One of the East End’s most successful and personable realtors is Christopher Covert, who recently moved to Compass, and is busier than ever as the Hamptons climb in popularity. He tells us what buyers are looking for this year and why this is the time to buy.
Congrats on your move to Compass. Why did you decide to make the switch?
I was completely happy at the firm where I was prior, but we have been watching as traditional brokerage has been changing, and technology has become an indispensable asset in modern real estate. The current health crisis has only accelerated that evolution, and I feel that Compass is best positioned to pivot into these new realities, and will allow me to better serve my clients. As a Compass agent, I have access to the company’s industry-leading technology platform that allows me to work from anywhere and to market homes completely digitally, and in highly customizable ways through virtual open houses, live postcards, enhanced 3-D staging, and more.
What has your job been like during quarantine?
In many ways this has been a surreal experience, and we in the Hamptons have never been busier. First with the unprecedented March through May rental market, and now a conversion to a buy market. I think the data will show these past four months to have been one of the most dynamic our market has ever seen. And we had to figure out how to do this on the fly to conform with the restrictions and protocols established by the state.
How did you occupy yourself when you were stuck at home and couldn’t show properties?
Running Covert Academy for the kids [as its] operations manager, tech/IT department, director of shipping and handling, and chief box breaker-downer.
What can the real estate business learn from the lockdown?
More than 500 engineers, who came from companies like Amazon and Google, work on the Compass tech platform, and they release updates on a regular basis, placing me at the forefront of innovation to provide my clients with the best service. In the future, innovative digital solutions will continue to drive the evolution of real estate and the way agents manage their business.
Tell us more about your personal and professional background.
I spent more than 20 years working in film, TV, and music. Real estate is a second career, and a natural progression. I was born and raised in Manhattan, and spent much of my adult life back and forth from Tribeca to Malibu, and after getting married and having two beautiful daughters, we decided to make Bridgehampton our permanent home.
What do you love about the area?
We love the year-round community here, and the natural beauty. The beaches, vineyards, farms, and equestrian properties, historic homes and villages—all of it. And it’s close enough to the city that it’s not a total disconnect from that vibrance and energy.
Every realtor brings something new to the table. What do you bring?
When I joined Compass, I became a member of the luxury division, which is open to elite Compass agents and provides optimized marketing services, including tailored marketing and public relations, and national market reports. In addition, through the division, I network with some of the best agents across the country so that together we can redefine what it means to strategically market luxury homes.
What are your tips for house hunting in the Hamptons?
If you see something you like, don’t be shy. The market is in such a place that hesitancy will only result in disappointment. And I think that every buyer would be best served working with an agent to advocate on their behalf. There are so many subtleties in our market that need a trained eye. Don’t trust a “zestimate”; that word literally makes my skin crawl.
What are buyers looking for this year?
New or turnkey, and “want it, need it, have to have it now.” Whether for immediate occupancy, or something they can close on right after Labor Day. Homes that don’t need a lot of work—at least for the next year—nobody wants people in their home. And homes that allow for home offices, and remote learning—quiet rooms off and away from main living and entertaining spaces. I have also seen more interest in extra garage space for storing supplies, as well as large mudrooms and full baths close to an entrance for the ability to step into a decontamination shower without walking through the entire house.
How do you think the market will be impacted by current times?
Our current situation has caused a seismic shift in how buyers are approaching the market. The hesitancy and measured approach we saw for many quarters has been supplanted with an emotional buying pattern. These are no longer luxury items but necessities for people. Given the uncertainty we face regarding schools, travel, health and safety in offices, the feared “second wave” [of COVID-19]—those fortunate enough to be able to afford to own a home on the East End as a getaway from the city are stepping up and buying. And these range from buyers who plan to use the home full-time and are leaving the city for good, to those who may plan on staying until there is a widely issued vaccine, or even just as an every-weekend and holiday getaway. Our rental market is depleted, and pricing was driven to astronomical rates, so buying is actually a more sound investment.
Sellers are going to be concerned about safety when it comes to feeling comfortable entering their home during COVID-19. What advice do you have for them and for buyers looking?
I strictly follow the guidelines set by the CDC and local and state authorities, and take additional precautions, such as prequalifying buyers ahead of showings, creating walkthrough strategies, providing masks and gloves, and disinfecting homes after every appointment.
You have a show, “The Covert Report.” Tell us more about it.
I have to admit, it’s been so busy that my reporting has been inconsistent at best, but I am trying to get back to it weekly. “The Covert Report” is basically a quick video overview of the past weeks’ activity in the Hamptons marketplace, with data points and analysis. I try to call out trends as I see them, and to provide pertinent info for both buyers and sellers considering entering the market. It’s definitely more data oriented than lifestyle fluff, and I post it on LinkedIn and my YouTube page.
You’re savvy when it comes to marketing yourself. Why is it important for realtors to put themselves out there
Most business happens through referrals, though by no means all. Brand awareness is a key element of my business plan, and I spend a great amount of time networking with the industry’s leading agents to amplify my listing portfolio and to find the best homes for my clients.
On a nonwork note, have you been surfing this year?
I got to surf for a couple of weeks in St. Barth’s in February, then the world broke. Out of respect to our local first responders and health-care workers, I didn’t think being on the highway out to Montauk was the right thing to do, and quite honestly, I have been so busy helping clients find their way here that surfing seemed a bit trivial in the big picture. That said, I am ready and need to get back in the water.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Some semblance of normalcy…or new normalcy. Supporting our local restaurants with outdoor dining, seeing friends, and more time with family. But this only works if everyone stays smart.