Licensed as Timothy G. Davis, Lic. Assoc. R.E. Broker At The Corcoran Group
The Wall Street Journal- 8/16/2012
The pool area of the Southampton home of Carol and Anthony Mayo.
Forget high fences, large gates or security patrols. Most privacy-seeking homeowners in the Hamptons stick to nuanced, natural approaches: large estate layouts, long driveways, green landscaping and hidden locations.
Judi Desiderio, chief executive of Town & Country Real Estate who has been working in the Hamptons for 31 years, said while there is always a market for a "sleek modern home," she estimates two-thirds of the houses being built are more traditional?with privacy one of the top priorities.
"Whether you're on a half acre or 10 acres, people who come out and purchase homes here don't care to know what their neighbors are having for dinner," she said.
Landscaping is a common strategy for keeping wandering eyes out, she said, and over the years it has gotten more creative. People are "framing their properties with different vegetation, so [the trees] don't look like a bunch of soldiers."
Pamela and Michael Jacobus bought their house in Amagansett in 1978, and after a renovation in 1997 that saw the addition of a second floor, they replaced an old wooden fence with a row of arborvitae trees. Now the trees are 40 feet high, and the property is also shielded from view by a bamboo hedge, privet hedge and 30-foot-high rhododendron trees. Their four-bedroom, 3?-bathroom house is nestled in the dunes, 50 feet from the street below, and is on the market for $2.5 million with Brown Harris Stevens.
Using landscaping for privacy has an environmental aspect, says Mr. Jacobus, 67 years old. "Everybody would like a natural environment where they can enjoy the landscaping and gardens without seeing a neighbor's house or road," he says.
Large walls require special permits to build in Hamptons hamlets, and as a result, they are not common, says Ernie Cervi, an executive managing director for Corcoran Group, who has lived in the Hamptons for 12 years. The "green barrier" trend is a popular alternative because "people do prefer greenery to gates?it gives you a good screening and it is green all year. It's the first thing they do" when they buy, he says.
Another popular strategy is the layout of so-called "flag lots" with a long driveway that leads to a property set back from the road, like a flag waving from a pole. The flag lot and estate layout of a home in Water Mill was a major draw for Jonathan Spier, 51, as he craved privacy and separation from a "bombardment of people and noise" in Manhattan, where he ran a clothing company.
Mr. Spier bought his nearly six-acre property in 2004. Seeking "quiet time," he instead found that the property?with segmented areas for a swimming pool, tennis court and reflecting pond?was so good for entertaining that he frequently had guests. The eight-bedroom, 7?-bathroom property is on the market for $3.999 million with Prudential Douglas Elliman.
Carol Mayo, 74, was less than thrilled about leaving behind the buzz of New York. But when her attorney husband Anthony, 76, decided to open a car dealership in Southampton in the mid-1970s, she figured she might as well commit full-bore. "I told him, if he's going to make me live out here full-time, I want to feel like I live in the country."
Tall hedges felt too much like "suburbia" to her, so after searching for four years, she and her husband found a property a short drive from the Village of Southampton. It abuts 65 acres of conservation land to the west that provided additional privacy. Their 10-acre property, which includes two ponds and a 5,500-square-foot Colonial, is for sale for $9.75 million with Corcoran. Additional buildable land, for a total of 22-acres, can be purchased for $18.5 million.
Sticking with traditional styles and estate designs might reflect changes in the attitudes of homeowners.
Ms. Desiderio says the financial crisis has been a "reality check" for homeowners. Ten years ago, Hampton properties were being built to flip for a profit, she says. "Today's buyer is in it for the long haul,' she says.