Read More Best. Hamptons. Summer. EVER.
In a casual and purely anecdotal study, Colas uncovered some interesting points about how Wall Street is doing as judged by conditions in that collection of communities known as the Hamptons:
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• The newest and nicest hotel in the Hamptons at the moment is the Topping Rose House, refurbished in 2012 after a long period of disrepair and also substantially expanded. Rooms here during the summer go for $2,000/night and often have a 2-3 night minimum. They are sold out this weekend.
• Nick & Toni's may not be the fanciest place in East Hampton, but it has a serious celebrity following. And this July 4th weekend, you'll need that status to get a table. They are fully committed from Friday to Sunday during dinner hours.
• Pierre's in Bridgehampton has had its ups and downs in terms of service quality over the past few years, but the food has always been like a quick trip to Antibes or Cannes. They ship their own special rose wine over from France for the summer season—it's usually all gone by early August. They have availability for dinner at 5:45 or 6:00 pm, which for many French restaurants is almost lunch hours. So book early, book often, order the blue bottle of rose and wait for the rest of the world to shuffle in at 8pm.
• If you are young and lively, the Capri Hotel in Southampton is your scene. Last summer the guest restaurant on the property was Nobu. This year it is BLT Steak. There is a serious singles scene by the pool. And yes, they are sold out this weekend. And next weekend. Mid-August is available for $462.33/night…Until it isn't.
And then there's the real estate market:
• The most popular aspirational real estate site in New York is www.hreo.com—the common listing service for the Hamptons. A few clicks and you'll find that there are +2500 entries for houses that will cost you over $1 million. Yes, there are a few dupes, so let's cut that number in half. That still makes for 1,200 houses out there at $1 million and up. Want to live like an old school Wall Street mogul? The original Merrill house (yes, that Merrill) is on the market for $98 million. Bad news—the property abuts a public beach parking lot. For $100 million….And yes, the place is rock star amazing.
• Dan's Papers, one of the area's free publications, recently ran a story about the 5 best summer rentals in the Hamptons. The trophy property is in Bridgehampton, with an asking price of $1 million for July or August. To rent. It still appears to be available if you need a place to hang your hat. Other hot properties command anywhere from $600,000 for August to $950,000 for the whole summer. All have lovely pools, tennis courts, beach access, and everything else you need for a relaxing summer.
• There are a total of 16 houses and apartments available from the Shinnecock Canal to the Montauk town line for less than $325,000—the average price of a home in America. One is a mobile home. The others are condos or small cottages of 700 square feet or so. There are 3,400 listing over this price point on hreo.com.
• The fly in the ointment, if you want to call it that, is that the philistines are at the hedgerows, and they've found their encampment on Airbnb. Despite some local regulations, plenty of Hamptons homeowners are following their city-mouse cousin's example and renting rooms and whole houses on the popular peer-to-peer website. I found a listing for this weekend for $292/night, right in Southampton. Yes, you have to share a bathroom with several other people. But according to the comments, the hostess gives a mean foot rub. Yeah, I don't know what to do with that either.
The Hamptons, of course, are not typical of the average vacationer's plans, and things are different elsewhere as America prepares to celebrate her 238th birthday.
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AAA projects 41 million Americans will venture at least 50 miles from home to vacation over the Fourth, a 1.9 percent annualized increase. They'll also be spending more money, but not necessarily because they are feeling as flush with cash as your average Hamptonite.
Instead, the organization cites "willingness to take on credit card debt, not an increase in income," as the reason for expected gains in spending.
"Consumers have been hesitant to add to their credit card balances the past several years, but continued improvements in the employment picture and rising home values means they are starting to feel more comfortable taking on debt," AAA said in a statement. "In addition to consumer spending, a boost in consumer confidence and the employment outlook are driving more Americans to take a road trip."
Of course, those travelers will be paying the highest gas prices in six years, so they may find their cards maxed in a hurry.
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Fortunately, WalletHub has put together a list of the most affordable cities for the holiday.
Richmond, Virginia, leads the list, followed by Irvine, California; Cincinnati; Oakland, Caifornia, and, perhaps surprisingly, Washington, D.C.
At the bottom of the list are Toledo, Ohio; Lubbock, Texas; Greensboro, North Carolina; Anchorage, Alaska; and Durham, North Carolina.
If you're going to the Hamptons, though, one good rule to keep in mind is that if you have to ask how much, you probably can't afford it.
Colas said he expects the cash to be flowing freely as Wall Street drinks a toast to itself and the Dow industrials eclipsing the 17,000 mark Thursday.
"Wall Street is like any other community of people and when they get some extra money, they save some and spend some," he said. "And despite all the woes of late, what with lower trading volumes and volatility, the people who work in the industry still feel pretty good about their immediate prospects."
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox