Gary DePersia: Getting to the Heart of Hamptons Real Estate

Gary DePersia, Hamptons real estate
Gary DePersia has completed $3 billion worth of business throughout his 30 years on the East End.
Madison Fender

Gary DePersia and Hamptons luxury real estate are synonymous. With well over $3 billion worth of business throughout his 30 years on the East End, DePersia is consistently ranked among the top producers in the Hamptons and throughout the country.

It all began with a career in textile brokering. After 20-plus years in Manhattan, he discovered real estate as a new avenue to grow a viable career when he started to plant roots in the Hamptons.

Lured originally to the shore for windsurfing at its height of popularity in 1984, he began visiting the East End as a summer resident.

“That’s really what I came out to do. I really hadn’t spent much time in the Hamptons before the middle ‘80s,” he recalls.

He joined Allan M. Schneider Associates in 1995 and began what would become a highly successful career in real estate.

His textile sales experience made for a smooth transition into real estate. “I did the same thing with fabric that I do with real estate. I would find a buyer and a seller, put them together and make a commission.” he says of his former career.

While the mechanics may have been the same, learning the market took a little bit longer. “I didn’t sell a house for a year,” he remembers. “I did a bunch of rentals, but fortunately I had my other business in the city to keep me going.

Each Tuesday morning, for the first three years, I’d go back into Manhattan to tool my brokering business. Then I’d come back to the Hamptons on Wednesday afternoon to handle my real estate business.”

Gary DePersia, Hamptons real estate
Located on 1.4 acres, this turnkey residence at 349 Daniels Lane in Sagaponack is priced to sell.Bespoke Marketing

By the late 1990s, he was able to transition to real estate full time, becoming one of the most recognizable names in Hamptons real estate.

He describes himself as persistent. “I did not come out to the Hamptons in 1995 to rest or retire. I came out to start a new business — and I was very fortunate.”

DePersia feels his success was due to how he distinguished himself early from other agents in the area.

“I think what really separated me from a lot of the other brokers was my approach to marketing. I realized there was an opportunity to improve the advertising of real estate in the Hamptons. And so, as I started making money, I poured it back into advertising and created a name for myself that way,” DePersia says.

Advertising had been “very bland prior to the early 2000s,” he recalls. “The way it was presented, the dull language, limited imagery, the small amount of advertising, it just wasn’t provocative. So, I changed that a little bit. I started doing much more advertising than had ever been done for a listing or by a broker.

“I started changing the vernacular of how properties were presented by writing imaginative listing copy. I also commissioned professional photography. I was the first broker in the Hamptons with a website and an early adopter of PR and social media. I think buyers and sellers responded to that.”

Clients responded. They started to see his advertising and name everywhere, even in the back seat of yellow taxi cabs. “I think they felt if Gary was willing to put his money where his mouth is, then maybe we should give him a shot at our listing.”

In addition to his comfort in brokering deals, there was another element that catapulted him above others.

“Having worked in the textile field and, basically, the Garment Center for 20-some-odd years, I was very attuned to the New York mentality. Nothing really flustered me. You couldn’t insult me. You couldn’t rile me. I had been insulted by the best of them,” he says with a laugh. “New Yorkers wanting what they want, when they want it — I was very much at home with that.”

In the mid-1990s, the brokers’ book of business did not have the far reach across the entire South Fork as many do today. Instead, they would refer clients to brokers in other hamlets.

“I realized early on that not everyone wanted to come as far east as East Hampton where I had my office. I thought to myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to refer all that business further west to other brokers.’

“So, I started learning the inventory in all the towns and villages, thus building a business which covered the entire South Fork, from Southampton to Montauk and eventually from Sagaponack to Shelter Island. And while I was bringing my buyers to other brokers’ listings, I found my own houses to sell in those areas, which became my exclusive listings, and that helped build my business considerably.”

His transition into real estate was fortuitous because the textile brokering business was dying. “I  came to this just in time,” he says. “I’m very fortunate that 29-plus years ago I found this, because it certainly has changed my life. It’s given me a much more interesting career along with the opportunity to live in the Hamptons. Every day I deal with some of the most fascinating people and the most amazing properties in the world.

He has most enjoyed the diversity of the listings.

“It is such a different experience to show a house in the Springs in the morning, an oceanfront house in Southampton in the afternoon, a little cottage rental one day, and a major estate for sale the next,” he says.

The Corcoran Group purchased Allan M. Schneider Associates in 2006, and he stayed, seeing it as an opportunity on a larger platform to promote his business.

“Corcoran gives me great support,” he says. “I was able to build a brand within a brand, which I think has been a big key to my success, even as times have changed.

Gary DePersia, hamptons real estate
DePerisa has consistently been among the top producers in the Hamptons.Eric Striffler | Corcoran

Have the way homes are sold changed?

The way of selling a home has changed considerably in the last two decades. DePersia recalls how in the mid-1990s, before the major growth of the Internet and digital photography, photos of properties were taken, developed and sent to buyers overnight via FedEx.

“Today, you can pick up your cell phone, pull up the database, and see anything that you want and fast. I can send listings out of my phone or my laptop to prospective buyers, renters, sellers and landlords.

“Another part of the business that’s changed dramatically is how buyers shop for real estate. Years ago, you would have put someone in your car, and you would drive them around to see a group of houses. They would come out multiple times to collaborate with you until they found a house,” he says.

“And that still exists today. Yet often, people do not necessarily want to see listings from just one broker. Because everything is visible online, they often prefer to go from listing broker to listing broker to see the assorted options. That’s changed the business dramatically, though I believe in the benefits of working with one broker who can streamline and navigate a search to the buyer’s advantage.”

Are there any ways that it has stayed the same?

“You still have to do the work,” he says with a laugh.

“When you get a listing, you still must dissect it, present it, make sure that all the brokers understand it, and that the buying public knows about it. That is still the same as it was back in 1995. There’s also friendly competition between brokers which was the case when I first joined the industry.”

There are also many more agents in the Hamptons than years ago. Still, DePersia has remained one of the busiest.

His team includes three in-house people and three people who work on his marketing, social media and public relations. “I couldn’t do my business without them,” he says.

Associate broker Mary Denny has been with him the longest, since 2007. Danielle Wilson, a salesperson who joined him around 2013, brings great local knowledge as a native East Ender. Polina Kutaeva just joined the team.

John Lasurdo, who DePersia knew from their days at Allan Schneider, manages much of the marketing and advertising, and created DePersia’s website at Suzee Foster brings her public relations expertise. Danielle Gingerich runs social media.

“It’s a cliché, but it takes a village,” DePersia says. “And in real estate, if you try to do it all on your own, especially if you have a large book of business, you will fail. When you have a sizeable book of listings and buyers, you cannot be in two places at once. You need a team to organize, plan open houses and show those properties. It is very important to have a team when you’re a high-end broker in any market, whether it’s the Hamptons or anywhere else.”

Gary DePersia, Hamptons real estate
Located on 1.4 acres, this turnkey residence at 349 Daniels Lane in Sagaponack is priced to sell.Bespoke Marketing

Today’s Market

Today’s market is an interesting one, as DePersia points out, in part because there is so much less inventory. “COVID was a big part of that, but there continues to be less inventory in any price range and location. So what happens is there are more brokers vying for less listings, and less properties for buyers to look at. That said, if a buyer truly wants to find something, there is a property here for them.”

Still, he is confident about the East End market in 2024. “The Hamptons are going to remain strong. People want to be here.”

“One of the things that has changed dramatically since I started coming out East in the ‘80s, is the volume of people here off season. Up until the late ‘90s there were not many people here in the winter. People would close their houses going as far as to drain their pipes so they didn’t have to run the heat in the winter,” he remembers. “Today, over the last 15, 20 years, the Hamptons have become much more of a country getaway than just a beach getaway. Some people never go to the beach. They are glad it’s there, glad they can take a walk on it, but their life doesn’t necessarily focus on the beach. Just like if you live in the city, it is nice that you have museums, Broadway and ballet, but your life doesn’t necessarily revolve around that either.”

People are using their second homes year-round more than ever before. “Now the restaurants are open, the shops are open. They have colleagues and friends who are out here, have dinner and lunches with them and play dates for their kids’ off-season. There are golf matches, off-season, and tennis matches, too. There is much more for them to do in the Hamptons off-season than there ever was before.”

By extension, people’s motivation to buy a house has changed. “You are still going to go to Aspen. You are still going to go to Miami or Palm Beach. You are still going to go to St. Barts or Europe. But very often, when you are in the city, and you’re not flying anywhere, you might wake up on a Saturday morning and say, ‘Hey honey, let’s go out to the beach.’ Yes, they still say the beach!”

With the advent of hybrid workplaces, there is also the option to come out Thursday night and go back Monday afternoon. “People spend more time out here because they can. That’s given more motivation to own or rent houses here.”

DePersia’s newest listing at 139 Old Barn Lane in Sagg offers immense potential in a prime location.

What about the rental market for summer 2024?

“I started doing rentals early, last fall for Summer 2024. Some people re-rented the same house, others looked for new properties. “I think the rental market will be strong, especially with the lack of inventory of houses to buy.

I am not saying you can’t find a house to buy here — there’s plenty and no reason why you can’t own in the Hamptons. However, some people are looking for something very specific, they do not want to compromise and rent instead. Others don’t have the bandwidth to buy a house. They don’t want to take care of it. They don’t want to be responsible for it.

They want to get the keys by Memorial Day and give them back on Labor Day or whatever their two-week or two-month rental window is going to be.

DePersia says that renting for different periods of time, or “a la carte variations of the season,” and not necessarily the whole summer, began with the downturn of the market in 2008. “People wanted the same level house, but they didn’t want to spend the same amount of money.”

It has continued through today.

“There’s plenty of rental inventory right now. I still have some terrific ones I represent for all time frames this summer, in all price ranges, and in all villages,” DePersia says while cautioning not to wait too long.

People are also buying now, even though it’s the off-season.

“I always laugh when I get a listing and the seller says to me, as happened again recently, ‘The landscaping is not going to be so good. The pool is closed. The leaves are brown. The grass is dormant. Maybe we should wait till April or May to list the house,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I tell them the most motivated buyers are those buyers looking to be in for the summer. If you don’t list your house until April or May, you’ve missed that market or at least a large pool of buyers who will have already made a decision.

He has sold plenty of houses in the middle of winter when there’s snow on the ground. “One my favorite stories is of a renter I ran into over the holidays in Aspen at the Little Nell in 2016. He wanted an August rental. He finally came out to look in February. He didn’t love what he saw initially so I bumped him up in price range. Ultimately, he fell in love with a major estate done by James Michael Howard that I had for sale and for rent. He calls me the next day and said he had good news and bad news. The bad news? He didn’t want to rent it. The good news? He wanted to buy it instead. In the middle of winter, with snow on the ground, pool closed and landscaping dormant.”

Situated on an iconic East Hampton street, 21 Middle Lane was built to exacting standards.David Kleinberg Design

Listings to Love

Among his most recent listings is a house on Middle Lane in East Hampton, completely renovated by David Kleinberg, a well-known interior designer, for exacting owners. “It was a total gut renovation. And it is a gorgeous house that sits on an acre, on very quiet Middle Lane, on the Egypt Lane side, close to the village and beach. It is priced at $12,950,000. The furniture is for sale too.

One of his favorite exclusive listings is on Daniel’s Lane in Sagaponack and available. Designed by the noted architects Fleetwood & McMullen, and built by Men at Work Construction with landscaping by Edmund Hollander, it sits a stone’s throw from Peter’s Pond Beach.

“It’s just a beautifully done traditional house on 1.4 acres with a gorgeous pool and wonderful interiors,” he says, adding it just saw a price improvement to $13,495,000. “The house can also be expanded.

In fact, the owners are getting plans and permits done if any future buyer should want more space. He also recently listed what he calls “a vintage house” on 1.7 acres on Old Barn Lane in Sagaponack.

“What’s interesting about this property is the backyard faces west-southwest. So, it has an exceptional daylight orientation.” Built in 1990, “It is a very usable house with a heated Gunite pool though most buyers are likely to plan a new house here.

The property can support an almost 7,000-square-foot above grade plus a finished lower level — so maybe 10,000 square feet total on three levels with a pool, pool house and a tennis court. The bonus of buying now is you could use it this summer while those plans come to fruition, begin construction in the Fall, and save hundreds of thousands on a rental.

He says, “With little new construction in the Hamptons right now, a savvy buyer can convert this property to a brand-new estate with tennis, in a beautiful spot, on a quiet street in prime Sagaponack South. You could also be in for well below $20 million were you to buy this exceptionally located property and build a new house.”

The ask is $8.45 million.

Imagining the possibilities and knowing what is possible is what makes Gary DePersia and Hamptons luxury real estate synonymous.

This article appeared as the cover story for the Feb. 16, 2024, issue of Behind The Hedges magazine. Read the full digital version of the magazine online