Dolly Lenz is known for logging 80 to 90-hour work weeks. As a child, she was cultured in the importance of labor from her immigrant parents, who held service jobs while she was growing up in a Washington Heights tenement rental, and today Lenz is unabashed about constantly being bottom-line focused, committed to her profession. Many rankers, including Forbes, have pegged her as having sold more real estate than any other broker in the United States—an estimated $12 billion to date.
“Part of why I work late into the night is my need to communicate with clients from Asia and Australia who are interested in buying American properties. I have to be ready to go when they are,” she explains.
Lenz, 63, claims not to have taken a “vacation” in about 20 years (when she spent a few days in Hawaii), but she and her husband, Aaron (a retired CPA), who live in midtown Manhattan, do have a special getaway place. “This is why my Southampton home is so meaningful,” she says of her property in the Village Estate section. “I can easily work there while combining time with my family and their friends. We have room to spread out. We can swim in the pool, besides visiting Southampton’s great small-town feeling, quality dining like Suki Zuki and The Golden Pear—and class stores.”
Besides Aaron—who worked as his wife’s CFO for a number of years—there is daughter Jenny, 30, “a Dolly Lenz in training,” and her son, Joseph, 31, a managing director at hedge fund firm Angelo Gordon. Both Dolly and Jenny can be found on the Hampton Jitney, even sometimes commuting back and forth in one day. “I probably have $10,000 in Jitney coupons!” Dolly exclaims.
Lenz’s real estate career began to take off when she signed up with Prudential Douglas Elliman. She got mega-branding when she began hosting popular shows on CNBC in 2006, including Mega Homes: Secret Lives of the Super Rich and Million Dollar Home Challenge. Earning the Vice Chair title, she went “independent” in 2013.
Since then, the Dolly & Jenny Show has read like a Who’s Who list of the rich and famous. Names like Donald Trump, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Leonardo DiCaprio, Deepak Chopra and others. In the Hamptons, Dolly and Jenny have had great triumphs amidst their real estate wheeling and dealing.
“I remember the time I sold Wainscott’s Burnt Point Mansion for billionaire philanthropist Stewart Rahr for $45 million. I sold Broadway producer/heiress Terry Allen Kramer’s Squabble Lane, Southampton home. I sold Vera Wang’s Gin Lane home….There are so many more under NDAs.”
Chimes in Jenny, “I often accompanied my mother on these real estate tours. I didn’t go away to summer camp—Hamptons real estate was my summer camp.”
According to Dolly, “the latest Hamptons real estate buzz term is ‘safe haven.’ I remember how the Hamptons went through a similar period after 9/11. Given the distressed conditions in NYC now, there is an abundance of buyers with money who want to stay near the five boroughs but have space, serenity and safety for their families.”
When will NYC come back to the prosperity it enjoyed before COVID-19? “The majority of the affluent residents and foreign investors are staying put with their properties,” Lenz analyzes. “There is even a decent stream of new buyers looking for bargains. With a new mayor”—she likes Citigroup exec Richard McGuire—“starting in 2022, along with a vaccine, NYC should be humming again by mid-2022.”
A two-time cancer survivor, Lenz vents how the rich-and-famous real estate game isn’t always glamorous. “When Columbus Circle was developing into Time Warner Center, I was told I had the package with Trump’s Island Shangri-la Hotel. It was four years of work, costing me $100,000. Related, was able to close right away and I was out. I had to get up positive the next morning to ask, ‘What deal am I working on today?’”