Welcome to our new feature in which we interview local personalities: agents, architects, interior designers, builders, anyone who plays a part in the world of Hamptons real estate. Want to get in on the fun? Drop us a line!
A French native, Jean-Marc Zarka is a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman’s Westhampton Beach office. He lives in Remsenburg and enjoys yoga, golf, fishing and riding motorcycles.
What did you do before you were a real estate agent?
I was the founder and CEO of a global fashion company, Vertigo, based in NYC. I sold the brand after 22 years. Having kept a house in the Hamptons since the ’80s, I absolutely loved being out East! I wanted to switch to an activity that would allow me to live out here full time.
How does your former occupation help you in your current position?
Real estate, just like fashion, is a very competitive business. Both require marketing skills, deep product knowledge and awareness of the competing brands. Aesthetics are another common trait. They say the clothes make the man, but someone’s home is also a reflection of its owner. My customer base in real estate also comes from my former profession, as the proximity of the Hamptons to New York City, the fashion capital of the world, attracts the most affluent and discriminating customers on the planet. Lastly, while building a multimillion-dollar global company, I got to travel extensively throughout the world. The high-net-worth people I met also had something in common: no matter where you go in Europe, Asia or the Middle East, everyone has heard of the Hamptons, would like to vacation here, or dreams of someday owning a home here.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
Besides my thick French accent, I think that what makes me stand out from the crowd is my international sales and marketing background. I also have learned over the years to become a better listener. When meeting people in a social setting I don’t talk at them about real estate. Instead, I engage them by conversing about everything else. I respect the fact that these people are out here enjoying their weekend or vacation. The last thing they want when they go out is to hear someone pitching them about selling or buying a home. People invest in people first, so getting them to know me, I feel, is very important.
What is the thing you like most about being in real estate?
Real estate is fun! I love meeting new people and visiting new homes. You never know who you are going to meet or what property you are going to discover on an almost daily basis. That’s what makes it so exciting! I met people last summer who turned out to become really good friends of mine. I also forged new friendships with fellow agents who have been amazingly helpful and inspiring to me.
What’s the most surprising thing?
The most surprising thing about real estate is how many agents are out there competing for a such a relatively small amount of properties. I was also surprised to see how few take full advantage of all the resources made available to them by their firm: Douglas Elliman has been incredibly supportive of me whenever I ask for help. They have provided me with all the tools I need to grow my brand.
If you could teach a real estate class to buyers and sellers, what would be the title of it and why?
“Sellers: it’s time to move on. Buyers, it’s time to move in.”
Buying or selling a home is a very emotional decision. Sellers, understandably, are attached to their homes. I would like to teach them that the minute they decided to sell their home, it became a house. With the ultimate goal of a sale, it’s best to remember that selling is a business transaction. As for buyers, they can be scared to pull the trigger on what could be the largest purchase of their lifetime. If they want to make the house they like their home, buyers need to quash that hesitation. At the end of their successful journey, they’ll have a place where they can start building many memories for years to come.