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Hamptons Life

May 6, 2016 4:09 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Refining The Art Of The Open House

Sushi, anyone?
May 7, 2016 6:32 PM



Tinkling piano keys, drinks and food, spa treatments and celebrity sightings, all in a gorgeous mansion in the Hamptons. It sounds like a party, but these days it’s a broker-organized open house, designed to draw in both agents and customers to some of the highest-end homes on the market today.

“It’s a really good form of branding,” said Lawrence Citarelli of First Hampton International Realty. “The key is to differentiate yourself from the other brokers.” Mr. Citarelli also pointed out that it’s a novel way for brokers to mingle as well, as agents from other companies will take a peek, particularly at the more expensive listings.

The house Mr. Citarelli was showing recently, which boasted a catered lunch and an iPad giveaway, was described in the glossy flyer as a “waterfront gem on 2 acres” in Westhampton. The modern farmhouse, staged with candles, a bowl of lemons, and other personal touches, started out quietly, but as other brokers and the public trickled in, the mood grew merry.

“You get dividends from the feel-good,” Mr. Citarelli said. “Rarely does a buyer walk through the door during an open house, but if you can bring in brokers who will remember the property for their own clients, that’s great. It means you’re chasing the relationships, not the dollars.”

And sometimes open houses aren’t really called open houses anymore. Elaine Stimmel of Cororan, along with Bernt Heiberg and Bill Cummings of Heiberg Cummings Design, hosted an “exclusive Hamptons soiree,” according to a press release sent from the Corcoran Group. Over 200 guests attended the afternoon gathering, held at a compound on Sayres Path in Wainscott which just happens to be on the market for $25 million. Guests “sipped cocktails and received spa treatments in the spa pavilion,” the statement reported.

Direct access to the ocean with a private boardwalk might lure buyers to the luxury mansion at 212 Dune Road in Quogue, even with a price tag of near $30 million, but Enzo Morabito and his team at Douglas Elliman sweetened the pot on April 28 with lunch, an apres-tour cocktail party at Dockers and an exclusive visit to several other high-end homes, including that of daytime TV actress Susan Lucci just down the road.

It might all look very casual, but a lot of work goes into the set-up, offered Mr. Morabito, a top producer at Douglas Elliman. “When we have high-end properties west of the canal,” he said, “we want to open up the door to get people east of the canal to come and look.” Sending out printed invitations to the top 100 South Fork brokers, with follow-up emails and personal phone calls, to come to the Dune Road property paid off.

“There were about 100 brokers, top people, floating around,” said Mr. Morabito. And they weren’t all local. Real estate agents from as far away as Florida and Aspen came to check out the 12,000-square-foot residence and were treated to a catered lunch. “It wasn’t a bunch of wraps," Mr. Morabito said. "This was good food," he laughed, "food I like to eat."

 Mr. Morabito has also given away prizes at the events. “A bottle of wine or champagne, a dinner for two,” he said. “I’m known for my open houses. And any event of this nature has to be grand.”

Although the events are frequently open to the public, it’s getting the brokers from other agencies to spread the word that counts most. “We all want to get our properties sold," he pointed out—in fact, brokers from other agencies were even able to showcase their own high-end listings on the tour. “To get people from different companies who deal with this kind of inventory to pitch in—it’s just good brokerage,” said Mr. Morabito.

Larry Citarelli said much the same thing at his open house even as brokers from other agencies picked up flyers and other glossy handouts along with food and beverage. He spoke of upcoming plans to incorporate tented events, along with book signings and possible performances, to raise money for charity while at the same time drawing attention to a listed property.

“It’s good business,” Mr. Citarelli said—“especially when you have something special to show.”

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