Shelter Island real estate prices on the rise

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Call it Shelterhampton. Well, maybe not yet.

Shelter Island still lacks the conspicuous consumption and snarled summer traffic of neighboring towns to its south, but a new block of real estate listings with prices typically seen in the Hamptons raises questions about where the Island real estate market is headed. For example, who are the buyers eyeing astronomically priced property here rather than in the Hamptons?

And if these extremely deep-pocketed folks move to Shelter Island, will they drive the development of even more upscale restaurants and shops on the increasingly swank island enclave?

For generations, Shelter Island has been a community of people with mixed fortunes — some old-time family estates interspersed with more modest houses.

Around 2000, after three, four or five generations of families had occupied upscale compounds, younger owners opted to sell, according to area brokers. Those who bought may not have loved the older houses, but chose the properties for waterfront views and large expanses of land, explained Angelo Piccozzi, an associate broker at Dering Harbor Real Estate — and they had money to knock down and build,

Now, he said, some of the houses those buyers built 10 years ago are coming on the market.

There were also those high rollers who, beginning in 2008, when the stockmarket cratered, pulled out and opted to “park” their money in real estate. One “parking” place was Shelter Island. Now that the economy is beginning to recover, the buyers are looking to turn over those properties, Mr. Piccozzi said.

“We’re no longer the un-Hamptons. We’re the new Hamptons,” said broker Georgiana Ketcham of Georgiana B. Ketcham Real Estate. “The only thing is we have a curfew,” she added, referring to the ferry schedule.

“In the last five or 10 years, Shelter Island has been discovered,” said broker Melina Wein of M. Wein Realty Inc. “The Island offers easy access to the Hamptons but you don’t have to live [in the Hamptons].”

“Shelter Island is being seen as the valuable real estate it is,” said associate broker Susan Cincotta of Daniel Gale/Sotheby’s. People who want to buy here like the fact that the Island is dominated by The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve, she said.

“Buyers are realizing this is a precious jewel,” Ms. Cincotta said, and if they like nightlife, it’s only a short boat ride away in the Hamptons. If they prefer the bucolic over the glitzy, the vineyards and farmlands are nearby on the North Fork.

Good press has spread the word about Shelter Island, the experts say.

Attractions like the Perlman Music Program, which relocated to Shelter Island from East Hampton in 2000, and recent publicity about Sylvester Manor, a preserved 17th-century homestead, from an exhibit at New York University about the history and development have attracted attention, Ms. Ketcham said.

Shelter Island still remains-family friendly, with light traffic, making it safe for children to ride bicycles wherever they want to go, Ms. Wein said.

Ms. Ketcham is meeting potential buyers who are comparison shopping, hunting on Shelter Island at the same time they’re exploring the Hamptons.

What a buyer can find here for $8 million or $10 million or even $20 million would likely cost over $35 million in the Hamptons, said Nick Planamento, secretary of the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association and consultant to Town & Country Real Estate.

Hedge fund manager Marco Birch is among those who created his dream house on Little Ram Island Drive. He and his wife, Katherine, now spend more time in New York City and decided to sell their Shelter Island house. It’s on the market for $28.5 million.

Paard Hill Farms, the equestrian center established after much community angst back in 2000, is reported to have been sold for about $8 million, although some details of the sale are still being worked out. Hampshire Farms, another equestrian operation that has 4.2 acres of land that can be developed adjacent to 63 acres of preserved land, is being marketed for $5.85 million. Members of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club purchased that property for $15.9 million this year. And there’s still much debate over the future of 25 acres of St. Gabriel’s property on Coecles Harbor that’s seen an asking price as high as $19.9 million.

Other major Island properties are quietly being shopped and more will probably surface if buyers snatch up those currently on the market, but it’s anyone’s guess whether such sales will generate more of the same, Mr. Piccozzi said.

Given zoning restrictions, he speculated that Shelter Island would always remain a financially diverse community.

No industry insiders see the tranquil ambiance that marks Shelter Island ever changing, even if the super-rich settle in. (But it’s fair to say that they wouldn’t say otherwise, since peace and quiet is part of the home-sellers’ pitch.)

But it’s hard to ignore some sudden changes. More gourmet products are carried at the IGA and foodies are happier by the day at the posh Reddings and Vine Street markets, the realtors said.

Ms. Wein pointed to the upcoming opening of Schmidt’s, an upscale Southampton market, where the more modest Fedi’s operated for many years, as an indication that there’s an appetite for pricey food items.

There’s no doubt: The high-end real estate industry, fueled by buzz, has its sights set on Shelter Island.

jlane@timesreview.com