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Real Estate Center

Feb 5, 2009 11:08 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lunch with ... Gioia DiPaolo

Feb 5, 2009 11:08 AM

Sag Harbor-based real estate agent Gioia DiPaolo’s career would be fascinating enough if her 11 years of selling real estate in the Hamptons was the only topic of conversation, but this renaissance woman who recently left the Corcoran Group to join Prudential Douglas Elliman, where she got her start in the business, had a storied career before she sold her first house.

A native of Philadelphia, Ms. DiPaolo initially enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania with a plan to study either art or law. When neither struck her fancy, she moved to Capitol Hill, where she quickly landed a job in a senator’s office. In the ensuing years, she’s been a real estate developer in Philadelphia with her former husband, run a fashion design company in Manhattan and become a devoted collector of art and photography.

Ms. DiPaolo discussed her career and the unique pleasures of her life in Sag Harbor over sandwiches and salads at The Dockside, overlooking the harbor that gives the village its name, one afternoon just before Christmas while she was in the midst of planning a trip to Paris over the holidays.

Q: Did you always work in real estate in Sag Harbor?

A: I’ve always been in the Sag Harbor office, but I always worked in other areas as well, even though my office was based here. From day one, very early in my career, I went over to the North Fork and sold several large vineyards. I sold Hargrave Vineyard, which was the first vineyard on the North Fork, to the Borgheses. It is now Castello di Borghese. I sold Gristina Vineyard, which was another early vineyard, and I sold a couple of other parcels that were put together to make those vineyards bigger. I like to go where the action is, if it’s exciting to me, and that was because I love the wine industry and I love wine. I’ve done business in Bridgehampton, as far as Amagansett, I had the exclusive listing on the old town hall building in Southampton where Saks Fifth Avenue is. I’m based here, but I’m really a Hamptons agent.

Q: How long have you been in the business?

A: This is going to be the 12th year. I started out with Prudential, so I have this big history with Prudential. I started when Dottie Herman first opened a little office in Sag Harbor. I’d been in the fashion business in Manhattan. I worked for her for eight months and went across the street to Cook Pony Farm, which was taken over by Corcoran and October 1 I went back to Prudential. It’s like coming home. I really respect Dottie Herman. She’s a fantastic human being and a fantastic businesswoman. It’s a huge company and it has global reach, but she’s a human being and she’s there. She’s personally invested in this company and she’s available. It’s fantastic to be part of a company where the principals are involved. I didn’t leave Corcoran because I was unhappy there. I loved Corcoran, but I have to say, for all of the three buyouts, none of the agents were happy to be bought out. They saw it as a hostile takeover when it wasn’t. None of the three firms were happy about that and I was one who was happy about it. I loved having the Manhattan connection. Most of our buyers are from Manhattan. I loved the sophistication in their graphics. I was the top producer in their office every year. It’s a great company.

Q: Was the switch really about working with Dottie again?

A: I was with her organization early on, and I saw her vision. Over the years, I saw that vision come to fruition. When she bought Douglas Elliman in the city, I thought that was the time. I was really close to going back again, but I didn’t make a move then. She loves this business and she started out as an agent. That’s really important.

Q: How did you get involved with the wineries?

A: I had just started in real estate and I loved the wine industry. I thought it was something that had a huge amount of potential. Before I got into real estate, the other industry that really appealed to me here was the wine industry. When I first started, I came across Hargrave Vineyard as a listing. I said, wow, I’m getting in my car and going from there. I got the listing in my office and brought in the buyer. It was very serendipitous. It was friends of mine from Philadelphia who weren’t even thinking about buying a vineyard or leaving Philadelphia. He grew up outside of Florence and I knew he would relate to it. I thought I would just introduce him to it. We talked for almost a year, but they fell in love [with] it. I find most real estate sales are very emotional like that. You walk in and I can usually tell when you walk in. It’s that feeling that takes your breath away and you know this is your house.

Q: What was the first property you sold?

A: It’s very poignant right now in this market, because the first property I sold was in foreclosure. At that time there were very few. It was one house back from the bay. I sold it in the first week or two after I joined the company. I showed them one house. They bought the house, and I thought, “This is easy.” This past 11 years has been like that. But things have definitely leveled off. Prices have come down. But if you bought something in 1999, you’ve still made money. Right now is the best climate to buy real estate in 10 years. There’s a huge amount of inventory—good inventory. Interest rates are low. If you’ve got good credit, there are loans being given.

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