As several other areas of the United States have begun relaxing stay-at-home protocols, the beautiful weather this past weekend lured people who are sheltering-in-place to Shelter Island. The parking lot at Mashomack was filled to capacity and runners and strollers along sides of roads slowed traffic in each direction. The Shelter Island rental circuit was also on overload with inquiries galore.
In pre-AirBnb days, dates for requested rentals were straightforward: Memorial Day to Labor Day, June, July or August to Labor Day. Present day requests are often odd dates, 3 weeks, 3 1/2 weeks, starting and ending on seemingly random weekdays. Although listings quote rental rates, customers are not bashful about placing offers that are several thousands of dollars less than the rate listed with no particular formula in mind. When a rate is agreed upon, the utilities and security are up for protracted, sometimes weeks-long negotiations that can be as intricate as a home sale, about items as seemingly mundane as an $80 weekly cutting of grass (“the Landlord has to cut it anyway so why are we paying for it?”) Traditionally, agents have worked with rentals to establish good rapport with the landlord and to create a longer term relationship with the tenant. Contrary to what many might think, real estate agents cannot support themselves on commissions earned on rentals. But something as out-of-control as leaf blowers on a Sunday morning or raucous raccoons in a trash can on a Saturday night can cost an agent a relationship with a tenant, while a demanding and unreasonable tenant who cannot be reined in can be the stake in the heart of a solid decades-long friendship with a landlord.
This past week, there were many rental inquiries for August, although there continue to be requests for two weeks or more in May. Landlords continued to increase their advertised prices and change their calendars when approached with an interested potential tenant, while Tenants continued to shop the Shelter Island market, often with no loyalty to the agent or to the locale, landing in a far-away state at a fraction of the rental rate.
Throughout the pandemic, one of the genuine pleasures has been connecting on the phone with my real estate colleagues from other agencies, some of whom I have known for 20 years, and who I usually see at broker open houses, currently on hold. Although some may think real estate agents bicker non-stop, many of us do like each other outside of work! It is often mentally helpful to know that we are literally “all in this together, but apart,” experiencing the same things. Real estate agents in New York state continue to be on a stay-at-home directive, although many Hamptons real estate agents continue to regularly show properties. This week, a prominent broker requested a showing at one of my listings, adding that the customers would be coming on their own and I should present the property, as he was himself in self quarantine. On the home sale end, there continue to be offers made and accepted. Recently, a couple of new customers selected listings in the $2M-$4M range, and after discussion asked whether the seller would accept 30% less than the listed price, subject to their actually being able to see inside the house. When asked where the percentage stemmed from, the customers said that they felt a Great Depression was around the corner. Memories are short, and many have forgotten how the Shelter Island real estate market slogged through 2018, after the “SALT” Federal Tax Reform, when the highest sale on Shelter Island was just over $2M.
This week, Dr. Wanjiku Njoroge, a child psychiatrist with the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, was asked: how can one plan for the future when no one knows what the future looks like, or when it will happen. Dr. Njoroge responded that “it’s not about having the ‘when this will happen plan’ but the ‘what we will do plan’…giving people the ability to think past today to tomorrow, whenever that tomorrow occurs.” The Shelter Island real estate market, much like the community we live in, is resilient and whenever the unknown passes and tomorrow occurs, we will know what to do.