Once considered a part-time job for stay-at-home moms, selling houses is now a career that attracts smart, savvy, hard-charging professionals, like these five hotshot young brokers who are revolutionizing the Hamptons real estate scene.
Listed by Matthew Breitenbach (above) for $5.995 million, 732 Hill Street in Southampton Village is a six-bedroom, fully furnished gated home that combines a classic façade with a modern open floor plan and luxe interior details, as well as a 40-foot heated gunite pool with a pool house, a hot tub, and a dining area featuring a grilling station.
MATTHEW BREITENBACH, 33
An English major in college, Matthew Breitenbach considered becoming a writer. But in 2006, when in two weeks he sold his first house in the Hamptons to a Los Angeles film producer for $3 million, he fell in love with real estate. Then 22 years old, he was “the youngest guy in the game by leaps and bounds.... I made $40,000. That was the average salary in the United States.”
Being part of a successful real estate family and having lots of connections certainly helped: His father was a builder and his mother, Susan, was a broker. Breitenbach “begged” to be her assistant, and she became his mentor. Once, while his mother was on vacation, he brought in a buyer and sold one of her listings.
Since then, Breitenbach has been part of more than $1 billion in real estate transactions; he averages over $150 million in sales annually and is currently marketing close to $200 million in new development. Among his listings is a $24.95 million six-bedroom oceanfront estate in Southampton Village.
At Douglas Elliman, he formed the Matthew Breitenbach Team, a creative, full-service luxury real estate boutique that pushes marketing and branding within the company, which has a global reach. He deals with real estate developers, brokers, companies, and clients in New York City, Aspen, Miami, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Barths, London, South America, and Russia.
Breitenbach’s design team creates a lot of video and social media integration. Working with developers, he markets properties using logos and branding, but he also closes many off-market deals. “There is an energy and ambition I have,” he says. “You need a work ethic in this business.” 2488 Main St., Bridgehampton, 537-6590
“The old mentality of just listing a property is passé,” says Matthew Breitenbach, 33, a top-producing broker with Douglas Elliman and one of the young real-estate rock stars changing the game in the Hamptons.
This new generation of power brokers has leapt to the forefront with record-breaking sales, sidestepping agents with decades of experience. “It comes down to technology, media, and social media,” says Oren Alexander, who runs the Alexander Team at Douglas Elliman with his brother Tal. “It’s almost guerrilla marketing. It’s our ability to network and garner maximum exposure that gets us there without taking the long road.” Often the mega-estates these young Hamptons brokers tout are literally off the charts, with many of their sales of $20 million to $50 million or more being quiet “off-market” deals.
Real estate is a relationship game, brokers in their 20s and 30s agree. At the top, branding, marketing, connections, creative thinking, and having a global reach are paramount. These hotshots network with buyers and other brokers in the Hamptons and New York City as well as Miami, Aspen, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, London, St. Barths, South America, Dubai, Russia, and, more recently, China.
SAM KELLY, 34
Bespoke Real Estate
This summer, global financial volatility is piquing interest in the Hamptons among international buyers. Many of those who typically spend time in Europe are instead “focusing on the Hamptons” as the “safest summer market,” says Alexander.
A Southampton native, Sam Kelly has always loved the East End. While working in marine construction for an uncle and playing golf, he was enchanted by the properties and the settings. But he didn’t enter the real estate business right away. Six years ago, however, while he was serving as a teaching assistant for children with special needs at the Child Development Center in Wainscott, mentors and friends in real estate suggested he take the leap. “I took the course and jumped in,” he says.
At Corcoran, a manager placed Kelly in the Bridgehampton office, where he struck up both a working relationship and a friendship with Zachary and Cody Vichinsky. Two years ago, shortly after the brothers founded Bespoke Real Estate, a super-high-end, tech-savvy, data-driven agency dealing only in $10 million-plus properties, Kelly joined them. A versatile agent who “can cover every aspect of what we do,” he says that given the fluctuating conditions of an ever-changing market, “it’s important to stay really adaptive. I try to move my clients to where it’s going, not where it is currently.”
Kelly’s current top listing is a 2.8-acre parcel of land on Georgica Pond in East Hampton for $31.495 million. Recently he was part of a team involved in a $37.5 million oceanfront sale in Southampton Village, and this year he has closed deals in Southampton Village, sold farmland in Cutchogue, and has an interior lot in Water Mill in contract for a record-setting sum.
An avid golfer, Kelly networks on the links and at private clubs that cater to high-net-worth individuals, while also leveraging social media. “Our track record is from a development standpoint,” he says. “We are always trying to find unique opportunities and outlier listings that can stir the pot a little and do something cool and unique.” 903 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill, 500-9030
Meanwhile, as Wall Streeters, celebrities, and tech entrepreneurs all continue to seek a slice of the luminescent East End landscape, the local real estate market is picking up after what some brokers say was a soft winter. New construction is plentiful in the $1 million to $3 million range. And there is “a lot of pent-up demand” at the high end ($10 million or more), says Breitenbach, who concentrates on the “four pack” buyers who flit between their Manhattan penthouse, their winter home in Miami, their ski chalet in Aspen, and their summer retreat in the Hamptons.
For buyers who want a move-in-ready place, there are $8 million spec homes that come fully furnished, says Jonathan Davis, an associate broker with Brown Harris Stevens. “It brings the homes to life.”
With its flourishing marina and growing contingent of boaters, Sag Harbor is one of the country’s hottest, fastest-appreciating markets, says Alexander. In June in nearby North Haven, Today anchor Matt Lauer scooped up Richard Gere’s 6.2-acre estate for $33 million.
Located within walking distance of the ocean amidst 40 acres of lush farmland, this traditional home at 1051 Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack is listed by Jonathan Davis (above) for $15.75 million.
JONATHAN DAVIS, 27
Brown Harris Stevens
Growing up, Jonathan Davis often accompanied his father, Tim Davis, to work at Allen M. Schneider Associates, which his father purchased and then sold in 2005 to the Corcoran Group. Davis also went with his father on listing appointments and grew to appreciate the lifestyle (including the vacations) that work as a real estate broker afforded.
But the elder Davis wanted his son to first explore his potential and learn what his business skills and strengths were on his own. After studying business management at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Davis worked as an assistant manager at his uncle’s Golden Pear Cafe in Bridgehampton and found he liked sales and helping people. Three years later, his father sat him down and suggested he get his real estate license and join him at Corcoran.
“He threw me into the fire,” says Davis, who worked first as an assistant to learn the ropes. “The only way to learn the business is to wrap yourself in it.” He shared his father’s listings and also brought in new ones.
At the end of last year, Davis branched out on his own, briefly working for Compass before joining Brown Harris Stevens in March, though he continues to co-list exclusives with his father, who is still at Corcoran. “When I’m on my own, it’s not compromising my brand,” he says. “It’s a different way for us to do business as adults.”
Davis, who received his associate broker’s license at the end of July, has also founded On the Inside (otiluxury.com), an ultra-high-end real estate and luxury lifestyle platform that includes a print magazine, a website, and branded events geared to the u?ber-rich of the Hamptons, Palm Beach, Miami, and Los Angeles. Among his current top listings is a sixbedroom Sagaponack home for $15.75 million. 96 Main St., Sag Harbor, 725-2250
Southampton Village is also in demand, says Luisa “Lulu” Keszler of Douglas Elliman, with the south-of-the-highway crowd appreciating its location—“close to beach, close to town”—while buyers seeking more space and land head north of the highway. Inventory is plentiful, making Keszler’s job “easier and harder,” she says. “You have people who have a lot of houses they like, and it takes longer because they have to make up their minds, and that’s not always easy.”
What you get for your buck depends on location, of course. In Southampton Village, $5 million buys a “charming” four-bedroom house on up to three-quarters of an acre, according to Keszler. North of the highway, the same sum fetches a bigger place on an acre or more. A six- or sevenbedroom home in the village typically goes for $10 million, although in the estate section a two-acre parcel of land alone commands $14 million. An oceanfront estate might cost $100 million; something smaller and “a little more reasonable” may be $20 million, she says.
FROM LEFT: Oren & Tal Alexander, In East Hampton, 38 Two Mile Hollow Road, listed by Oren Alexander for $32.888 million, is an eight-bedroom, three-acre estate with a tennis court and its own beachside bungalow; The elegant, Old World-style mansion at 315 Rose Hill Road in Water Mill South, featuring a resort-worthy pool and lounge area, is listed by Oren Alexander (far right) for $29.9 million.
OREN & TAL ALEXANDER, 29 and 30
Top brokers Oren Alexander and his brother Tal, of Douglas Elliman’s 10-member Alexander Team, grew up in a real estate family, with their father building custom luxury homes in Miami Beach and Aspen. Oren got into the business after graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in finance. He also holds a Certificate of Real Estate Development.
“My brother and I represent the new face of real estate brokers,” Alexander says. “It’s no longer people’s second, third, or fourth career. It’s no longer a side job for stay-at-home moms.”
On a list of the country’s top-producing brokers by The Wall Street Journal, the brothers were ranked 16th, fifth in New York and second in Miami. Alexander attributes their success at marketing stellar properties not only to their collab-oration but also to how they approach their clientele.
“We realized early on that there is a synergy between these markets,” he says. Like many of their customers, the brothers are based in New York, summer in the Hamptons, and winter in Miami. “It’s the same people. They’re buying a condo in Miami, a home in the Hamptons, and a penthouse in the city. They appreciate dealing with one person they trust and the experts in those local markets.” Alexander flies between New York, Miami, and the Hamptons weekly and also spends time abroad cultivating foreign buyers.
His top current East End listings include a $32,888,000 seven-bedroom oceanfront estate in East Hampton. He sold one of Florida’s most expensive homes, at $47 million, and recently he headed sales at Faena House, a 16-story luxury condominium building in Miami Beach.
Alexander docks his new 55-foot yacht, appropriately named The A-Team, in Sag Harbor, taking clients for lunch Saturdays and Sundays. Both single, the brothers work 24/7, Alexander says. “We never turn it off. Every aspect of our lives is some way or another helping our business.” 485 Madison Ave., New York, NY, 212-350-8561
When it comes to architecture, modern homes are trending “and will continue to be a mainstay,” says Sam Kelly of Bespoke Real Estate. Buyers want “special and unique, separating themselves from the pack, acquiring real estate that is one-of-a-kind and away from the norm,” such as facing a preserve. Kelly, who networks in the golf community, is assembling a golf compound on five-plus acres in Southampton. His office recently closed on a $67 million home on more than five acres on East Hampton’s Georgica Pond.
“Marketing is key to finding buyers for mega-estates,” says Michael Cantwell, chief marketing officer at Bespoke, which arranges for its brokers to hobnob with the deep-pocketed at private clubs and at fancy dinners in listed mansions.
In Southampton Village, 1471 Meadow Lane is a charming modern threebedroom beach house listed by Lulu Keszler (above) for $5.495 million.
LUISA “LULU” KESZLER, 25
When Lulu Keszler was growing up in Southampton, her parents—who were interested in real estate and developed some waterfront properties—“ would drive down the street real slowly to look at the houses,” she recalls.
In 2005, the year she started high school, her mother, Michaela Keszler, got her real estate license. Later, while majoring in sociology and marketing at the University of Miami, she took classes in real estate development. One summer, Keszler dipped her toes in real estate as an intern for her mother, who had gone on to become a senior associate broker at Douglas Elliman specializing in high-end sales and rentals. “Mom helped a lot,” she says. (Her father, Stephan, is the owner of the popular Keszler Gallery in Southampton.)
After college, Keszler moved to Manhattan, where she felt out the business side of real estate as a marketing coordinator for Douglas Elliman, “but I always had being an agent in mind.” Two years ago she returned to Southampton full-time. “There are not a lot of career opportunities here for year-round,” she says, “but real estate is one of the options.”
Fluent in German, Keszler quickly became the office’s “Rookie of the Year,” helping customers find their dream homes. Initially she shared all her mother’s listings, before taking over the lower-end properties that her mother didn’t have time for. Keszler’s clients were happy and she started getting her own referrals. “Working with my mom gives me a certain amount of credibility and experience that would be hard to come by,” she says. “She has been a great mentor and teacher.”
In the past, Keszler notes, selling real estate was often considered a second career or “a mom job.” “There definitely are more and more young brokers. Like myself, people are picking real estate as an initial career right after college.” Her top current listing is a $15.9 million waterfront home in Water Mill.
These days, Keszler—who gave birth to a daughter, Nadine, in May—catches herself driving slowly down the street, looking at houses. 70 Jobs Ln., Southampton, 204-2758
While young brokers may encounter initial hesitancy from older buyers, the “young money guys want a like-minded contemporary driving them through” who can “see the property through their eyes,” says Cantwell. And new technology is making buyers more savvy, Davis adds. “A lot of brokers are scared to guide their clients,” he says. “Sometimes you have to pump the brakes and manage people’s expectations” through the sales process.
Young or old, the key to success as a real estate broker is building relationships. Davis, who describes himself as a “very social person” his clients want to hang with, puts it this way: “It’s all about connections.”
phoTography by Jake raJs (properTy);
dead on design (breiTenbach)