Dana Trotter: The Powerhouse Selling The Hamptons While Living The Country Life

Sotheby’s International Realty has several rockstars whose experience is an inspiration for new and veteran brokers — Dana Trotter is one of them. As an associate broker for over twenty years, she has become one of the top 50 brokers in the nation, having sold a billion dollars for the agency. We were fortunate to catch up with Trotter to give us her insights on the current market.

Dana, are you native to the East End? Is it true your mother was in real estate?

I am close to a native, but I wasn’t born here. My family moved to Amagansett when I was little, and I grew up in this charming old farmhouse from the late 1700s on Main Street. We were so close to the school that we would walk every day and spend the afternoons at the Farmers Market across the street that was owned by my best friend at the time.

Yes, my mother was in the business for over 40 years and my stepfather was a builder/developer. Mom introduced me to the business over 25 years ago and I’m so grateful to her for that. Having been lucky enough to move out to the Hamptons in the ’80s means that I’ve seen many cycles in real estate both through my mother before I was in the business and in the 25 years I have been doing it. So, while I may not be a born and bred East End native, my roots certainly go deep here.

You’ve sold over $1B in Hamptons real estate – what differentiates you and your services to make you such a standout broker?

I think what makes me different than a lot of others in the business is that I truly care about the people I work for and their wants and needs in real estate transactions. I’m a people person and I love to help others so completing a deal for someone always gives me inherent satisfaction. Ultimately, there’s no shortcuts for experience. I’ve lived and breathed Hamptons real estate for most of my life. But I still love what I do, and I still feel young and energetic. Nothing surprises me in this market anymore but I’m still learning every day. The Hamptons is one of the most competitive and expensive real estate markets in the country and with that territory comes a variety of egos and personalities. Real estate deals also require tremendous amounts of cooperation and I pride myself on being a team player who can make deals happen with anyone and everyone. I think one of the key traits that sets me apart from other brokers is that I always work in my client’s best interest. I work exceptionally hard to make sure they’re happy. Exceptional service has always been a hallmark of the Sotheby’s International Realty brand and it’s the perfect fit for how I conduct business.

The homes you have in your inventory and those you have already sold are simply spectacular. Why did you choose Sotheby’s International Realty as your brokerage with so many choices?

I actually started in real estate at a small, chic boutique firm called Braverman, Newbold & Brennan. ​That firm was acquired by Sotheby’s International Realty six months later and the rest is history. In that respect I was very fortunate to be picked up early in my career by the best company and because of that I have never left. A lot of other companies have come into this market over the years, but I still believe that Sotheby’s International Realty is the best fit for me and my clients. Beyond having the best global reach, I take to heart the brand’s reputation for white glove service. No deal is easy, especially these days, but with discretion and professionalism, we strive to make it as easy as possible for our clients to achieve their real estate goals. I also love our company’s marketing and aesthetics which showcase our spectacular, luxury properties. Sotheby’s International Realty has the most viewed real estate channel on YouTube, and we have 37M annual visits to our website, it’s all beautiful content. Our PR team is amazing at securing press exposure for compelling properties, there were over 150 press mentions in December alone. We’re the most profiled real estate company in the news.

Over the years I have been recruited by every firm out here but I’m very loyal and I’ve always felt that I am in the right place. My long-standing relationships in both the community and inside the Sotheby’s International Realty organization has served me well. I’m now friends with all the key players and my brand loyalty has been well rewarded with a level of trust that is hard to replace, so I think it’s a relationship that works well both ways.

You were ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 50 brokers in the nation! What do you think that says to your prospects and clients?

It’s so nice to receive those sorts of accolades from such a well-respected publication. I hope it reflects the fact that I work really hard and that we have a good team and a great brand that produces consistent and exceptional outcomes. The recognition and accolades are such an honor but in this business, we’re so focused on the present deal or the next deal that we don’t really get a chance to stop and appreciate the accolades or past deals. If we do an exceptional job, the best compliment is repeat or referral business.

You are also part of a collective of agents that represents homes on the market from Aspen to the South of France. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

The Sotheby’s International Realty brand has offices in 75 countries and produced $2.9B in global referral business in 2020. The Market Leaders Group brings together some of the top performing agents from around North America and the world to collaborate. I was one of the first members of the group and we try to have a representative in every key market across the country. We collaborate regularly on best practices and share new and innovative ideas; we also share intel and cross-market opportunities. It provides value to our clients because they can connect with trusted, proven agents in almost any market, and it provides us with personal access to buyers and sellers around the globe because of our own relationships in each of these markets. The group typically meets in person a couple of times a year, we host key speakers and share market knowledge. It’s an inspiring and really fun group of people and I look forward to getting together again soon.

“Cabin in the Woods” by architect, Jasmit Singh Rangr. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

We know your portfolio is vast, but what are some homes you were particularly proud of selling?

There have been so many deals I am proud of, mostly those that have made my sellers and buyers both happy. Client appreciation is one of the best accolades. Outside of that, one of my favorite sales was a modern home, playfully dubbed “Cabin in the Woods” by an architect named Jasmit Singh Rangr. This was a memorable sale in many ways. First off, it took unique vision and supreme confidence to build such an architectural marvel in a less notable, wooded, hilly area of Southampton. It was two stacked boxes with a cantilevered box that created gorgeous outdoor space below and a 70-foot infinity edge pool that floated in the trees. Just magical. It felt like a tree house and made the absolute most of the site and the surrounding environment in a way that was unique to our market. That said, it was difficult to price because there were no direct comps, nothing even close. It was a published home with Architectural Digest, and we had amazing photography, but it was tricky to sell because it would take a very specific and qualified buyer to purchase in that location. Eventually a family from out of market, another continent even, begged to rent it and try it out. We were all skeptical, but the owners were game. The family fell in love with the house and ended up purchasing it fully furnished with everything in place from silverware to the kids toys because it was just so well executed. A perfect match and a record for the street. (You can see it here.)

The global pandemic brought record-breaking business to the East End. How did you cope with that as we know it must have been so challenging to pivot every aspect of doing business?

At first it was scary and uncertain like it was for everyone. Our company has great leadership though and we all quickly adapted our practices, and eventually we were fortunate enough to contribute to a record year in 2020. We were in the right place at the right time which was great for us but there are many who are suffering and in need from the pandemic, here and everywhere. One way we give back is by supporting local charities and food pantries. Hamptons Community Outreach is a wonderful organization that supports underserved communities in the Hamptons with food and meal deliveries, warm winter clothes, Christmas gifts, masks, as well as summer art camps, and fun activities for kids.

How did it affect your business? How was 2021 for you?

The pandemic forever changed the way we do business, and we were still in a very competitive, high-flying market through 2021. It was the busiest my team and I have ever been, and I worked near nonstop at the height of it all. It’s high stakes, high stress, and high reward if you can keep it all together. Most days it felt like you were getting pulled in a million different directions and you’re constantly spread too thin. My team helped out immensely and together we all tried to stay calm and work our way through the challenges and opportunities. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work in the Hamptons and we’re grateful to our clients and customers who worked with us during this paradigm shift in housing. To decompress during the pandemic, beach walks with the kids and dogs and long horse rides for myself are simple pleasures.

What are some amenities you’re seeing as becoming a permanent part of the Hamptons home since the pandemic began in 2020? Are they still relevant?

There was a prevailing trend toward open concept living before the pandemic and while I think the open kitchen with dining and living areas will persist, traditional layouts and home offices came back in a big way out of necessity during the pandemic. We also saw increased demand for outdoor living spaces, people still want to connect with friends and family and one of the best ways to do that was to be able to meet outside.

Do you have any advice for potential sellers in our market?

Inventory is low but there’s still demand and fierce competition for what’s available, conditions of a seller’s market. You certainly can sell while the market is hot but make sure you have somewhere to go because it’s tough to trade in a red-hot market. It’s difficult to underprice compelling properties right now because intense competition has been bringing properties up over asking prices in some cases. As always, overpricing, and ambitious pricing are not often rewarded. Buyers are savvy and the market will speak.

What about buyers?

For buyers, despite the slim inventory, it’s a good practice to stay engaged with the market. Be patient and observant. You never know when the right opportunity will present itself and it’s good to move quickly when it does. There are new properties coming on and there will be compelling properties that trade. You’ll know when it feels right to make an offer. To debunk a couple common myths for buyers – it often DOES help to work with a buyer’s agent to get an inside track and Zillow DOES NOT know everything. HamptonsRE.com is the most comprehensive listing portal for the Hamptons, period.

Is it true you’re an equestrian?

Yes, I’ve been riding since I was 5 and it’s been a true passion my whole life. When I was very young, I worked at Stony Hill Stables cleaning stalls in exchange for pony lessons. I started riding in the Hampton Classic at age 8, on “Oh Be Good” in the short stirrup. I competed in college at CW Post on Long Island and then hit the circuit in Wellington, Florida when I graduated. These days, I compete in several regional events each season with my horse, Balou, but the Hampton Classic is still my favorite.

We know how busy you must be – what do you do for fun when you can find downtime?

Work and family keep me plenty busy (three kids all in school and busy with sports) but I try to visit my horse Balou at the barn and get a quick ride in daily. I call it my horse therapy. I take my riding pretty seriously, and I’m competitive by nature so I try to get to about four or five horse shows a year. I like to win so practice is key!

We also have a hobby farm in our backyard with a veggie garden, nine chickens for fresh eggs, and bees for honey and it’s really satisfying to take care of it with my husband and the kids. The dogs and sometimes our cat are intrigued by the chickens and they pretend to help out and follow us around during chores, it’s all pretty amusing.

We also love to travel as a family which has obviously been difficult in the last couple of years. My husband is from New Zealand, so we typically travel there to see family at least every other year. After all of that if I have any “free time” in the summer we will jump out on the boat with the kids or go to Sagg Main Beach, we all love to walk with the dogs on warm evenings. Life always seems pretty hectic for me, there’s not a lot of downtime with three kids and a career but these simple pleasures help keep me grounded.

To learn more about Trotter and her properties, click here.

Ty Wenzel

Co-Publisher & Contributor

Ty Wenzel, a recent breast cancer survivor, started her career as a fashion coordinator for Bloomingdale’s followed by fashion editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine. She was also a writer for countless publications, including having published a memoir (St. Martin's Press) and written features for The New York Times. She is an award-winning writer and designer who covers lifestyle, real estate, architecture and interiors for James Lane Post. She previously worked as a writer and marketing director for The Independent. She has won multiple PCLI and NYPA awards for journalism, social media and design, including best website design and best magazine for James Lane Post, which she co-founded in 2020. Wenzel is also a co-founder of the meditation app for kids, DreamyKid, and the Hamptons social media agency, TWM Hamptons Social Media.

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