“Like the postman,” Hamptons agents show listings — even with Earl at the door

By Amy Tennery | September 03, 2010 02:00PM

From left: Judi Desiderio, Chris Burnside, Susan Breitenbach, Bob Gianos and Harald Grant

While Labor Day weekend on the East End can present many hazards — traffic jams and crowded beaches, for starters — the specter of Hurricane Earl has presented an array of additional problems, especially for agents trying to squeeze in as many showings as possible during the last weekend of the summer.

“Flying furniture,” in particular, is a major concern, said Judi Desiderio, CEO of East End-based Town & Country real estate.

“You could literally have lounge chairs up in the air and in the pool,” Desiderio said. “That’s a biggie, especially if you’re showing a property on the water.”

But out of town buyers are often unaware of the dangers inclement weather presents in the Hamptons, Desiderio said.

“If you’re not from this area, you don’t know you have to respect Mother Nature,” Desiderio said, recalling how the manager of Town & Country’s Westhampton Beach office braved a nearby tornado a few weeks ago to show properties — only to have his Mercedes impaled by a falling tree.

But Desiderio’s agents are among the many who are staring down treacherous conditions today, as eager buyers try to make the most of the remaining few days of summer. Luckily for them, estimates show that the hurricane — which is expected to dump as much as three inches of rain and bring wind speed up to 55 miles per hour — is expected to hit the area the hardest after 6 p.m., when most showings are over.

Susan Breitenbach, a senior vice president with the Corcoran Group’s Bridgehampton office, said that she’s taking a buyer to see a house today for the third time.

“I don’t know, maybe they want to see what the [house] looks like in the pouring rain?” Breitenbach said.

She advises agents to take particular caution when showing a property in a storm.

“Do not open any French doors [to] the backyard,” Breitenbach said, noting that someone unfamiliar with the locking mechanism can inadvertently leave the door ajar, leaving the house vulnerable for damage. “You get a lot of damage in a hurricane.”

Of course, there are also more obvious measures to take in stormy weather, especially when you’re dealing with multi-million dollar properties, explained Chris Burnside, an associate broker in Brown Harris Stevens’ Bridgehampton office.

“You bring a towel, put it by the front door [and] ask people to take their shoes off,” Burnside said.

Preparing a home for a viewing during inclement weather is another concern.

Burnside said he has had to contend with sellers that are reluctant, or even refuse to leave the house when Earl is looming. Parents, for example, can find it “frustrating” to have to pack up their kids in the car when there is the threat of a Category 2 hurricane making a pit stop in their town.

“[One seller] just said that if it’s really bad weather, they’re just going to go down into the basement [during the showing],” Burnside said.

For some, the hurricane means properties will be kept under wraps.
Business is on hold today, said developer Bob Gianos, founder and president of East End Properties, who unveiled the completed Olde Towne, a 50-acre historic site with seven building parcels in Southampton Village, this week.

“Our site is locked up and we’re in high-wind preparedness mode,” Gianos said.

To that end, his 20 workmen have switched from tending to the $81.5 million property — which includes 400 trees, 10 acres of meadows, an 11-acre nature preserve and a two-acre village green — to moving tools inside, securing planting materials, pulling in signs and furniture and turning off the irrigation system.
But while showing amid a hurricane is no picnic, Harald Grant, a senior vice president with Sotheby’s International Realty, said he’s willing to make the effort.

“Like the postman, you want to keep going rain or shine,” Grant said.

With additional reporting by Lauren Elkies