Selling homes to the rich and famous

Sally Siano. Photograph courtesy Sally Siano.

“I’ve had a wonderful life and a wonderful career in real estate,” says Sally Siano, founder of Sally Siano & Associates Real Estate Inc. of Bedford Hills.

“I have met kings and queens, titans of finance and industry, well-known figures in entertainment and the arts, the ultra-wealthy and some pretenders.  I wouldn’t have missed one bit of it for anything in the world.”

Siano is one of the leading Realtors in the Westchester-Fairfield area, known for her love of classic, beautifully built and exquisitely appointed homes and estates, along with her uncanny ability to match clients with properties, sometimes on the first visit.

She has honed her stellar skills in real estate over more than four decades and attributes her success to a combination of factors, including a sincere desire to see her clients happy in their often palatial homes as well as wanting to help them put down roots in their new communities.

DAUGHTER OF IMMIGRANTS

Siano’s journey to the heights of the luxury real estate market had a humble beginning.

”I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, after my parents, two young Russian Jews, had immigrated to America early in the last century,” she says. “They were only 18 and 19 at the time, met here after arriving separately and had three children, me and my two brothers.”

Times were hard for the young family with Siano’s father working as a peddler and her mother making wool stockings.

But they persevered and after a few years, Siano’s father became a salesman for a local company and saved enough to buy a small house in New Rochelle. “The day before I graduated from New Rochelle High School was a momentous one for me and our family,” she says, “because it was the last day of my father’s life. He gave me a graduation gift of a bathing suit and later dropped dead of a blood clot at the age of 42.”

The life-changing event set the course for Siano’s future.

“My brothers and I decided to go to work immediately to support our mother and keep the house.  I worked in a dentist’s office in New Rochelle and my brothers also got jobs.” Siano went from the dentist’s office to the first medical group associated with New Rochelle Hospital. She met her husband, Joseph, by chance on his 30th birthday. She was 21 and they went out on a date the same day they met.

Joseph was in construction at the time. He had already served in the Navy during World War II where he was a gunner in the Philippines and suffered a partial loss of hearing that was a drawback to him being fully employed for parts of his life.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

The couple decided to marry early on, facing opposition from Siano’s Jewish relatives but being warmly embraced by the Siano family. “Joseph had 11 siblings and every one of his brothers married Irish girls,” Siano says. “They had absolutely no problem with my Jewish heritage.  I always had a great relationship with the Siano family and will never forget those huge family gatherings and wonderful meals.”

The young couple had two children, Steven and Craig.

Siano left the medical group to care for her young children and, as luck would have it, Joseph got a job building homes in a large subdivision in Yorktown Heights.  The couple decided to buy one of the model homes for $19,900 with an $800 down payment provided by Joseph’s mother and sister.

She says, “We moved into the subdivision, called The Crossroads and the owner took a liking to me and offered me a job working for him selling units in the 250-home subdivision, with a commission of $800 per house. I sold out the entire subdivision and that was the beginning of my real estate career.”

Impressed by Siano’s sales abilities, Joseph Lauria, a prominent local broker, asked Siano to join his firm. “I went to work for him and stayed until 1971,” she says. “He had a lot of dealings in high-end Mount Kisco and Bedford real estate and this gave me my initial toehold in Bedford.”

Siano says she realized quickly that Bedford was the place to be. “I saw immediately that the most expensive, high-quality homes attracted the most willing and most qualified buyers,” she says. “But when Mr. Lauria died, his son took over the business and told me I was out.”

At this point, Siano decided she knew the high-end Bedford market well enough go to into business for herself. “I had met a very wealthy woman, Dorothy Karns, who had faith in my abilities and we formed a partnership based at 275 Main St. in Mount Kisco. We were enormously successful right from the start. Unfortunately, we had some disagreements and I decided to break off the partnership.”

ON HER OWN

But Siano had saved ample funds to go it alone and bought her current space at 52 Babbitt Road, Bedford Hills in l971. Sally Siano & Associates Real Estate was born.

“I have had my guardian angels throughout life,” she says. “I truly believe that overcoming obstacles is a part of who I am. My husband, despite his hearing impairment, was always a wonderful partner for me and provided total emotional support over the years, working as a plumber as he grew older.”

Joseph Siano passed away last year after he and his wife had been married for 60 years.

Now the sole owner of her own firm, Siano spread her real estate wings and developed a style and reputation that has flourished over many years.

“I developed clients who had the attitude of  ‘the sky is the limit’ when they were looking for a home,” she says. “They wanted the finest product available and I knew how to provide it.”

Siano says she focuses on marketing vintage homes on large pieces of property, some of them historic in nature and built 100 to even 200 years ago. Many of the architects were famous in their day and the large parcels of property that came with the homes have always been a key marketing element. “My ultra-wealthy clients always wanted plenty of privacy along with distant views of the rolling Bedford countryside,” she says.

The homes Siano sold over the Bedford boom years that started in the l980s ranged in price from $3 million to $10 million and up and up. “The price was of little concern to my clients,” she says. “They wanted a very large, beautifully designed home with a gated driveway for privacy.  They didn’t want the home to be visible from the road and demanded all the amenities of pools, tennis courts, barns, paddocks, other outbuildings, you name it.”

Siano says she calls it this homebuyer attitude “Shut the gate and leave me alone.”

“I built my reputation marketing palatial homes in pristine, private settings,” she says. “Buying a home is a very emotional experience, no matter what the price, and I was always able to make a good match right from the start. I took the time to educate my clients, especially the newly wealthy, about the points of true value of a desirable home, including it being ‘a proper house’ with a well-designed, traditional floor plan and a lovely and long, approach from the road.”

Siano has sold homes to Michael Crichton, Susan and George Soros and the late industrialist Charles Bluhdorn to name only a few high-end clients. The vast majority of her clients want their privacy protected.

“The calls for my services still keep coming,” she says. “I rarely use the Multiple Listing Service, because I simply don’t need it. I have had many ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ listings in Bedford and know how to guide my clients to an estate that will provide them the peace, harmony and balance they are looking for.”

Siano says she has succeeded by following her own instincts.

“Clients know that I know what a true ‘Bedford house’ really is,” she says. “And they come to me and my two sons to get it. My clients are seeking a very special lifestyle, with price of little consequence, and want to luxuriate in the Bedford experience.”

For more, visit sallysiano.com.

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