Horses and houses

It’s been ever thus for Ghy Manning, owner/principal broker of Vincent & Whittemore Real Estate in Bedford.

“We sell everything, but we’re known for our horse properties,” Ghy says of her boutique firm, which has 15 agents. “I can pinpoint what (horse owners) need, whether they’re buying a show barn or an entire place.”

Like “a stunning lodge” at 12 McMorrow Lane in North Salem – 8,000 square feet, six bedrooms, six and a half baths – adjacent to the 204-acre Ruth Walgreen Franklin and Winifred Fels Memorial Sanctuary. The owners had taken down the barn, rebuilt it and then built a house around it, Ghy says. There’s also a cottage and a pool, all for $3.9 million.

“Anyone can sell anything,” she adds. “It makes it easier if you understand the lingo.”

Ghy, whose company website features a four-legged beauty on the masthead, knows horse-speak. And so does her staff. Her top agent, Carol Goldberg, was an American Horse Show Association judge. (See sidebar.) Ghy rode while she was growing up in Bedford, perhaps the heart of Westchester County’s horse country, and worked with horses when she was starting out.

“It’s a big sense of responsibility, because you’re working seven days a week.” Horses, then, prepared her for the weekend-warrior world of real estate.

But real estate was in her bones, too. Her father renovated townhouses on Manhattan’s West Side. Her French mother shared his passion for old houses and antiques. (Ghy – pronounced “gee” with a hard “g” – owes her Gallic name, Ghylaine, to her.) As a child, Ghy would pore over the classifieds in The New York Times’ real estate section.

“I was always intrigued by real estate.”

Still, horses had the first claim on her heart. And when Ghy decided to become a broker, it was the stock market and not real estate that was on her mind. But Merrill Lynch ultimately passed on her. Advised to get experience, Ghy went to work for Houlihan Lawrence. She’s been in the real estate business for 31 years.

About six years ago, she bought the 86-year-old firm from Bill Barnett, with whom she’d grown up.

“Some things I always say are meant to be.”

Ghy is, however, a rarity. Though 90 percent of the agents are women, the firms are owned mostly by men. But she hasn’t encountered any prejudice as a female owner.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and I believe I have a great reputation.”

A lot, however, has changed in those years. Gone are the days when a couple fell in love with a charming fixer-upper as George and Mary Bailey do in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Jim and Muriel Blandings do in “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” which contains one of the great real estate-movie lines: “It’s a good thing there are two of you – one to love (the fixer-upper) and one to hold it up.”

“It’s not so much tug-at-your-heartstrings,” Ghy says of the contemporary attitude toward house-hunting. “People come in with a checklist of what they want.”

And that usually means all the modern conveniences and renovations complete.

Thanks to the Internet, sellers and buyers have a lot of information at their disposal. No longer do they begin by networking and phoning an agent. Now it’s tap on the iPad and begin a virtual search. The digital age may have led some buyers and sellers to think they can go it alone without the mediating presence of an agent. Ghy, of course, thinks this is a mistake.

“You need someone you can trust who knows the territory.”

And you need to develop a relationship with that person, she says.

Ghy also advises you not to judge a property too quickly based on what you see on the Net.

“It’s still a hands-on business. … The reality is that looking at images is not the same as being there.”

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Carol Goldberg – 

Vincent & Whittemore Real Estate

Carol Goldberg’s life has revolved around horses and the country. Discovering North Salem as a teenager ultimately led her to manage a large boarding and training stable. In 1972, she bought Artemis Farm, where she continued training adults and children. She was also a judge with the American Horse Show Association (now the United States Equestrian Foundation), judging events more than 100 days a year, including major shows in the U.S. and Canada. Her equestrian career spurred her to get a real estate license in 1989 and join Vincent & Whittemore. Later, she acquired her associate broker’s license. Goldberg was president of The North Salem Open Land Foundation for 15 years and now serves as its vice president. She was named one of Westchester County’s top Realtors by WAG’s predecessor, Westchester WAG, and has also consistently received a Westchester MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Diamond Award, the highest achievement for sales. She’s proud of the impeccable national reputation that she brought from her horse business into her real estate career.

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