Saunders Associate Broker Penelope Moore may have started off in a different direction, but her childhood reveals clues about what drew her from the entertainment field to real estate.
She was born and grew up in Washington, D.C. in a family “obsessed with shopping for a home,” she said. She recalls her mother spreading out newspapers on the dining room table to search for open house events and plotting out which ones to visit. “Much of my childhood was spent listening to my parents talk about why they wanted to move and where they wanted to be, so finding a home that would make us all happy was an aspirational goal,” she said.
They found a home they all loved on a lane with cherry blossoms and cobblestones. Then her father said the real estate agent told him the family would not be welcomed in that neighborhood because of their Japanese heritage. Deeded restrictions existed banning people for their nationalities or religions — anything that didn’t fit the mold of the particular neighborhood. “Although I was just a child, this just did not seem fair,” she said. It would inform her determination to support efforts to secure fair housing.
Then there were realizations that when the family bought or sold a house they were often not fully informed of options. Regulations at the time didn’t require disclosure of information they should have been given. “I saw my parents go through some awful situations, which didn’t have to happen,” Ms. Moore said. “This made an impression on me as well, so today I strive to make the real estate experience as positive as possible.”
She was initially drawn to the entertainment field. She had studied at The Hawthorne School, a progressive high school in Washington, D.C. and transferred to an accelerated study program at Emerson Preparatory. At graduation, she had two job offers, at the Kennedy Center and the American Film Institute. Ultimately, she worked at the Screen Actors Guild where helped negotiate contracts for performers.
Her work with SAG built a solid basis working in a structured setting with contracts, negotiations and dealing with a wide range of people with differing personalities. In 1988, she opted to begin her move to real estate, working in commercial leasing in Manhattan. In 1997, residential real estate on Shelter Island called.
She discovered the Island when her former husband, who had lived here, brought her for a visit in 1995. “As soon as I got off the ferry, I knew this was where I wanted to live,” Ms. Moore said. In short order, they drove to the closest real estate office, looked at a half dozen houses and bought one through real estate agent Maureen Sheehy. It’s the house where Ms. Moore still lives.
“Real estate is my passion,” she said. “I enjoy discovering what’s special about a home and being able to translate those qualities to a prospective buyer.” Through her research, she’s found “fascinating details,” which even the homeowner didn’t know.
“The interpretation of a home includes appreciating the aesthetics, so I really strive to present images and write descriptions that are both accurate and appealing,” she said. She enjoys meeting people and getting to know what they’re looking for in a home. “When we’ve found a home that works, I take a moment and think of what that means to them in their lives, and I feel like my efforts have made a positive difference.”
Nonetheless, there are frustrations.
“It really does ‘take a village’ to make a transaction move smoothly from a hand shake between a buyer and seller to a closing,” Ms. Moore said. Attorneys, appraisers or surveyors can “really gum up the process, sometimes inadvertently,” she said, and tries to foresee problems to work them out.
Since the pandemic, more real estate agents unfamiliar with the Island are showing properties or listing homes, but there’s a “large learning curve” and they don’t understand how the Island works, she said. There’s also the financial reality of no weekly paycheck in a field that inevitably brings some tough economic times that have to be weathered. Her advice to someone trying to break into the business is simple: Find a mentor you respect and listen carefully, letting others do the talking.
Her mentors were Fred and Hannah Dinkel, who not only knew real estate and the pulse of the Island but “could laugh at the things that sometimes threw us a curve ball.”
The Dinkels were always “incredibly supportive and treated me like a member of their family. I miss them tremendously, and I try to guide those who assist me in my work the way they did with me.”
Even in a field one loves, there’s a need for change. For Ms. Moore it’s many faceted — her love of dogs, turtles, photography, nature, writing, cooking and music.
“Thankfully my work in real estate gives me the opportunity to meet people with the same interests,” she said.