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Veteran real estate pro discusses the life: Peter McCracken, committed to work and public service

Associate broker Peter McCracken loves his work with the Corcoran Group, which has him handling deals on Shelter Island and, because of the company’s reach, throughout the East End. But as passionate as he is about his work, his public service, a legacy from his mother, is closest to his heart.

Jacqueline McCracken was always involved in schools, local garden clubs and was among the movers and shakers who helped open the Vero Beach Museum of Art when she and her son relocated to the Sunshine State when he was in high school.

“She was always doing something to keep busy,” her son said. But it wasn’t just busy; it was productive and a service to her community.

It’s what Mr. McCracken emulates as a member of the Community Housing Board, the Board of Assessment Review and the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board.

He was part of a team of Island Emergency Medical Services who responded to a call on a cloudless, sun-filled September day 20 years ago, when they climbed into two ambulances and drove west toward Manhattan. Along with Mr. McCracken were Helen Rosenblum, Ed Boyd, Faye Rodriguez, Chris Drake, Ed Kotula, Bud Fox, Ken Klenawicus and Ben Jones.

One ambulance crew was stationed under the Brooklyn Bridge while the second ambulance was sent farther north. They handed out respirator masks and helped the firefighters and rescue crews decontaminate. He remembers the dust, the darkness and the quiet, with no traffic, no cars, and no people walking around. “It’s still unbelievable,” Mr. McCracken said. “We were honored that little Shelter Island got to go in and help out.”

Originally from Old Westbury, he also spent time in Southampton where his mother had purchased a house on Halsey Neck Lane. With the move to Florida, he attended high school in Vero Beach and went on to college at the University of Florida.

After college, New York beckoned, initially to run the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard. He developed “a special affinity for Shelter Island because of the ferry and all of the boating, so I decided to move here,” he said.

Hoot and Joanne Sherman lured him to the Island Boatyard they were operating. “He’s so personable and friendly that we liked him right off,” Ms. Sherman said.

When Mr. Sherman was elected Town Supervisor in the early 1990s, he called on Mr. McCracken to replace him in running the Island Boatyard.

“When we left, we thought he would be a perfect fit at the boatyard and he was,” Ms. Sherman said.

“He’s a perfect fit for real estate, too.” She had secured her real estate license and encouraged him to do the same.

It was off season for the boatyard and he had time to take the necessary coursework that resulted in his being licensed since 1991. Most of his work has been on the Island, but working for Corcoran, which has multiple offices, he’s also handled properties on both the North and South forks.

“The best part of the job is the fact I’m always meeting new people and making new connections,” Mr. McCracken said. “I’ve met the best people in this industry and many of them are now very close friends.”

He thrives on the freedom of not having specific office hours, so he sets his own schedule. But a real estate professional is always on call, day or night, and seven days a week. “You always have to be available,” he said.

He indulges his love of architecture and design, being able to “have an inside look into the wonderful homes that we have on the East End,” he said.

Everyone remembers early professional successes. For Mr. McCracken, it was getting a waterfront listing on Little Ram that sold within a week. He received a phone call about the property and sold it for the full asking price over the phone. “The buyer didn’t even come out to view the property,” Mr. McCracken said.

“Selling homes to wonderful people who become an integral part of the Shelter Island community is a wonderful situation,” he said. “Of course, the friends that you make along the way are very rewarding.”

On the difficult side is dealing with off-Island real estate professionals who don’t know the Island and give incorrect information to buyers. “They have no idea what they’re doing” and that results in problems at closings. “But everything can be worked out if discussed in a rational way,” Mr. McCracken said. “Open and honest conversation is the key to make every deal move forward.”

Another challenge for someone entering the field is the realization that there are no weekly pay checks. Real estate professionals work on commission and can make good money on properties they handle. But there are lean times.

“You have to be a fantastic financial planner,” Mr. McCracken said. “My degree was in business/accounting so I know how to work with a budget.” Also, taxes aren’t deducted automatically, so it means saving to make quarterly payments as they’re due.

“This is not an industry for everyone,” Mr. McCracken said. “You have to love the work, be self-motivated, and have that entrepreneurial spirit. You, and only you, control your destiny. Know your inventory and always stay on top of current market conditions.”

“This is also a ‘people business,’ and it pays to have a great personality. Be open, honest, personable, respectable and always dress to impress,” he said.

This is the first in a series of Reporter profiles of Island real estate professionals.