A lifelong Hamptons resident, Kieran got his “start” in real estate as a kid, when his family owned rental cottages in Amagansett. Now a seasoned and successful agent with Saunders & Associates, Kieran deftly navigates today’s information-rich real estate environment. He recently spoke with us about his real estate business.
How long have you been involved in Hamptons real estate? How did you get your start in the business? And how did previous experience prepare you for this work?
In a way, I’ve been doing it all my life. As a kid, my family had rental cottages in Amagansett and I distinctly remember scrubbing and painting and fixing them up with my parents as we got them ready for summer. We closed them up for the winter, so when we opened them back up, they needed plenty of scrubbing and painting and fixing up. Every year.
As a job, I began part time in 2006, when I read the writing on the wall that mergers, acquisitions and constant reorganization in corporate America was making the sales job I had highly unstable, especially here on the East End. I left that job in 2009 and went full time into real estate after my second child was born. I’d like to say I’ve never looked back, but there have been times when I’ve wished for the steady paycheck and the health insurance. Now that my business is on solid footing, though, it was by far the best career move I could have made.
I grew up in the restaurant business, and I held a couple of corporate sales jobs, so between those two experiences, I had a pretty good idea of how to make a go of it in real estate sales. Someone told me a long time ago that “people buy wine from people they like.” The same is true of real estate. Of course, people “like” people who know their business, answer the phone, minimize problems and eliminate drama. So that’s what I try to do for my clients.
What changes have you seen in the market here?
The market is in a constant state of flux, that never changes. This particular sellers’ market has lasted for a solid two years, but people forget that the buyers’ market which preceded it lasted from ’16-’20, so it’s not an abnormally long cycle. It is, however, pretty extreme in intensity. Prices are still breaking records and inventory has dwindled to nearly nothing. Despite the forecasts, though, it’s hard to see where the ride will end. High interest rates theoretically discourage buyers, but they discourage sellers as well. Homeowners may be reluctant to trade out of their super low rate mortgage into one that’s significantly higher, further constraining supply. And despite the increase in development that appears to be going on, quality new construction in prime locations is still a very hot commodity.
All of this conspires to mean it’s more important than ever to work with a skilled professional. Make sure it’s someone you get along well with and that you have frequent clear and open communication with them.
What’s your business like now? Sales? Rentals?
I wish I did more rentals, because they’re good for business growth, but my business is 90% sales, and 80% with sellers. Leads come from referrals, almost exclusively. Advertising helps support the referrals, so that when a client recommends me to another, that person knows my name. I don’t believe too many people look at my Instagram and say, “gee, I think I’ll hire him to sell my house,” without someone having already suggested it.
What do you think is an upcoming area in the Hamptons?
Everyone knows the back roads, and there are no undiscovered areas of the Hamptons. The blue chip areas are increasing more dramatically, as always, and the old adage that it’s better to buy the lowest priced house in the best neighborhood holds especially true here. You just can’t overpay for quality real estate in the Hamptons.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a buyer now? A seller?
The best advice for sellers now is the best advice always: price your property correctly. Pay attention to the data. If you don’t like the number, get a second opinion, but make sure it’s supported by data. The market has a mind of its own, and regardless of what an owner wants to sell for, or thinks it might be worth, or what some fast-talking salesperson, desperate for a new listing, might tell them, the market will have its say. It’s ECON 101, which is a science, not an art.
For buyers: choose a professional you’re comfortable with and work only with them. In this era of free information everywhere, it’s easy to think you can go it alone. Information is one thing, knowledge is another, skill is a third. You can have all the information in the universe but if you don’t know the back story, or have the competency to act on it, it’s meaningless. In this age of listings disappearing as soon as they hit, you need to have someone looking out for you. If you don’t have a firm relationship with them, they’ll probably call someone else.
What is the most personally satisfying part of your work?
Against professional advice, I always go to closings. The best ones are when the buyers and sellers are sitting together in the same room, and they are all happy. It happens less and less these days, with so much business being done remotely, but there’s nothing more gratifying than a closing where a home is passed from one owner to the next with good will and warm wishes.
Do you have a favorite local restaurant? A favorite place to go?
The Ditch Witch on a cloudy day when there’s no line is one of the best lunches around. The Tomahawk Poke Bowl is a total treat. I love the Nick and Toni’s group, so I spend a lot of time at Rowdy Hall, Coche Comedor and Townline BBQ. I mostly do casual dining nowadays, but when I want a nice night out, I go to Nick and Toni’s. Despite its reputation as a celebrity hangout, it’s really a family operation. And since I once worked there, they treat me and my guests like family. The Point in Montauk is great when it’s just me and my boys (I have two sons, 12 and 19). Food is good, lots of TV’s, usually not too crowded and zero Hamptons attitude. The Plaza Cafe in Southampton is definitely the most underrated place in the Hamptons. It has some of the best food around and the service is super professional and attentive.
Community involvement – any charities or groups you’d like to mention that you suppport/are involved in?
I’m sort of in between with my community involvement. I coached youth sports for many years, but my kids have aged out and have long surpassed my level of incompetence. The Retreat does very important work, and I always support them however I can. Of course, I’m an easy mark for GoFundMe pleas: I always give something, whether I know the people directly or not. They’re usually local people striving hard to make a go of it here, so when trouble strikes, I’m happy to help out in whatever small way I can.
Please feel free to add other questions you’d like to talk about!
I have a great job in a magical place working with fantastic people and earning a very nice income. I’m grateful for that every day.