Top New York real estate agent Jamie Safier is seeing incredible growth in demand in the Hamptons as well as changes in what renters are looking for.

New York has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the uncertainty of the months ahead, many city-dwellers are looking for alternatives this summer — and finding what they’re looking for in the Hamptons.

Luxury agent Jamie Safier recently shared his insights on this mass exodus — and the next steps for this upscale, in-demand market.

What’s happening right now in Hamptons real estate? We hear it is blowing up!

Right now, we’re seeing an unprecedented amount of folks coming to look for rental properties out here in Long Island’s famous East End. This is different as opposed to previous years for a few reasons.

For one, everyone has gotten here much earlier than usual. In general, people get to the Hamptons at the earliest around Memorial Day, and things really pick up after school lets out and the Fourth of July. However, this year, we have been getting rental requests since February.

This is also rather odd since, well, nothing is open! And we haven’t gotten definite dates on when things will open. None of the perks that usually make a summer at the Hamptons a draw are in place (golf courses, camps, country clubs, shopping, restaurants, beaches). But people are looking to be out of the city and somewhere they feel safe and comfortable.

Courtesy of Jamie Safier

How has COVID-19 contributed to the shifts you are seeing?

Well, to be perfectly honest, we have attributed this shift 100 percent to the COVID-19 epidemic. Sales have been slower out here for the last few years, but rentals have picked up and this year, have been almost hard to fulfill.

People want to be out of cities and somewhere peaceful, with nature and room for the family/friends they’re quarantining with. And many would prefer to be closer to NYC in case there is an emergency or the status of the pandemic changes, as opposed to other summer locations.

In addition, of course, most people are opting to skip their annual international summer trips due to the pandemic. These are all part of the contributing factors as to why we have seen the rental market out east blow up this year.

Have you noticed a spike in any particular activity? Are people looking for larger houses, more land, guest houses?

People are definitely looking for a few key features this year that have been deal breakers for many clients. One of the biggest draws we have seen for homes we have rented out has been a tennis court. Since the status of clubs is still uncertain, people want to be able to play their favorite activities at home, and of course, tennis is one of these.

Also, pools are a must have. Social distancing could likely last through the summer making beach days difficult, and home pools provide a convenient alternative for families.

We have also generally had folks requesting larger homes than in previous years. Days can get long when there is not really anywhere to go, and having a home and yard that provides space for people to get breathing room is important.

And of course, washers and dryers, large kitchens, things that people will need to really stay at home. With restaurants closed and people not wanting to risk exposure, having everything at home becomes a necessity.

The Hamptons is one area that provides numerous furnished rental homes with all of these features in a beautiful and serene setting, which has made it an even bigger draw during this difficult and unusual time.

Courtesy of Jamie Safier

How are restrictions and social distancing affecting the famous Hamptons social life?

Social life is at a pause. People are afraid in NYC, and that has extended out here. They want to keep their families safe over having lavish parties. Kids’ playdates and parents’ playdates are mostly on hold until things calm down. And instead of linen pants, the fashion is just lululemon.

We’re living in a different world and time, and the Hamptons are not exempt from this either. But this is part of the reason why where people decide to live this summer has been such an important decision, because so much time is being spent at home. And they need to not only feel happy and comfortable, but safe.

I’m sure luxury clients tend to have some unusual requests. Tell me what perks clients are asking for.

One client loved the rental, but since gyms are closed, asked if we could get a treadmill (and on very short notice as they wanted to move in immediately). Not exactly a good time for deliveries, so my partner just had her own personal treadmill taken there. Anything for a client!

For another summer rental this year, the clients were thrilled with the place — tennis court, pool, space. But were wondering, would it be possible to add an Italian espresso machine?

What is happening in the new-construction sector?

Construction has come to a stop, especially since legally it was put to a halt by the government, but we expect it to pick up a bit in the fall (hopefully). This will be especially true for folks who have bought tear-down projects or property that was highly discounted due to the pandemic; but we do expect it to resume again after the summer months.

Are you seeing any quarantine-inspired upgrades or expansions?

Yes, we have seen some home improvements, especially earlier in the season when the pandemic first hit. People wanted to get in any and all upgrades before restrictions were put on work crews, so we saw a lot of kitchen upgrades, repairs, landscaping and design, and some pools added or improved, too. And those people who were savvy enough to plan ahead and make such upgrades are very happy about that now!

What else should readers know?

People are surprised that in a pandemic, real estate is not only alive, but thriving. Frankly, there will always be a market for real estate and during times such as this one, the seasoned agents are all stepping up and thinking out of the box to make necessary changes in terms of how we conduct real estate.

Virtual tours, extra hand sanitizer and more. But like everyone, we’re hopeful things will return to as close to normal as soon as possible.

Christy Murdock Edgar is a realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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