Where the ultra-wealthy summer Hamptons set is heading after Labor Day this year

hamptons beach house home
  • Private travel is still happening discreetly and Hamptons real estate prices are through the roof.
  • The East End feels like “la la land” and a “different world” where people are flying private in and out every weekend.
  • Despite the seclusion and privacy it offers, the Hamptons villages are still “insanely” crowded, and restaurant reservations can be hard to come by.
  • Some Hamptonites have decided to stay indefinitely, and a few are heading back to the city, but overall, the post-Labor Day mentality Out East is “wait and see.”
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Typically at this time of year, the Hamptons empty out. The summer season comes to a close and the 1% dutifully head back to their Manhattan penthouses or hop on a private jet to their next vacation home.

But not this year. 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the breathless schedules of the ultrawealthy completely out of whack, and for the first time since almost anyone can remember, it's going to be hard to find parking in the Hamptons after Labor Day.

'Everybody's making last minute decisions'

Normally after Labor Day, the slow crawl of Range Rovers and Ferraris start making their way West on Route 27 out of the Hamptons, their tanned summer residents heading to an airport or a freshly renovated Soho loft. Now, the super rich are handling their fall plans differently.

East Hampton resident Hanna Derrig, 22, said people are still flying private in and out of the Hamptons every weekend. Families are sailing yachts up from Miami to Sag Harbor to dock for a week or two. Her friends, Derrig said, have been doing exactly that.

"When I'm out there, it's like la la land," she told Business Insider. The Sag Harbor Marina started getting packed in July and never thinned out.

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The beach in Montauk.

Derrig left Manhattan in March to quarantine with her family in East Hampton. Aside from some college-aged kids headed back to campus, she said, "people are just staying indefinitely. There are absolutely no plans to leave." She said the East Hampton scene throughout August still felt very crowded.

One thing is clear: Concerns about the safety of travel — private or otherwise — aren't stopping the uber rich from living large. Instead of spending on toys that fly and float, they're splurging on real estate. 

Sales and rentals surged in the East End this summer

When it comes to Hamptons real estate, if you can't make an all-cash, above-ask offer on the spot, you may want to rethink your strategy. The competition has gotten fierce: Rental activity across the Hamptons has seen a 194% increase since the beginning of the second quarter, according to The Corcoran Group.

"Anyone that has a contingency for any reason — whether it's financing, inspection, appraisal — is not getting the house," Ernie Cervi, The Corcoran Group's regional president for the East End, told Business Insider. "People are acting swiftly and aggressively to get what they want."

Manbir Singh, 60, a retired financial executive, had already been renting out East since March when he decided to take the plunge and buy. The second house his realtor, Geoff Hull at the Corcoran Group, showed him was a brand-new seven-bedroom home located on a quiet street.

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He said he bought the Southampton property two hours later. 

"It was really fast," said Singh, who normally rents in the Hamptons only in July and takes an international vacation in August. "This time, it got so expensive to rent, it made a lot more sense [to buy]." He sees the home as a long-term investment. But he agrees that being out East seems a world away from the pandemic that brought New York City to a standstill just months ago.

"Other than you see people wearing masks, you don't really feel it for the most part," he said.

Signh, who hasn't flown since February, has no plans to leave. He will likely invite family and friends to Southampton for Thanksgiving. Even though he owns a third property in St. Barth's, he wants to stay.

Private travel is still happening discreetly

Despite the coming Hamptons hibernation and a decrease in overall demand, private jet travel is alive and well. According to Patrick Gallagher, president of marketing and service at NetJets, the private jet company is operating at about 80% of its private volume. The number of people flying private for personal and leisure travel has gone up significantly, and has helped make up for the loss of once-reliable corporate travel, which was approximately half of NetJets' business before the pandemic, Gallagher said.

Still, only 10% of people who can afford to fly private actually do, and East Ender sentiment about whether to truly travel elsewhere is overwhelmingly "wait and see."

And anyone can get cabin fever after spending months on end in their second, third and fourth homes, says Sean Emmerton, president of Elegant Mexico, a travel company that curates vacation experiences for high-end clients and rents out a collection of upscale villas in Mexico. He saw an increase in requests as Labor Day neared, particularly for longer villa stays in the 30- to 60-day range. Before the pandemic those requests were rare; most trips Emmerton typically arranges are closer to seven to 10 days in length. 

In late August, a Manhattan-based executive at "the top of the chain" at J.P. Morgan Chase inquired about (though has yet to book) renting a Los Cabos villa for two this September, said Emmerton. The price tag? A cool $10,000 per night during the summer season (it inches up to $16,000 per night during the holidays). The price includes a private butler and chef, as well as almost any kind of amenity you can imagine.

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Wherever the ultrawealthy go — or don't go — after Labor Day, it's clear from talking to residents that life in the Hamptons has been business and billionaires as usual.

As Singh, who bought the Southhampton house this summer put it, "Where else are people from New York going to go when nobody wants to fly?"

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