Categorized | Arts

Tales from the Dark Side

Posted on 30 August 2012

By Claire Walla


There’s a certain type of person that comes to the Hamptons.

He or she bears a certain type of je ne sais quoi, a demeanor so difficult to pin down by adjectives and clearly defined labels, this person is best conveyed by anecdotes:

The man who offers a relative stranger a ride in his limousine with champagne and then a full lobster dinner before he disappears from sight.

The woman who insists the birds chirping outside her home at 5:30 a.m. be “eliminated.”

The man who’s amazed to discover not a single home for sale on the ocean has a helicopter landing pad.

And the woman who demands a home “south of the highway,” then asks what that phrase even means, anyway.

For two authors here on the East End, at the heart of it all is the real estate industry.

These stories are all part of a compendium of tales—all true—titled “The Hamptons Real Estate Horror Show.” The 130-page book was put together by two real estate agents who together have a combined 50 years in the business out here on the East End.

According to Agent No. 1, the two began writing their stories down with the thought of publication only a few years ago, after having told these unbelievable tales numerous times at dinner parties. They knew they were good for a laugh.

Though clearly very humorous, the stories contained in this book were also stress-inducing for those involved—a fact both agents agreed with whole-heartedly.

“Even if nothing came of it,” No. 2 added, “At least writing them down was cathartic!”

It wasn’t always like this. The agents explained that when they both burst onto the real estate scene, the bulk of their business was pretty cut and dry. But in the 80s, when the Hamptons began to get a name for itself among the rich and famous, these surreal encounters started to become an integral part of the business.

“As the money’s gotten bigger and the frenzy more extreme,” she said, “It’s certainly just expected. We know [certain situations] are going to be difficult or bizarre.”

Within the pages of their book, such encounters are explained in narrative form, like this story of Wesley and Amanda. (All names in the book have been changed.)

Essentially, a couple asks to see a house in Sagaponack they saw advertised in The New York Times for $6.8 million. Of course, “we want to see it now,” they proclaim. The couple arrives with their four-year-old son, Wesley, and his young friend, Amanda. The couple apparently loves the house, and says so numerous times.

But before they’re about to leave, little Amanda chimes in. She doesn’t like it. As it turns out, in this sprawling two-story mansion, the bedrooms are just too small for her taste.

“That does it,” the couple decides. “The bedrooms are too small. Sorry.”

And they leave.

“The Wesley and Amanda story is really classic,” No. 1 said. It’s classic for the exaggerated egos of their clientele, but also for the hit-or-miss nature of the business, where deals can dry up in an instant.

“It happens a lot,” she added.

“On a rainny day in the summer, there are a lot of wannabes who come in and pretend they’re in the market to buy a house,” she continued. When asked whether she’s able to tell when a wannabe is in her midst, she said, for the most part, yes.

“But there’s nothing you can do about it,” No. 2 added. “You know sometimes you’re being had. However, I once sold a house that way.” (After closing the deal on a multi-million dollar home, a buyer allegedly told her he hadn’t intended to actually buy a house that day.)

These stories are flanked by equally outrageous inter-chapters that are only a few short paragraphs long, but punctuated by a pretty jarring quotation.

In one such inter-chapter, a tenant complains of a dysfunctional freezer compartment, saying the ice cream is simply not hard enough. The tenant is told it would be fixed the following day and in the meantime there’s a freezer in the garage at his disposal.

“Are you kidding?” the tenant supposedly replied. “You expect me to walk all the way to the garage?”

As for why No. 1 and No. 2 stay in this business, a constant source of stress and anxiety, they said it’s hard to get out of.

“It’s the carrot,” No. 1 continued, using the old carrot-on-a-stick analogy. “You can be a brand new broker and on your first day someone can walk in and say they want to buy a home for $4 million.”

“Or,” No. 2 added, “You could sit there for a year and get nothing.”

In either case, however, as this book proves, real estate agents in the Hamptons are always bound to get a good story.

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