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2021 Serendipity Market Awards

These real estate agents stand out for their devotion to community, wealth of knowledge and ability to adapt to a rapidly changing industry.

Precise Pricing

“Pricing a home accurately is both an art and a science,” says Cynthia De Riemer, a Coldwell Banker Global Luxury President’s Premier realtor in Old Greenwich, CT. And De Riemer’s ability to perfectly position a home in the market is among the skills that have helped her rise to the top 1 percent of Coldwell agents internationally. “There is ample data available…but the key to advising your client is how you filter the data and read between the relevant data points,” she explains. “Every home comes with its own set of strengths and challenges, and my job is to successfully factor those into the client’s hot-button wishes.”

Creative Staging

For Barbara Wells, walking into 261 Cognewaugh Rd., Cos Cob, CT, was like walking into a time capsule of the 1960s, right down to the dishes and ping pong table. The owners had lived there since the home was built in the ’60s and it had all the original furniture and kitchen items. But when the owners’ daughter was left to sell the house, Wells, a realtor with Houlihan Lawrence, put on her history major cap and saw the value of the nostalgia she could evoke if she showed the house as it might have been in its original era. In a week, the house drew more than 30 realtors and had close to 40 showings with multiple offers, and was sold over asking. “I have learned over the years that proper staging can accentuate the best characteristics of a home,” she says. “Staging a home gives buyers the sense of how spaces can be used and good staging can also depict a style of living that appeals to buyers. I have had a couple of potential sellers who have enjoyed the new arrangement and decluttering so much they have decided to stay in their homes!”

Cultivating Relationships

Bob Gibb fell in love with John’s Island for the first time in 1976. A few years later, the successful investment banker and his wife bought a home in the upscale vacation community. Then in 1989, they moved to the area permanently and he switched to a career in real estate. As broker and owner of John’s Island Real Estate Company for the last 30 years, he has spent decades helping his clients discover their dream home in a community with countless advantages, which he can attest to personally. But it’s the commu- nity of people that he loves most about John’s Island. “World-class structures and activities can be duplicated, but people cannot,” says Gibb. Building relationships is the key ingredient to his success, he says. “We don’t just help them buy a home, we introduce them to people and passions within the community and help them become involved in their new life in John’s Island.”

Persistence in Meeting Client Expectations

“There’s a great, well-known quote by Theodore Roosevelt,” says Fatou Niang. “’People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’” As a realtor with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in New Canaan, CT, Niang has built a reputation for dedication and trust. “My role is to be a proactive and trusted advisor for my clients and I just truly and deeply care for them so much that they trust me with their business and then they also trust me to take care of the people that they care about—so yes, I will say my network and relationships for sure are the key to my success.” It is this dedication that drives her to devote the time needed to help clients achieve their goals. “My wife and I worked with Fatou for several years as we looked for our perfect home in New Canaan,” says Todd Meadow, a client and now friend. He credits Niang for her town knowledge and ability to persist until she found exactly what they were looking for. “We always felt that she was on our side and solely interested in helping us find the perfect home,” he says.

Boosting Local Business

On Wednesdays, The Tavern Markets is where to find everything from organic produce to baked goods. And Market Sponsor Yashmin Lloyds has been happy to be a part of making such a gathering possible. As a 12-year resident, she appreciates doing some- thing to benefit her neighbors, and as a real estate agent for Compass in Greenwich, boosting local business benefits her clients, too. “Greenwich is a large town with a variety of diverse neighborhoods,” she says. “For a new homeowner, it can be overwhelming and often takes a little time to find a sense of community.” And the farmers market can do just that.

Helping new homeowners navigate purchasing and then finding the right resources is one of the reasons Lloyds was inspired to do real estate. “I am always meeting new people in different phases of their lives and its incredibly fulfilling to help them have a positive, successful experience.”

Keeping Seniors at Home

A housing market is only as vibrant as its community and Helen Maher believes that part of what makes a vibrant community is diversity of it residents, including seniors. Greenwich is an aging community but with the pandemic, Maher explains, the demographics are skewing younger—and as younger families move in, seniors can have a positive influence, by encouraging volunteerism and sharing experiences as PTA members, for instance. This is part of the reason why Maher volunteers with At Home in Greenwich, a local charity that helps seniors stay in their homes. “It’s all for the greater good of Greenwich,” says Maher of the ways her personal and professional experience complement each other.

As a Chairman Circle Platinum realtor at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Old Greenwich, and a record of sales that puts her in the top 1 percent nationally at Berkshire Hathaway, Maher has built a reputation for excellence among realtors. Her experience as a resident, having five grandchildren in the schools and one child who is a teacher, plus her own experiences in town, better enable her to serve clients. Adds Maher: “As a realtor, and as a resident, I give my knowledge and abilities to the community.”

Pivoting in a Changing Market

“We experienced these changes all together, from panicked sellers wondering if they should take themselves off the market, to NYC residents fleeing to get into temporary rentals, to a shift from buyer’s market to seller’s market within six months,” says Joy Kim Metalios, realtor with Metalios Group at Houlihan Lawrence in Greenwich of last year’s real estate market. “We used data to inform our clients so that they could feel confident in making decisions that would affect their families and assets during a critical time.” She’s proud of her team, too. “Thankfully, it’s our standard to search for and come up with innovative ways to solve problems.”

Ability to Leverage Technology

When the pandemic hit, Judi Lake was well-equipped to make the most of social media and technology. “I was showing a lot of homes virtually to my buyers through WhatsApp and FaceTime,” says Lake, a realtor with The Riverside Realty Group. With a deep knowledge of Connecticut from more than 30 years of living in Fairfield County, she has volunteered on many boards, with numerous PTAs and with many charitable organizations. And in that time, she has learned the value of relationships and building a reputation for success. She also adapted to using social media early. “Every year I have a few listings that are not on MLS and depend completely on social media and word of mouth,” says Lake. She knows other agents have used this tool as well and has used that knowledge to watch the market on social media and get a jump on properties early. “Markets are continually changing, and it is important to advise my clients through these challenges. I love to learn and adapt. I think that is one of [the] strengths that differentiates me from many realtors. I never think of the process as routine.”

Taking on Older Classic Homes

“Tank excavation, asbestos removal, older cesspool, septic system replacement or replacing knot and tube wiring—bring it on!” says Julie Grace Burke, realtor with Compass in Greenwich. “All of these issues can be rectified and, if everyone keeps their cool and moves forward in a cooperative spirit, the deal gets done and another classic Greenwich home is preserved.”

In the last few years, Burke has taken on many transactions involving homes built in the early 1900s. “Some of our most magnificent housing stock in unparalleled locations falls under this umbrella,” she says. But she has never met an attic or a boiler room she didn’t love, and what drives her to keep taking on these properties is the joy she finds in preserving town history. “I am most passionate about these particular homes as they give Greenwich its flavor and recall our rich history.”

Selling A Property Preconstruction

Looking at the gorgeous images of The Modern on Field Point, a new collection of condos with one unit left priced at $3.35 million, the property seems an easy sell. But Jen Danzi was breaking records on sales of these units before the building was even completed. A realtor at Tamar Lurie Group of Coldwell Banker in Greenwich, Danzi, along with partner Tamar Lurie, holds the record for the highest square footage price off-paper plans and record preconstruction sales for The Modern. “Bringing style and design elements of a much higher level to a downscaling audience, The Modern provides an upscale and non-traditional look in one-level living,” says Danzi. Custom millwork, private terraces, and waterfall marble kitchen islands are among the luxe finishes of the flats. “We began selling this property in spring 2018,” says Danzi, who adds that being involved in the early stages of the proj- ect was beneficial. The developers hadn’t even broken ground when Danzi began finding buyers. “Excellent renderings and floor plans were key, as well as detailed specifications,” says Danzi.

Off-Market Magic

Among Shelly Tretter Lynch’s more than $120 million in deals closed by June 1 of this year, were $63 million in off-market sales. Those properties never officially go on the open market, sometimes because a homeowner wants to sell privately, and sometimes because they want to sell for a certain price and are happy to stay put if it isn’t obtained. With more than 25 years of experience in real estate, the founding member of the Greenwich Compass office understands the dynamics of a private sale and the importance of curating relationships built on trust. Tretter Lynch says listening and confidentiality have been the biggest keys to success. “Your clients need your guidance, which is based on years of experience with one of their largest assets,” she says. “There are always emotions surrounding a residential sale and sensitivity regarding financial situations.”

Creating Trusted Partnerships

Joseph Barbieri’s clients often call him again and again to help with their real estate needs. “Realtor-client relationships can be long-term relationships,” says Barbieri, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty with 35 years of experience. Accurate pricing, knowledge of the market, and the ability to communicate honestly and transparently—while also respecting privacy and priorities— all come into play with each transaction, Barbieri says. His ability to garner clients’ trust, and his market know-how as it relates to the economy on a local and national scale are what has positioned him for success with a number of significant sales last year including a private, unlisted property that sold for $42 million.

Multimarket Concept

When financial ace Kevin Sneddon switched gears from Wall Street to real estate investment and development to real estate brokerage, he saw a need and knew exactly how to meet it. From industry to industry, he served high-end luxury clientele with multiple residences, many with an apartment in Manhattan and a weekend house in the Hamptons or Connecticut. “I started servicing that crowd,” says Sneddon, associate broker and founder of The Private Client Team at Compass. The multi-market sales concept was born from that idea that real estate is an asset and certain markets play off each other, like NYC and Greenwich. “We were perfectly positioned when New York got shut down due to Covid and this exodus happened, to pivot and focus on Greenwich,” he says.

Achieving Optimal Results through Branding

With a formal background in sales and almost a lifetime in Fairfield County, Mary Ann Lindwall knows how to execute a hyper-local digital marketing campaign while still reaching potential buyers around the globe. The Riverside Realty Group agent’s connections run deep, but it’s her ability to use staging, pricing, MLS tools, high-quality photography and digital marketing to get optimal value for a client’s home that keeps clients coming back.

This year, in the pandemic-driven real estate boon, her skills shined through during a recent transaction at 14 Woodhill Rd., Westport, CT. In less than seven days, she had an over-asking accepted offer and signed contracts—and is set to close in September. “Having a background in marketing allowed me to pivot quickly and use social and other digital plat- forms to help sellers and buyers connect the dots,” says Lindwall. “I was an early adopter of virtual open houses, livestream showings, digital signings, and Zoom meetings. These tools made doing business in unusual circumstances so easy.”

Easing First-Time Buyer Jitters

Buying your first house is never an easy process but Russell Pruner, real estate broker with Compass, provides home- buyers and sellers with the knowledge and understanding that comes from 36 years of experience, helping put their minds at ease. “First-time buyers need our assistance,” says Pruner. “They may be purchasing the most expensive asset they will ever own no matter the price of their home. It’s a big decision. I always make sure that they understand every aspect of the transaction prior to making an offer and make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”

Steve Lionetti, one of the many first-time buyers Pruner has helped says, “From the very first day we started working with Russ, all the way through closing, Russ made everything so much easier and better than I could have imagined.” Pruner devotes that same care to all his clients. “We are now in a house we really and truly love, have tried restaurants and vendors he suggested, and feel like we know our community now, even despite Covid- 19—all thanks to Russ,” says Lionetti.

Leveraging Her Resident Status

One of Jenny Allen’s most memorable clients was a young family with a tall order: four bedrooms, a pool and over an acre of land on a limited budget. The Compass real estate agent recommended a part of town where they should look and within days they found the home they still live in today.

Living almost her entire life in Greenwich, CT, gives Allen a unique perspective. She can not only tell you exactly how many households, schools, square miles and business districts the town has, but also what it’s like to attend class in the elementary schools, ride your bike to the parks, shop on Greenwich Avenue, hop the train to New York City or stroll the beaches. “Being a longtime Greenwich resident allows me to process a client’s needs and wants and suggest the areas of town that best suit them,” says Allen. And she has garnered a list of trusted sources, from lawyers to mortgage brokers to surveyors to have any job completed successfully. Plus, her husband is a builder with a pulse on the latest home technologies and renovation trends. “While Greenwich has its older homes and neighborhoods, much like any other town, I have unique knowledge as to the areas that are being renovated and reconstructed,” says Allen.

Keeping a Pulse on the Market

Having known the property owners of 4 North Pasture in Westport, CT, for more than 20 years, Robert Grodman, a real estate agent with The Riverside Realty Group in Westport, knew they were looking for the right time to sell. So when he saw the suburban market in Fairfield County starting to shift — even in the early stages of the pandemic—he reached out to the owners and told them the value increased from a year prior. They priced it according to his recommendation and ended up with multiple offers over ask- ing price, at a time when this was still a rarity. Grodman says he uses statistical tools provided by the MLS, industry newsletters and various news media to follow economic data. “The most important tool, however, involves keeping a close look at properties that are currently on the market and what they are selling for,” he says.

Community Involvement

After growing up in Cincinnati, OH, Megan Sullivan married an Old Greenwich native who is one of four boys, three of whom are
now raising their families in Greenwich. “I feel that is a testament to what an amazing place this is,” says Sullivan. “My love for the community makes me want to help continue to make and keep it great! To that end, she was an early contributor to The Local Moms Network, a hyperlocal community- based platform for all things suburbia. This has also helped shape her role as realtor with the Angela Swift Team at Compass. “Being a mother of four young kids gives me the ability to help them with so many of their questions.”

Perfectly Paired Mother- Daughter Duo

“Working as a mother-daughter team is wonderful,” says Sue Lieberman, who partnered with her daughter, Justine Fink, in 2004 and co-founded The Riverside Realty Group in 2007. “Justine is the yin to my yang: we bring different sets of complementary skills to our partnership. We complement each other beautifully.

Lieberman finds that the two spend lots of time together organically discussing their business. “We are very lucky,” she says. Not only that, but they’re also completely dedicated to their clients. “Being our clients’ advocates is our core purpose and when there are two of us working relentlessly to deliver that mission it executes flawlessly,” says Lieberman.

Selling Renovations

“I love working with my clients when they are using real estate as an income producing transaction,” says Angela Swift, real estate broker who leads the Angela Swift Team at Compass. “Whether they are using the property to buy and flip or buy and use as rental income, working with a real estate professional who can help identify the right property is key.”

She explains how she worked with Ernie Bello of ECE Construction on 17 Tory Rd. “We identified a property in a great location—as they say: ‘location, location, location’—and with great bones: high ceilings, nice floor plan, no major structural issues.” They gave it a neutral palate of whites and grays and some changes to the hardware, bathrooms and floors—and were able flip the home. “I believe that renovating is one of the best ways to strategically improve your home value, which means more money in your pocket when you eventually sell.”

Renovations hold value in today’s market, where savvy buyers want move-in-ready listings. She recommends sharing an “improvement list” with buyers, which shows all the work and time you put into the home. “Keep in mind that renovations do require up-front costs, but if you have money in savings or are able to use your mortgage for these costs, these immediate costs are often worth it,” adds Swift, who had a career in marketing before she entered real estate 26 years ago. “A newly renovated home is worth the premium, especially in this market.”

Attention to Detail

With a background in the Decorative Arts department at world-class auction house Christie’s and then as the founder of her own fine arts auction, Icon20, Usha Subramaniam doesn’t miss a detail. Her broad knowledge of art and historical styles—particularly when it comes to architecture—and her artistic eye for staging, and sensitivity to the desires and needs of both buyers and sellers, have made her a trusted expert in the field and ranked as one of the top agents in Chappaqua, NY. Subramaniam, who leads the Usha Subramaniam Team of Compass in Chappaqua, is a life-long resident of the Westchester hamlet and an active participant in the community, where she is raising her two children. Having three generations of her family living in town gives her a deep knowledge of the community and area. That broad-base knowledge combined with her attention to detail have helped her provide clients with the service they expect.

“The process of buying and selling a home is one of the most significant financial events—and one of the most emotionally charged—in most people’s lives,” says Subramaniam. Her detail-oriented eye and a clear process is crucial in each step, from initial research to pricing to staging to negotiations and closing. “Each stage, if not done properly can derail the transaction,” says Subramaniam. “Being diligent and experienced makes for a smooth process in most transactions and allows me to be better prepared for the unexpected problems that will happen from time to time.”

Selling Iconic Estates

“Greenwich Great Estates are an important part of Greenwich history,” says Leslie McElwreath, realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenwich. “Many have been plaqued by the Greenwich Historical Society, but they are not protected in any way from demolition.” McElwreath has been a local real estate expert since 1988, selling not only homes but also the Greenwich lifestyle. Her detail-oriented nature, exceptional memory and sensitivity to the significance of preserving local architecture have made her a success in the real estate market, particularly when it comes to selling iconic estates and historically significant properties.

When she listed Rockfields, the former Stillman Rockefeller estate, it went under contract in just 21 days. “The new owner went on to return it to its original glory and added back much of the acreage that had been subdivided by the Rockefeller family, thus protecting it from future development,” says McElwreath. “This was a true ‘win’ for the town of Greenwich.”

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