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Hamptons Real Estate Entrepreneurs Find Opportunity In A Time Of Crisis

Originally Posted: January 20, 2011

Nicole A. Flotteron

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Southampton - In April 1959, in an address delivered in Indianapolis, John F. Kennedy stated, "When written in Chinese the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity." For Hamptons based entrepreneurs Lawrence Citarelli, Jr. of First Hampton Realty and Joe Kazickas of Rosehip Partners and Andrew Saunders of Saunders Associates, the economic crisis that began in the fall of 2008 and spanned the globe, was nothing short of an unprecedented business opportunity.

Lawrence Citarelli, Jr. of First Hampton International Realty is optimistic about the state of the real estate market and hopeful for the future. (Courtesy Photo: FHIR)

Having turned their backs on those who feared the worst, these contrarians decided to transform a time of terror, into a time of triumph, through the formation of three unique, innovative, Hamptons based real estate firms which have thrived in a sour market. "Everyone was telling me I was crazy," said Citarelli of beginning his business, "When the whole world is saying the world is coming to an end, you leg in. When the whole world is saying this is great and it's never going to end, something is wrong. The majorities are always wrong. They are contraindications. When every economist is predicting the same thing, you can bet your bottom dollar they're wrong." So where are these three men and their businesses now? And what are their plans and hopes for the future?

Lawrence Citarelli of First Hampton International Realty

It has been more than two years since Citarelli first founded First Hampton International Realty (FHIR), based in Westhampton Beach. In that time, FHIR has become the number one listing agency west of the Shinnecock Canal according to MLS data. Their 600 to 700 listings span the globe, with properties represented in Russia, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Panama, Italy, and of course, the Hamptons.

FHIR is more than just a listings agency; it is three companies in one. Comprised of a design and construction company, a development company, and a five star boutique full service real estate company, all three entities come together to form the multifaceted firm, First Hampton International Realty. "I think the model is continuing to show that it's the right form," said Citarelli.

Perhaps what's most interesting about FHIR are the values and beliefs that encompass everything the company does. "The fundamental business principal that we live our life on is karma. I think that the way one does business and lives their lives definitively affects their personal and their business success," explained Citarelli.

Joe Kazickas of Rosehip Partners has entered the rental market, one of the most under-served sectors of the real estate market in our area. (Courtesy Photo: Rosehip Partners)

A portion of every project's return on investment is donated to a humanitarian effort that benefits children. "It stems from the core fundamental belief that doing right and living a good life from a karma perspective comes back to you," said Citarelli of his philanthropic work. Recently, Citarelli was presented an award by the President of the Dominican Republic as a result of the humanitarian work he did there while constructing and developing new properties.

Citarelli has high hopes for the economy, and believes we are definitively in the recovery stage. "The market is rebounding. I think that people are done being scared; I think that money is definitely coming off the sidelines. It is a fantastic time to buy while we are turning the corner and heading toward the light," said Citarelli of the economic state of the country. "I think that we'll start to see slow, steady, continued growth."

Citarelli and FHIR have big plans for the future, including expanding their hospitality presence, acquiring assets at home and abroad, and continuing to reach out to the community. "I don't know of any other firm in the Hamptons or on Long Island that offers the myriad of lifestyle services that we do, over and above the traditional transactional real estate business. We're doing it so completely different and cutting edge. We're so humble in our successes and appreciative of our opportunities," said Citarelli.

Joe Kazickas of Rosehip Partners

Kazickas and his team, consisting of managing broker and founder James Young, and licensed sales associate and founder Lisa Levitin, founded Rosehip Partners in order to create a more efficient, user friendly, and technological alternative model to traditional real estate operations. Rosehip's initial activities revolved around rentals, which Kazickas views as one of the most underserved areas in the Hamptons real estate market. In the two years since their founding, Rosehip's focus has been on research and development, and building new state of the art websites.

Last month, two new websites, version 2 of www.hamptonsrentals.com, and www.hamptonsproperties.com, the company's portal website serving both the resale and rental markets, were launched, and Kazickas' expectations for the future are bright. During the course of 2010, the company had five active brokers, and completed nearly 150 real estate transactions. "It worked out well," said Kazickas, "The system did what it's supposed to do which is to generate leads for us. Now that we have the next version of the site up, we expect even better this year."

James Young of Rosehip Partners is looking forward to the future after last month's launch of two new websites. (Courtesy Photo: Rosehip Partners)

Kazickas uses the Internet as the businesses primary platform, and as a way to build and develop client relationships. "We're targeting market share. We think that if you can establish dominance in the internet space then you'll get market share," he explained. The business is lead generation, and it is the backend platform of the website that is most important at Rosehip. "It is certainly alternative because we're really focused on a backend platform where agents can collaborate with users who set up online accounts," explained Young.

Kazickas has tapped into the rental niche because he believes that it is the single most important form of real estate activity for agents and brokers in the long run. "Most people who buy houses out here are usually renters first, most landlords who own properties eventually become sellers" he said, "If you can get them onto your internet platform then you can have a real advantage looking down the road because you'll convert these tenants into buyers."

With the launch of their new websites, the stars are aligned for Rosehip Partners, and they have plans for expansion in the future. "We're covering the whole East End now, and we own a couple of domains that we're starting to build viable sites for including one for the North Fork," said Young.

User friendly, simplicity and value is key at Rosehip, and they work to ensure that their site is as content rich as possible. "It's going really great and we're looking forward to the future because we're very passionate about what we do. We are creating value. The business we are building now, will operate independently of me and my partners for a long, long time," said Kazickas. Beside two new state of the art websites and a sophisticated back end platform, Rosehip has also launched an iPhone application where users can browse properties on the go.

Andrew Saunders of Saunders Associates

Andrew Saunders opened the doors to Saunders Associates, an alternative to the corporate Hamptons real estate business, in October 2008, in the midst of an economic whirlwind. "It was frightening that there was no clarity about the future and when we were going to come out of this unprecedented downturn. To have a vision about a business at that moment in time really made you question your plan," said Saunders, "Thankfully we stuck with it and it's really extraordinary to be where we are today given where we were back then."

Saunders Associates offers a variety of services and listings, including this beautiful estate in Sagaponack. (Courtesy Photo: Saunders)

For Saunders, the creation of Saunders Associates was a consequence of the corporatization that has occurred in the real estate brokerage business in the last decade. "When I started developing out here in the mid 90s and then worked later as a broker starting in 2001, Hamptons real estate was a sort of mom and pop industry. It was decentralized and idiosyncratic and quirky, but it was profitable," explained Saunders, "It caught the attention of many non-Hamptons real estate players who came in, recognized the value of these firms and bought many of them up and consolidated them in a way that in my view was inefficient and unsuccessful."

Saunders views his new firm as the antithesis of the typical corporate model of rivals Sotheby's, Corcoran and Coldwell Banker. His model is all about the broker. "Our model is certainly more expensive to run than others, but the idea of it is that by empowering brokers and enhancing their business, you'll attract more successful brokers," explained Saunders. The Internet is an important platform for Saunders, and he takes an aggressive approach to dominating the Internet space. "Our whole advertising and marketing approach is more nuanced and more rarified and more skillful," said Saunders, who has purchased over 3,000 street name URL addresses, all of which redirect to the Saunders Associates website, "Clearly our efforts are fairly sophisticated and aggressive."

In terms of the economic recovery, Saunders is cautiously optimistic: "I think that the last quarter of 2010 was a very, very solid quarter. Stability in the Hamptons definitely returned in the second half of 2010 and we really started to build in the fourth quarter," expressed Saunders, "Based on our bookings this year, it is clear that 2011 is going to be a constructive year for Hamptons real estate."

Saunders is looking toward the future for his business, and believes in the future of Hamptons real estate. "We broke even in our fifth quarter of operation which was the fourth quarter of 2009. We made our first profit in our sixth quarter of operation, which was the first quarter of 2010, and we haven't looked back since," he said. Saunders seeks to create a degree of luxury and authenticity in his model, and he believes that it resonates with both luxury homeowners, and more modestly priced property owners alike. With over a billion dollars in listings, and a new office opening in Southampton in May, and an East Hampton office to follow, the future is bright for Saunders Associates.

For more information on First Hampton International Realty, visit www.firsthamptonrealty.com.

For more information on Rosehip Partners, visit www.rosehippartners.com.

Fore more information on Saunders Associates, visit hamptonsrealestate.com.

Lawrence Citarelli, Jr. with the President of the Dominican Republic after receiving an award for his humanitarian efforts. (Courtesy Photo: FHIR)

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Guest (Guest) from riverhead says::
By "the system", presumably part of that is the MLSLI IDX feed being used to provide listings to your website (s). What a difference a true property feed makes for smaller brokers (2 of the 3 above)- the websites of all three look great, but those with an MLSLI property provide the most properties to view, along with great exposure on your site for sellers, and a worthwhile visit for your buyers. Hopefully, all smaller brokers will see the value.
Jan 22, 2011 11:37 am


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