest as Manhattanites look east for second homes.
The growing interest in the vineyard country has prompted Corcoran Group broker Sheri Winter Clarry to call it the “Napa Valley-fication” of the northern tip of the East End.
“We’ll never have the ocean,” Clarry said, referring to the popularity of the waterfront sales in South Fork. “But it’s a different niche here than the Hamptons.”
The South Fork, known for its oceanfront properties, has long been a hot spot for second-home sales at jaw-dropping prices, including the national record price of $75 million. But figures from Suffolk Research Services show the bay front shoreline properties of the North Fork may not be far behind the South Fork.
The gap between prices on the two forks narrowed between 2005 and the first quarter of this year, with the median home price at $451,000 on the North Fork and $740,000 on the South Fork. The median North Fork home was worth 60 percent as much as the median South Fork home in the first quarter, up from 52 percent last year.
“The gap is narrowing,” Clarry said. “People used to come to North Fork strictly for a deal, but now there is not a deal to be had.”
The median price in the largest township on the North Fork, Southold, rose 12 percent in the first quarter of this year over last year, compared to 11 percent growth in the largest township on the South Fork, East Hampton. Prices were $549,000 and $850,000 in the two townships, respectively, according to Suffolk Research Services.
Clarry added that while it is still possible to find decently priced homes, high-end home development is growing on the North Fork. “Once these vineyards attach to restaurants, then North Fork will really take off,” Clarry said. “It’s just a matter of time until this happens.”
Lili Elsis, who specializes in high-end waterfront homes for Prudential Douglas Elliman in Amagansett on the South Fork, disagrees. “The North Fork will never catch up to the South Fork. It will certainly be a player, but it doesn’t have the popularity of South Fork,” Elsis said. “It’s a whole different environment. It’s apples and oranges.”
North Fork’s low-key style attracts clients looking for quiet. “It’s so different over here,” Clarry said. “It’s for people comfortable with themselves, laid back and unpretentious.”
A lot of the interest in North Fork is coming from Manhattanites and South Forkers tired of the traffic and congestion, Clarry added. According to Clarry, the inventory has increased not only from development, but from people leaving who can’t afford the increase in prices, a trend that occurred in the Hamptons as well.
“It’s about accessibility. The North Fork will never draw the dollars that ocean front does,” said Rick Hoffman, regional vice president for Corcoran in the East End. “It is the accessibility to the beach that brings the premium.”
Overall, there were about twice as many homes sold in the South Fork as the North Fork during the first quarter of 2006, consistent with last year, and the total value of real estate sold in the South Fork was around six times that sold in the North Fork, according to Suffolk Research Services.
Corcoran cuts East End offices
Out on the East End, the Corcoran Group, one of New York’s largest residential brokerages, is cutting the number of offices working both the North and South Forks.
About a month ago, Corcoran closed all of their North Fork locations. Offices in Cutchogue, Mattituck and Southold have now been consolidated into the West Hampton site. “We aren’t giving up our presence, merely an office,” maintained Rick Hoffman, regional vice president for Corcoran in the East End. “We have a lot of faith in the North Fork market and I don’t feel like we are going to feel any reduction in the services we offer in the North Fork.”
Corcoran recently obtained a $22 million listing on the North Fork. Hoffman said he believes it is the most significant listing yet in the area.
Hoffman attributes the wave of office closings to the way business is done by other brokerages on the North Fork. “The market is full of mom and pop brokers who are cutting their commissions,” Hoffman said. “We don’t feel that our competition is profitable there.”
To maintain a presence on the North Fork, Corcoran recently opened ECorcoran, an intranet database that allows their agents to work from home. Accessible through the Internet, agents can retrieve all the documents needed for a transaction. “We will be giving our agents physical space, bricks and mortar, out of the West Hampton office,” Hoffman said.
Corcoran’s two locations in Sag Harbor were recently consolidated into one office. The firm is also looking to downgrade its Shelter Island office and make it a part of the Sag Harbor location.
“We were really wasting space per agent,” Hoffman said. “By consolidating into that space, we’ll have a stronger presence in Sag Harbor with strong office managers and strong offices.”