There’s a reason real estate agents and brokers exist — because shopping for property is quite complicated, especially when it comes to lavish Hamptons homes. Luckily, pros like Saunders & Associates’ Christopher Covert deftly help clients work through the tricky details. Bonus alert: He’s happy to share some surfing tips, too!
How long have you been on the East End?
I’ve been working in real estate here for six years, and made this my full-time residence about four years ago.
What’s your favorite thing about the area?
It’s a great mix of culture and sophistication, married with casual lifestyle. Outdoor activity, natural beauty, arts and culture, food, all combined together. It’s a great place to raise a family. That was part of the reason we left the city. We left Tribeca and moved to Bridgehampton for the quality of life and family time.
What do your kids like about living in the Hamptons?
They get to do the things that kids want to do! They go to the beach after school. They’re 7- and 8-year-old girls who just started surfing; it’s going to be a part of their lives. They go riding at the stables two minutes from our house. They’ve got a yard to run around and play, and can ride their bikes around our little cul-de-sac. There are also amazing museums, like The Parrish and the kids’ program there. And they get to go to the city, and still have a connection there.
Has social media affected your job?
Yes. If you look at Instagram, it’s about showcasing the beauty of a property and getting that emotional draw. I use LinkedIn to look at things in a more analytical and data-driven way. It’s an important piece of marketing. You’ve got to be nimble, and look at the unique platforms and approach them with a specific program.
What are your tips for house hunting in the area?
Work with a broker! There are so many complexities, from regulations, to zoning, to what you’re allowed to build. There are subtleties in each micromarket within the bigger overall Hamptons market, so working with an agent who understands all these factors is critical. It’s not the kind of market where you can go on Zillow, look at something, say “That’s a good investment,” and go buy it without really knowing any of the data. There are years of data to study, and you have to work with someone who understands the builders and the kind of costs there are going to be. Investing is not for the faint of heart out here.
What are some of the complexities that you’re referring to?
I work with a lot of properties that are waterfront. Working with waterfront properties comes with a set of challenges beyond standard development and real estate, because you’re working with a multitude of agencies. Whether it’s New York State DEC, Town Conservation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in some situations, building departments, or FEMA flood zones. You have to work with insurance agencies to make sure that, at the end of the day, a property is actually insurable. There’s a lot of moving parts, and you have to make sure a client understands that. You have to juggle a lot of different elements — it’s a much bigger job than people understand.
Do most sales tend to happen in the summer?
September and October are traditionally our busiest months, because people typically want to purchase and have a house ready for the next summer. That’s followed up with the late winter and early spring; people want to get in before the summer. This year we missed that early market, people were sitting on their hands.
Why was that?
The stock market wipeout of the fourth quarter last year gave pause to the spring market this year. People wanted to get through the first tax season with the new tax code to better understand what their new taxes looked like. For whatever reason, it seemed to be cold and rainy every weekend this spring, so there was a lot of pent-up demand. [But now the] stock market’s on fire, interest rates are going down again. It’s not usual to have a lot of activity in the early summer; I don’t think there’s a normal cycle anymore. Digital technology has allowed this to become a 12-month marketplace. People shop whenever they want.
What do people seem to be wanting right now?
People are looking for deals. There’s still a lot of inventory in the market right now, so buyers have the upper hand. They can pick and choose. A savvy seller is going to have to discount. Beyond that, in terms of style, new is the new-new. Everybody wants new, and there is plenty of it! Flat-roof moderns, when you’re down on the ocean, are certainly a trend. Over the past few years, traditional gambrel [roof style] has given way to a more transitional home. People still want that big, open, loft-like floor plan with modern finishes in the transitional form of a shingled home.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Saunders & Associates?
I think we’re best in brand because we have amazing leadership and an open culture in which agents work together, collaborate, and share information. This makes us much more effective than some of the atmospheres where it’s very individual and every man for himself. We clearly have the best marketing team in the Hamptons; the awards will show that. I think we present the best of everything for our clients.
Tell us about 139 Seascape Lane!
It’s designed by Bates Masi + Architects; Paul Masi is just so specific and modern. Every little detail in the home has been perfectly thought-out and executed. Oftentimes, modern can be cold and stark. With this home, the goal was to take a modern form and create a warm, organic vibe. He wanted to take into consideration the environment of the home—it’s surrounded by farm fields, overlooking Sagg Pond, the beach, and the ocean.
What kinds of thoughtful details does the house have?
Paul wanted to have this beach-y vibe, and he was able to execute that through the paneling, the sustainably harvested oak flooring, and the black Coldspring granite that’s used for countertops, backsplashes, showers, bathrooms, and barbecue. Everything else is Venetian plaster. There is no drywall, no sheetrock. It just feels natural and organic. The house even smells amazing, because of the products used. That’s what the photos can’t even capture. What was created here was not only a modern house, but an unparalleled, unique experience.
When did you start surfing?
I’ve been surfing for 35 years, since I was a teenager.
Why do you love it?
It’s a way to disengage from the nonstop chatter, to reconnect with myself. I leave the phone and texts and e-mails on the beach and have some time to just be.
Where in the world have you caught waves?
I lived in California for many years, so the West Coast — from Oregon to Baja — and Hawaii, Fiji, the Caribbean, the East Coast, Central America, and Mexico.
Impressive. What’s unique about surfing in the Hamptons?
It’s really about finding your own little place in the world. The fall and the winter, once the crowds leave, can be really spectacular.
What’s the best area for surfing out East?
Montauk has some amazing spots, but you need thick skin — or at least thick rubber [a wetsuit] — to be able to get into the water year-round here.
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