In our “Thoughts from the top” series we sit down with some of the nation’s most successful real estate agents in an attempt to identify what helped them achieve their current level of success and how they work to maintain it year-over-year.
Our first featured Realtor is Nina Hatvany, a fixture in the San Francisco real estate community who initially began in New York before moving to the Bay Area over 30 years ago.
Hatvany has worked tirelessly to hone her skills and grow her network to become one of the most recognizable and sought-after agents in Northern California.
From 2008 to 2014, Hatvany has been ranked as the top individual agent in the city of San Francisco in terms of sales volume.
She has also been recognized nationally by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 35 real estate agents by volume in the United States and has made the list every year since 2009. After 20 years with Coldwell Banker, Hatvany recently switched to Pacific Union International.
Hatvany has been gracious enough to sit down with us and grant us some insight into how she became the agent she is today, and along the way, she doles out some tips newer agents might find pretty interesting.
Her thoughts on her own development and on current trends she’s seeing in the residential real estate market are a virtual guide to all those agents who are thinking about stepping up their game a bit.
In your experience, do you feel like there are some things that younger agents tend to brush over that maybe they shouldn’t?
I think one thing I didn’t understand as a younger agent that an older agent eventually told me directly, was that the most important relationships agents have are with other agents because the other agents will be around year-after-year.
I thought that was just silly. Obviously the most important thing was my relationship with my clients. Over the years, I have found that he was absolutely right.
Year-after-year, I have to do business with the same people — it’s basically the same crowd of agents. Having good relations with those top agents has been hugely helpful over the years.
Did you have a mentor of sorts early on, or did you go it alone?
I had a mentor. When I went into the business, I was renovating houses, and my then agent was rather disappointed when I decided to switch careers because she was rather enjoying being my agent.
When she did realize I was serious about the switch though, she was very helpful and she put me into her company, which at that time was Coldwell Banker.
For six months, she mentored me; she had me hosting open houses for her and gave me some tips in exchange. I think at the time, I didn’t enjoy it much. But looking back on it, it was good training, and it was nice to have somebody to talk to about these situations.
What’s your daily routine look like?
Well, I try to never stop working, which I think is typical of people who do what I do. I get up at 6 a.m. and I go straight to email to check what’s happened over night.
Then, I come back from exercise class at 8 a.m. [and] have another quick look. There’s a lot of activity in the morning. My proper work day starts at 9 a.m. and goes until about 6 p.m. — it’s pretty hectic.
Then I’ll wind down for the evening, but I’ll certainly be back on email by about 9 p.m. That’s the regular routine, unless there’s an actual offer negotiation underway, in which case, forget all about the gap between 6 to 9 p.m.
Do you mind me asking what your sales volume was last year? Do you have any plans in place to exceed that this year?
You know I’ve been doing about $200 million in sales for the last three or four years. It varies from a $186 to $210. I actually don’t have any particular plans to grow that.
What [further growth] involves is having more help, and the more help the more difficult it becomes to manage. I believe I’m at a perfect point with my two colleagues working with me.
One transaction coordinator and one marketing person. That is about as many people as I can keep close tabs on.
I think if we expanded the team, I would find myself in a more managerial role, and that’s not what I actually really enjoy.
I do this because I like doing deals. I don’t want to manage or do paperwork, I want to be out there with people, doing deals. It’s a sweet spot for me.
What part of a typical deal is most likely to fall apart, and how do you prepare your team and your clients for that rocky period?
Buyer’s remorse is an everyday occurrence, and it happens every single time somebody wins a property, whether it’s a bidding war or whether it’s just a long negotiation.
When that final moment comes when the buyer has got the property and its contract, that’s a very dangerous time. Almost everybody gets some kind of buyer’s remorse. And it’s the agent’s job to work through that, whether through representing the buyer or helping the seller understand their position. It’s very crucial and by far the most dangerous moment.
There’s no real way to deal with it, except knowing that it’s going to happen and preparing everybody. You must try to be level and patient with the buyer as they go through it.
It’s rare that a buyer just gets into contract and is just delighted and just races through the escrow period and closes, still delighted.
If you could build the world’s best real estate agent from scratch, what do you think he or she would look like?
That person would be highly energetic, a very good listener, have an awesome memory and be very, very calm.
Do you have any last advice you’d like to pass along to new agents just starting out in their career?
I think the best advice I have is that, just to persevere. Even after all the years I’ve been doing it, every single New Year’s I am depressed, every single time.
Thinking I don’t have any business — thinking it’s over. I have the same set of thoughts, periodically, always at New Year’s. I had the same set of thoughts in September, right after Labor Day. The fact is, you just put one foot in front of the other, and you keep persevering, and the business comes.
If you have any follow-up questions on this interview or would like to be featured yourself on one of our next installments, feel free to reach out to [email protected]
Marshall Darr is the co-founder of Captivate Real Estate. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.