Up-And-Coming Agents To Know In Hamptons Real Estate: Cleo Ahn

Hamptons Real Estate

Cleo Ahn is a powerhouse of rising talent and expertise in the world of luxury real estate. With a multifaceted background spanning business, design, and digital marketing, Cleo brings a wealth of experience to her role at Douglas Elliman. As the founder of “Primary New York,” a renowned fashion brand, Cleo honed her skills in operations, design, and digital marketing, garnering acclaim from industry giants like Vogue and Elle. Her keen eye for detail and unwavering dedication to her craft have earned her a reputation for excellence.

Since transitioning to real estate, Cleo has seamlessly integrated her unique vision and digital marketing prowess into her practice, serving her clients with dedication and care. Her extensive network of creatives, from interior designers to art advisors, further enhances her ability to cater to her clients’ diverse needs.

Recently crowned “Rookie of the Year” for the Hamptons and North Fork regions, Cleo’s accolades speak volumes about her commitment to excellence and passion for serving her clients. With Cleo Ahn at the helm, clients can rest assured that they are in the hands of a true industry innovator and trusted advisor.

Hamptons Real Estate
Cleo Ahn. Courtesy of Douglas Elliman

Your background in business, design, and digital marketing is quite diverse and impressive. How do you believe your experiences in these fields have prepared you for success in the real estate industry, and what unique perspectives do you bring to your clients as a result?

Thank you, I appreciate that! Yes, undoubtedly having your own business is a great preparation for real estate, because you are essentially running your own business. All my fellow founders know that in the beginning, you do everything and the learning and growth that happens there is invaluable. Eventually, I was able to hire a head of production and sales team, but I steered the whole ship in terms of business development, digital marketing, and creative direction. Most people come to real estate from other careers, but having such an understanding of specific design aesthetics and a client-focused service has helped me immensely. Having spent a lot of time on set for photoshoots is also a huge asset while listing a property. We all know the power of good photography and video clips, it’s what gets people in the door!

Founding an independent fashion brand and managing operations and design for over a decade must have provided valuable insights into entrepreneurship and creative leadership. How do you apply the skills and lessons learned from your fashion brand to your role in real estate, particularly in terms of client service and marketing strategies?

My years as a founder and managing operations allowed me to hone certain skill sets that are very relevant to real estate. You have to be creative with your marketing strategies and be able to come to market with a very desirable product. Even a rough gem can have magic if you find out what’s unique to the property and what type of person or family will thrive in it. It all comes down to understanding your customers and delivering the very best service.

Your apparel and fine jewelry designs being featured in prestigious publications and sold at renowned retailers is a testament to your talent and success in the fashion industry. Can you share how your achievements in fashion have influenced your approach to real estate, and how do you leverage your creativity and marketing expertise to benefit your clients?

Success from the outside is such a funny thing. Yes, I’m so grateful that the brand was in some incredible magazines and retailers and that was a rewarding part of my life – but truthfully, it was also quite isolating. Real estate has just been a great fit for me, and much like fashion, it all comes down to hard work, knowing your market, making real connections, knowing your client, and developing trust. I am so grateful for the community I have and the trust my clients have in me. Getting referrals from past clients and friends truly means the world. I love living full-time in the Hamptons, close to nature, and having a career that is very social and rewarding in terms of the service I’m able to provide for my clients.

Transitioning from the fashion industry to real estate with Douglas Elliman is quite a shift. What motivated this career change, and what aspects of real estate do you find most fulfilling compared to your previous endeavors?

It was a pivot into real estate but for those who know me, it’s a field I’ve been interested in for a very long time. My husband and I have been real estate investors for many years. I also have entrepreneurs in my family who have been very influential in my life; my sister Grace Ahn is an architect and has her own firm, and my older sister Nadia Roberts is the founder and CEO of Interior Talent, a global recruitment company for interior designers and architects. I just went to Paris with her early this year for design week! I am passionate about architecture, design, art, and interiors so this transition is a very natural next chapter for me.

The major catalyst though was the pandemic. I closed my business and its Brooklyn design studio in 2020 and my husband and our two young children left the city to move full-time to our house in Southampton. I knew right away the time was finally right for a career in real estate. I truly love this market, it’s like no other. It was my very first visit to the Hamptons, shortly after I moved to New York in 2008 — to attend Parsons School of Design — that solidified New York as a forever home for me. I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada — the beaches, the seasons, the light — all felt like home. The Hamptons is a very special place, which is why it has attracted such an eclectic group of creatives and New Yorkers at the top of their respective industries. I don’t see that changing; people will always want to have a retreat out here and the main difference post 2020 is that there is such an incredible and inspiring group of New Yorkers who have chosen to stay year-round.

Building a network of creatives, including interior designers, architects, builders, and art advisors, is invaluable in the real estate industry. How do you collaborate with these professionals to enhance the services you provide to your clients, and what benefits does this network offer in terms of meeting your clients’ diverse needs?

This has proven to be a huge benefit that I can provide my clients. Examples I can give range from matching clients with an interior designer so they can have wall treatments, built-ins, and other updates finished before move-in, to having a builder go over to a newly purchased home to finish all the closets and add custom shelving to a pantry, down to – but equally important – sending over an approved babysitter list so my clients could join a last minute dinner in Montauk. I think that what sets my service apart is the access I can give my clients. I live here full time, with a great network of not only creatives but also as a mother of three, who is tapped into the community.

As someone who pays close attention to detail and is dedicated to meeting clients’ needs and goals, how do you ensure a smooth and successful real estate transaction for each of your clients, whether they are buying or selling a home?

Being detail-oriented is essential as is preparedness, and understanding the unique processes for each of the purchases or sales of my clients’ homes. Recently, my client and I narrowed in on the perfect home for her family, but a pool house was really important to them. Turns out, the home already had plans in place for a pool house and I was able to reach out to the architect and then obtain quotes from a range of builders, so we’d have an idea of cost.  Because they loved the house so much, we built a pool house budget into the offer and thankfully were able to make a deal.

Real estate transactions can be complex and multifaceted. Can you share some strategies or approaches you use to navigate challenges and overcome obstacles during the buying or selling process, and how do you keep your clients informed and reassured throughout?

Yes, real estate transactions can be complex, so I am here to make sure each step goes smoothly from appraisals to inspections, to keeping my clients informed through closing. Of course, one of the main challenges in the current economic environment is high mortgage rates. I’ve been able to use my financial contacts from the city to get the best mortgage rate for my clients and have been very involved in that process.

Given your background in digital marketing, how do you utilize technology and online platforms to market properties effectively and reach a wider audience of potential buyers or sellers?

The last few years of my company were direct-to-consumer focused, and it pushed us to be technology forward. The tools now available to agents are really incredible and only getting better as AI gives us even further support to navigate the real estate market and reach an even larger pool of buyers. A major part of my background is also photography — which is so important now more than ever with everyone searching for homes themselves. Social media is also a great tool that I have fun with — who doesn’t love Hamptons real estate?!

What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your work as a real estate professional, and can you share a memorable experience or success story that highlights the impact you’ve made on your client’s lives?

For sure, the most rewarding part is having clients that are so happy in their new homes. Our homes are such a reflection of ourselves and those we love — it’s our sanctuary and the place where we create core memories. What immediately comes to mind is working with a very close friend of mine. I listed her weekend beach house alongside Alexandra McDevitt (another dear friend and real estate mentor!) and found her forever home in Water Mill. One of the huge factors for this move was space. The couple is from Australia and her in-laws just came for a month-long very happy visit with more than ample room for everyone!

Looking ahead, what goals or aspirations do you have for your real estate career with Douglas Elliman, and how do you envision continuing to provide exceptional service and support to your clients in the future?

I have felt very supported at Douglas Elliman, from management to our regional CEO Todd Bourgard, to our amazing administrative assistants in Bridgehampton. I have also been developing some great relationships with top agents that I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate with on deals. Yes, I’ve had early success, but I am very much just getting started. So many goals and things in the works, which I am excited for.  Find me on Instagram @cleo_ahnv to see what I’m working on and the gorgeous Hamptons properties and interiors I’m inspired by!

To learn more about Cleo Ahn, click here.

Ty Wenzel

Co-Publisher & Contributor

Ty Wenzel 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 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. Wenzel is also a co-founder of the meditation app for kids, DreamyKid, and the social media agency, TWM Hamptons Social Media.

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