Lunch with… Simon Cohen

The venue: Matteo, 29 Bay Street, Double Bay

Written By: Grant Jones from Chef’s Garage

Matteo is a few doors down from the Double Bay offices of buyer’s agency Cohen Handler. It’s a gloriously sunny day on the deck of this modern Italian trattoria, where chef Orazio D’Elia draws on his southern Italian upbringing to bring a new dimension to simple and traditional dishes.

Dressed in a white linen jacket, monogrammed baby blue business shirt and aviator sunnies, Simon Cohen walks in, closing a conversation on the mobile as he is waving to acquaintances walking past.

“Sorry,” He says as we shake hands. “Was just on the phone a really important client.”

They serve big colourful dishes on big white plates to the beautiful people here – pizzas, pastas, salads, steaks, chicken and whole fish. As our entrees (burrata and tomato salad for him, kingfish crudo for me) arrive, Cohen begins to relax and reflects on how big a role this kind of lifestyle plays in the property search these days.

“For my parents’ generation, it wasn’t that big a factor. But now, with people enjoying socialising out the home more often, it’s getting to be one of the key things people are looking for when they’re on the property hunt. It’s not just about schools and transport any more, or even the parks and water – it’s about the shops, restaurants and bars.”

If it’s lifestyle you’re after, this leafy enclave has it in spades. With its waterfront, park lands, boutiques and restaurant strips such as this one – no wonder Cohen refers to it as “a happy place”. He even convinced his parents to move to nearby Vaucluse from their home on the north shore.

Cohen was brought up in the suburbia of St Ives and cut his teeth on the property business in Los Angeles, where buyer’s agents are way more common than they are here. On his return here to Double Bay, he took the plunge and opened his business, buying houses for investors, expats and the time poor.

“No one looked after buyers back then. People thought, ‘You’re crazy! What the hell is a buyer’s agent? What are you thinking?’,” he remembers.

His first local deal was on a property with an asking price of $6.5m. When he secured it for his client for $4.4m, people took notice.

“We did some really good deals. We really proved our value very quickly.”

“If you’ve been looking for months and you keep missing out, we want to take away that frustration and give you a competitive advantage,” Cohen says.

Our mains arrive. Cohen has ordered a gluten-free pasta pomodoro – and mine is pan-fried barramundi with salsa verde. As maitre d’ Antonio, tops up our sparkling water, Cohen leans in and confides:

“It’s about finding out why the owner is selling and using that to your advantage. They’re getting divorced, or they’ve already bought and they need the money quickly.”

Clients spend between $3m and $50m, entrusting Cohen with the confidentiality they crave – and saving them an average of 7 to 13 per cent.

“I buy most of the top-end houses in the eastern suburbs – waterfront and estates,” he says. Most of it is unreported and off-market.

“One of the main reasons people come to us is because they actually want someone who knows what they are talking about and can tell them they are making the right – or wrong – decision.”

That, and it cuts out what Cohen calls the ‘emotion factor’.

“It’s odd how significant emotion is when you buy. You go with your kids to open homes, then you all rock up to the auction. In your head you’ve spent the money, you’ve made the changes, it’s your house.” Then someone over there keeps going up.

As we close off our expedition on the picturesque wharf of Double bay capturing pictures of Simon with the sea-line and marina as our back drop, I thought to myself could I see myself living here?

Learn more about Simon and the Cohen Handler team and how they can give you amazing reasons to live in your chosen area on 1300 420 160 or email: [email protected]