It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the exodus to Instagram-ready summer cottages across the country commences. The good news: To the discerning eye, there are still gorgeous rental properties to be had on both the East and West coasts.
For many New Yorkers, the holiday weekend starts the annual pilgrimage to the Hamptons on Long Island. According to John Scott “JT” Thomas of Halstead Real Estate in East Hampton, the upper end of the market starts at $200,000 to $250,000 for the season—considered Memorial Day to Labor Day—but by now “there’s very little left.” Even with a $1 million budget, it’s “almost impossible to find” an oceanfront property.
There’s a nine-bedroom oceanfront property with a heated pool and tennis court spread across eight acres on Meadow Lane in Southampton, offered by Bespoke Real Estate. The season’s rent is $2.25 million; August goes for $1.5 million. An eight-bedroom home at 38 Two Mile Hollow Rd. near the ocean in East Hampton costs $1 million for the season, while a nonoceanfront six-bedroom property at 59 Hither Lane goes for $400,000.
Hamptonites are creatures of habit. For years—generations, even—they have made this their longtime summer idyll for a variety of reasons: emotional family traditions, deep-rooted friendships, and the enviable social whirl. As Thomas says, “People who walk into my office either want to be in the Hamptons or they don’t.” And this is what most families want and get for some $10,000 a week: A modern East Hampton four-bedroom house, up on a hill and away from the water, with a pool and open-plan kitchen. Rent: $100,000 for the season, $45,000 for August. Such properties can, if you look, still be found.
Still, for those willing to broaden their horizons, there are other scenic locations offering exquisite properties and fine restaurants, all within striking distance from home. Barron’s Penta surveyed alternative bolt-holes, where simply shifting your geography via a private jet can land you a luxurious home in a prime location, often at a far better value. Let’s call it vacation arbitrage.
MARTHA’S VINEYARD, an hour’s flight from New York, can be reached in half the time it takes to endure the Hampton Jitney crawl on a Friday afternoon. Vacationers, who include former President Barack Obama and Bill Gates, enjoy elegant homes, unspoiled nature, top-rated restaurants—and a more laid-back vibe. Anne Mayhew of Sandpiper Rentals says that New York vacationers grow in number each year, thanks to the high-speed ferry service and summer’s daily Jet Blue flights from JFK airport.
We liked a four-bedroom gingerbread house with a wraparound porch and gazebo in the town of Oak Bluffs, an easy walk to the harbor and Inkwell Beach. The house, with a theater-style screening room, rents for up to $10,000 a week in June, $14,000 a week in August. Here’s the arbitrage: Add in $15,394 for a private round-trip seven-seater Learjet from Air Charters out of New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, and the August trip and stay for the family would be $71,394, about a third of the price of a comparable high-end Hamptons property.
New Hampshire, roughly an hour’s flight or a 4½-hour drive from Manhattan, offers up thick forests, rugged mountains, and pristine lakes. In the old seaport town of Portsmouth, settled in 1623, you can hit the beach, sail, and eat fried clams harborside or berbere braised lamb at the Black Trumpet. Portsmouth offers landmark tours, from the Black Heritage Trail to Strawbery Banke, a 10-acre open-air living-history museum filled with period houses and taverns.
A downtown, two-bedroom antique house along a channel of the Piscataqua River, steps from Strawbery Banke and the local fish market, was available for $3,300 a week at the time of writing. Rye Beach is on New Hampshire’s 18-mile coast, roughly eight miles south of Portsmouth, and sits next to an undeveloped patchwork of dunes and marshland. A three-bedroom Wallis Sands Beach oceanfront property at 1264 Ocean Blvd. with sleek interiors and wall-to-ceiling windows rents for $5,000 to $5,500 a week.
NOT TO BE OUTDONE, the West Coast moneyed maintain their own go-to vacation spots, many of them making Penta’s list of second-home retreats (“Second-Home Prices Slide,” March 25, 2017). Let’s start with Malibu, often called the “West Coast Hamptons.” A 50-minute drive from Beverly Hills and easily accessible by private aircraft, this laid-back surfers’ paradise attracts one-percenters and Hollywood celebrities, from Larry Ellison to Julia Roberts. They’re lured by the city’s 27-mile stretch of movie-set beaches, sublime sunsets, and top-tier restaurants. Nobu and Mr. Chow have planted flags here.
Malibu holidays can easily cost $1 million or more a season. Rodrigo Iglesias, a broker at Hilton & Hyland, says rents for the most secluded beach properties on Carbon Beach or in the Malibu Colony run $80,000 to $500,000 a month. Three years ago, Steven Spielberg rented out his Broad Beach house for $150,000 a month; Iglesias says that house today would cost $25,000 more. Sting’s seven-bedroom, 10-bath beachfront spread in the Colony was listed at $200,000 for a “short term” rental, which usually means a month.
In Northern California, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, and Pebble Beach are all a relatively close distance from San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Napa rentals can average anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000 a week. Consider, instead, Paso Robles, a charming alternative to Napa’s costs, traffic, and crowds, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once known as Almond City for its almond orchards, attractions include tasting rooms and wineries, restaurants, and natural hot-sulfur springs.
We liked Paso Robles’ Canyon Ranch, a three-bedroom home with a spa and fine views of the surrounding hills and scrub, all for $2,450 a week. The five-bedroom Villa at San Marcos Creek is perched on a knoll that is part of the San Marcos Creek Winery. Rent: about $3,374 a week, inclusive of free tastings at the winery.
Just a two-hour drive from Silicon Valley sit fabled Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea, with their PGA golf courses and Architectural Digest–ready homes. Lesley Penater at Carmel Realty says visitors from Texas and Arizona escaping the summer heat don’t mind shelling out $100,000 to $500,000 a week for top properties during the U.S. Open or Concours d’Elegance. Inventory is increasingly thin. Carmel-by-the-Sea prohibits rental leases less than 30 consecutive days. That said, if you’re willing to be flexible and venture further out along the Monterey Peninsula, you’ll find much on offer at much better prices. Pacific Grove sits on the same coastline and is only minutes away from Pebble Beach. It offers old-fashioned town charm, one of the oldest operating lighthouses, and a classic 1932 golf course. Nature lovers can wander around the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
For John Steinbeck atmospherics, we liked a five-bedroom beach house on Central Avenue. This 1917-built home with stunning ocean views is listed as a National Historic Landmark, a perfect merger of luxury beach living and modern amenities. Available for $4,725 a week, it comes with a taproom with its own vintage bar and giant poker table. Villa Escondido, a five-bedroom, three-bath, 1925 Mediterranean-style home, is just steps from the beach, between Cannery Row and downtown Monterey. Offering striking views across Monterey Bay—and a concierge house manager—it’s available for $3,934 a week.
SERIOUS CONTRARIANS looking for an alternative to Malibu should consider Palm Springs, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. With more pools than palm trees, this desert hideaway has been called “a beach city without a beach” and has been revived as a go-to destination, with its large stock of midcentury modern architecture. Yes, the heat can be formidable, as are the hot and dusty winds that can roll through, but the whole city is engineered to withstand 110-degree temperatures with robust air conditioning, misting machines, and early-morning golf rounds. Summer brings with it 20% to 25% price drops from the high season.
Scott Histed, a broker at Bennion Deville Homes, says rental prices range from $7,000 to $12,000 a month for choice properties in the top neighborhoods of Old Las Palmas, Vista Las Palmas, and the Movie Colony.
Consider a four-bedroom estate in Old Las Palmas previously owned by the socialite Jeannette Edris Rockefeller. This modern 1957 classic features walls of glass, a chef’s kitchen, and four outdoor grilling stations, plus a saltwater pool and spa. Price: up to $6,965 a week.
The Hamptons and Malibu are great, but if you cast a wider net, you’ll undoubtedly shift your budget as much as you shift your perspective.
Saturday, May 27, 2017