Town & Country’s Hal Zwick on Adapting the Real Estate Market to a New Normal

Hal Zwick, Photo: Courtesy Town & Country Real Estate

How do you buy and sell in the age of social distancing? Town & Country Real Estate’s Director of Commercial Real Estate and Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Hal Zwick talks about the current state of the market and how buyers and sellers can still make it work in this ever-changing time.

What is your history with the Hamptons?
I am a New York City native who moved out to East Hampton 22 years ago. I raised my son here and totally take advantage of the outdoor activities and many of the locally owned food and specialty establishments. I was involved in businesses and commercial investments initially and eventually evolved into a full service commercial real estate and business specialist.

How are you adapting selling real estate during this challenging time?
Being respectful, not doing any cold calling, realizing what people are going through. I’m taking all calls and offering any guidance I can. I am a commercial specialist–therefore I am involved with tenants and landlords mediating rent issues while businesses cannot be open. The overwhelming majority of the building owners are being very sympathetic to their tenant situations and offering rent rebates during this unusual time.

What is your advice to a prospective buyer during the quarantine?
Work with your broker to obtain all the information available. Be cognizant that the building and planning groups are working–but in-person meetings are not available at this time. However, they are being very cooperative in delivering documentation in a timely manner. They are also available via email and telephone to answer specific questions.

Buyers should realize that on-site visits for most commercial listings are still not permitted–only office units. They can enter into an agreement subject to inspections.

Commercial buyers need to analyze the lease’s of potential investment properties–and determine the income security if the tenant were to vacate the site at the end of their lease term. Owners/operators looking at sites for their specific businesses need to determine if their profit levels will cover the overhead for the prospective acquisition. A good commercial broker can assist with this process.

Conversely, what is your advice to a prospective seller right now?
Be realistic. Realize that buyers expect deals during this uncertain economic period. Do not overprice, but if you don’t have to sell, wait until there is more confidence in the overall marketplace. Also realize that the process might take longer than usual due to the current circumstances, for example, obtaining town data, inspections, appraisals, financing.

Why is the East End such a special real estate market?
The environment–the open spaces, the beaches, the special downtown areas and the the character of the year round residents especially. From a commercial real estate perspective, seasonality is a real life factor that we need to work around, especially when it comes to the pricing of retail and food service rent levels. We are all working on finding the financial balance–one that works for both building owners and tenants.

What are some properties you’re excited about right now?
Through our speciality unit, Hamptons Commercial RE, I’ve partnered with Jeff Sztorc and we have some special sites we’re currently listing. Some are confidential, but among the public ones are the Stuart’s Seafood business and Real Estate Amagansett, the sale of the former Pier One site in Southampton, a newly renovated commercial site in the parking lot in Sag Harbor village and the former M&T Bank site in East Hampton–a beautiful mixed use building available for sale or lease.

Find more commercial properties listed by Hal Zwick at