‘Selling the Hamptons’: Real Estate Drama on Long Island

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‘Selling the Hamptons’: Real Estate Drama on Long Island

Like the Hamptons itself, where white-sand beaches and world-class service await those with enough equity every summer, the reality TV show Selling the Hamptons is an escape and a treat. Now in its second season on Max, the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max, the show follows the cast to the storied vacation land of wealthy New Yorkers.

The stars of the show are a colorful cast of ambitious, handsome real estate agents who all work for luxury brokerage Nest Seekers International: the badass pro surfer who has anointed himself the “Prince of Montauk,” an aspiring pop princess whose favorite topic of conversation is her wealthy father, a developer, an agent known as “Deals in Heels,” an entrepreneur with a $10 billion portfolio, and, of course, two former models.

They're all in a cutthroat competition for a razor-thin inventory of homes for sale in Long Island's resort towns, and they always seem to show up at each other's listings in stilettos or suit jackets. It's not just about the drama; it's their livelihood, some cast members said.

“My goal is to make as much money as I can,” said Mia Calabrese, 32, a model and luxury agent who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She received her real estate license in 2019 and joined the show just two years later in the first season.

“I’m not doing this just to be on TV. I do it to grow my business,” Ms. Calabrese said.

Three members of the show began their careers on Netflix's “Million Dollar Beach House”: Peggy Zabakolas, who holds both a broker's license and a law degree; Michael Fulfree, a former Milan runway model turned loving father; and JB Andreassi, who declined to be interviewed for this article. Ms Zabakolas, 37, said she understood the risk and reward that comes with appearing on reality TV. “People are going to love you and people are going to hate you,” she said. “In sales, you use that to your advantage.”

Ms. Zabakolas, the self-proclaimed “dealsinheels” who loves her title so much that she bought the trademark, doesn’t shy away from drama. She fought with Mr. Andreassi for a $20 million initial public offering. She accused new agent Ashley Allen of insulting her behind her back. Those sparks, Ms. Zabakolas said, are reality TV's raison d'être.

“People tune in to watch dramas,” she said, adding that she rarely gets into conflict with people off-camera. “If people listened to my real life, they'd be taking a nap.”

Being on the show, Ms. Zabakolas said, has given her a good head start in a market where the average sale price of a home is more than $3 million and inventory all but disappears after the summer ends. “Some people invest in billboards or postcards. But I have a TV show,” she said. “It's another marketing tool in my portfolio.”

On Monday afternoon, as The New York Times interviewed some of the cast, Mr. Fulfree, the show's nice guy yet penchant for profanity, rushed to tour a new, all-glass, eight-bedroom oceanfront home in Bridgehampton. He had to coach his son Lucas' T-ball game at 5 p.m. and was anxiously watching the time.

The house features a floating staircase, 8,600 square feet of living space and a rooftop putting green. It's an open listing – any agent who wants to can try to get a buyer – and developer Joe Farrell is hoping to get $80 million. Mr. Fulfree, 35, believes he can be the one to close the deal.

“You may like me or not,” Mr. Fulfree said, but he makes a lot of money from the people who work with him, he said, using a more colorful term that rhymes with “truck load.”

The drama may be hyped up, but the series is unscripted, said Bianca D'Alessio, 31, who runs her own team of agents and is managing director at Nest Seekers.

“Everything I put on screen shows who I am as a person,” she said in an interview.

The agents' lifestyle is gladiatorial, and no couple has as many conflicts as Mr. Fulfree and Dylan Eckhardt, a notorious Hamptons party boy and native son who made his name on the professional surfing scene years ago. In Season 2, he seems to have been cut from the central cast because Nest Seekers was looking for a villain, and in one scene he and Mr. Fulfree nearly come to blows.

Mr. Eckhardt, who declined an interview, has a personal slogan: “Whatever I touch sells.” Eddie Shapiro, the president of Nest Seekers, said that was part of the plan, that the soap opera would be part of the drama. “We see ourselves as a talent and casting agency as much as a broker,” he said.

Occasionally, the company's wealthy buyers were put off by the prospect of cameras and theatrics, he said. But not often.

“Sometimes they say, 'My property is my most important asset, and I was watching your show and the only thing I saw was a silly 10-minute back-and-forth of some people arguing on the beach,'” said he. “It can happen.”

On the other hand, he said, “People aren't signing up to us just because we're on TV. But they'll certainly give us a chance on a brand that may have no name recognition at all.” Max declined to reveal information on the show's ratings. After Netflix's “Million Dollar Beach House” ran for a single season, the production team moved on to “Selling the Hamptons,” which received a second season and gained new cast members along the way. Max has now invested in another similar show, “Serving the Hamptons,” which follows a crew of waiters and bartenders in a stylish Hamptons restaurant.

Ms. Allen, a new agent who joined the cast in Season 2 and regularly appears alongside her father, real estate developer Jeff Allen, said she was enjoying the spotlight.

Mr. Allen was a long-time music agent before moving into real estate, and Ms. Allen, 35, considered a singing career in her 20s and now talks enthusiastically about releasing an album singles this month. Real estate is just a side job for her, she said, but the attention that “Selling the Hamptons” is generating is a blessing.

“As my godfather James Brown always said to my father and to me, 'Any press is good press,'” she said. “So if they're talking about you, you must be doing something right.”