Douglas Elliman agent Paul Brennan’s South Fork roots are deep. His mother’s side of the family came to the area in the 1640s, and his father’s side moved out East from Brooklyn to establish a potato farm in 1910. Though he decided against farming, it did plant the seeds for Brennan to become a real estate agent.
“I like land, I’ve always liked land,” he said.
Brennan can sell it like the best of them. In May, he was named one of Pulse’s 2017 Power Brokers. Brennan spoke about his early days in real estate, favorite East End hidden gems and the biggest mistakes people make when selling their homes and one of his East Hampton listings.
Tell me a bit about your pre-real estate life.
That’s a long time ago <laughs>. I played basketball in college then went over to Australia to play professionally for a couple years. Then I came back and got into real estate in 1979.
How, if at all, did playing collegiate and professional basketball help you in your career?
From a career perspective, it certainly helped in terms of perseverance. Selling real estate is a lot like bouncing a basketball. In order to get good at it, you have to keep doing it.
What were some challenges you faced early in your career?
Feeling insecure and learning the ropes in terms of zoning and who owned the houses [and] approaching people. When you’re young—I was 28 when I started—it’s a little intimidating to go into a house like this and ask people if they’d like to sell.
How were you able to persevere through that?
I had no choice. I had a good mentor, a fellow by the name of Allan Schneider, who was the real estate industry’s top guy at the time. He had sold part of my father’s farm.
What was the best piece of advice he gave you?
That it was doable, not to shy away from it and to hit it head on.
When people are looking to sell, what should they look for in a realtor?
Experience, someone who listens and someone with a track record in selling the type of houses they’d like to list.
How can people find that out?
Now, there are normal channels on social media but the problem with that is that everyone is No. 1. A lot of my business still comes from referrals.
What are some great things about living in the Hamptons full-time or in the summer?
I don’t like it so much in the summer. It’s changed from when I grew up. It’s very intense. The off-seasons are the best for me. September, October, November, December, when the weekdays are not as crowded as the weekends.
What do you like to do during those times?
I’m a beach walker. I like running and exercising, walking on trails. I’m not much of a sportsman anymore; it takes too much time to play golf and I’m too old to play basketball so walking, nature and reading are my big things. Montauk…Sag Harbor and Shelter Island have excellent trails. I always go down the end of Ocean Road in Bridgehampton because that’s the [beach] I’m used to. It’s where I grew up.
What are some of the best restaurants in the area?
Nick & Tonis, 1770 is very good, Pierre’s in Bridgehampton, Bell & Anchor. I try to eat light these days and usually have a Caesar salad with shrimp.
When it comes time to sell a home, what should people do to increase the value?
Get rid of clutter and make it benign as possible. The less things people see to object to the better. Light, bright and white seems to sell the best.
What are some big mistakes people make when they put their home on the market?
Over-pricing. If the house next door or down the street sold for X, then they think their house must be worth X-plus and that’s not always the case. But most people out here are of means so they don’t feel they need to sell their homes tomorrow. They’re willing to wait.
What’s one item in your home you can’t live without?
Coffee maker. I take it with milk, sweet and low.