How to Negotiate Real Estate Like a Pro

Nina Hatvany of Team Hatvany at Compass in San Francisco shares her top negotiating secrets.

When it comes to the many different aspects of a real estate transaction, negotiating is by far one of the most difficult tasks that agents have to tackle. Focused on getting the best possible deal and terms for every one of her clients, Nina Hatvany has turned negotiating into an art form.


“Negotiating is no easy task and there are certain things you have to consider when making deals with others,” says Hatvany. “Many agents struggle when it comes to making a deal because they bring their personalities into the negotiation, or they lack sophistication.”

Together with her three children, Hatvany formed Team Hatvany at Compass in San Francisco in 2016. Ranked #1 in sales volume in San Francisco in both 2017 and 2018, the team works with all property types and at all price points. Single-minded in her pursuit of her clients’ desires—whether to sell at the best possible price or to buy the perfect home—Havatny makes it her business to get her clients what they want.

Here’s how she does it:

Keep personality and emotions out of it.

Hatvany sees too many agents inserting their own personalities into the negotiation process. “Negotiating isn’t about winning or grandstanding or showing that you are the better agent,” she points out. “Successful negotiations involve both sides feeling like they were stretched a little further than they wanted to be, but always in a professional and collaborative manner.” Remember that the goal is to get the deal done—not to show you are better, stronger, more experienced or otherwise superior to the other side.

Check in with clients before the negotiations start.

You need to understand exactly what they want (and if it’s more than one owner, that they might not always agree on that) in terms of price, closing date, rent back, exclusions (e.g., chandeliers), and any other items. “You don’t want to assume you’ve negotiated successfully,” says Hatvany, “only to discover that you’ve ignored something that is important to your clients.”

Be prepared to explain your client’s position.

Sometimes, understanding why something is important to the client helps the other side be more understanding and agreeable. “During one successful negotiation, my buyer came up as high as he was going to go and then, when the seller made yet another much higher counter-offer, canceled the inspections we had scheduled,” Hatvany recalls. After explaining the situation to the seller’s agent, and explaining that this was her client’s best-and-final offer, the seller took the offer and the deal closed.

Finally, Hatvany tells agents not to negotiate via text—something more and more professionals are doing in this age of constant digital communications. “Negotiating is sophisticated and multifaceted. It involves explanation, persuasion, data, and intelligence,” says Hatvany. “Agents must be prepared to provide detailed explanations of their clients’ thinking, data to back up the explanations, and a variety of emotionally-inspiring reasons why the other side should do what their client wants.”

Bridget McCrea is a Florida-based freelance writer.