The Real Deal New York

The Hamptons’ heaviest hitters

By Alison Gregor | August 01, 2010 12:00PM

A Hamptons estate

While the Hamptons market has severely suffered for the last two years as buyers have steered clear of second homes, deals are finally closing again — albeit with price cuts and negotiations.

According to data from Suffolk Research Service, the total value of home sales on the East End dropped from $784 million in the first quarter to $777 million in the second quarter (still 96.2 percent higher than the year-ago quarter). But the number of home sales continued to increase.

This month, The Real Deal looked at the crème de la crème of the East End market and ranked the 10 Hamptons brokers with the highest dollar volume of listings over the $5 million mark. (Think tennis courts, horse stables and guest houses.)

The listings — which were all active exclusives or co-exclusives listed on each firm’s website in early June — offer a unique insight into the movers and shakers for many of the top Hamptons properties.

While the data doesn’t include closed sales, it clearly shows which brokers are attracting the biggest listings. At the front of the pack is Harald Grant of Sotheby’s International Realty, who had 26 listings with a combined asking value of nearly $652 million. The No. 2 broker, Susan Breitenbach of the Corcoran Group, had listings worth a total of $606 million.

Those two, along with all Hamptons brokers, are feeling the market boost. In the second quarter, the median sales price in the East End dropped a bit, from $720,000 to $710,000, but that still surpassed the first-quarter median sales prices for the past five years. (In 2007, its previous peak, it was $690,000, according to Suffolk Research.) In general, “the trend is up, and we expect it to continue,” said George Simpson, the president of Suffolk Research Service.

That is, unless there is a “W-shaped recovery,” meaning a double dip into another recession before a sustained rebound.

In the meantime, the sun has started to shine again for those in the Hamptons real estate business. Of course, the 10 brokers on The Real Deal‘s list aren’t the only prominent brokers in the Hamptons. Some other high-profile brokers that sources mentioned are: Diane Saatchi, who left Corcoran in January with her team to join the boutique firm Saunders & Associates; Prudential Douglas Elliman brokers Paul Brennan and Vince Horcasitas; and Sotheby’s agents Molly Ferrer and Marilyn Clark.

For a guide to those with the most expensive listings, however, see below for our who’s who.

1. Harald Grant

When it comes to dominating the Hamptons market, in both listings and sales, East End brokers almost universally concede that Harald Grant, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s, is paramount.

His listings include Three Ponds Farm in Bridgehampton North, which has a $68 million price tag. On the market for seven years, the property was first listed for $75 million with other brokers in 2003. Grant, who took over the listing in 2008, said he’s using the extensive network he’s cultivated through more than two decades in the business to try to reach even more deeply into the international market to sell the property.

Grant also has the listing for the historic Two Trees Farm, an equestrian center that hosts the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge and stretches across 115 acres in Bridgehampton, which was originally listed for $95 million in August 2008 with other brokers. It’s been reduced to $75 million, and Grant picked up the listing in October 2009. With properties such as these and many smaller ones, Grant dominated with 26 listings of $5 million or more, for a total value of $651.9 million.

But will those listings sell? Grant said price-chopping is still de rigueur for Hamptons properties priced at $10 million or more. One of his current listings, which was originally offered at $14 million, was reduced to $9 million, “and we have offers in the mid-8s,” Grant said.

“The market conditions drop 20 percent, [and] boom, we drop the price,” he noted. “What happens? We get offers.”

2. Susan Breitenbach

A broker frequently in the Hamptons spotlight, Susan Breitenbach, a senior vice president at Corcoran, took the No. 2 spot on The Real Deal‘s ranking with a stunning 33 listings worth a total of nearly $607 million. Breitenbach is sharing the $68 million listing for Three Ponds Farm — which features an 18-hole golf course, a grass tennis court, a 75-foot pool and three stocked fishing ponds on more than 60 acres — with Grant, above. Breitenbach also has the $34 million listing in Bridgehampton for a 26-acre parcel at 94 Highland Terrace that can be purchased in its entirety or broken into several $6 million lots.

Breitenbach keeps it all in the family. Her son, Matthew, a Corcoran vice president, is part of her sales team, and husband Stephen is a popular custom East End homebuilder. She told The Real Deal that she’s marketing all of well-known builder Jeffrey Collé’s estates, with one listed at $40 million and another at $35 million — but some of those listings are being shared with other brokers.

Of the current market, Breitenbach said, “I never worked so hard in my life.” But she also attributes her success to the technological savvy, creativity and energy of 27-year-old Matthew, who set up the team website and handles videos and other high-tech advertising.

3. Tim Davis

Tim Davis, a senior managing director who runs Corcoran’s Southampton office, ranked No. 3 with 17 listings worth a total of $272 million. Currently Davis is handling the marketing of the Gardiner estate in East Hampton, a stone mansion built on 5.5 acres in the late 1930s that was recently renovated and listed for $29 million last month.

Davis said he’s had to do price-chopping on some properties — a $16.5 million property was reduced to $14.25 million — but “nothing dramatic.” In fact, the 30-year Hamptons real estate veteran said most people are more realistic about the market now than they were three to five years ago.

“It’s easier to align buyers and sellers,” he said.

Davis said in a challenging market like this one, a broker has to ensure that sellers have gotten the proper market exposure. “I had a sale last year where the property was featured on the garden tour,” Davis said. “You have to think outside the box.”

4. Gary DePersia

Rounding out a Corcoran hat trick, senior vice president Gary DePersia had 19 listings, for a total value of $222 million. DePersia has the distinction of marketing the 55-acre waterfront oasis Tyndal Point — which can be subdivided into six lots and was listed at $45 million last month. He also has the $28 million listing for Sagaponack Greens, 40 acres of rolling farmland ready to be subdivided into eight lots.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, not all East End properties have lingered on the market longer during this rough stretch, DePersia said. Still, he said he sold a property in June that he’d been marketing for three years.

“It’s all a function of what it is,” DePersia said. “I’ve had some things this year that have come on and sold rather quickly.”

Grappling with the challenging market, DePersia, who has three assistants, said he’s stepped up already-aggressive advertising efforts.

5. Beate Moore

Most brokers are competitive by nature. Beate Moore, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s, is no exception. With 17 listings for a total value of nearly $221 million, Moore ranked No. 5 among East End brokers when it came to listings value — but she quickly pointed out that last year, she was second only to Grant when it came to actual sales.

Determined to do just as much business this year, Moore is marketing an approximately 3.5-acre oceanfront property with an Alfred A. Scheffer-designed home in East Hampton, listed at $32 million last month. She’s also sharing two Jeffrey Collé-built estates (one listed at $40 million, the other at $35 million) with Corcoran’s Breitenbach.

Moore may be hard to beat. She pointed out that she’s pulling repeat performances: She sold the home at 104 Gin Lane twice — the first time for $23 million in late 2003, and then again in 2008, for an eye-popping $60 million. And Moore said she has already sold several homes in 2010, including one that recently went for $8.4 million.

6. Ed Petrie

Press-shy Ed Petrie, an associate broker with Sotheby’s, doesn’t often toot his own horn, a quality he said his wealthy clients appreciate. Petrie, who declined to provide a photo of himself to The Real Deal, doesn’t have to. His 13 listings, which total $138 million, put him at No. 6. Besides marketing a Wainscott property on Georgica Pond for $18.5 million, Petrie also has the $30 million listing for a contemporary shoreline home in Montauk designed by James Biber of Pentagram Architects.

Though he sells throughout the Hamptons, Petrie has made a specialty of East Hampton. During summers, Petrie typically refers any Southampton business that comes his way to Grant, the No. 1 broker, while Grant refers business in East Hampton to Petrie. “It gets difficult to maneuver back and forth with the traffic,” Petrie said.

Though in general listings have been languishing on the stricken East End market for a year, even two, Petrie said that recently, East Hampton’s $5 to $10 million market has improved. “Most of the product has sold — there are only three or four things available right now,” he said.

7. Dana Trotter

One of the newer kids on the East End block, Sotheby’s agent Dana Trotter has quickly elbowed her way to the front of the pack, with four listings worth a combined $122 million. Along with a $75 million listing in Wainscott (an 18-acre waterfront farm composed of four parcels), Trotter is also sharing the listing for 232 Parsonage Lane in Sagaponack South with Enzo Morabito at Elliman, who ranked No. 9. The seven acres, which are listed for $26 million, include an English country manor, a restored antique barn, carriage house, tennis court, pool and pool house.

Trotter, an East End native who’s trained horses for Breitenbach, said her equestrian background has helped her connect with her clients. “I’ve been dealing with very affluent people all my life,” Trotter said.

8. Christopher Burnside

His experience as a speculative builder may be one reason Christopher Burnside, an associate broker with Brown Harris Stevens, landed in the No. 8 slot. With seven listings worth $111 million, Burnside not only has consistently closed deals, but has also built more than 12 homes in the Hamptons, which he said gives him insight into building costs and value.

Like many of his colleagues, Burnside has not shied away from price cuts. Last month, he said he was contemplating reducing the asking price on a 31,000-square-foot home on 11.5 acres constructed by Hamptons builder Joe Farrell in Bridgehampton, listed at $50 million. “I stay on top of my listings, so if we don’t get much activity in showing, I have a tendency to try to get a price reduction,” Burnside said. He said in the down market, “when some brokers were crying the blues, I was on the phone calling people, banging my head, trying to make deals.”

9. Enzo Morabito

Elliman’s Enzo Morabito is up-front about the fact that it takes a team to cover the Hamptons.

With eight listings with a total value of $99 million, Morabito said he couldn’t do it all without assistance from team members Cynthia Beck, Greg Geuer, Amy Fitzpatrick Martin and his son, Tim Morabito. “I just needed different talents,” said Morabito, explaining that while the team concept may be common in the city, it’s still relatively novel on the East End. Yet even if Hamptons brokers say they’re doing it all alone, “that’s absolutely not true,” Morabito said.

Along with the $26 million listing at 232 Parsonage Lane that he’s sharing with Trotter, the Morabito team is also marketing a shingle-style mansion on 10 acres in Westhampton Beach for $29 million. Morabito also experimented with online property auctions throughout last year and sold some homes at roughly half off their listed prices (others didn’t sell, as their reserves weren’t met by the high bid).

10. Peter Turino

Peter Turino, president of Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons, said he approaches his brokerage as more of an avocation than a vocation — but his results indicate otherwise. With six listings totaling nearly $90 million, Turino rounds out the top 10.

“I’m not a volume-type broker,” he said, “but I’ve handled some big sales and big listings.”

Turino said he tends to focus on properties priced just below $10 million. In the middle of last month, he reduced a waterfront estate on Georgica Cove that had been on the market for four months from $8.95 million to $8.65 million. “We’re in a huge correction phase,” said Turino, who graduated from Columbia University and earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. “I know people say we’re out of the woods … and I think the overall outlook for the Hamptons is tremendous … but for the moment, we have to contend with the recession and a lot of overpricing.”

Turino said he strives to give his clients an honest assessment of the market: “Misreading the market and wasting time has cost a lot of people a lot of money.”

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