If you’re in the market for a hands-on house manager with business expertise and a willingness to perform weekly mani-pedis, you’re not alone.
Summer in the Hamptons means a new crop of household employees and wealthy families seeking their help, whether it’s a chef for a few summer months or a travel-ready nanny for the long term.
“A family based in NYC with a seasonal home in Southampton is looking for a Domestic Couple for their Southampton home,” reads one posting on EstateJobs.com. “They will also be needed to have the initiative to know what is needed without direction.”
Another posting asks for a seasonal domestic couple to maintain “a fine collection of art, antiques, and furniture” and possess a “knowledge of vegetable gardening,” among other duties.
A listing for an experienced New York City housekeeper who can travel to the family home in East Hampton calls for someone who can maintain “museum-quality cleanliness” and knows how to care for fine garments. “Exposure to yachts and private aircraft a plus,” reads another.
“For me these are normal requests,” said Cliff Greenhouse, president of the Pavillion Agency, a Manhattan-based domestic placement company.
Year-round Hamptons placements account for about 5 percent of business, and another 25 to 30 percent of its placements require seasonal travel to the Hamptons. Last year, the agency helped place staff with 560 families in New York State.
“The largest requirement is that they want the best, and the best will vary, based on each individual’s personal wants,” said David Youdovin, CEO of Hire Society, which has offices in New York, Southampton and Palm Beach, and works with about 600 families. “These homes run like a boutique hotel, except the guest never changes.”
Forrest Barnett, a former butler and head of Hire Society’s Southampton office, said the majority of the company’s Manhattan-based clients also have residences in the Hamptons.
Despite the demand for summer help, the job is far from easy, he said.
The hours and amount of work are often higher during the summer season when the wealthy strive for a “kind of casual elegance,” he said.
Youdovin, who was also a butler before starting Hire Society, said working in the Hamptons might mean whipping up a luncheon for 10 weekend guests or providing hours of entertainment for the kids. Hire Society sometimes makes house calls to provide the training for those skills, with trainers showing up at estates in the company’s vintage Bentley.
“You’re in the Hamptons and unfortunately not able to enjoy the environment,” Greenhouse said. “If you don’t understand what you’re stepping into and why you’re there, and the level of compensation you’re earning, which often is staggering, you’re making this luxurious summer for the family a nightmare.”
Greenhouse said Hamptons-specific help salaries are above average for domestic work, at least at his agency. A housekeeper with limited cooking skills could expect to make about $30-$40 an hour, versus about $25-$35 in New York City, he said.
Many postings on sites such as EstateJobs.com and HamptonsDomestics.com advertise yearly salaries for live-in help at six figures. One posting for a summer live-in, winter live-out house manager in an unspecified location in the Hamptons offers up to $125,000 with healthcare benefits “for the right candidate.” Many listings were looking for candidates with at least 10 years of experience.
“This market has rebounded pretty robustly,” Greenhouse said. “I definitely do not have enough staff to satisfy all of our requests.”
Pavillion receives potential staffers through referrals from former clients and subjects them to the company’s vetting process. And of course, successful candidates will have the special skills a family wants from their help.
Sometimes it’s familiarity with watersports or knowledge of boats, Greenhouse said. What families tell Pavillion they are looking for these days are a chef that can handle a gluten-free luncheon with local ingredients and nannies and housekeepers that are tech savvy enough to do online ordering on iPads.
One of the most unique requests he’s received is for the household manager who can offer business advice and a good mani-pedi.
“Their need for household staff is a true necessity,” he said. “They’re usually really happy they found people who rise to the occasion of what they’re aspiring to achieve for their summer.”