When Warren Gwydir Kraft was a child, he played serious games of "cowboys and Indians" on the vast Cold Spring Harbor property his family owned, and would skate across its frozen fields in winter.
“I just remember the freedom it allowed children and the wonderful open spaces,” Kraft, 65, says of the estate where today he lives in a gatehouse with his family. “There were nice little cubbies and areas you could sit in and sit in solitude, but we spent most of our time outside. We had a treehouse and playhouse with a cobblestone fireplace.”
The Kraft residence is just one example of estates or houses of 7,500 square feet or more on the market on Long Island — a category of homes that came in high demand as the pandemic started to ease in the summer of 2020, according to real estate experts.
“The high-end market took off at a breathtaking pace,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, citing two reasons: “Higher wage earners saw less economic damage from the lockdown, and many people who were held back from moving had plenty of time to think about where they wanted to live, and how much room they wanted.”
In the first quarter of 2022, nearly one out of four luxury homes sold above asking price — the second highest rate in history — and nearly one in four luxury sales went to bidding wars for the third consecutive quarter, Miller says.
“They went toward bigger is better, especially at the higher end of the luxury market,” he says. “It has been an extremely robust and fast-moving market that I think surprised people.”
There are 63 homes 7,500 square feet and larger on the market in Nassau County and 46 in Suffolk, ranging in price from $800,000 to $40 million, according to OneKey MLS.
Buyers of luxury homes expect the best of everything and more, says Ron Scala of Scala Properties in Remsenburg. “You would expect it to be high-tech, have automatic top-flight security cameras, a top-of the-line sound system, and all top-of-the line appliances like Wolf and Sub-Zero,” Scala says.
Newer luxury properties in particular have movie theaters, wine rooms, hot tubs built into the in-ground pool, automatic pool covers, outdoor fire pits, custom outdoor kitchens, steam showers, saunas, gyms and electric car hookups," says Kimberly Cammarata, a real estate agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Westhampton Beach.
“They want their home to be an experience — like a high-end hotel, but private,” Cammarata says of the owners.
Here are five mega-homes for sale on Long Island.
Scala is the listing broker for a 20-room estate on Moriches Bay in Remsenburg, next door to Westhampton, that is asking $13 million. The 9,000-square-foot house, on Club Lane, was built in 2014 on 1.6 acres. It has six bedrooms, nine full and two half bathrooms, balconies, fireplace, a swimming pool and bulkhead, with smart devices that can be controlled by phone from anywhere. Annual taxes are $65,569.
There are unobstructed bay views from the living room, formal and informal dining rooms, an elevator, guest quarters, waterside family room, a 1,600-square-foot primary suite with fireplace, an 800-square-foot pool house with gym, gunite heated swimming pool with hot tub and waterfall, and a full-service mahogany bar.
'A livable mansion'
Kraft says bigger has always been better for him. His grandfather John Kraft was in the insurance business and purchased the 8,000-square-foot Cold Spring Harbor home in 1956.
“While this is a mansion, it’s very livable,” Kraft's wife, Regina, an interior designer, says of the main house on the Georgian style property. She has fond memories of hosting a “Halloweiner Parade” for their and other costumed dachshunds on the property.
The Krafts say they also appreciate that their home does not have the open concept design, a must-have feature in many modern homes. They say they are selling to downsize and split their time between properties they own in Tucson, Arizona, and the Adirondacks.
The Cold Spring Harbor house “flows beautifully, but every room is unto itself,” Kraft says. But, his wife adds, “In what is currently the breakfast room the wall could be taken down so you could have a room off the kitchen. I think it would be an easy change within the footprint to modernize it.”
Described in the listing as a “true compound,” the property is on 23.75 acres on Woodbury Road and is listed for $7.5 million with Margaret Burkett of Douglas Elliman. Taxes are $123,125.
The home was built in 1934 by noted architect Mott B. Schmidt, known for his structures in the American Georgian Classical style. His designs include Park Avenue apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Susan B. Wagner wing of Gracie Mansion.
A quarter mile-long, tree-lined driveway leads to the main house, which has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms as well as a three-bedroom, two-bath service wing. There are also two three-bedroom gatehouses and a three-bedroom farmhouse, and a 10-bay garage.
Another grand estate on the market is Somerset on Wallis Lane in Nissequogue. It was inspired by the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia, and entrepreneur and owner George Wallis says warm-weather gatherings there are “Gatsbyesque.”
With gardens that are about 100 years old, “There’s a European sense of antiquity, but the site is uniquely Long Island,” Wallis says. He adds that while he has lived there, “There were always parties to commemorate the seasons, like the Azalea Party in May when the place is bursting with new life.”
Listed at $10.6 million with Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon of Douglas Elliman,, the 9,000-square-foot home, set on nearly 11 acres overlooking Long Island Sound with views of Smithtown Bay, was completed in 1935. It sits next to the 125-acre David Weld Sanctuary and includes seven bedrooms, five full bathrooms and a half bath. Taxes are $104,284.
Among former notable residents were the Lauder Greenway family. In the late 19th century, George Lauder started a steel company with his cousin Andrew Carnegie that later became U.S. Steel. Wallis has lived in the house since purchasing it in 1984.
“One stroll around the perimeter of the property is like meditating,” Wallis says. “It’s so quiet, so private; it’s paradise.
A modern 9,200-square-foot house for sale on Red Creek Circle in Hampton Bays comes with an unusual offer: If the buyer meets the full $3.3 million asking price, the seller will install, free of charge, a spa tub, in-ground pool, grotto and waterfall.
Taxes are $26,984 on the house, which was built in 2009 and has an open floor plan. It sits on 0.96 acres and includes six bedrooms, six full baths and one half-bath, a family room and large eat-in kitchen.
An architect's signature
Pascale Schmidt, a retired paralegal and head of several philanthropic endeavors, was looking for something different but more modern in 2017 when she and her husband, Christopher, who runs a dental insurance company, came upon their 9,600-square-foot home on 5 acres on Skunks Misery Road in Locust Valley. It is for sale at $2.5 million with Lori Sheehan of Douglas Elliman. Taxes are $34,675.
Built in 1982, the house was designed by famed architect Norman Jaffe, who is credited with starting the rustic Modernist design of homes in the Hamptons. It features his signature use of natural elements such as walls of glass, skylights and Tennessee River Valley Stone.
“I heard that while he was building it, he was living on the property in a little shack,” Schmidt notes.
The unusualness of the house and how different it is from many Long Island homes has been a plus, Schmidt says, adding that "this one is like a hotel in the Swiss Alps."
With seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, with a second primary en-suite on the first floor and a two-bedroom guest suite, the home was a refuge for her family during the pandemic, Schmidt says.
“We had nine people [living at the home] and sometimes you didn’t see anybody," she says. "You can be with people or not be with people — everyone can do their own thing."
Schmidt says her grandchildren especially love the indoor saltwater pool. There is an illuminated tennis court, playground, pond with filtered water for swimming, and a waterfall, in addition to two kitchens and a guest suite.
“On a snowy day the children can be inside swimming,” Schmidt says.