The Hamptons have long been known as a retreat for the wealthy but the recent actions of one builder suggest the houses are getting bigger and nicer:
“We’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Joe Farrell, the president of Farrell Building, during a recent interview and tour of his $43 million, 17,000-square-foot home here. The estate, called the Sandcastle, features two bowling lanes, a skate ramp, onyx window frames and, just for fun, an A.T.M. regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills…
With a customer base composed largely of Wall Street financiers, Mr. Farrell has more than 20 new homes under construction, or slated for construction, at a time, making him the biggest builder here by far. He has plans for more, many of them speculative homes built before they have buyers…
“Houses have gotten smaller over all but not entirely: 8,000 square feet was the norm, now 6,500 is,” Mr. Farrell said. “Everyone wants six or seven bedrooms and their pool and their tennis.”
Where Mr. Farrell built speculative homes that sold for as much as $20 million before the recession, he now specializes in properties that sell for between $3 million and $10 million. “Mostly, though, $3 million to $6,” he said. “I love that market — there are probably 10 times as many people in that market than to buy an eight- or nine-million-dollar house, right?”
I’m not quite sure what the issue is. The Hamptons are for the wealthy and this man builds houses for the wealthy (though they are smaller and cheaper than a short time ago). But, the article suggests there might be several things going on:
1. Even the wealthy in the United States have to be careful to not completely flaunt their wealth. In particular, when economic times are bad it doesn’t look great to keep spending at high levels when other people are struggling.
2. There is an ongoing tension between old money and new money. The older homes, associated with older money, have more character and have been part of the community for decades. The new homes, associated with new money from the finance sector or from celebrities, are seen as gauche.
3. The construction of more spec/mass housing means the whole area will suffer by appearing more generic. Any historic architecture will disappear under a flood of mass-produced McMansions.
These are interesting arguments in themselves but I suspect (1) many Americans can’t relate and (2) there is enough money involved that it doesn’t really matter – just help pave over the issues with some more money. In other words, this provides a small window into how the wealthy view change within their own neighborhoods.