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Big changes in real estate on Fire Island’s Ocean Beach

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The din of hammers and chainsaws has come to an end in Ocean Beach, at least for the summer as the town demands, leaving homes fit for the Hamptons in its wake.

Slowly, in recent years, the charming little cottages, some over 100 years old and many little changed since then, have been replaced by larger luxury modern homes.

Realtors and contractors say the changes, which began just after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, when homeowners got insurance and money from FEMA to elevate homes to new government codes, have accelerated during the pandemic. .

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A late summer scene at Ocean Beach in 2020.

A late summer scene at Ocean Beach in 2020.
Credit: Raychel Brightman

“It’s exploded at the top end,” says West Babylon-based Rob Cernelli, who has been in the remodeling business for 35 years. “It is a modernization of the entire town. Gone are the dictated houses. Investors are often the ones who buy the properties and renovate them.

Adjacent to Ocean Beach in Seaview, a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom home is being built on a double lot on the site where a cabin once stood, hardly changed since the 1950s.

The two-story home has central air conditioning and 5,000 square feet of terraces, a deluxe kitchen, a second laundry room by the pool, a master suite with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Great South Bay, and a roof terrace. Rooftop with water views, making it one of the most luxurious homes on the Fire Island market. It is listed for $4.79 million.

The view from a five-bedroom house towering over a double...

The view from a five-bedroom home perched on a double lot in Seaview, overlooking the Great South Bay.
Credit: Johnny Milano

“Each bedroom has a private bathroom; there’s a fireplace in the living room, and the great room opens up to a 30-by-15 pool,” says real estate agent and general contractor Abigail Mago, who is building the house with her brother, Alan Medvin, through of your business. , A2 Development Group and Fire Island Sales and Rentals.

Medvin recently sold a waterfront home for $5.25 million, a record for the area, Mago said. While accurate stats for Fire Island are hard to come by (most homes aren’t listed on a Multiple Listing Service, but instead are sold through local real estate offices), those in the business are seeing skyrocketing prices. , both in sales and rentals. A house that was once around $500,000 in disrepair can now fetch more than $1 million.

“There are more builds from scratch,” says Mago. “We are seeing more gut renovations and true takedowns.” Part of this is to meet height requirements set by FEMA after Superstorm Sandy. Homeowners also want more comfortable living spaces as they extend the visiting season.

Maintaining the environment, enhancing the comforts

Before the trend, Fire Island homes were known for their rustic, even slightly awkward spaces. For example, most houses were not well insulated, they only had air conditioners, and the roofs could wear out.

“The level of wealth has changed remarkably,” says Mago. “Now, if a product is good enough, people will think, OK, this is the comfort level I was looking for. That didn’t exist in the market.”

Realtors say renters and buyers alike are looking for the down-to-earth Fire Island vibe for the city and the beach, but when it comes to their homes, they want more amenities.

Real estate agent Robin Citriniti is listing a five-bedroom home for sale...

Real estate agent Robin Citriniti is listing a five-bedroom house on Surf Road in Ocean Beach for $13,000 a week. It was built on the site where a bungalow had been.
Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

“People don’t want to get old anymore,” says Lisa Campbell, an agent with Netter Beach Estates who has a list of $1.5 million that is considered a rundown property. “They want something new and shiny.”

With traffic to and from The Hamptons and Montauk often unsustainable, Fire Island has become more attractive to Long Islanders, who make up 65% of renters and buyers there, Campbell estimates. “It’s so beautiful here,” she adds.

More investors have discovered Fire Island, making the complete tearing down of a cabin and the investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, worthwhile for them.

A five-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool on Surf Road in Ocean Beach that’s been built on the site where a bungalow once stood and is ready to welcome renters is going for $13,000 a week, says Robin Citriniti of Netter Beach Estates, who has the list

“Investment houses are bigger,” she says. “And then they are rented to extended families, or two or three couples with children.”

Pools, once a rarity in the Ocean Beach area, are now a standard addition to newly built homes and top wish lists. Homeowners are also looking for large windows and high ceilings, features not found in the typical Fire Island home.

‘Hard to accept’

For some, the changes are worrying.

“In a way, it’s very hard for me to accept what happened here,” says Todd Pavlin, who has been coming to Fire Island since he was 7 years old. “You’re spending a million and a half dollars. Put something beautiful, build something exceptional, put some beautiful trees around it.”

Andy Meyer, a longtime seasonal resident, isn’t upset. “Some of the modern ones are great, but you have some of the old ones that survived,” he says. “It’s great.”

For those in the construction trade, it has been a race to the finish. In Ocean Beach, “you can’t move a hammer” after June 30, as a local saying goes.

Glenn Graham Associates, a Bay Shore-based design firm, has seen many changes over the last 25 years of working on projects on Fire Island, but the last few years have been the busiest.

“These were beach shacks that were only used during the summer, but now people are moving in full time,” says owner Glenn Graham. “People are spending a lot of money there.”

Recently completed homes in Ocean Beach are elevated with foundations...

Recently completed homes in Ocean Beach are elevated with foundation toe kicks, as required by code.
Credit: Johnny Milano

In a town that has been known for its various strict ordinances, once earning the nickname The Land of the No, Ocean Beach has adopted rules requiring all new construction or substantially improved homes to have baseboards to hide piles. the foundation and that the pitch of the roof is set to allow sunlight to reach adjacent properties, says Graham. Village administrators did not return calls for comment.

While it may feel a bit disoriented strolling down one of the iconic walkways and finding it much changed, Fire Island will always remain a quaint and unusually laid-back town, mostly because of the no-car rules, realtors say.

“I still think people who are drawn to Fire Island are drawn to the laid-back destination,” Mago says. “Here, it’s never towel to towel like Jones Beach.”

Steve Langford contributed reporting.

Built in 1952, this three-bedroom cabin on West Walk in...

Built in 1952, this three-bedroom farmhouse on West Walk in Ocean Beach is listed for $2 million.
Credit: Lauren Chenault

The interior of the 1,800 square foot cabin.

The interior of the 1,800 square foot cabin.
Credit: Lauren Chenault

In the market

One traditional Fire Island farmhouse on the market that could be torn down or thoroughly renovated is an 1,800-square-foot cedar-clad house listed for $2 million.

Located in the gated community of Summer Club in Ocean Beach, the three-bedroom, one-level home is winterized but lacks air conditioning and a pool, something most buyers want.

Built around 1952, the cabin sits on a 2-acre lot on West Walk, four houses from the ocean. It has cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors, a wraparound terrace, and 2½ baths. The house has electric baseboard heating with four zones.

“The property is big enough to build your dream home with a pool, or keep it as is,” says realtor Robin Citriniti of Netter Beach Estates. “Summer Club rarely has homes for sale so this is a great opportunity to buy one.”

The community has its own clubhouse with a gym, mooring rights and tennis courts. You also have access to a bay beach. Elementary students attend Woodhull Elementary School in Ocean Beach. The assigned school district for middle and high school is Bay Shore School on the mainland. Taxes for 2021 were $9,294.

— STACEY ALTHERR

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