By the Sea Under 200K

MASTIC BEACH AND SHIRLEY, twin communities 90 minutes east of New York City on Long Island’s South Shore, have the same superb, white-sand beach as Fire Island or the Hamptons, the same mighty ocean and glorious sunsets, but they can’t seem to catch a break. Right next to tony Bellport, with its golf course and yacht club, Mastic and Shirley have struggled for years with social issues. Housing prices, never very high, have taken a beating in the recent downtown.

On April 3, The New York Times Real Estate section ran a “Living in…” column that laid out the area’s pros and cons quite clearly. (In years past, Mastic Beach was a Suffolk County dumping ground for sex offenders, and lax regulations on absentee landlords sometimes resulted in three immigrant families sharing a house.) But many people say they live there happily and without a problem.

The classic 1945 beach cottage, below, is on a large lot with mature trees. It has been reduced to 180K from the low 200’s. It’s not winterized, but it’s a short walk to a fine bay beach.

For more info, go here and search on listing #2151013.



I looked in Mastic Beach and Shirley in December ’07, at the start of my beach-cottage quest. I was curious, and enthused enough by the proximity to the ocean and the availability of inexpensive WWII-era cottages that I talked to a couple of local residents — a teacher and an artist, both of whom love living there. I even tried to drum up interest among some of my Brooklyn buddies, hoping to create a movement (I failed).

Ultimately, I decided the area was too downscale, realized there’s not much of a summer rental market, and moved my search farther east, to Quogue, Hampton Bays, and the North Fork. But I believe that, 10 or 20 years from now, things will be much improved, and I suspect that the area’s reputation is more a problem than the reality.

For those with a pioneering spirit and the patience to wait for the turnaround, Mastic Beach and Shirley are worth a look.

If I were looking today, I might check out this creekfront property for 199K, with a cottage built in 1939. For more info, go to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island and search on listing #2137081.



This one, built in 1930, apparently needs a lot of work, but it’s got the look that I love. They’re asking 100K cash. For more info, go here and search on listing #2097229.



There are many other intriguing possibilities. You might have to look past a few rusting cars and major appliances on unmowed lawns here and there.

On the other hand, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, owns an estate in Mastic Beach — 9 acres behind a gate, but still!

About cara

I blog for fun at, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here:
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5 Responses to By the Sea Under 200K

  1. BrooklynGreene says:

    Thanks for this piece. These places on the Island look great. We have friends in Orient (Village) and Shelter Island we see regularly (esp. in the summers

    My husband and I have lived between two places for so many years people are astounded we’ve managed (maybe it’s the secret to staying together?…we don’t live on top of each other all the time)…but it’s getting tiring and we’ve periodically, of course, thought about consolidating our lives.

    But, where to go? Although we’re nervous about living where a costal hurricaine could cause damage/flooding…or whatever global warming/climate change ends up throwing at us, the places above are intriguing. And, boy! The prices are incredible!

  2. patrick says:

    Hi, again, Cara. My mother’s family had one of these little bungalows when she was growing up Anyway, they bought it in 1932 for $110. There was also some way of getting a free lot by saving S&H Green Stamps or something, if I recall correctly. (My mother and her brother sold the place when her mother died in 1970 for, I think, around $10K). I vaguely remember the house, as I was only 3 or 4 then, but I do distinctly remember Grandma giving me my first beer there. I also remember when we were cleaning out the house after Grandma died, and I found an old top hat in the attic, which I have had until about a year ago, when I gave it to somebody to use as a prop in a show or something. The area went way down hill when Section 8 housing enabled landlords to buy a house for peanuts and get a reliable government check for a statutory amount to rent it to so-called “undesirables,” and of course the landlords were not interested in things like maintaining or improving the properties. The fundamental problem that will not heal itself absent some sea change is that the school system stinks. That will, in my view, suppress gentrification, regardless of charm and other intrinsic qualities. -Patrick

  3. cara says:

    A “sea change” is surely what’s needed in Mastic – very good pun (perhaps unintended?) Until then, I say, look further east. A friend of mine is leaving Sag Harbor after 23 years and looking for a new home in Quogue and Hampton Bays, which she says is what the Hamptons proper were back when – meaning unpretentious!

  4. sg - Park Sloper says:

    I just bought a beautiful summer home in Mastic Beach, half a block from the water. Built in 1932, it has an amazing garden -cherry tree, dogwood, pines. I paid $160,000 … cannot imagine finding anything equally delicious at this price. Nights are quiet, birds wake me up in the morning, air smells great. It takes me 10 minutes, door to door, to get to Smith Point. Beach is a little crowded in the areas with life guards, but water is pristine and solitude is a short walk away. I adore Fort Tilden, but I am loving Smith Point.
    Incidentally, I did see the 1945 cottage in photo above. It is charming and it has a lovely backyard, but a bit overpriced (if you can believe it) in the current market. It is still for sale, months later. The cottage I just bought is in a more desirable location, is winterized, has 2 bathrooms, nicer kitchen, fireplace, garden is more private, and it was $20,000 less.
    I am reading all the cons about Mastic Beach with apprehension but have not encountered a problem thus far!

  5. cara says:

    Wow – congratulations, SG! VERY intriguing! I’m dying to see a picture of your house, which sounds heavenly. If you send one (or more), I’ll make a new post out of your story, as I’m afraid many people won’t see your comment on a three-month-old post, and it’s a story worth sharing. Go, Mastic!!

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