Q & A with Hamptons broker Gary DePersia

By Candace Taylor | November 26, 2008 12:32PM

It’s been a tough year for Hamptons real estate. Average sales prices for homes in the Hamptons and the North Fork plummeted 26.8 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year, according to a market report by Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Yet, since August, East Hampton-based Gary DePersia, an associate broker and senior vice president at the Corcoran Group, said he has seen nearly $30 million worth of exclusive listings go into contract.

With $202 million in sales volume this year, DePersia was recently named the nation’s fourth top broker in the “The Real Estate Top 200,” a national ranking and awards event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, Real Trends and Lore Magazine. A 13-year real estate veteran, DePersia moved to East Hampton from New York City in 1995.

The Real Deal spoke with DePersia to find out how he’s beating the odds.

How has the Hamptons market been impacted by Wall Street’s woes?  

By the middle and end of the summer it started to surface. People started to wonder when the prices would go down out here, and started to wait to make their purchases. But I’ve put $25 to $30 million in property into contract after the end of the summer, so there are still people buying. Everyone is impacted and even if they’re not, they’re worried about being impacted. But this is absolutely one of the best times to buy real estate out here. We’ve never seen more negotiability, [and] we’re starting to see prices recede a little bit. There are buyers who have been on the sidelines and now they’re staring to pick [low-priced properties] off. You’re getting property at prices that you would have had in 2005, 2006, even 2004.

How is this downturn different than others you’ve seen?

I think what’s different here is you will have lost many more jobs. There’s an actual change in the landscape of the investment world, and we’re very tied into the investment world. That’s a big part of our market. That’s what’s different this time around — the feeling that there are going to be significant changes to the way people look at our real estate.

What kind of price declines are you seeing now in your part of the market?

Ten to 15 percent from 2007. That varies greatly by property. Each seller has a different motivation to sell. Some houses are less, some are more.

What is the key to selling in a down market, particularly in a second-home market like the Hamptons?

You keep your sellers informed, you go back to the basics that made you successful in the first place, you look for different venues to advertise in so you’re not beating the same drum month after month. It’s important to find new and interesting places on the Internet to advertise.

Which amenities are selling points in the current market, and which are viewed as gimmicks?

Everyone has a different idea of what their Hamptons experience is. Some people want to be in an estate-like setting, very private, with a pool and tennis court and lots of lawn, other people want to be in a beachy setting. Finished basements have become more important. Years ago you’d have a place for storage and if you were lucky it was dry. Now when they plan a basement, they’re going very deep, so you can have high ceilings, and they’re carving big windows for natural light. You’re finding [people using them for] home theaters, wine cellars, gym, [and] additional bedrooms. This has become very important whether it’s a $2 million or $20 million home. It’s a very economical way to increase your living space. And elevators. As the baby boomers get older, they’re thinking ahead. Elevators are becoming very important.

What is going on in the Hamptons rental market?

I’ve already started to do rentals for next year. It’s going to be a little slower in getting going this year. People are hoping prices will be more negotiable.  I don’t know if they will be or not. If you look early, you pay more but you get what you want. If you wait til the end, you might get a better price but it’s been picked over.