Long Island’s North Shore is steeped in history. There are opulent mansions that inspired the Great Gatsby and have served as the sets for numerous silent and even Oscar-winning flicks like The Godfather. Today, the elegance continues, even with some modern upgrades like a buzz-worthy dining scene and up-and-coming towns like Port Washington, which Douglas Elliman broker Maggie Keats loves to show off. Keats, who has been working in real estate for more than a decade, gave pro tips for finding your perfect North Shore home or simply having the best night out.
Tell me a little bit of your pre-real estate career.
Real estate is my third career but everything I did before related to what I’m doing now, which is very gratifying to me and I think it makes me a better real estate broker. The first 20-something years of my life I worked in advertising. Towards the end of that, I had a specialty developing new businesses and ran a third of Donnie Deutsch’s agency and really loved it. I use the new business aspect all the time when I’m on listing presentations. I bring the advertising [experience] to my marketing. My mom got sick so I was able to segue into consulting and advertising and I had a whole business doing new business development. At the same time, I went back to NYU for a graduate program in fine and decorative arts appraising. I developed a business selling the contents of homes without doing a tag sale. I had local auction houses and specific dealers come in and bid on full and partial contents. I learned about the contents, people, houses. I loved it. It was a great business.
How did you get into real estate?
[Through my business], I developed a network of estate attorneys and real estate attorneys and one of them said to me, “You’ve given all these referrals. If you had a license, you’d at least be entitled to a referral fee.” I got my license and didn’t intend to practice. I brought it to a local office in Port Washington and a friend called and said their kids were coming out for the weekend and they were not going to be ready to buy for a year but could I take them around and show them what they could buy? They didn’t want to deal with a “real broker.” I took them around and of course they bought a house. I never looked back.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make buying homes?
I think particularly with today’s buyer there’s an attraction to new and shiny. I don’t think that today’s buyer particularly looks at location or quality. They want a certain look in a house. They want instant gratification. I think that’s really a reflection of our disposable society.
What are some up-and-coming areas on the North Shore?
Port Washington has become the it location. Port Washington is very commutable and has a top school district, waterfront and unique downtown.
What makes the North Shore a special place to live?
Historically, it’s been a special place to live. The Gold Coast. It was where the barons and moguls had homes because geographically it is so extraordinarily beautiful. We have such variation along the coastline, in the look of the different neighborhoods. It has unbelievable culture, museums; the libraries out here are terrific. It’s such a high-quality of life and to live in such a beautiful place that is accessible to Manhattan is a slam-dunk.
What are some good places to go for fun on the North Shore?
In Port Washington, there’s the Landmark on Main Street, which has traveling theater, the dock, the waterfront. It has an all-organic farmers market. Manhasset has the Americana with world-class shopping and dining. If you live in Roslyn, you have that amazing East Hills Park and Bryant Park with the duck pond. Oyster Bay has the Oyster Festival every fall. There’s Teddy Roosevelt’s house [Sagamore Hill], all the Gold Coast mansions. There’s the Sand’s Point Preserve. The Nassau County Museum. C.W. Post always has concerts and theaters and all kinds of fun things.
What are some of your favorite places to eat?
Port Washington is the United Nations of restaurants. We have American to Thai, Japanese, French and waterfront dining. We just got a new restaurant, Nikkei of Peru. At Americana Manhasset, I love Toku Asian Modern. It’s people watching, terrific food and a beautiful environment. And Hendrick’s Tavern, which they managed to take from old George Washington Manor and completely hippified it. I love Barney’s in Locust Valley especially when they have a fire in the fall. It’s cozy, delicious and like a little farmhouse.
What’s the one item in your home you can’t live without?
I have lots of windows. I’m very lucky in that I live on pretty property. There’s always something in bloom. I’m a glutton for light. If you’re going to live in a beautiful place, you should have views of it.
What are some of your favorite interior design trends?
Transitional is a very big word and I think it encompasses a lot of different styles. I try to spend time in Miami, LA and Beverly Hills and Manhattan, touring the properties. I’m seeing the design trend go towards modern, a little cleaner and less fussy. Color palettes are changing. We’ve been with the grays for a while. I’m seeing warmer tones come back in.