The median home price in Southold Town crept up to $490,000 in 2014, the highest its been since Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2008 and more than $50,000 above than the 10-year low of $440,000 in 2010 and 2011, according to figures from Suffolk Research Service Inc. By comparison, though, median home prices in Riverhead Town have been sluggish, falling to $322,000 in 2014, down from $345,000 in 2013.
Those strong sales in Southold correlate with a hot rental market — and now is the time when those with disposable income are deciding where to spend their summer holidays, according to local agents.
“I think there is a shortage of high-end rental realty on the North Fork and Shelter Island,” said Joseph Divello of Century 21 Albertson Realty. “During the recession people were more in need of disposable income. Now that the economy is coming around it seems people are using their high-end houses instead of renting them.”
Here are some other recent rental trends reported by North Fork real estate professionals.
A pool is a must. Real estate agents seem to speak in unison on this one: A rental house must have a pool in its yard — even if the property is right on the bay.
“Ten years ago it wasn’t that important to have a pool,” said Carol Szynaka of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “Now it’s mandatory.”
Groups want to rent together. While the North Fork will probably never cultivate a party scene like that in the Hamptons, groups of young professionals — 30- and 40-somethings, sometimes with small children — have asked about renting together, local realtors said.
“People are inquiring about group rentals, but they are realizing that North Fork landlords are not that interested,” said Sheri Winter Clarry of the Corcoran Group.
The farm-to-table experience is hot. Nick Planamento of Town & Country Realty has one rental on South Harbor Road in Southold — which is not waterfront, but is instead surrounded by a vineyard — that’s listed for $60,000 for the season.
“The ocean beaches will always be popular, but we have something [The Hamptons] doesn’t have,” said Planamento. “We have the slow food culture. People love CSA [community-supported agriculture] shares. It’s all about the farm-to-table experience.”
It’s off to a slow start. Cold weather and icy properties kept many potential renters at bay this winter, according to some agents. But now that the ground is beginning to thaw and people’s thoughts are turning to summer, desirable properties are going to get snatched up quickly.
“The winter it was tough,” said Rose McKillop of Andrew Stype Realty Inc. “People were not driving out, especially for rentals. People couldn’t even get in the driveways. But we’ve seen an increase in the past five or six days.”
Furnishings set the tone. Rental houses should be furnished like a summer home; think blues and whites and natural fibers. After all, people are looking to get away from city life and relax — the home’s interior should reflect that.
“It’s important to have a nice outdoor seating set. Outdoor décor is equally as important as indoor,” Szynaka said.
Waterfront is still king. “In the market for rentals, most people want to be on the water, near the water or be able to walk to the water,” said McKillop, who has a three-bedroom bayfront listing in Cutchogue priced at $90,000 for the season. “Whether it’s the bay or the Sound, either is preferable, depending on the customer.”
See what’s available below:
8555 Main Bayview Road, Southold (Rented)
A two-story home on 2.5 acres with a Gunite pool and lounge area: rented for $25,000 for August through Labor Day.
A three-bedroom home with green utilities surrounded by vineyards: $60,000 for Memorial Day through Labor Day.
A waterfront bungalow on 1.5 private acres: $32,000 for Memorial Day through Labor Day.
A three-bedroom cottage near the bay, available Memorial Day through Labor Day for $20,000.