Published online June 3, 2011
Five Questions With: Jay Serzan
By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
Looking for a mansion? Jay Serzan is your guy. Last year, the agent at Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty in Newport recorded $11 million in sales. He sold the Newport estate known as “Cove Haven” for $4 million and “The Playhouse” in Newport for $2.2 million. Serzan recently took some time to discuss the luxury home market.
PBN: Can you tell us what it takes – personally and professionally – to be the top-producing associate at Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty?
SERZAN: It takes hard work and a little luck. I have a saying that to be successful you need to show up and follow up. Most agents show up but then they fail to follow up.
I have been selling real estate in Newport since 1986 and have built a great customer base. Most of my business is either repeat business or referrals from past clients. I also hold the Certified Residential Specialist designation. Only 4 percent of all Realtors have this. It requires extensive course study and business experience. It also helps to have contacts in the community and to keep your name in front of people.
PBN: The economic downturn hit the real estate market hard. What effect has the downturn had on the luxury housing market?
SERZAN: The downturn has affected the luxury market but not as much as the rest of the market. The luxury properties that are selling are still getting strong prices for the most part with a few notable exceptions. My biggest concern right now is the large overhang of inventory in the million-dollar-plus price range. This inventory overhang will place further pressure on prices if buyer activity does not increase.
PBN: So how do you respond as a real estate agent?
SERZAN: Pricing is key. Luxury market buyers are very sophisticated and know where the market value should be. The days of overpricing a property and hoping to find a buyer are long gone. Marketing is also an important part of selling luxury properties. Gustave White Sotheby’s is part of the worldwide Sotheby’s International Realty network and we do extensive print and web advertising to locate buyers.
PBN: Can you talk a little more about the importance of the asking price? I’ve seen a lot of luxury homeowners lower their prices lately.
SERZAN: The list price is very important. It is always better to price a property correctly from the start. Otherwise you risk chasing the market down. 2010 was a stabilizing year after two years of price declines in 2009 and 2008. It is still too early to get a definitive trend on 2011.
I am telling sellers that the value of their property 12 months from now will be the same as it is now if all goes well. The risk is to the downside if the market does not continue to stabilize.
Some luxury homeowners are lowering their prices in response to the slow buyer activity. I recently put a property under agreement after we lowered the price over $500,000. It had been on the market for almost a year. We had only 10 showings in the 10 months prior to the price change. As soon as we set the new price, we had six showings in a matter of days and placed the property under sales agreement. This is a prime example of the right price making a difference. The buyers are out there and they will step up to the plate if the price is right.
PBN: What about buyers themselves? Have they changed since the downturn?
SERZAN: The luxury property buyer is still out there but they are looking for value. Many of the luxury buyers looking in the Newport area work in the finance arena in New York City. They are very savvy business people. We also get a lot of buyers who are members on the New York Yacht Club and are part of the sailing community.