Second Home Culture

Allison Markman, Staff Writer

Nationwide, approximately six percent of the population own more than one home, according to the American Housing Survey. In contrast, 47 percent of the school’s student body owns a second home used primarily for recreational purposes, according to an anonymous poll conducted by The Record with 132 responses. 

These homes range in location from international destinations such as London, France, to the tri-state area. The majority of respondents reported that their homes were in the Hamptons, a cluster of towns in Long Island.

Woodruff recognizes stark differences between the experience of second homes at the school and outside of it, she said. “I’m never really surprised when someone casually mentions that they’re going to a house out on Long Island or upstate whereas at my old school there was only a handful of students with second homes.”

Likewise, Juliet Burgess (10) experienced a culture shock around second homes coming from her public school to the school in sixth grade. “People would casually start talking about their Hamptons houses, and I didn’t even know what the Hamptons were,” she said. “So that was something I had to get used to.”

Patty,* (10) who requested anonymity out of fear of judgment from her peers, thinks that students need to recognize that in the real world, second homes are not something that is common, she said. “I think a lot of members of the school community need to check their privilege and be more grateful for things such as a second home.”

Due to the socio-economic demographics of the school, Joshua Shuster (10) is not surprised by the fact that many members of the school community have these homes, he said. “HM is a school with a largely upper-middle and upper-class demographic, so it would not be a surprise that most kids have homes in the Hamptons, for example,” he said. 

Carrie* (11), who chose to be anonymous out of fear of sounding obnoxious, assumes the Hamptons are popular because the towns are aesthetically appealing and close to the city, she said. “I think the Hamptons are a hotspot because it’s very isolated and everyone that is there you know, so it sort of is a safe zone where everyone around you is comfortable and familiar,” she said. 

Shuster feels that having a second home is a tenet of American society. “The idea of having a second home, namely a recreational countryside home, has been something of an American tradition for decades, since the suburbanization movement after World War II,” he said. “So I’d say it is pretty normalized.”

Although he does not see discussion of second homes as inherently negative, Shuster believes they can have negative consequences. “Discussions about second homes may appear as negative if a student brags about their home in an unkind manner, or tries to put it into somebody else’s face.”

Alex,* who requested anonymity because he did not want his teachers or peers to judge him, believes that the culture around second houses at the school is normalized and almost assumed because of factors such as the high tuition, he said. Most of his friends at school also have second homes, so he does not feel awkward when talking about summer plans. 

While she is very grateful for her second home, Isha Krishnamurthy (11) does not discuss it at school because not everyone has the means to have a second house. “It is something that comes with a lot of privilege,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be in a situation and be in a family that can have something like that.”

Krishnamurthy feels uncomfortable with conversations around school about second homes, she said. “Sometimes I hear people say like ‘Oh, I was in the Hamptons last week’ or things like that,” she said. She finds that conversations often are less about people intentionally bragging about their homes, but rather the subconscious assumption that the other person has one as well.

On the other hand, Clio Rao (11), who has a home in Rhinebeck, New York, believes that the student body should not feel embarrassed or ashamed about having a second home. “I feel like it’s important for me, and everybody else who has a second home, to realize that it’s a privilege that not everybody gets to enjoy and just be grateful for the space,” she said.

Eleanor Woodruff (11) thinks many members of the student body don’t want to publicly discuss their second homes because they did not want to seem as if they are boasting about their wealth, she said. “I think people might be worried that they come off as braggy or over-privileged when talking about having second homes.”

Though Rao also understands that people may be worried about coming off as entitled, she finds it important to be aware of how lucky many students are to be able to have these experiences, she said. “It’s also important to embrace how lucky we are to get to be in these amazing places, and understand that they can be looked at far beyond a lens of preppy, rich, and obnoxious culture.”

Carrie does not discuss her second house at school, due to the feeling that it propagates the culture of materialism at the school. “It’s ostentatious, irrelevant, and not necessary.”

Since she lives full-time in a house in the suburbs, Patty’s family has never considered buying a second home. Not having a second home causes people to be left out of plans simply because they are not in these locations, Patty said. She feels left out when her friends with second homes make plans when she is not present. “What makes me sad is when I start seeing Instagram posts rolling in of my friends all together in the Hamptons, and I just can’t come because I don’t have a home.”

Maya Westra (11) feels that there is a social obligation to have a second home, particularly in the Hamptons. “There’s pressure to be able to go out to the Hamptons every weekend [during the summer] when a lot of kids don’t have such homes,” she said. 

Rao’s family took the popularity of the Hamptons into consideration when thinking about where they wanted to buy a home, she said. “The worst parts of Manhattan culture seem to be reflected there, but I also understand people like the appeal of the beach and other things the Hamptons has to offer.”

Since her house’s primary purpose for her family is to be in nature and spend time together, Rao has not felt social pressures around having a second home, she said. “I don’t really have a lot of friends up as it’s more of a place for family. But, it’s always nice to have that option, and the few times I have had people up, it’s been really fun.”

Unlike most of his peers, Peter Yu (11) has a second home in Vancouver, Canada which he spends time at during the summer. “While I am not exactly sure why we have a second house, it is a great asset during the summer since it has a nice yard and is close to the beach,” he said.

Carrie’s family rents a house in Westport, Connecticut each summer. While she enjoys being in Connecticut to spend time outdoors, Carrie sometimes feels left out of social plans which typically occur in the Hamptons. “Sometimes I feel left out because if I want to see my friends, transportation is really difficult,” she said. “It makes me wish my house was there.”

This feeling is exacerbated by the parties that occur in the Hamptons that she was unable to attend, Carrie said. When she would check her Snapchat stories, she would always see photos from different bonfires on the beach where many students were hanging out at once.

For some, being in the Hamptons has an impact on their social lives. Caroline Madaio (11) goes to her house in the Hamptons nearly every weekend and has built a social life there, she said.
Going to her second home has allowed Woodruff to create another community of friends beyond her friends from school, she said. “I don’t really see friends from HM as much when I’m out there, but some of my closest friends are from Long Island,” she said. “Even though we all go to different schools, one of the reasons I want to go there so often is to see these friends.”

Many students spend their summers at these homes, so being in the city can sometimes feel isolating, Westra said. “It seems like everybody’s out in the Hamptons and it can be a little bit lonely not also being out where every single person has a second home,” she said.

Like many of his peers that left New York City to quarantine, Yu went to Canada during the pandemic. “​​We were able to live there and avoid the many Covid surges New York had as Vancouver comparatively dealt with Covid much better,” he said.

The pandemic inspired many people to purchase, rent, or stay at their second homes for increased safety and space outdoors, Alex said. Many lived at their second homes full time and completed online school from the houses.

Coco Trentalancia (11) family does not have a second home, but they rented in the Hamptons during COVID so they could enjoy more space while in quarantine. “It was really nice because we could go for walks without a mask because there wasn’t anyone around us.”

Trentalancia enjoyed going to the Hamptons because it was a break from the activity of the city. “Having that fortune to go up either out east, upstate, or to Connecticut among other places is really special because you can be with other friends and be outdoors which I think it’s really important because the city doesn’t give you the opportunity to do that.”

Like Trentalancia, Krishnamurthy’s parents bought a house in Connecticut after the pandemic for outdoor space, she said. Since Krishnamurthy does not know anyone else who has a home in the same area as hers, its primary purpose is to spend time with her family.

Yu also completed school online while in Canada. “It was a great place to quarantine and do online school because of the extra space and the calmness of the neighborhood allowed me to concentrate without the constant siren noises I experience in NYC.”

Ever since Woodruff started spending more time at her second house in Quogue during the pandemic, her family has grown accustomed to going more often, she said.

However, for those without second homes, quarantining in the city felt isolating. Jamie* (11) who requested anonymity due to the personal nature of the subject matter, felt secluded, especially as many went to their second homes, he said.