The 23-year East End real estate veteran shares his playbook.
It would be a challenge to find any part of the Hamptons that Gary DePersia didn’t know like the back of his hand. In speaking with one of the masters of the real estate scene out East, it’s easy to see that his tagline, “Southampton to Montauk, Sagaponack to Shelter Island,” is supported in spades. He and his Corcoran team have a firm handle on the red-hot selling and renting markets, and to think, DePersia’s love for the Hamptons all began with a windsurfing excursion in the ’80s. Read on to get the full scoop.
You’re coming up on 23 years of experience in the real estate scene out East. Where did you get your start?
I started with Allan M. Schneider Associates in the fall of 1995. I had a textile brokering business for many years in Manhattan, and I saw an opportunity to come out here to start in real estate. In 1995, all of the pieces were in place for me to join Allan Schneider, which was bought by Corcoran in 2006. So I joined, and I’m very happy that I did, because it was the perfect launch for my real estate career. I stayed to see the synergy between the two agencies — Corcoran and Schneider — and for me, it worked out great.
I’m still working with a lot of the same people from when I first joined Allan Schneider, which, in those days, was above Coach on Main Street in East Hampton. We have definitely grown since then.
You specialize in both selling and renting beautiful homes. How do the processes differ for you and your team?
They’re really two different animals, although sometimes a renter will become buyer. A renter is looking for something for an immediate need. Sometimes they’re very familiar with the area and where they want to be. They have specifics to give you on location, timeframe, price, and size of house they need, then you go out and find them a number of options that will work. Most often they’ll come out and take a look, but sometimes they’ll just do it over the internet.
A buyer, of course, is looking for a much longer term solution. Sometimes they’re brand new to the area, and realize they want a house out here, so it can be a function of not only finding a house for them but also finding an area or village they like. It’s a matter of education for those who aren’t familiar with the Hamptons.
Has the rental business grown in recent years? What do you think has contributed to this?
The rental market is going very well this year. Up until about 2008, the biggest part of the rental market was Memorial Day to Labor Day. After the downturn in 2008, you saw less of that. You saw people renting the same kinds of houses, but for a shorter period of time, maybe from July to Labor Day or just July or August. There were a lot more of “a la carte” type time frames, or even two-week rentals, which works well for a landlord, because in the United States you can rent your house for 14 days or less, once per year, and not pay tax.
This year, though, I’ve done many more full-season rentals from Memorial Day to Labor Day than I’ve done in past years and we’re still doing rentals for parts of August and beyond. What we also see today, which we didn’t see years ago, are people making decisions much closer to the time that they want to rent. Sometimes you get on the call Monday, a lease is signed on Wednesday, and they move in on that Friday. I think people have very complicated schedules now, and they just put it off and make a decision later, hoping there’s something out there.
Is there a particular type of buyer associated with each hamlet on the South Fork?
At one time, maybe. Now there’s a huge crossover. South of the highway buyers going north, north of the highway buyers going south! People change their thought process on the Hamptons by their history of usage. Sometimes they find they want to be closer to the city or their golf course or their friends. They have one thing in mind, or had one experience, but their usage of the Hamptons leads them to learn about the different areas. Buyers are much more fluid today than they’ve ever been, and they move around a lot.
Have you noticed any trends to look out for when it comes to the caliber of homes you’re taking on?
One of the biggest changes over the last 23 years is that we’ve become more of a country getaway than a beach getaway. It’s not about the beach anymore. People don’t spend all day sitting in the sun like they did years ago. Yes, it’s nice and it’s there, but very often the client is very happy to stay at their home, sit at their pool, have people over for lunch, or host a tennis match.
People come out and use their homes all year round too, so when looking to buy or rent a house, clients need to be somewhere where they can enjoy the area for much more than just the beach.
Do you ever work with builders on luxury spec homes? If so, how are these partnerships formed?
I represent a number of spec home builders and developers. Over the years, selling new construction has become a big part of my business. I do business with Farrell Building Co., M & M Custom Homes, East End Building Company, Lifton-Green, James Michael Howard, and DiMarco Development, to name a few, so I’m very familiar with the process. It can be ground-up, where the property has not been built yet, or something that’s in the process of being built, or you sell them a brand new house that’s been completed.
These partnerships are formed through the developers giving you a shot at something. They’ve either been referred to you or heard about you, and when they have a great experience with you they give you more. With a firm like Farrell Building Co. I’ve done over a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of business with them since the early 2000s.
You operate your own website, in addition to your Corcoran database. How did this idea come about?
In the early 2000s, when I started my own website, it was rough and very basic. You needed something that talked about you, your listings, and you generally had more latitude than you did on your company’s website which in those days weren’t very elaborate. Even today with Corcoran having the best website in the business, a personal website can add many layers to your business. For me, they go hand-in-hand.
Are there any other modern tools you use to sell or rent a home?
Besides my two in-house people who work for me in my office, and do a number of things for me like showings, open houses, and launching new listings, I also have a dedicated marketing person who I use called Dead On Design. They manage my website, photography, brochures, and interface with Corcoran to manage my listings. I also have my own PR consultant, Suzee Foster, and a social media person, Danielle Gingerich.
In a way, do you think you’ve become your own brand?
Brokers are independent contractors. We’re working within a company, but in a sense, are working for ourselves. Almost all of the top brokers have created a brand. I began doing considerable advertising in the early 2000s, so my name and eventually my face were out there. Because I have a significant amount of listings, I’m advertising constantly and people see me. So yes, I’m a brand within a brand!
We hear you’re an avid skier. Where do you escape for your favorite slopes?
Aspen is where I usually go, although I have skied in many of the areas out west in Colorado and Utah. I’ve been skiing there for almost 35 years. I’ve also gone heli-skiing and cat-skiing in British Columbia, which are amazing experiences. But as far as the place I go most often, that would be Aspen.
In the summer months, when skiing isn’t necessarily an option, where can you be found during your free time?
I get to travel every now and then, but I’m very busy in the summer. When I have some free time, outside of my daily gym routine, I’ll go out and windsurf when conditions permit. Windsurfing is what originally brought me to the Hamptons in the mid-’80s when I rented each year from April to October. I was once a decent golfer, with two holes in one at Montauk Downs actually, but don’t play as much anymore. Otherwise, I’m busy working.