From concierge travel services for celebrities to luxury real estate

Douglas Elliman’s Denise Wilder

Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer, Chris Frantz and Wilder. Independent/Courtesy Denise Wilder

So many of us dream about working in glamorous industries and meeting our favorite celebrities that when we talk to someone who actually experienced it and left it, it can get us wondering why.

This is the case with Elliman agent, Denise Wilder, who for over a decade coordinated the travel of many eye-popping celebrities including Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ronson, Baz Luhrman, and many others. We were curious why and how she pivoted from getting vacation packages for the A-list to selling homes on the East End.

We caught up with Wilder remotely during the COVID-19 quarantine to learn more about her and also how she’s managing during these turbulent times for Hamptons real estate.

You started out in Manhattan as a travel coordinator for celebrities for 17 years?

Yes. I built up a business coordinating travel for touring rock bands, celebrities, and film productions.

Can you tell us how and why you pivoted from that to Hamptons real estate?

It wasn’t automatic. I was getting burnt out from the crazy hours that were part of the touring world, with managers calling up at all hours of the day and night (not to mention the late nights hanging out with the bands when they performed in NYC).

Initially I went into the mortgage business, as I had a friend that needed assistance during a refi boom. That led me to taking a job in Douglas Elliman’s mortgage arm in New York City.

I soon realized that I preferred the real estate side of the business and eventually made the switch. I had always spent time in the Hamptons and knew I already loved it, so when the opportunity arose, I happily moved to Sag Harbor.

Do you have a favorite celebrity to have worked with?

That’s hard, as there are a few I especially enjoyed working with. That said, my personal favorites are Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club. They are the nicest people on the planet. I am still in touch with them.

Then there’s Mark Ronson and his family. He is one of the most gracious, lovely people I have worked with. Very unassuming. And I absolutely love his mom, Ann Dexter-Jones! So happy for Mark’s successes; they are very well deserved. The same can also be said for Joaquin Phoenix and his family.

Wilder, her brother-in-law and Little Steven (aka Stevie Van Zandt). Independent/Courtesy Denise Wilder

How do you think that has helped your career in luxury real estate?

My past experience working with celebrities has helped me stay calm and focused no matter how stressful the situation. I am always able to put the needs of my clients first, as I did in my former career, and this is invaluable when emotions run high.

I am comfortable working with high-profile, discerning clientele, and I work hard to build trust in each and every relationship.

You have mortgage expertise as well?

Yes, I do. I worked in the mortgage industry for several years. That also gave me some wonderful, direct experience that I was able to bring to my real estate career. It helps to have an understanding of what buyers go through with the mortgage process and what issues might come up.

How did you find yourself in the Hamptons? 

My love affair with the Hamptons is a long one. I spent several years renting with friends, mostly in Amagansett and Sag Harbor. Then, I rented year-round for about a year while I also had a place in Manhattan. I was thrilled that I was able to make the transition to living here full time in 2015.

Your inventory of homes for sale is impressive, in East Hampton, in particular.

I love so much about the Hamptons, but East Hampton and Sag Harbor are my personal favorites. I live in Sag Harbor and work out of the Douglas Elliman East Hampton office. As this is where most of my time is spent, I have learned so much about each location over the last five years.

I am also very fortunate to be able to work with a group of extremely knowledgeable and seasoned professionals. Any time I have a question or need to learn about a specific area or property, I turn to them for help. I love learning and discovering new things. In this business, I am never bored!

How have the COVID-19 restrictions affected your work?

The rental market started heating up a little earlier this year, and I feel that it’s going to be a busy summer.

We are currently not showing properties due to the statewide restrictions. But we have embraced creativity and technology. I have one new listing I put on at the beginning of March. I shot a video on my iPhone just prior to the restrictions being put in place, so I send that to anyone who is inquiring. I also have high-grade professional videos on my other listings.

Other than that, I am staying in touch with my buyers and sellers by checking in to see how they’re doing and giving them updates on any activity on their properties.

What kind of marketing are you working with? Have digital and remote technologies figured prominently?

Absolutely. Elliman is WAY ahead of the curve on these things, thanks to our thought leadership in corporate and regional management, marketing and public relations. Our organizational operations in each and every department are bar none.

Additionally, I’m posting my listings regularly on social media and sending out e-blasts to the real estate community reminding everyone there about all of my listings. I am also advertising on Instagram and Facebook, as it seems there’s been a large uptick in activity across all social media platforms.

Are you seeing any trends of which we should be aware? Up and coming neighborhoods, styles of homes, etc.?

I’m seeing more interest in properties that are more like compounds, those that have more lifestyle amenities to offer and those on larger lots. Specifically, to that point, I see activity picking up in the Clearwater section of East Hampton, where there’s plenty of space and access to a private beach community. There’s a lot of value there.

While no one can predict the future, looking forward, I think once things open up here, you will see buyers looking to create an oasis for their families. Places that have it all and where people can feel safe in our beautiful villages and hamlets.

What do you do for fun?

I love the beach! That’s one of the main reasons I live here. Even if I’m able to just go for a quick walk or to sit and enjoy the waves or a sunset, the ocean calms me. I also enjoy cooking, yoga, and sailing. And I still love to see live music. My favorite thing to do when I’m not working is to spend time with close friends and family.

Any parting thoughts?

There is such a real sense of community here. I see and hear of people every day helping each other through this crisis. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when times get tough.

To reach Wilder or inquire about her properties, call 917-636-2546 or email