Here’s an item that was in the South O’ the Highway column in Dan’s Papers last week.
“Saturday Night Live performer Colin Jost recently closed on a home in Montauk’s Hither Woods. The 2,600-square-foot house, built in 1960, sits on 1.2 acres. Jost reportedly paid $2.149 million for the slice of East End heaven.”
You know, it’s a funny thing when you’ve been around a long time and can remember back to how things were. Some of it is just amazing.
Take this item, for example. I have reason to believe that at one time I owned this parcel. It came about this way: In 1959 real estate man Frank Tuma called to tell me that there was a lot in Hither Hills I could buy that was selling way below market. I told him I wasn’t ready to own a home yet. I was living with my parents. But he persisted and talked me into it. It was just a piece of vacant land, and pieces the same size around it were selling for twice what this one was.
It was the first piece of property I ever owned. But it was also special. All the properties in this community—some had small houses on them and others were just land—had exclusive rights to a half-mile-long stretch of ocean dunes just on the other side of the Old Montauk Highway there. Nobody else could cross over to that beach but us property owners. And nobody could build there.
I went down to Hither Hills to look at what I’d bought. You could hear the ocean, and if you built a house on this property, you would see it. I had no intention of building. But what I did do that day was walk from this site on Grant Drive to the beach reserve to get the hang of it. It was just a five-minute walk.
When that summer came, as it happened, I moved out of my parents’ house to a small bungalow with an ocean view not far from this property on Grant Drive. It was on Washington Drive. All the streets in this area were named for presidents. I’m sure if you know this area, you know where this is. After the summer ended, I went back to college. I was only 20 years old at this time.
Being 20 years old back then, if you had a job and saved a little bit, you could buy a patch of land like this. The next step up was to build. Well, I was not ready for that yet.
When I tell you what I paid for this property, you are going to scream. But you should know that the following year I received an offer to sell this property and did so and doubled my money. Wow. That was the best deal I ever made, is what I thought at the time, although I did grieve for having given up my share in a half-mile long beach. On the other hand, that was no big deal. You could go to any beach you wanted (other than this stretch) anywhere without having any kind of parking sticker.
Okay, here’s what I paid. For the rental on Washington Drive, I paid $600 for the summer. For the property I bought, I paid $2,400. And I sold it for $4,900. By the way, a brand new Chevrolet Impala convertible could be bought new for $3,000 in 1960.
Six years later, now married, I rented a two-bedroom bungalow south of Montauk Highway in the Georgica section of East Hampton for the summer, and, when fall came, the owners went into a divorce and asked me to buy it. I did. It cost $9,250. And three years later I sold it for $21,500. Another big killing.
The big change in everything real estate out here began in 1970. Before 1970, the value of a home was approximately 10 times what it would fetch in rent for a year. Since rent was approximately 20% of any middle class person’s income, it was quite do-able.
Today, you need an amount equal to the GDP of Bulgaria to buy any of it. So nobody can live here anymore.