Real Estate Roundtable: Here’s to Hope and Health in 2021

Woman tourist at the beach near Montauk Lighthouse
Montauk Lighthouse in the autumn, Photo: haveseen/123rf

This year was challenging in countless ways, but there were also moments of hope, promise and progress here on the East End. Looking back at 2020, our gathering of real estate experts and insiders reflect on what they remember as some of the most notable aspects of the year that has passed—either within the real estate market or beyond— and what they are most looking forward to as we head into the new year.

“For years I have touted the ‘safe haven’ aspect of the Hamptons. Those buzz words have become the reality for how we have survived the past eight months living on the East End of Long Island. New York City shutting down due to a pandemic caused so many to pause and pivot their life plans, acting quickly to secure the ideal rental or sale for their immediate lifestyle needs. A career of 40 years built on trust and success positioned me as one of the ‘go to’ market experts for providing valuable insight and advice to a multitude of new customers and clients. There has never been a more critical time in the Hamptons real estate market for the need of expert counsel from the top real estate professional. I feel fortunate to have been able to provide this service to so many during this challenging time in our lives. 2021 offers us a different set of unknowns, which presents challenges and the excitement of new opportunities. I find myself uniquely positioned to handle both. Happy new year!” – Tim Davis, The Corcoran Group

“In 2020, my wife and I were blessed to welcome our third daughter into the world. She was born at the end of February and we came home from the hospital and went right into a pandemic lockdown. My two other daughters are 3 and 4. I was home, trying to run a real estate business and a seven-person sales team in the middle of the pandemic while home with three under five. Despite the challenges and stress, there was beauty in the chaos. I think the pandemic slowed the world down and really made us look at our families and be grateful for what we have. On the real estate end of things, it is just really nice to see people appreciate the off-season of the Hamptons as much as I do, and lots of people do who live here year-round. I love the Hamptons. I love it year-round. It is just nice to see that I am not the only one and actually it’s a major trend!” – Matt Breitenbach, Compass 

“2020 was one for the record books on so many levels. The highlight for me personally was the birth of my granddaughter, Ryann Smith, and watching her, and my son Drew and his wife Bethany, grow into amazing parents! Businesswise, we went from a total lockdown to leasing homes at numbers never seen before—and doing it sight unseen. Agents worked seven days a week for months and administrative staff adapted to remote working from home to satisfy the demand for their services. Suffice to say, the East End real estate community and ancillary services went above and beyond to accommodate the influx of tenants and buyers who desperately wanted to share our freedom and fresh air. These newcomers will add to the melting pots of our beautiful hamlets in ways yet to be seen. I look forward to many contributing to our local charities and school boards, bringing new foodie places to congregate with family and friends. This new evolution is exciting to watch. I am so very hopeful for the future of our communities as the world repairs from the COVID crisis. The resiliency of Americans is a beautiful thing to watch.” – Judi Desiderio, Town & Country Real Estate

“I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue doing what I love throughout 2020, which is sell real estate in the Hamptons. I consider myself lucky to live through these unprecedented times, during which I have developed new relationships and cultivated those already existing, both professional and personal. The world is changing, and with change comes opportunity. Although real estate in the Hamptons is very healthy, there are also many in need. Whatever 2021 may bring, I look forward to facing it fearlessly with the underlying goal of making a positive contribution, both as a real estate professional and a compassionate member of our community.” – Jennifer Reiner, Hampton Estates Realty

“For me it was seeing the community react in such a positive and proactive way to the crisis. I felt like everyone really came together in the Hamptons and said to themselves, “We will get through this together.” It showed at Saunders. We started a GoFundMe page for the local food pantries and nearly all of the agents at the firm donated, raising nearly $60,000. This crisis has really made me realize how lucky we are to be on the East End. In terms of the future, with the vaccine now here, I’m really hopeful that we will be able to go back to a sense of normalcy where we can socialize without fear and can feel like this is behind us. I never thought I’d miss open house events and in-person office gatherings so much! At Saunders we have an amazing Christmas party every year and other great company events that I literally cannot wait to start going to again.”    Vincent Pescatore, Saunders & Associates

“My mantra for 2020 has been “Change brings opportunity.” It’s been a crazy time but I feel fortunate that my pandemic pivot has brought me so much joy, personally and professionally. I’ve changed jobs and joined The Enzo Morabito Team at Douglas Elliman—the best decision ever—have started a new business with Hamptons Spa Sand and returned to a former passion by hosting Right Now! On the East End at LTV. And I just got engaged to the love of my life. Big year! I am so filled with gratitude, which fuels my desire even more to help others wherever and whenever possible. A rising tide lifts all boats.” – Dawn Watson, Douglas Elliman Real Estate 

“2020 has presented enormous challenges for so many, and the uncertainty that we all experienced in March and April will not be soon forgotten. But there were definitely silver linings—we were so heartened to see the community come together to raise funds to purchase important equipment for Southampton Hospital, and we will forever be inspired by the example of our friend, a professional chef, who cooked and delivered thousands of free meals each week to the essential workers of the East End. Almost everyone we knew participated in small but meaningful acts to help their friends and neighbors. In real estate, we have been fortunate that the market was very strong in the Hamptons throughout the spring and summer, and we expect that trend to continue. We have been privileged to be able to help many of our clients find that sense of stability and security that comes with hearth and home. It’s one of the reasons we love what we do. What are we looking forward to in the new year? Hugs with friends.” – Jonathan Smith and Lawrence Ingolia, Sotheby’s International Realty 

“Looking back at 2020, what I will remember as some of the most notable aspects of the year past within the real estate market is how incredibly it thrived in the midst of the most significant crisis in my lifetime and the way in which it was bursting at the seams, awaiting its phase to resume. Beyond the market, the most notable aspect I will remember is the courage, caring, selflessness, commitment and compassion endlessly demonstrated by the frontline workers. Thank you!” – Horrace R. Barrow, Nest Seekers International 

“Watching the community come together, not just social distanced but social-minded. Lots of people helping other people—including Compass brokers reaching out to me to help with my transition to Compass. I really felt like I joined a considerate community. For 2021 I see the light at the end of this COVID tunnel. Summer 2021 is going to be a party like 1999— maybe even 1969.” – David Cox, Compass