Jennifer Ponzini was brought up to work hard and to lend others a helping hand. Those are attributes that she and her husband not only instill in their three children, but that the Compass broker brings to her work, especially during what was one of the busiest years in Hamptons real estate.
In 2020 alone, she was responsible for $45 million in sales. So far this year, she has sold $73 million.
“I work hard. I work diligently and I’m very precise. I love what I do,” Ponzini says of her real estate career that has spanned more than a decade. “That’s really important. If you don’t like your job, how successful can you be?”
Ponzini is a native Long Islander. She was born and raised in Nassau County, the daughter of a Greek father and an Italian mother. Her childhood was centered around Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul. She even attended Greek summer camp in Greece.
It was during one of those trips abroad, when she was 16, that her father told her she had to get “a real job” when she returned to West Hempstead. “So I get off the plane and go home. The next day he wakes me up and says you have to start work today,” she recalls. “Jet-lagged and everything,” off to work she went at a family friend’s title company.
“We didn’t have a choice,” she laughed. That was the work ethic her parents instilled in her.
She worked there all the way through St. John’s University School of Law. She started in the mail room and worked her way up.
She had plans to become a teacher and got her bachelor’s degree in American Literature and Secondary Education at Hofstra University. After graduating early, she enrolled in law school by the age of 20, following her father and brother into the legal profession.
After she earned her Juris Doctorate and passed the New York State Bar, she went to work for a prominent law firm specializing in insurance defense litigation. But, she always had one toe in real estate. She held an associate broker’s license since 2009. She also has a broker’s license in Florida, where she and her husband now have a home in Palm Beach Gardens.
Her foray into real estate really began when she was a kid, helping her father who owned multiple rental properties in Richmond Hill, Queens. He always involved his children in his landlord duties. “We would collect the rents, we would help the tenants,” she says.
Ponzini stopped working full time in law when she had her third child, and when she and her husband, whom she met at 16 working in a flea market, decided to relocate to Sag Harbor. When he got a job opportunity in estate management, she decided to go in a new direction.
She had still been practicing law, undertaking real estate closings and working as a foreclosure referee, but real estate afforded her flexibility as a mother with young children. As her children have gotten older — Alexandra, almost 17, Anthony, almost 16, and Steven, almost 14 — she’s been able to delve even deeper.
Ponzini loves what she does and brings extensive knowledge of title issues, contract negotiations and real estate closing matters to her work. “It’s interesting to me,” she says. “It’s not just selling a home, the property as a whole is interesting to me. Maybe it has to do with the title work I did.”
She enjoys the nitty gritty details. Researching each property is a part of it she enjoys, such as delving into the zoning and what can be done on each property. “I don’t just list the property,” she says, adding she will make a list of questions she has and then dig for the answers.
“There’s no stupid questions. If you don’t have the answers then you have to find them,” she says.
Real estate also allowed her to find time to get involved in the community. She served on the Sag Harbor Elementary School Parent Teacher Association as a board member, and later as president. She went on to serve five years on the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals.
Asked what drives her to be so active in the community, she says it’s how she was raised. “We grew up with the community. My dad was a little league coach, through the church we helped at the soup kitchen,” she says.
“It’s just a nice thing to do. I like to give back. You don’t know their story,” she says.
She also loves “the community feel” in Sag Harbor, the peacefulness and the tranquility here. There is nothing she enjoys more than sitting on her deck in the summer. She brings her laptop outside and works by the pool with her dogs at her feet and the birds chirping in the background.
“It was one of my best years, however, it was a crazy year — with the kids’ school and online school, being on top of them with that, and being concerned about our family,” during the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.
She was worried about healthcare workers and teachers, she says of the stressful time. Plus, she was worried about keeping her clients safe while they looked feverishly for places out east.
During the height of the pandemic, she worked with people to find them places outside of the city. “They needed help. They wanted the best for their families, and they were seeking something we had out here that they didn’t have,” she explains. You can hear the stress in their voices — they needed something for their families or themselves.”
“It was a very difficult year, I would say, emotionally.”
While the mad scramble has eased this summer, now comes the wait for more inventory, she says. “We are in a holding pattern,” she says. “This is a totally different market than it was a couple of months ago.”
This article appeared in the July 2021 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the digital version here.