Using Psychology to Close the Deal

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IN DEPTH: RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE DEALS OF THE YEAR

Using Psychology to Close the Deal
Ryan Tate
San Francisco Business Times
From the May 9, 2003 print edition

You don't want to be across a negotiating table from Nina Hatvany.

With a Stanford M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology, Hatvany had the formal training on which to build 11 years as a San Francisco real estate agent -- and to help her talk her way into the sweetest of deals. Experience teaching organizational behavior to graduate students at Columbia University and University of California, Berkeley and renovating homes, including just over a dozen that she lived in and moved out of, didn't hurt either.

But not every bargain she strikes is rocket science. Sometimes she deploys her training and winsome British accent to win the simplest of concessions from finicky mansion sellers.

Take, for example, her signature 2002 deal, the sale of 2900 Vallejo St. at Broderick on the border of Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow, a corner home that combines traditional Edwardian architecture with stunning views from the living room and upstairs office. The property is believed to have sold for close to the $11.7 million list price -- possibly higher -- but it sat on the market from fall 2001 to early summer. Then Hatvany persuaded her client to be a little less discrete and hang a "for sale" sign out front.

"We got an offer within a day and a half," Hatvany said, and that was the offer that took the home. "There is a whole group of people who aren't actively looking, but when they see a sign on the right house they call their agent, they move mountains, they get excited."

Wealthy sellers often hope to sell a home without making waves -- "they want to keep it private from the neighbors," Hatvany says -- and Hatvany helps them find ways to get the property in front of prospective buyers while maintaining a certain level of dignity. At 2900 Vallejo, that meant not just a sign but a "grand opening party," as Hatvany describes it. At another top 2002 sale, 2624 Green St. near Blake Street, Hatvany moved the property quickly with a Sunday by-appointment open house.

"People can call me all day long and I will make an appointment for them, which keeps the masses from going through, but people can still come and look at it," she said. "The successful buyer called at 10 a.m. on Sunday, were in at 12 and by 6 p.m. Sunday night we had a done deal."

That property listed at $7.5 million.

Hatvany produced $84.2 million sales for TRI Coldwell Banker, reprising her equally strong 2000 and building on a $45 million 2001. This year has already brought a $12 million listing at 250 Sea Cliff Ave.

"I think that the market is much slower than it used to be at the (top) level, but when a truly fine house comes up," Hatvany said, "and an astute buyer sees it, they know they are not going to see it again for a long time."

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