Bucking the old guard: Hamptons brokers answer questions about staying power

Cody Vichinsky, Preston Kaye, Tyler Whitman and Bianca D’Alessio on how to stay on top

From left: Preston Kaye, Cody Vichinsky, Bianca D’Alessio and Tyler Whitman (Getty Images)
From left: Preston Kaye, Cody Vichinsky, Bianca D’Alessio and Tyler Whitman (Getty Images)

Though the Hamptons are known for big names and big deals, heading there is a gamble for any broker. The area’s small size means only a few hundred contracts are signed in a given year. Seasonal ebbs mandate patience — and party-going. 

But in the past decade, a new generation’s found the market hard to resist and has swept in. This wave crested during the pandemic rush and has hung on during the slowdown that’s followed. Now, with high prices and low — though recovering — inventory, The Real Deal spoke with members of this group about how they’re making good on their own bets in a notoriously niche market

Cody Vichinsky of Bespoke Real Estate headed to the Hamptons in 2014 with his brother, Zach, to specialize in deals over $10 million. Bespoke claimed the most expensive sale of 2023.

Preston Kaye co-founded Hedgerow Exclusive Properties with Gary Cooper after a split with Bespoke in 2020 and just as New York City residents were flocking out east. Kaye and his team, including longtime agent Terry Cohen, also focus on the most expensive listings.

Tyler Whitman joined The Agency when it landed in NYC in 2022 and led its expansion to the Hamptons last summer — with plans to grow the office to 30 or more.

Bianca D’Alessio, a front-facing broker at Nest Seekers who stars on “Selling the Hamptons,” points to creative deal structures and new technology to make inroads.

Cody Vichinsky
Bespoke Real Estate

How have you noticed the residential brokerage scene change in the Hamptons?

There’s been some new entry into the market, and I’m all for competition. When Bespoke first came on the scene, we had to grind our way into the market. I’m not a person who shuns new people coming in. I think they bring flow, they bring new relationships, they bring opportunities. And I like the dance, right? There’s an old sort of feeling — I think it’s pervasive in a lot of markets — where this old guard hoards the market. Where 80 percent of the business is done by 20 percent of the brokers. As the world flattens out and there’s a constricting on the quality of brokerage, I look forward to people who are actually top-tier brokers that we can dance with appropriately. On the Hamptons scene, I don’t notice too big of a difference in terms of the people we’re doing business with. I see some new names, but the invitation for all of us is to put our best foot forward and elevate the game.

What do you think newer firms expanding to the Hamptons are up against?

The only wisdom I would impart, because it worked for me, is if you’re going to be the same exact broker with a different can of paint on you, what’s your edge? How are you offering a differentiated and evolved value proposition, relative to what currently exists? These new flavors of the week fade unless they have something that can give them staying power. I didn’t reinvent anything, but we’ve tried to be different. So I’m looking to my peers to ask for the same thing, because that’s how I think the business of brokerage evolves to its best.

You began offering clients a 1 percent sell-side commission in New York City last year. How has that business played out?

We built that concept on the heels of Covid. We saw the market swinging, we saw rates rising, and we took a calculated approach. It was all about helping our clients position their assets the best we possibly could in the marketplace. The Bespoke business model is a listing business model — we want to capture as many listings and flow as we possibly can. That gave us the opportunity to help our clients and, frankly, incentivize brokers who had buyers to look at Bespoke listings and feel hyper-incentivized to bring their clients. It worked wonders for us. We captured a tremendous amount of market share in the Hamptons, Manhattan, and we’ve done exceptionally well in Miami Beach. For us, it was a strategic move. We’ve sort of rolled it back as the fundamental cornerstone of our business model. It’s there, should our agents and our clients choose to say, “Hey, based upon the price point, I think this is fair.” But our goal was to be adaptive with the times.

—Emily Davis

Preston Kaye
Hedgerow Exclusive Properties

How has business changed since the rush of 2020?

Since 2019, we’ve set new highs in the marketplace. The market has certainly shifted since peak Covid. But because we have so much velocity and there’s so much necessity to enter our marketplace, basic supply and demand drove the price of homes much higher. 

How do you work with new players who’ve come to this market?

We certainly welcome them. It creates new opportunities as well for us to differentiate ourselves. We listed a property in Sag Harbor village. It was a co-exclusive between Hedgerow and Douglas Elliman [and had] a fantastic result. It was the highest trade ever in Sag Harbor village. We went to contract in less than three weeks, and it sold for close to half a million dollars over our asking price. 

What are those points of differentiation?

I think collaboration is very important. Teamwork, working together to provide as much value to the client as possible, differentiates us as a firm. 

Have you seen a rise in off-market deals?

Since we opened our doors the summer of 2020 — so approaching almost four years now — we’ve done a little over $650 million worth of these off-market deals, [based on] some internal stats. A lot of brokers say they have a private market database. The reality is, we have pioneered that segment of the market.


Off-market transactions certainly help shape the high end of our market. When you’re dealing with unique and special properties on the ocean, there’s a certain trust and confidentiality that’s [required]. It’s a pillar of how Hedgerow was created and how we’re perceived in the marketplace. A lot of the new entries, as far as the brokers and the community is concerned, come direct to us.    

—Elisa Muyl

Tyler Whitman
The Agency 

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It’s been a little under a year since the launch of the Agency’s Hamptons franchise. How’s the first year been?

We’ve been really warmly welcomed into the community, which is probably what I was most concerned about coming in. Nobody likes the new kid on the block, usually. I was really lucky to get Dana Trotter as my partner, because she’s so well respected here. I feel like that gave us instant validation from the community. The lessons I’ve learned are around timing with recruiting. We’re trying to be very particular about who we bring on, because we don’t want to be a gigantic firm. Trying to find a gap in somebody’s business where making a move is feasible for them has certainly been the biggest challenge-slash-lesson in growing the business here. 

You entered the Hamptons with a local partner. What’s been the key to gaining traction in this sometimes insular market?

It really boils down to having the right people. We sometimes feel pressure that we need to grow faster — I think every person who’s leading a business probably finds themselves in that moment — but having the right people is so much more important than how fast you get there. I feel like Dana’s a local celebrity. People out here just worship the ground she walks on, because she has the best ethics in the business. 

How has the pipeline from New York City to the Hamptons played into your business here?

It goes both ways. I would say two-thirds of my city clients have places out here or want places out here, so there’s been a huge flow of business just from my circle. Now that The Agency has an outpost here, a lot of the agents in the New York office have redirected their referrals to us. But we get referrals from so many of the affiliate offices — Aspen, South Florida, Connecticut and California.

We’ve seen this wave of new real estate reality TV projects. Have you been at all tempted to get back on the screen?

Not right now, but never say never. I’m busier than I’ve ever been with things that I am really enjoying. That’s not a complaint, but I feel like if cameras were following me right now, that might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I do think I am going to start recording, maybe just for my own memory bank, a sort of behind-the-scenes documentary of what we’re doing, less about the reality show and the glitz and glamor of it. I want to show people the business, what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to make a successful office.

—Emily Davis

Bianca D’Alessio
Nest Seekers

You’ve been among the top 25 brokers in our ranking of 2022 residential brokers in New York City. Have you shifted your focus away from the city?

I will never shift my focus away from the city. I will just continue to further expand into new markets as the opportunities arise. I do think there is opportunity in markets where they’ve been more traditional and they’ve been more local — and not to undervalue that at all, you definitely want to have local expertise. 

But when you think of the way that the competitive landscape of real estate has changed, and how buyers move throughout different markets, and how sellers own multiple properties, and when you think of that from a marketing and an exposure perspective, it’s important to be working with someone who has that reach and that wherewithal to be able to be servicing and be in front of those clients in various markets.

What are some nuances in the Hamptons?

The transaction process is definitely not as fast. The level of urgency is not always fully there. And the level of creativity [required] to structure deals are definitely things that I’ve had to overcome. 

Because you have to do whatever it takes to make the deal happen. You have to be as creative as possible, especially in supercompetitive markets. 

What are some examples of being creative in deal structuring?

Escalation clauses when you’re negotiating offers or including certain components of a home, or going above and beyond to include components into a home that don’t exist. 

I’m negotiating a deal right now in the Hamptons where the buyer wants a hot tub built inside of the pool where it doesn’t currently exist.  

Most brokers would say, no, it’s not possible. Of course it’s possible, it’s just at a price. So how do we … pull people together to make it happen? Where’s the expediter, where’s the architect, where’s the developer, where’s the pool subcontractor, what’s the timeline and how do we get creative to make that happen and then be able to deliver on it?

How has filming the show “Selling the Hamptons” changed your business out the East End?

The level of exposure that that show has given me has been beyond words. Being on TV [has changed] what I can do in terms of press and getting my properties in front of more people and the way that I think about marketing and understand how buyers are looking at properties — that it’s not just on the MLS, it’s not just on listing syndications. They’re looking on social media. They’re looking to big media. They’re looking for a broker whose values and just brand they can align with.

Have you had clients come to you through social media?

All the time.

Do you think that gives you an unexpected edge in an old-guard market like the Hamptons?

Oh, absolutely.    

—Elisa Muyl

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