Domestic goddess and DIY queen Martha Stewart recently sold her 19th-century East Hampton Lily Pond Lane cottage for $16.5 million — nearly double the reported asking price of $8.4 million.
In a sign of how crazy the Hamptons market has gotten, the sales price bucks the trend of celebrity homes staying on the market for longer and selling for less than asking. So what happened?
The number and particulars of Stewart’s home did not surprise Melissa Principi, a Hamptons-based real estate agent with Douglas Elliman.
“Because it was off market in general they start low, usually that means it’s only going around to a very small group of people so a broker wasn’t involved,” she said. “16 million sounds about right for Lily Pond Lane. It’s really high end and very exclusive.”
It was purchased by Kenneth Lerer, the former chairman of BuzzFeed and co-founder of the Huffington Post, and his wife, interior designer Katherine Sailer.
While off-market sales are becoming more commonplace, they have long been the preferred choice for high-profile sellers.
“I think a lot of times when it’s that exclusive — it’s like saying it’s Beyonce’s house — it’s not often put on the public market because it doesn’t need to be, they have enough people in their circle,” Principi said. “I think the fanfare of it being off market is that people find out about it after, so it does cut down on the free market. Who knows, maybe it could have gone for more than $16 million, but then you would have had people lined up and cars and a lot of public eye.”
Stewart bought the home in 1990 for $1.7 million, so the latest sale represents nearly 900% appreciation.
“It was the oldest house on the block and a total wreck,” she said in a story about the home on her website. “I decided I had to have it.”
Stewart worked with local contractor Ben Krupinski to update the property while keeping the details as close to the original as possible. She filled the house with a mix of yard sale and antique store finds, adding collections of mercury glass, McCoy pottery and jadeite dishes.
The house has an extensive history; it was built in 1873 and belonged to the well-known Rev. De Witt Talmage. The area was formerly known as Divinity Hill after the numerous ministers who stayed in nearby boarding houses.
And, as Stewart acknowledged, the area is still changing. Principi said that lately she’s seen the doctors and lawyers who traditionally kept second or third homes in the Hamptons are priced out as hedge fund money flows in.
“I think there used to be a lot more — even before Covid — gathering and charity events and really fun mixer type parties, local places,” she said. “I’ve noticed a big shift from less support on the local side to really small closed-door extremely high-end events. And I think that’s a little sad, it kind of gave that summer vibe of the Hamptons a little bit more of that really upper 1%, that it’s not as open as it was.”