"My passion for real estate began when I was in my early twenties and I became involved in the field as a small-scale investor and developer," says Jonathan Smith, Licensed Salesperson with Sotheby's International Realty. "For over fifteen years, in addition to other professional work, I bought, renovated and sold properties throughout New York State. To fuel this interest, I studied Interior Design and Real Estate Finance at both the Parsons School of Design and NYU. The creative element of the work really inspired me and from there I discovered my passion for the profession as a whole."
"I'm a sailor so I spend a lot of time wandering around the boats on the wharf in Sag Harbor," says Smith, who calls Sag Harbor home, and works out of the Southampton office of Sotheby's International Realty. "My family and I are very food-centric and we love many of the restaurants on the East End. The Bell & Anchor and Almond are probably stand-outs in terms of our favorite dinner spots. For pure atmosphere, nothing can beat the bar of the American Hotel. I also love the Village Cheese Shop in Southampton, where we can pick up supplies for the occasional fondue with friends."
Smith lives and breathes real estate and tells Hamptons.com, "I love real estate and I love looking at properties with customers and clients. I truly believe that success comes when you love what you do. I'm not sure I would call that a 'specialty' but I do think that character is tremendously important in this business: I am proud to work for a great brand, I am diligent in knowing the inventory and I love working with people on anything real estate related. I also have a great eye for renovations and design, so I can be helpful to prospective buyers who may have difficulty seeing beyond the current décor of a listing, or to sellers who are looking to renovate and stage for a sale."
Smith is one half of a real estate team with colleague Michael Conroy, a thirteen-year veteran. "Michael has a strong record of success over many years in Hamptons real estate and from him I continue to learn a great deal about the nuances of the business, the market history and how hard work plays a significant role in the development of a successful agent," says Smith. "To those guiding principles I add my own energy and enthusiasm; experience as an investor, developer and designer; and a professional background in marketing that I utilize for the benefit of our clients. There are many good agents in the Hamptons, but we offer the unique combination of an energized and hungry new professional and an experienced veteran, working with the support of the greatest brand in the world for luxury real estate."
If "location" is the first rule in real estate, what is the second? Why?
Pricing. It is imperative that a listing be priced well from the start. If a property is listed too far above the market value in an attempt to be aggressive, the strategy will backfire and could ultimately lead to a significantly lower sale price. We know from experience that listings receive the most attention during their initial weeks on the market. A poorly priced property might miss this window of opportunity and languish on the market for a longer period of time, losing momentum and interest.
The Hamptons market has the high-end luxury section with homes well over $7 million and the flip side with homes under $500,000, plus all of the great homes in between. Where are the buyers right now?
The Hamptons market is very strong right now in the two extremes of the market, that is, over $10 million and under $2 million. As many newspapers have pointed out lately, the strong year on Wall Street has led to a boom of activity in the sale of waterfront properties and other properties in estate sections throughout the towns. But we are also seeing significant growth in the starter-home segments of the market, where younger professionals are looking to get a toe-hold in the area. With that said, it is a great time to purchase a property at any price point in the Hamptons - there are few areas in the country that can offer the stability and growth of our market, there are so many talented and quality builders in our area and interest rates are at historic levels that we may never see again.
What is your forecast for the summer/fall real estate season in the Hamptons?
I expect to be very busy throughout the season and heading into the fall. The sales market is very strong.
What are the emerging trends in architecture?
I see a great number of contemporary homes being built in this market, including spec houses. Of course, the traditional style continues to be in high demand but it is also refreshing to see homes with glass walls, floating staircases and fabulous polished concrete floors.
When it comes to unique features and amenities, homes in the Hamptons have it all. What are some of your favorites/amenities that really stand out?
It is true that new and renovated homes in the Hamptons have so many great amenities, and builders and designers keep pushing the envelope in this respect. We have become so accustomed to these features that we take some of them for granted, as is the case with the home theater: the home theater is now almost a prerequisite of any luxury listing in the Hamptons. Now, other features have to be added to set new listings apart. One of my listings has a cacophony of special features, including: a racquetball court; an elevator; a bocce ball court; a steam room; a cinema; an indoor/outdoor jacuzzi with a massive motorized glass wall, television and fireplace all linked to a remote control. One of my rental listings has a retractable glass roof in the cathedral ceiling of the living room that closes automatically if it starts to rain. I love that.
Which towns/villages are the most sought-after right now?
Southampton has been very strong over the last year, with total sales volume increasing 54% from 2012 to 2013, and I think that trend will continue. Sag Harbor is also very hot right now. Another interesting trend is the growth in value and interest north of the highway. We are seeing more and more people looking for larger homes with all the amenities at the lower price point that north of the highway locations offer.
What is so special about the Hamptons real estate market?
We have everything here! The Hamptons are a fantastic place to live, either for the summer or year-round. We offer something for everyone: we have some of the most amazing ocean beaches in the world as well as calm boating waters in the Bay; we offer luxury brand stores and fantastic antique markets; we are an amazing culinary destination and we also have wonderful little local farm stands; you can lose yourself in a quiet afternoon by the pool and attend glittering parties by night. We also have some of the best golf clubs in the world. There are few places on Earth like the Hamptons, and we offer all of this within a short drive to New York City. You can buy a house elsewhere but you can't bring the Hamptons lifestyle with you.
Tell us about one of your favorite listings on the market right now.
I have a fantastic listing for sale in Sag Harbor right now. It has over 7000 square feet of space with a water view and all of the amenities. It is a very unique house, built in the Tuscan style, with a beautiful clay tile roof and porches and patios that surround the house and provide numerous spots for outdoor living and entertaining. The house has four bedrooms each with sumptuous bathrooms and radiant floor heating. The master suite spans the width of the house, with a large bathroom, walk-in closet and a fireplace. You can see this and other listings on my website at www.extraordinaryhamptons.com