Carol Szynaka and Mariah Mills are a dynamic duo. The two agents are both critical members of the Daniel Gale team under Sotheby’s International Realty, but together have secured much of the East End’s North Fork as a territory all their own. Here, we spoke with both Szynaka and Mills to find out just what makes them stand out in the industry.
Which home in your portfolio are you most proud of selling?
I have sold well over 100 homes, ranging in price from $143,000 to $8.9 million, but I am most proud of the properties I am representing now. Real estate is my obsession, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to represent both new and repeat customers.
There are many local brokers. what sets you apart?
I believe knowledge sharing is the key to my success. By sharing market information with buyers, sellers, new agents, and contemporaries, relationships bloom and knowledge multiplies.
What’s your best advice for buyers listing their place, or sellers before finalizing their home’s sale?
The best advice I can give sellers is to price it right. To establish pricing for a property, I run several formulas through my brain. I live, eat, and breathe the property, make adjustments, and continue to add information until all formulas start to come to the same number. That is when I know I have reached the right pricing.
My best advice to buyers is to buy based on location, and I highly recommend buying the best location you can afford. You can make improvements to a property you own, but you cannot change where it is located or what surrounds your property.
How has the industry changed since you began your real estate career?
When I started in real estate, brokers controlled the information buyers and sellers needed to make informed decisions. Print media was king, an office shared a camera to photograph properties, there were selling seasons, buyers were customers, and agents represented the seller and owed the seller fiduciary responsibility.
Zillow, Trulia, and Out East, among others, have changed everything. In 2018, a good listing agent needs to be trained on the latest technology, invest in professional photography and video, and develop a marketing strategy that includes website distribution, Zillow, social media, and print advertising, in that order.
Email, text, and instant messaging have all turned the “selling seasons” into a 24/7 marketplace. Buyers are knowledgeable and need information immediately. The recommended response rate to capture buyers’ attention is five minutes. It’s also much more common today for buyers to hire a buyer’s broker to work on their behalf.
What’s your favorite part of your day, in relation to real estate?
I love the art of the negotiation. I am number four of five siblings. I have been negotiating my whole life. Listening to and understanding what is important to the person I am negotiating with is the key to a successful negotiation.
What’s your signature touch?
One of my signature touches is the beautiful imagery used in my listings. I was an early adopter of high-end professional photography. I started my career in the apparel industry, where imagery was very important.
Favorite room to decorate?
My favorite room isn’t a room at all. It is outdoor living spaces. I dream about adding a roof deck to my home.
How do you find your clients?
I find clients everywhere. Many are referrals from past clients or agent referrals. I am a preferred agent on Zillow, which brings lots of inquiries, and I believe in open houses.
Often people shopping Zillow and attending open houses have lots of questions. I answer their questions and provide market information without pressure. When they get more serious in the process, several have come back to me.
What is it about the east end that captivates you?
I was drawn to the North Fork for the sheer beauty. I also have a little pioneer in me, and liked the thought of watching the community develop.
When you’re not working, where can we find you out East?
I love music, and take advantage of the live music at the vineyards. Last summer, I found a great jazz series at Jamesport Vineyard. I love a day at the beach, and The Hamptons International Film Festival is another favorite.
Is there a current property that we need to know about?
There are two properties I would like to share with you. One is a new sound front in Southold. The house was extremely well designed inside and out, with beautiful views of the Long Island Sound and a pool overlooking the water.
The second is a big home on Laurel Links Golf Course. The house was purchased last year. The new owners spared no expense upgrading the home, and then had a change of heart and decided to move to Florida. Their loss is your gain. They are listing the house for the same price they paid.
When do you know a listing is right for you?
Every listing comes with its own challenges. Each home has its own special features, along with its own drawbacks.
My job is to not only enhance their unique characteristics, but to figure out what their obstacles are and overcome them to bring about a successful sale. This is what makes the real estate business fun. Every project is different. You have to be versatile and adapt quickly to whatever the listing requires.
What’s the most challenging factor in preparing a home for sale?
Preparing a home for sale is one of the most important steps in the selling process, but it can also be one of the most difficult for any homeowner. Whether they’ve owned the home for just a few years, or for the majority of their life, it becomes a part of who they are. Helping them make the mental decision to let go of their emotions and focus on the fact that soon the house will no longer be theirs, can be one of the most challenging factors.
While it may hurt to take down the evidence of memories in the house, this is never a step you should skip. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and a great first impression can lead to a maximized profit. If the home is priced correctly and in prime condition, it will sell quickly and for the best possible price.
Do you always recommend staging a home?
Not always. As soon as I walk through the door, I know if the home should be staged. The majority of the time, a home will only need to be cleaned of personal belongings and clutter. You will find that once those items have been removed, it makes a world of difference.
Our marketing structure is based on pricing the home correctly, and providing the strongest local, regional, and international market penetration from day one until the property is sold. Our model has been proven successful without needing to implement staging.
How much do the seasons play a factor in a home’s sale?
We sell homes year-round on the North Fork. Spring used to mark the beginning of the busy home selling and buying season. However, lately the seasons don’t matter as much as what the weather brings.
We could have a warm and sunny day in January and our phones would be ringing off the hook. With sunshine and warm weather, buyers are more likely to hit the pavement and schedule appointments to view our listings.
It’s important to keep your home on the market in the winter months, because that’s when the buyers are shopping.
Is there a new trend in home buying on the upswing?
I am always keeping an eye on home buying trends on the North Fork. As we move through 2018, the market for home buying hasn’t changed much from last year. North Fork housing supply remains low, keeping sellers in the driver’s seat, and buyer competition remains strong.
Lately, we are seeing more and more Millennials in the market, throughout all price ranges. The majority want a move-in ready, small to medium sized home that provides a simple lifestyle. As mortgage rates continue to rise in 2018, I will be interested to see if the Millennial home buyer segment remains active.