How I lived in luxury for free

Every summer the richest in the world flood the East End of Long Island . But when they’re away, their sprawling mansions become easy ...

Every summer the richest in the world flood the East End of Long Island. But when they’re away, their sprawling mansions become easy targets for intrepid intruders looking for a taste of life among the 1%. Here, an anonymous Hamptons squatter is being honest.

Want to crash into a Hamptons waterfront mansion in August? Get 500,000 from your closest friends to contribute $ 1. Or, do what I did: find a few friends with insider information, the gift of chatter, and a lot of nerve.

This is how I was able to spend summer after summer in my twenties living in the country the most expensive postal codes free. I was a Hamptons squatter and my motto was, “Go big and into someone else’s house.”

The absent owners of these ostentatious houses did not know me from Adam. Yet like a modern-day Goldilocks, I slept in their beds, sat in their chairs, and ate their food. Usually it was only for a few days, but sometimes it was as long as a week.

A photo of a young woman who spent her 20s living in luxury by illegally entering Hamptons mansions.
A young woman spent her 20s living in luxury by illegally entering Hampton mansions through a network of service workers.

I grew up in a working class community in a state of flight. Our second home was a used motorhome. My siblings and I, now all in our late 20s and early 30s, slept on a table that turned into a bed. The toilet was any tree behind us.

But after moving to New York City at age 18 for college, I landed a minimum wage summer job at a clothing store in East Hampton and an unpaid editing internship in Bridgehampton. It was my first time seeing real vacation homes, let alone a $ 50 million mansion.

At the start of the season I moved into the basement of a rather modest five bedroom house in Southampton. I stayed for free in exchange for helping the young children in the family when they weren’t at camp. But every year in August, the owners rented the house and gave me the boot. So, in a way, I didn’t choose the squat life. He chose me.

Over the years, the eight-figure houses I squatted in were as far north as Shelter Island and as far south as Shinnecock Bay. They included sprawling shingled mansions with Acropolis-inspired columns and bull’s-eye windows straight out of the Palace of Versailles. There was a contemporary two-story glass box south of the freeway and even a three-story retreat and seven rooms with water views on three sides.

First, my fellow squatters, friends of the East End-based service industry, would find out which of their clients was full enough to own several holiday homes, a yacht or even a private island. Often times, the super rich don’t rent their Hamptons homes when they’re overseas, galloping in St-Tropez, or cruising the Adriatic – even though those 25,000 square foot playgrounds could easily make $ 1 million for just one month.

A refrigerator stocked with drinks in a Hamptons house.
The squatter made use of the drinks refrigerator – but did not invade the wine cellar under her particular code of ethics.

Then my friends made sure the owners were away. Social media makes this easy, but a quick chat does too. A client might tell my personal trainer friend that he wouldn’t need his services in August because he’ll be traveling. I was never there for this conversation, but I imagine they responded with questions like, “Oh, are you going to rent your house then?” Where will the children be? That would start the ball rolling.

Once we identified a retreat, we would drive and start the party – and believe it or not, it’s that easy.

Having said that, I have never broken into anyone’s house. I did not raise my middle finger on the “No Trespassing” signs or turn off the ADT systems. I simply introduced myself to the addresses my house hunting friends gave me. Because my friends were private personal trainers or catering managers who had occasionally worked in these mansions, they knew the full time staff.

“Hi, I’m with X,” I would say referring to a friend who knew the house. Even though this friend was not there at the time, the staff – whom I had never met before – still let me in. No question asked, except one: “Can I get you something?” ”

I don’t remember having the keys to the house. I remember the doors unlocked. If a code was needed to pass a security barrier, staff would provide it. Best of all, the code never changed, so I came and went as I liked.

A new recruit who didn’t know us? No problem. We just played the role of regular guests. My friends and I were equally fit, attractive and white. It’s sad, but this combination really opens doors.

In fact, homes that are still fully staffed when owners are away are ideal for squatting. It seems more suspicious to neighbors if new people suddenly arrive in an empty house. So once the staff accepts you, you’re in.

Chilled leftovers that would be thrown into a Hampton house.
The kitchen staff would be delighted if the squatter was ready to eat the leftovers destined for the trash.

In addition, the house staff were always happy to see us. I think it’s because the employees are hired to perform specific tasks. If no one is home, it’s easy to lose purpose, whether you’re a chef or a pool boy.

When we arrived they had new taste buds to test their recipes on and a bikini-clad body to swim in the thoroughly cleaned pool. I have always been polite and have never taken advantage of them. I knew I didn’t sign their paychecks.

I was raised to be a devout Catholic and even selected to assist the Pope at a special mass. So even when I was squatting I was on my best behavior and after a few squats I developed a strange code of ethics.

For example, there were always formal dining rooms. But I ate in the kitchens. I liked the company of the chefs, and I think they liked mine. I also liked saving food. In these homes, no one hesitated to throw away intact lobster tails or hours-old baked goods from the Hamptons’ candle-lit bakeries. I watched the chef’s disbelief turn to relief when I told them I would eat today’s leftovers tomorrow.

A freezer stocked with premium ice cream from a Hamptons home.
An entire freezer of gourmet frozen treats found in one of the homes she illegally entered.

Between meals, I looted freezers and refrigerators. It was like Christmas morning when I discovered this first stainless steel Pandora’s box filled with pints of Häagen-Dazs, Ciao Bella and every premium ice cream brand I had ever had. disposable income to try. Sometimes I would open the fridges just to admire the cans and bottles lined up with military precision. There was always Red Bull, the full line of Coke and Pepsi, an assortment of waters and an arsenal of alcohol.

I remember a raging pool party, organized by other squatters whose stay overlapped mine. Let’s say he must have freed up a lot of space in the wine cellar. As for me, I have never touched the hard stuff. In my weird moral world, catching a Perrier was fine, but popping a bottle of champagne was over the top. Another line I never crossed was to use the master bedroom or the bathroom. It sounded like the ultimate breach of privacy.

I have lived with a conscience. I also lived in fear: always looking for hidden cameras (which all these houses have but no one checks). I perched on the edge of custom sofas instead of sitting down and making myself comfortable. Despite the 500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, I slept with one eye open. As tempting as it may be, I haven’t looted supply closets full of extra toiletries and enough toilet paper to satisfy a COVID-19 preparer. I was never able to completely relax. I was always afraid the owner would come in. They never did.

There was, however, a near call. The owners of our squat – a waterfront estate in North Haven (the area between Sag Harbor and Shelter Island) – showed up right after we left and discovered that my friends, who worked for them in the past, had damaged their fishing gear. peach. . I don’t know how my friends heard that the owners were pissed off and pinned it on them. I didn’t want to know. Believing ignorance to be bliss, I lived a life not to ask, not to say back then. Fortunately, the charges were never laid.

Personally, I didn’t feel bad about my behavior in this house. I had only used one of the owners’ paddle boards. I was so considerate that I adjusted the grip of the paddle to the height where I found it. My broke TJ Maxxinista ass even resisted the temptation to try on Lacoste polo shirts, cashmere sweaters and designer jeans hanging in bedroom closets (master closet overflow, I guess). I also avoided the high-powered telescope perched on a tripod facing the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room. Call me a hypocrite, but spying on neighbors across the bay seemed too voyeuristic to me.

Thinking back to my brief period as a squatter, I won’t say I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I think I’m proud of what I didn’t do. That said, if I ever decided to do the squat again, I would in the Hamptons. If her second homes are this beautiful, how bad can prison cells be?

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How I lived in luxury for free
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