The Hampton Rentals of the Wealthy Now on the Auction Block

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Sea Spray CottagesPaul McCartney's girlfriend may have to find a new place to hang her summer hat. And Nancy Shevell, better known to some New Yorkers as a board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is not the only one who could lose her beachside spot at an upcoming auction.

East Hampton Village has decided that after almost three decades of leasing its 13 Sea Spray Cottages to pretty much the same old crowd...well, the process is going to open up at month's end to the waiting list of about 300 interested parties. The hot topic for the Hamptons real estate scene: an auction is set for Feb. 27, according to the reliable Fred A. Bernstein of The New York Times (and Aol Real Estate).

When it is over, Shevell, who Bernstein calls "a trucking company executive who has been dating Paul McCartney since 2007," could be without her cottage. Bernstein also focused in on the tale of woe of Peter Brown, who once managed the Beatles. Of course this being the Hamptons, everybody is wondering and maneuvering about exactly who will win on Auction Day.The news comes as the Hamptons, like the rest of us, tries to survive the Great Recession. Unlike the rest of us, the Hamptons has a lot of people saying that things are actually going pretty well. The Times itself reminded us all, right before Presidents Day, that the holiday is the perfect time to check out real estate options in the Hamptons for the summer. Writer Susan Stellin got word from appraisal company Miller Samuel, which issues reports for Prudential Douglas Elliman, that Hamptons prices are back at 2006 levels. All in all, good news during tough times.

Certainly the famous continue to flock to the area, or are planning a return in 2010 and beyond. The ever-present Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick are, according to the New York Post earlier this month, are "expanding their oceanfront compound to three buildings." Broderick is going the extra mile for the 'hood by getting ready to star in an NBC sitcom set in pretty much the same locale. In real life, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick probably will not have to be around for the East Hampton Village auction of the Sea Spray Cottages, where everyone is wondering how high the bids will go.

Not that this is breaking news in the Hamptons, where the news was reported in November by 27east.com, the web site powered by The Southampton Press and the East Hampton Press. "We looked long and hard at this process," Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. "Please don't take it personally."

But that is exactly what people are doing, especially those who have long rented at Sea Spray Cottages and got word last fall that they would not be automatically allowed to renew their leases. Fighting words for longtime renters, some of whom were used to leaving their stuff in the cottages in the off-season. The Times said that Nancy Shevell was among those who were told to vacate. At 27east.com, the estimate was that Sea Spray tenants have shelled out more than $4 million in rent over the past quarter-century, with many paying for improvements to the units themselves. The village has reportedly netted as much as $51,000 a year for the summer season rentals. Expect much bigger dollar amounts at auction.

What exactly is being auctioned? The quality of the cottages themselves depends, as so many things do, on personal perspective. Some more monied (and picky?) people might think of them as shacks by the sea. Others could point to the compelling history of Sea Spray Cottages, which were once part of a hotel property and were purchased by the village in 1979. That's what we have to call a smart, long-term investment.
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