“They were looking for a starter second home,” Mr. Lord said. Though many Hamptons buyers own a city apartment, “when they buy a real house, it is a totally different ballgame.”
The couple’s first offer, close to the asking price of $879,000, was for a house in the Northwest Woods section of East Hampton. It was being flipped, and was in move-in condition, with three bedrooms and a den.
“I was willing to stretch the budget because it was turnkey,” Mr. Minardo said. “We even negotiated for the furniture.” But the seller accepted a better offer, $885,000.
They considered a four-bedroom in Springs, another hamlet in East Hampton. Mr. Minardo loved the garage, not a given for the area. But the house had almost no yard. The occupant smoked. That one was listed at $850,000 and sold for $800,000.
The couple’s budget was proving to be too low. So they raised it, and decided to concentrate on Northwest Woods, with its larger lots and lower taxes. “Ray said R.O.I. to me about a million times and I eventually got it,” Mr. Minardo said. (R.O.I. stands for Return on Investment.)
Mr. Sniggs preferred a house on the small side. “A three-bedroom was enough for us and the occasional friend,” he said. On guest-heavy weekends, things might be tight, but they would make do.
“We needed a fourth bedroom for maybe 5 percent of the time,” Mr. Sniggs said. “A house that was suitable for our needs was more important to me than a house for special occasions.”
A listing for a three-bedroom in Northwest Woods for $850,000 showed mostly pictures of the beach, a bad sign. “I immediately think it’s a terrible house or there’s something seriously wrong with it,” Mr. Lord said.
But he checked it out for his clients. The house, though dated, included well over an acre of land — with a pool.
Mr. Sniggs loved the big yard, the open layout and the midcentury feel.
Mr. Minardo balked. The house had its original avocado-color appliances and a bathroom with chipped pink tiles. “Everything was locked in time,” he said. “I was put off by the amount of work it was going to need.” Mr. Lord reminded him of the R.O.I.
Still, they went to see a four-bedroom place in East Hampton Village Fringe, near Amagansett, for $885,000. This one also needed work. On the plus side, it was within bicycle distance of the beach.
“If you really listened, you could sort of hear the ocean,” Mr. Minardo said. “The bathrooms were from the ’80s as opposed to the ’60s.”
Ultimately, they didn’t love it enough. “You have to be comfortable in the house,” Mr. Minardo said.
So they bought the locked-in-time house for $795,000 a year ago and set to work. They tried to paint one room every time they were there, and ended up doubling their $50,000 repair budget.
Come spring, they discovered dead trees and dead grass. “When the trees are bare, it’s hard to tell if it’s a dormant tree or a dead tree,” Mr. Sniggs said. They had not counted on the need for extensive landscaping.
A landscaper removed the dead trees. “We became friends with the tree guy and now we have firewood for years to come,” Mr. Minardo said. “We’ve been surprised at how much we enjoy the off-season.”
Country life seems to have a new episode every week. Mice filled their car’s engine compartment with acorns. Moles burrow in the newly planted grass. “We have these little Bugs Bunny trails,” Mr. Sniggs said.
They were aware the vacant lot next door was for sale. It sold for $400,000 and, over the winter, they watched a six-bedroom house rise. It is now on the market for nearly $3.4 million. “If they can get their price, it brings up the neighborhood,” Mr. Minardo said.