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2022 Serendipity Market Award Winners

Navigating a lively market, dedicating their time to the community and sharing their incredible and intimate knowledge of real estate and our region, these realtors have earned high marks in their industry.

Selling a Lifestyle

When it comes to selling top-of- the-line luxury condominiums, it’s more than just four walls and a patio. Jen Danzi real estate agent and partner of the Tamar Lurie Group at Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, pulls out all the stops to bring a property to life: images, videos, 3D tours, staging, and media posts. “Many of the buyers that are moving into new luxury downtown condos are downsizing,” says Danzi. “With this in mind, it is a very big change for a lot of people, since their homes in Greenwich tend to be their home base.” She explains that having amenities, like a private dock and outdoor swimming pool, makes it worth trading off larger homes. Her marketing background makes Danzi a good fit for selling such properties, like the Corsair designed by Robert AM Stern. Danzi and partner Tamar Lurie sold the luxury condos for the highest price per square footage for a condo seen in Greenwich.

Gold Coast Strategist

Like the rolling tides of the sea, the real estate market has highs and lows. And with 12 years of strategizing sales for his waterfront clients up and down Connecticut’s Gold Coast, Rob Johnson of Brown Harris Stevens has figured out how to roll with those tides. “Clients have a very broad range of needs,” says Johnson, who has worked internationally, in markets from London to Hong Kong. In the last decade, he has focused on the Greenwich and Fairfield County waterfront markets.

And to take the metaphor one step further, this vast experience helps him understand that when navigating real estate, you might hit stormy seas but you can chart a course to your goals if you strategize well. “As agents and consumers, we can’t personally change the market conditions, but with a day- to-day involvement within the market, we can advise clients as best as possible on likely scenarios that will make their search or sale as efficient and productive as possible,” he shares.

This strategic thinking has enabled Johnson to help his clients get the best possible outcome. For sellers, it frequently means extensive drone and 3D photography, calling on Brown Harris’s PR capability in New York City and, if discretion is a priority, finding liquidity off market when necessary. “Change is always around the corner,” says Johnson of the lively market Fairfield County has seen in recent years. “Talking through scenarios preemptively prepares everyone’s expectations and decisions to be more considered.”

Using a Designer’s Eye

For real estate agent Gloria Falcon from Berkshire Hathaway Home Services a home is full of possibilities. “I love houses and I can see the potential in them,” says Falcon, who, along with being an agent is also a successful interior designer and the owner of Old Greenwich-based Glow Home Solutions for the past 13 years. And this designer’s eye benefits her real estate clients: “Sometimes buyers can’t look past the red walls or ugly wallpaper,” says Falcon. “It’s easy for me to explain how every house can be beautiful and adapted to their needs. My design background helps me with that, and they trust me because I’ve been doing it for a while. That’s important.” In fact, many of her real estate clients become design clients after the move, and many of her design clients call on her when they are ready to sell.

Photo: Brian Zuleta

Industry Influencer

Founder and managing director of The Private Client Team at Compass and The Private Client Network at Com- pass, Kevin Sneddon has always been one to look beyond what’s customary and see what’s possible. “When I transitioned from Wall Street to real estate, I wanted to position myself as delivering a higher level of service than a typical agent,” he says. “I used my expe- rience and formulated a private-banker- meets-wealth-manager approach to my brokerage business, which I utilize to this day.”

So it isn’t surprising that in March, he launched a new podcast, Luxury on Location, which already ranks in the top 10 percent of podcasts with listeners in more than 30 countries. “In each episode, I sit down with a network partner to have an in- depth conversation about the luxury real estate in their home market as well as the unique lifestyle in each locale,” says Sneddon, who adds that the podcast has enabled him to relate to clients on a deeper level as they get to know him and his network partners more personally. And with technology becoming a larger part of the real estate process, Sneddon understands that adapting to and leveraging social media and other online tools is critical. “Starting a podcast was a great way to connect with the agents within our network to deliver high-level market and busi- ness insights to our clients wherever they are and whenever they want to tune in,” he says.

Maximizing Budgets

Having a deep understanding of the Gold Coast real estate market has helped Jenny Allen of Compass find her clients the right fit. A lifelong Greenwich resident and mom, she represents a new generation of real estate agents navigating a challenging and competitive market. “It’s been such a frenzy the last two years where no one has ever experienced this kind of market before,” says Allen. “The biggest thing is communication.”

And with a client list that ranges from the less-than-$1 million property to those over $14 million, so is helping clients maximize their budgets—no matter where they are on the real estate spectrum. “Any time I meet with a client, I first have a conversation with them to find out what their needs and desires are and see what we can do with the bud- get they have,” says Allen. “We do a drive through town, and I show them all the different neighborhoods.” With her personal knowledge of the community and her ability to understand people’s priorities—communication is key, after all— for Allen, almost no budget is impossible. “Finding the right fit for my clients is sort of like a puzzle,” she says. “Every part of our Greenwich umbrella is different communities, and it’s fun to figure out who fits where.”

Photo: Kyle Norton

Expanding a Brand

Jeffrey Jackson had partnered with Corcoran in the early days of his career in NYC where he says he had a “ringside seat to their ‘Best in Class’ culture-building.” So when Jackson heard they were looking to expand the brand into Connecticut in late 2021, he instantly knew he wanted to be part of it. “Fortunately, Pam Liebman, Corcoran president and CEO, and her team agreed, and we closed the deal in days,” says Jackson. Corcoran Centric Affiliate launched soon after, then new offices in Greenwich in March 2022.

Jackson says the brand has brought a fresh and edgy presence to the region, and being in Connecticut has allowed them to diversify their housing stock and expand their client list of high-end and international buyers. For instance, Jackson recently sold a waterfront property to a family looking for a home reminiscent of their Northern California lifestyle. “I dug deep and uncovered a property with the potential to be that dream,” says Jackson. “Then we assembled a very talented team of architects and designers to give the project life and show how it could be transformed into their dream home.”

Staging to Sell

Kate DeCarlo has always loved design, even before her early days in marketing. Which is why, when she turned to staging a few years ago, the transition was a smooth one. “I have always had an interest in real estate and a passion for interior design,” says DeCarlo. “I was fascinated by the staging process and how it relates to all three areas: real estate, design and marketing. It felt like a natural fit for me.”

Her personalized service includes taking a sales-oriented approach to prepping a home. Sometimes that means removing personal touches. “We neutralize the look and create a more marketable space,” she explains. In today’s challenging real estate market, her staging company, GSD Home Staging, has faced many obstacles, including homes selling before she can stage them. But skipping this step isn’t always a smart idea: She says staging first often garners a higher sale price or multiple offers, increasing the value of a home.

DeCarlo’s clients have liked her choice of white walls, light and light, bright furniture so much they ask them to ‘stage’ their new home, so she also offers “Stage to Stay,” including a design plan and reveal.

Historical Preservation

Alison Farn-Leigh has always had an appreciation for history. As an art history major at Vanderbilt University, she studied and learned to appreciate the importance of timeless architecture. “The architecture of each period reflects the lifestyle lived at that time, and I passionately believe we should preserve this,” says Farn-Leigh. That’s why, when her clients at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services come to her with an interest in antique properties, her genuine appreciation and vast knowledge help her seamlessly navigate the process with buyers and sellers of older homes.

For example, she recently helped her clients buy 43 Highview Ave., in Greenwich. The previous owners had enjoyed living in the 1910 home for many years, but it was in need of some updates. She collaborated with the buyers, the architect and a builder to expand and update the house after the sale, while maintaining the charm and appeal of its historical details.

“There are always ways to bring modern function to an older home while preserving the history of it,” says Farn-Leigh, who is also founder, board member and current vice president of the Greenwich Point Conservancy, a nonprofit with the sole mission of restoring and repurposing the historic buildings at the town’s beloved Greenwich Point (also known as Tod’s Point). “I love that when driving throughout the town of Greenwich you can see so many different periods of history reflected in the architecture.”

Precision Timing

They say timing is everything—and Angela Swift of Compass takes that to heart. The real estate industry vet has made it her job to understand all that’s involved in timing her clients’ sales in the most effective way possible.

“I offer advice to clients on what it takes to sell a home for the highest price, keep them on a timeline of deadlines, advise them what to purge, and connect them with stagers and storage units,” says Swift. She also understands how critical photography is in a market landscape, where first impressions are most often online. That means having photos that show the home in different seasons and prepping homes early so they can hit the market at the ideal time for the seller.

She also makes it her mission to take care of her clients. “Listening to them and bringing food to them when they are frazzled is one of the things I love most to do. I have the very best team; we are extremely process oriented and have what I call the ‘happy client’s playbook’ to successful selling and buying of a home.” That playbook includes good listening skills and a hyper local understanding of her market, which is exclusively Greenwich—a town she herself has called home for 31 years—but ranges in price and neighborhood.

And now, with the pandemic making the real estate market active year-round, her job has become even more dynamic. “I have been selling, on average, 40 homes per year the last three years,” says Swift. It’s a lot of work and time, but Swift can’t imagine doing anything else. “I love helping people navigate to the next chapter,” she says. “I love helping them secure the memories that they created in a home they are about to sell or to start making memories in their new home.”

Leveraging Resident Status

It isn’t uncommon for real estate agents to live in the community in which they work. But the extent of support Meg McQuillan, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty, has given the Greenwich community, where she lives and work, is exceptional. She is an active member of her church, St. Catherine of Siena Church in Riverside. She is a generous supporter of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and Greenwich Hospital, and an advocate of Yale New Haven’s Pediatric Specialty Center in Greenwich, which services local residents’ children in 15 specialty areas. And she actively engages in all of the town’s delights—from eating out at the various restaurants to attending arts and music events and visiting parks like Tod’s Point and Babcock Preserve.

All her volunteer work has shown her that, “the true color of the people of Greenwich shines through” in times of need. “Friends, neighbors and the entire town come together to help, and it is not a one-time effort. It’s simply extraordinary,” says the mom of two—both of whom attended Greenwich Public Schools. (Her youngest is a rising senior at Greenwich High School.)

McQuillan loves sharing everything the community has to offer with her clients. Whether shopping for waterfront or in-town living, retirement options, quiet country estates or budget-friendly neighborhoods, clients find what they are looking for with her help. She attributes her success to her laser focus on meeting clients’ needs, her ability to analyze and understand diverse business situations on a broad scale, and her listening skills. However, her love of community is always at the core of the matter. “The real estate market changes in the past few years have created substantial opportunities for both buyers and sellers, and have revitalized various areas of town that were long stagnant,” she says. “I educate my clients and confidently guide them every step of the way toward success.”

Photo: Realty Plans for Sotheby’s International

Inspiring Three Generations of Realtors

It’s a family affair at the Houlihan Lawrence office of BK Bates in Greenwich. With more than four decades in the industry, Bates has no intentions of retiring from an industry she is passionate about—particularly since she spends her days alongside some of her closest loved ones. Bates works with her husband John, son John IV, daughter Amanda, youngest son Win (a freelance TV commercial director who also sells real estate on the side), and her teenage granddaughter, who recently worked as an intern at the family-oriented firm. “They all love people,” says Bates. “They all grew up with me being in real estate. They enjoy it and they are all good at it.”

Perhaps it’s her infectious love of the industry, through all of its ebbs and flows—from the 17 percent interest rates of the early ’80s to the recession of 2008 to the suburban market surge brought on by Covid. “I love the whole energy and excitement of it,” says Bates, who began working in real estate in 1976. “I love helping people, getting to know people, mak- ing people happy. It’s a fully encompassing business in which you get to wear so many different hats and enjoy so many different aspects of the business. I love all of it. I’ve been very lucky working with great people. Most of my business is personal referral and repeat business. It’s been not just fun, but interesting and fulfilling and enjoyable.”

Intimate Knowledge of Community

Russell Pruner has called Greenwich, CT, home since the late-1960s. Being part of one community for so long has allowed him to meet a lot of people, build friendships and share the story of Greenwich with clients and acquaintances alike. “Greenwich is something I have learned by living it,” says Pruner, a real estate agent with Compass. “It isn’t something I’ve been told by somebody else.”

For instance, one young couple Pruner worked with didn’t know much about what Greenwich offered when they started their search. “Because it took a while, I was able to impart a great deal of information about Greenwich and the buying process to them,” he explains. “When we found their home they knew it was in the right location, it was the right home, and had the amenities they were looking for. The best part was, a year later they came back to me and said, ‘We are so happy we found you, that you found us the right home and [that] Greenwich is our new hometown.’”

Finding Buyers Reconstruction

Seasoned Broker Associate Ed Mortimer of Sotheby’s International Realty knows that buying new construction is a bit of a science. Speculative construction homes—those built without a buyer lined up—historically attract buyers when they are 50 to 75 percent complete, says Mortimer. “Buying during this period before completion often allows customization while presenting enough for a buyer to feel confident in making the investment.”

In today’s hot seller’s market, new construction projects have been selling before the typical 50-percent threshold. Mortimer attributes this early opt-in to an expansion of marketing and communication tools, including 3D imaging of home plans and virtual reality digital walkthroughs.

But while tools can be helpful, an agent’s management of a sale or purchase makes all the difference. “I am able to share real time historical knowledge of the Greenwich market over a timeline of three-plus decades,” says Mortimer.

White-Glove Service

Fairfield and Westchester counties hold an unusual role in the tri-state area as being ideal for both full-time residences and those looking for second homes—and that’s one of the reasons Brian Milton of Compass in Armonk, NY, and Greenwich enjoys working as a real estate agent here. “This area attracts homeowners with homes in multiple parts of the country and the world based on their proximity to New York City,” he says.

Case in point: He recently sold 435 Round Hill Road in Greenwich, where the grand living spaces, luxurious primary bedroom and bathroom, amenities like massage room, indoor basketball court, gym and spacious pool and pool house with formal and informal landscaping appealed to buyers of first and second homes. So, Milton marketed to both. “Being able to draw various audiences to view the house as either a primary residence in Greenwich or a separate audience looking at it as a secondary country retreat provided multiple interested buyers and resulted in a sale,” he says.

Milton’s 17 years in business has taught him that building relation- ships, having a deep understanding of the community he works in, and using creative tools and marketing strategies all come into play. This 360- degree perspective allows him to provide what he calls “white-glove service” to his clients so that each person feels they are getting 100 percent of his attention. Says Milton: “While it’s evolved into a collaborative group effort to accomplish all tasks necessary in real estate, it still remains one- on-one communication between me and all my buyers and sellers.”

Uniting Hearts and Homes

Fairfield, CT-raised Manhattanite Mike Fabbri has always had a knack for connecting people. In fact, he’s helped many friends and family members, including his brother, find love. Perhaps that’s why it was an easy transition from corporate marketing and strategy to real estate seven years ago, where he’s able to match people to the homes he knows they’ll love.

His first year out of the gate, Fabbri was named Rookie of the Year in Manhattan, chosen from thousands of agents in the city. Now a real estate agent with Nestseekers in NYC, he says his personal approach to real estate sets him apart. “In an industry known for being cutthroat and super competitive, I’m the opposite. I’m ethical, honest—brokers really want to work with me,” he says. “Getting deals done is much easier because there is a level of respect and a working relationship. People trust me.”

This, along with his gregarious nature, also makes him well-suited to matching couples—something he’s always liked to do, but which he took to the next level during the pandemic. Early on, a friend mentioned she was lonely. That’s when a lightbulb went off. “I went on Instagram and posted my story,” says Fabbri: He told friends and acquaintances that, with matchmaking apps unappealing during a time of such uncertainty, he could tap into his vast personal network to help them find someone. “Within 24 hours, I had 600 people sign up,” he says.

From there, he created a Google survey and hosted mini Zoom calls to get to know the friends of friends who had heard about his post, and started making matches. “I’ve probably matched about 1,000 people,” says Fabbi, who is creating a website and plans to continue connecting people, but does it for free as “slightly more than a hobby.”

Turns out, the hobby is good for business: Many of the couples he’s matched have come back to him look- ing for a new or bigger place to live. “I’ve set an extremely large but qualified network,” says Fabbi, which reaches beyond Manhattan to Westchester and Fairfield counties, the Hamptons and even internationally. “Meeting new people and socializing gives me energy….Everyone deserves some kindness and attention.”

Photo: Brad Dickson

Zoning Know-How

Courteous service, an eye for detail and knowing how to get her clients the best price, whether buying or selling, are all attributes that have made Barbara Zaccagnini of Coldwell Banker one of the top real estate agents in her region. That—plus her whatever-it-takes approach to helping clients—has made her well-poised for handling the many historical properties in the Greenwich area. “The real estate industry has changed a lot in 23 years,” says Zaccagnini, particularly in the realm of zoning regulations and what can be done to renovate a home. “I make it my business to know the changing rules and regulations as much as possible.” It’s a place where Zaccagnini feels she can make a difference for her clients. “I have found my niche and, let’s say, my home.”

Nourishing the Community

For Michele Tesei, real estate agent at Houlihan Lawrence, her role as agent doesn’t end with a closing. She frequently keeps in touch with her clients, particularly those just moving into the area. For instance, when one couple, whom she helped find a home in Greenwich, wanted to get involved in their new community by giving back, she stepped up to the task. The husband, a chef, was temporarily a stay-at-home dad and wanted to put his skills in the kitchen to good use.

“After brainstorming, he decided he wanted to help those in need by creating some homecooked Thanksgiving meals,” says Tesei. “I thought this was an amazing idea and immediately wanted to get involved. Along with my company, I organized volunteers as well as implemented a large food drive and procured financial donations to help pay for the meals. I was committed to feeding as many people as we could and was willing to financially contribute whatever was needed in the end.”

The week leading up to Thanksgiving, she organized the volunteers and they helped put meals together. Then, she and her family distributed those meals, along with other volunteers. “It was such a beautiful thing to see our community come together to help those in need and I’m so proud of my client for putting his talents to use in the best way possible and making such a difference. My clients are always there supporting me and I will always be there for them.”

Industry Mentor

When she first broke into the real estate market in 2002, Jennifer Leahy quickly made a name for herself as a top producing agent by closing almost a half a billion dollars in loans in four years. The Douglas Elliman agent’s tenacious spirit has landed her million-dollar clients (one such negotiation is featured in season 7 of Million Dollar Listing New York) and a role as an expert resource for various news outlets in the area.

And thanks to her adept skills at navigating social media and other online tools, she frequently serves as mentor to other realtors so they too can take advantage of all the tech resources out there. “It keeps changing,” says Leahy of online real estate marketing tools. “It’s not like you can learn it and you’re done. It’s so important to keep evolving.” Fortunately, she is ahead of the curve in many respects: She was using Facebook Live to sell homes long before the pandemic drove her peers to more online marketing. “The second year, I sold $12 million from Facebook, then $20 million the next year,” she says. “It’s always been a steady stream from social media.” Video tours, video calls to show properties to clients in other countries in real time, and sharing posts with friends of friends, have all contributed to her success. “Whenever I hold a social media class [for peers within the brand], I tell realtors, ‘just be you’,” says Leahy. “Don’t worry about whether you have lipstick on. It’s not going to matter.”

Once a single mother of two (she recently got engaged), struggling to support her family, Leahy has learned that women can be both competitive and supportive and she shares that message with her peers. “Women can be each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” she says. “I can’t press enough on other female agents to be kind and helpful and support each other. I am a fierce negotiator and I’m allowed to maintain that while being respectful and kind.”

Above Feature Image: Jeffrey Jackson at Corcoran just helped the owner of this mid country estate in Greenwich, CT go under contract for $7.195 million.

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