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Where the world's wealthiest spend their weekends
[NEW YORK] Now that the Hamptons are synonymous with wealth, leisure, and stratospheric real estate prices, it's no surprise that brokers around the world are eager to associate their own listings with the area.
"What the Hamptons is to New York, wine country is to San Francisco," said Ginger Martin, a Sotheby's broker who represents listings in the Sonoma/Napa Valley area, about an hour and a half north of San Francisco. "I've been saying that for a long time." By that, Ms Martin said, she isn't quite referring to the wealth that the California locale attracts, but rather its proximity to a city, its destination status, and its role as "a place to get out of Silicon Valley and relax," she said. "It's a weekend place."
That idea is what the real Hamptons have come to embody, although at its most extreme. Roughly two hours outside of New York, the thin strip of traffic-clogged vacation towns on the south fork of Long Island has giant sandy beaches and excellent restaurants and, most important, is accessible by car, plane, and helicopter.
What makes the area particularly worthy of emulation is that it is "very high-end, but very low-key," said Michaela Keszler, a Southampton-based real estate broker with Douglas Elliman, Anyone who comes out, she said, "can have a big social life if they want, but turn around and be very private and quiet, too."
Every city with an affluent class has a Hamptons equivalent, whether it's Sylt, an island on the North Sea favored by Hamburg's elite; a town like Ojai, a low-key destination for LA's celebrities; or Lake Garda, the go-to for Milan's industrial titans. Muskoka, a city on Lake Joseph on the rugged gray rock of the Canadian Shield, has been a magnet for wealthy Toronto citizens and beyond. São Sebastião, a three-hour drive east of São Paulo, is a 63-mile stretch of white-sand coastline dotted with the mansions of Brazil's super rich.
You would think that the Hamptons equivalent for Paris would be the South of France, where the city's wealthy rub shoulders with a diverse mix of international millionaires, billionaires, and their coteries of hangers-on. But it's actually the northern coast of Brittany, in a town called Dinard, that "is a completely Parisian place," said Alexander Kraft, chairman and chief executive officer of Sotheby's International Realty France-Monaco.
For example, (François) Pinault's whole family has several houses there." The area has been a vacation destination for more than a century, but it's only in the past 10 or 15 years that "it's become much more high-end," Mr Kraft said. "You don't have huge estates, though. You have seaside villas. It has this village-y feel like the Hamptons used to have a few decades ago."
In the south of Germany, the Hamptons equivalent is across the border in Austria. "Kitzbühel is the Hamptons of Munich," said Ms Keszler, the Elliman broker who was born in Munich's Grünwald neighbourhood. "It's where people in Munich go for the weekend, and it's the same circus: You load up the kids and the dog in the car on Friday night, sit for one and a half hours in traffic, and then come back Sunday night. The only good thing about it is that we don't have speed limits in Germany, so you can drive faster."
A vacation destination's proximity to a city is one factor. For the brokers who are making the comparison, its real estate prices are almost equally important. "The Hamptons are a good investment," said Ms Keszler. "Depending on their location, of course, prices are really holding up."
Prices in Dinard, Mr Kraft said, range from about 1 million euros (S$1.55 million) to about 3 million euros. "Parisians don't spend that much money," he said. "These are not people paying 20 million euros for a vacation home."
In Sonoma or Napa, Ms Martin says prices range from about US$4 million for a one-acre property. "Or when there's new construction on a one-acre property, it will start at US$6 million or US$7 million," she said. "It can go up past US$10 million." "Let's just say that the wine country real estate market is vast," she continued. "We're seeing higher prices every year."
Still, a strong case can be made that the only Hamptons of anywhere is the Hamptons themselves. Not for their social scene, or their US$60 million mansions, but for something more prosaic: "I first came here in 1992," said Ms Keszler. "And I was so impressed by the beauty of the beaches, and the light. It's truly a special light."