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The MarketWatch Q&A: Here’s ‘Selling the Hamptons’ star Peggy Zabakolas’s advice for luxury home buyers

Real estate in the Hamptons has been booming since the pandemic hit as wealthy New Yorkers have sought an idyllic escape from the city. For much of the past two years, sellers have seen unprecedented interest, and many buyers have been outbid.

The Hamptons housing market is so hot, reality shows like “Million Dollar Beach House” (Netflix

) and “Selling the Hamptons” (Discovery+) focus more on the properties for sale than reality TV drama. Peggy Zabakolas, an agent featured on both shows, works with the Nest Seekers firm, but has also worked alongside Ryan Serhant on BravoTV’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

Born in Queens and raised on Long Island, Zabakolas is a first generation Greek-American.

“When I started real estate I started from the bottom,” she said in the Discovery+ show. “My parents are the ones who taught me to work hard because they had to … They had no other choice.”

Zabakolas talked with MarketWatch about her career, her love of Louboutins and predictions for the luxury home market.

MarketWatch: How has being on reality shows changed your business as a realtor?

Peggy Zabakolas: I think nowadays we need to do something to differentiate ourselves from other agents, and the fact that now I have this whole platform — whether it’s social media or Discovery+ and other channels — I can fortunately advertise and market and reach a broader reach of buyers and sellers. It just gives me a bit more recognition, which therefore also gives the homes that I’m selling recognition.

MW: What is your best tip for staying on top of the second home market? Do you have any advice for buyers and sellers in the Hamptons specifically?

PZ: My number one advice that I always tell everyone whether it’s your first or second home: I wouldn’t always necessarily wait for the right time because the right time realistically is when you can afford it so you don’t become — I don’t want to say ‘house poor’ — but you don’t want to put all your money into something and then just live and struggle through.

As far as the secondary market, everything is cyclical. If the interest rates are low, then there’s always going to be more buyers and less inventory. Once interest rates increase, it flattens out a bit.

I also think real estate is a good investment because it’s a tangible property as opposed to stocks where you never know what can go up and down and how things are working. Even with crypto, you just don’t really necessarily know.

MW: What are your predictions for the luxury second home market for 2022 and beyond?

PZ: The majority of the homes that I’m personally seeing are gravitating more towards ‘full service’ or amenity driven. A lot of them have indoor theaters, indoor pools if they can or indoor gyms, and I think a lot of it has shifted through COVID where people want to gravitate towards an all inclusive resort where they don’t necessarily need anything exterior. I would like to see what happens five years from now because naturally everything gets better and better, and then I don’t know what more you could possibly get in your own home or your own estate.

MW: How much of the show is real, and what is staged?

PZ: We’re all real estate brokers first, and that’s pretty much our only job — being on the show is secondary. All the transactions, all the houses are real. The only thing that’s different is sometimes people who actually purchase or view the house don’t want to physically be on TV so they bring a representative. Aside from that, the stories are pretty on point.

MW: What is the best financial advice you’ve ever been given?

PZ: This is what I live by and what I tell a lot of the newer agents when they first join the team or just go into real estate in general: Live like you’re poor, or live like you make a lot less than what you actually do. Let’s say you make $300,000. Live like you make $100,000. Set yourself a goal of spending, and no matter how much money you increase after the next year, live as if you’re still making that same amount of money and then put that money towards savings.

Don’t be fooled by buying all the nice cars and watches and bags because a lot of kids, especially in real estate, get these big checks and don’t know what to do with them, so they just splurge on everything. They look back 10 years later and think, ‘I could have bought a house without money.’ So live under your means. I still live under my means now.

Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses because you never can, there’ll always be someone richer than you. Don’t try to get that Ferrari even if you can afford it. Stick with a normal budget because you never know what tomorrow brings. I know it’s harder when you’re young because everyone wants to have that new cool toy and they see what social media has and everyone’s flaunting their nice cars or their bags or shoes or watches, but you don’t know what the reality of everyone’s life is. And I’d rather have more money saved in the bank for my retirement than wear a nice watch on my wrist.

MW: What do you hate spending money on?

PZ: Tolls and gas, but that’s because I drive a lot. I commute a lot from New York City, Long Island, the Hamptons and Pennsylvania.

MW: What do you not mind splurging on?

PZ: I’m big on shoes and bags. I really wouldn’t advise this unless you can financially afford it. But I use them as investment pieces as well. Bags, for instance, I can resell them. Shoes will always fit. My tagline is ‘deals in heels’ since I started real estate. I have a lot of Louboutins, just because that’s my brand. My favorite my favorite brand is probably Chanel, but I couldn’t afford that when I first started real estate, and people shouldn’t just buy it just to buy it when they first start off just to have it. It’s expensive, but I also look at as an investment down the line. That, and also quality food, quality ingredients when you cook — my mom always told me that.

MW: Have you made any money mistakes in your life or your career?

PZ: When I first started in real estate, I would purchase things that I shouldn’t have necessarily wasted that much money on — shoes and bags. Eventually I woke up one morning and said this is ridiculous and resold them. Also, I invested money in a development and it never panned out. That was early on. I didn’t really fully read everything, and I was just hungry to get into that property.

MW: What’s your favorite possession?

PZ: My favorite probably is my grandmother’s ring. I wear it very rarely because it’s so personal to me. I think I wore it on the show in the pink interview outfit, because it’s a pink emerald, but I very rarely wear just because it’s my grandmother’s.


MW: Do you think you’ll ever retire?

PZ: I think I’d be bored if I retired. The type of person I am is I always have to do something. I hope to have my team built well enough where it’s a well oiled machine and I don’t have to be as involved, but no. I look at it where when business is slow, that’s a problem. So as long as business is busy, I will keep working.

MW: What’s the one job you would do even if you didn’t get paid?

PZ: Volunteering. I would probably always help younger children out, less fortunate children. If I could just do that my entire life and be okay with bills, I probably would just do that every day.

MW: Can you speak about your experience as a woman in a male dominated field?

PZ: I’ve never really been like boys against girls. I was taught to just walk into a room, command it, and let everything else follow. Growing up, my dad taught me how to change a tire and the oil in the car, so I think when I walk into any room or office, I don’t necessarily see the difference. I think other people do. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I have noticed that — every industry, whether it’s real estate, I also am an attorney — it’s very male dominated, so you definitely get treated a little bit different, but I look at it where the glass is half full. Use what you have to your advantage. Women I think are more detail oriented, so I try to lean more towards that and work that angle as opposed to just whining about male versus female. And then just kind of just head down and going forward and keep doing what you need to do.

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