Real Realty

Brown Harris Stevens Superstar Agent, Christopher Burnside, Shares His Insights

Independent/Courtesy Christopher Burnside

Top producing associate broker, Christopher Burnside has been a superstar of Hamptons real estate since 1999. Hailing from Arizona with a degree in finance, he has worked with new construction and investment properties, having even developed his own homes to buy and sell. He has a talent for identifying high-end design and his knowledge of the market is a treasure trove of inside information for real estate enthusiasts.

You are from Arizona. How did you find yourself in the Hamptons?

I consider myself a local because even as a kid I’d come to the Hamptons from Scottsdale, AZ to visit with my aunt and stay with her in Bridgehampton and Water Mill for the summer. Because of that long history, I’ve always loved it here and consider the Hamptons home.

You’ve been a top producer with Brown Harris Stevens since 1999. Why BHS?

I had just graduated from the University of Arizona and was working for a builder in the Hamptons. I realized I wanted to get into real estate, so I walked into Brown Harris Stevens, as I knew they were a high-end luxury real estate brokerage with offices in each of the villages. They were very enthusiastic to have me. I liked everyone I met, and it immediately felt like home. They also nurtured my desire to get involved with development and personal projects.

You’re well known for new builds and investment properties. Do you partner with specific builders on these or are you a builder as well?

My primary business is real estate. I don’t compete with my builders, but I do love partnering and investing with builders on projects I believe will be successful. These projects are the result of strong long-term relationships with builders whom I’ve assisted in buying and selling numerous real estate deals for over a decade.

I offer incentives for builders to list with me and I’ve recently signed several builders up with private financing and cooperative marketing. I’m working with those builders now on two of my own development projects — 1127 Noyack Path, which is a modern farmhouse, and 33 Bellows in Southampton Village.

I like to think of every listing and sale as a stepping stone to the next possibility. I’m more interested in building these kinds of exciting long-term relationships than just trying to make a one-time deal.

Care to tell us of any interesting building or interior/landscape trends?

Interior trends lean toward modern crisp interiors, clean molding and trim, with open floor plans. Buyers want custom millwork rather than standard shelving and bookcases. Builders are engineering homes to be more efficient by utilizing solar panels, radiant heat, and are installing new technology to control home functionality like lighting and security.

What marketing do you employ to secure a luxury exclusive?

For me, it’s the special and unique features of each individual property that dictate the marketing strategy. For example, Dwell magazine caters toward modern homes, so if I have a modern home listing, I’ll advertise there. If it’s a land or investment deal, I might do a special advertising segment for hedge fund investors.

I don’t think you can block every project into the same marketing strategy. I also think that doing events like cocktail parties and partnering with charities for events have proven to be helpful marketing strategies. I’m also putting quite a bit of energy and resources into social media marketing.

Are there any trends of note that you can tell us about in selling these types of homes?

Most of my buyers are coming from Manhattan. They are researching the homes online and then coming out to see the properties based on what they are seeing. This is why investing in social media, videography, virtual home tours, and drone photography is so important.

How has social media affected your ability to sell?

Social media is predominantly a visual medium and my listings have tremendous visual appeal, which makes it easy to leverage my presence.

For those looking to sell their Hamptons home, what should they do to see their home sells quickly and efficiently?

I think that if sellers are realistic in selling their home, they should make any obvious repairs that aren’t too costly, especially in places where first impressions are made. Things like the front entry, fresh paint, and gleaming hardwood floors make a positive impression to buyers. That being said, the number one consideration is pricing, especially considering that the real market has slowed down quite a bit.

For instance, I have a listing that was previously with two other agencies. I reduced the listing price by $500,000 and it sold immediately. There is no secret to listing and successfully marketing a home. If it’s in a good location, it’s well priced, and it looks good, it’s going to sell.

What are some areas of the East End that you consider up-and-coming?

The East End has already been discovered. But, there are pockets of opportunity to be found in every market. Water Mill, Bridgehampton, and Southampton all have neighborhoods that are undervalued and those are the areas where I try to focus my buyers and investors.

For example, in Water Mill north, you can buy a seven-acre property with tennis courts, a pool, and a guest house for $1.5 million, which is an incredible deal. That gets you just a one-acre property in the village.

How did the Hamptons home sales market do in 2018?

The market was softer, but there were some great deals made in 2018 that had tremendous value. My advice to buyers is to take action now and take advantage of that while it lasts.

What is your favorite building in the Hamptons, architecturally or otherwise?

I love modern homes, especially those designed by Bates Masi or Barnes Coy architects, with lots of steel, glass, and concrete. I also love the modern farmhouses done by architect James Merrell. Meadow Lane in Southampton, Daniels Lane in Sagaponack, and Dune Road in Bridgehampton have some spectacular modern homes.

You fly your own Cessna out of East Hampton Airport. When and why did you start flying?

About 12 years ago, I found myself on Martha’s Vineyard when a client called and wanted to go look at homes in the Hamptons. I needed to get back quickly, so I called a friend, who picked me up in his plane. Flying back, he gave me the controls so I could experience flying. I’ve always been fascinated with flying, and after that, I was hooked. I immediately bought a plane and got my pilot’s license.

How else does flying your own plane help to sell homes or secure exclusives? Do clients ever go up with you?

I’ll sometimes take clients to lunch or pick them up, but I don’t really show homes from the air, because it’s just too distracting and it’s gotten more complicated with the controlled airspace regulations.

What’s your elevator pitch?

When you hire me you get me, you don’t get pawned off to a team of assistants. I do all my own showings. I’m available day or night, and I stand by what I say. I don’t make representations about properties that I don’t personally look into.