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


Like the Hamptons itself, where white-sand beaches and white-glove service await those with enough equity each summer, the reality TV show “Selling the Hamptons” is an escape and an indulgence. Now in its second season on Max, the streaming service formerly known as HBO, the show follows the cast in the storied vacationland of moneyed New Yorkers.

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

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

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

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

Three members of the show got their start on Netflix’s “Million Dollar Beach House”: Peggy Zabakolas, owner of both a broker’s license and a law degree; Michael Fulfree, a former Milan runway model turned doting dad; and J.B. Andreassi, who declined to be interviewed for this story. Ms. Zabakolas, 37, said she understands the risk and reward of being on reality TV. “People are going to love you and people are going to hate you,” she said. “Being in sales, you spin it to your advantage.”

Ms. Zabakolas, the self-anointed “Dealsinheels” who is so enamored of her title that she bought the trademark, doesn’t shy away from drama. She sparred with Mr. Andreassi over a $20 million listing. She accused new agent Ashley Allen of trash-talking her behind her back. These sparks, Ms. Zabakolas said, are reality TV’s raison d’être.

“People tune in to watch drama,” she said, adding that off camera, she rarely gets into conflicts with people. “If people tuned in to my real life, they would have a snooze fest.”

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

On the Monday afternoon when The New York Times interviewed some of the cast members, Mr. Fulfree, the show’s resident nice guy who nevertheless has an affinity for profanity, was rushing to visit a new, all-glass eight-bedroom oceanfront home in Bridgehampton. He had to coach his son Luca’s T-ball game at 5 p.m., and was anxiously checking the time.

The home has a floating staircase, 8,600 square feet of living space and a putting green on the rooftop. It’s an open listing — any agent who wants to can try and bring in a buyer — and the builder, Joe Farrell, is hoping it goes for $80 million. Mr. Fulfree, 35, believes he can be the one to close the deal.

“You can like me or not,” Mr. Fulfree said, but he makes the people who work with him a great deal of money, he said, using a more colorful term that rhymes with truckload.

The drama may be turned up, but the show isn’t scripted, said Bianca D’Alessio, 31, who runs her own team of agents and is a managing director at Nest Seekers.

“Everything that I put onscreen is who I am as a person,” she said in an interview.

The agents’ lifestyles are gladiatorial, and no pair have as much conflict as Mr. Fulfree and Dylan Eckhardt, a notorious Hamptons party boy and native son who years ago made a name for himself on the professional surfing circuit. In Season 2, he appears to have been plucked from central casting because Nest Seekers was seeking a villain, and in one scene he and Mr. Fulfree nearly come to blows.

Mr. Eckhardt, who declined to be interviewed, has a personal tagline: “Whatever I touch turns to sold.” Eddie Shapiro, the president of Nest Seekers, said the show’s sudsy drama is all part of the plan. “We consider ourselves a talent agency and a casting agency as much as we are a brokerage,” he said.

Occasionally, the company’s wealthy buyers are turned off by the prospect of cameras and histrionics, he said. But not often.

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

On the other hand, he said, “People don’t list with us just because we’re on TV. But they will certainly give us a shot over a brand that may not have any exposure at all.” Max declined to disclose ratings information for the show. After Netflix’s “Million Dollar Beach House,” lasted a single season, its production team moved on to “Selling the Hamptons,” which earned a second season, gaining cast members in the process. Max has now invested in another similar show, “Serving the Hamptons,” which follows a crew of servers and bartenders at a stylish Hamptons restaurant.

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

Mr. Allen was a longtime music agent before crossing over into real estate, and Ms. Allen, 35, flirted with a singing career in her 20s, and now speaks excitedly of releasing a new single later this month. Real estate is just a side gig for her, she said, but the exposure of “Selling the Hamptons” is a boon.

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



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