The Closing with Harald Grant

Harald Grant (photo by Karl Rivenburgh)
Harald Grant (photo by Karl Rivenburgh)

Top Hamptons broker Harald Grant joined the Southampton office of Sotheby’s International Realty in 1987. Since then, Grant has sold more than $1 billion in real estate, working with cultural and business titans such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Blackstone Group cofounder Peter Peterson. Last year, Grant was the No. 1 Hamptons broker and the No. 4 broker in the country, according to a Wall Street Journal and Real Trends ranking based on closed transaction volume. He currently has almost $338 million in sales listings, including a $32 million oceanfront beach house in Southampton.

What is your full name?

Harald Grant, no middle name.

What’s your date of birth?

April 13, 1951.

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Norway. I moved here when I was seven. To Bay Ridge.

Why did your parents move to the U.S.?

My father fought in World War II — he joined the [U.S.] Merchant Marines when he was 10 years old as a mess boy. Because he was a Norwegian citizen but fought in the American army, he was given U.S. citizenship.

After attending the University of Vermont, you worked as a model with Ford Models. What was that like?

I did a lot of work with Cybill Shepherd, with Susan Dey, [and did] magazine covers for Seventeen, Glamour, GQ, Simplicity — all that stuff. I lived in Paris, modeling for a year.

Then you sold computers for IBM. What did you do next?

From 1980 to 1985, I worked in New York in construction. Then at a black tie party, I met a young lady, Wendy Norris, who came from an upper-crust family. She had a horse farm in the Hamptons that needed someone [to help run it], so I retired from the construction business and married her.

How did you get into real estate?

Wendy’s mother, Pat Patterson, was working for Sotheby’s. And she got me an interview.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Is it difficult to work with ultra-wealthy clients?

It’s very easy to work with them — because they want to cut to the chase. They don’t have time to play games. These guys that are making this money, they’re trading currencies in Europe at 5 o’clock in the morning. … They’ll call me at 6, 6:30: “Hey, Harald, I’m on the computer, am I waking you?” And I say, “No.” Meanwhile, I gotta wake up.

You’re divorced now. Are you dating?

Oh, I’d love to find someone. My problem is, I don’t have the time to look. … Girls your age [late 20s] want to go out with me. I’m 60 years old. That’s not age-appropriate. Not that I’m not attracted to girls 28, or 30, or 32. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a youthfulness, there’s a vitality, and there’s an innocence. … Women who are 45 or 50, there’s an anger-management deal. For my purposes, in order to go to these cocktail parties and socialize and have a significant other, she’s gotta be age-appropriate. Because all these guys have wives. And I’m not going to walk in with some hot-looking girl like you who’s 28. The guys are going to go, “That’s great,” but the wives are going, “I’m not going to sell my house [with him].”

Do you have any hobbies?

Sailing. I have a Hinckley 52 sailboat I keep here and in the Bahamas. My getaway is, I go up to Sag Harbor, I sit in my cockpit, I put on Jimmy Buffett and I have a Corona. And I’m in Never Never Land.

What was your biggest professional gaffe?

My biggest screw-up? I have a number of them. In 1988, [I was with] this very sophisticated French lady. … We’re in this house, we’re walking around and I say, “C’mon, you don’t want to buy this house, it’s got a small kitchen.” And she looks at me and goes, “Don’t ever assume something from somebody. Because I happen to like small kitchens.” I turn red as an apple. And she says, “Learn to listen.”

What was the first deal that put you in the big leagues?

David Koch [the billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries]. 1990. I sold him the most expensive home in the Hamptons at that time, for $7.2 million.

How did you meet him?

He came to me through my mother-in-law. He’s a 6-foot-6 guy, and I took him down to the basement of this house. Crawling around in the basement. He says, “Harald, I don’t have time for this.” He’s got his G5 [Gulfstream V private jet] sitting at the airport. I’m crawling around to show him how the pilings weren’t only put in loose sand — they were in cement blocks — to show him the strength of the home because it’s on the beach. He’s going, “Harald, you’re right. Nobody’s ever taken me down here.” He liked the way I went into the nuts and bolts of the house.

You dress casually, often in shorts. How do clients react to that?

You have to be smart about it. I have a lot of repeat customers, and when you have repeat customers, you usually end up being friends. You can be somewhat more casual. Does that mean shorts and a polo shirt? Sure. When you’re going on a presentation to acquire a listing, that’s a special event, so you get dressed accordingly. That’s when I wear appropriate attire for that moment. I wear a summer suit or a sport jacket.

Would you ever leave the Hamptons?

There’s life beyond the Hamptons, but no. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.