John Hathorn of Pence Hathorn Silver Partners Trust

John Hathorn, PHS, Pence Hathorn Silver, Santa Monica
John Hathorn of Pence Hathorn Silver
John Hathorn, of Pence Hathorn Silver Partners Trust, knows the Westside and its properties like the back of his hand, which, given that it’s where he was raised, is not surprising. This native touch is an increasing rarity these days.

Professionally, he’s been partnered with Charles Pence, Loraine Silver, and Brett Silver of Pence Hathorn Silver for 25 years. In 2010, they merged with Partners Trust, giving an already formidable team even more muscle.

So, prior to working in real estate, I understand that you studied music at Santa Monica College and then went on to the Musician’s Institute?

Yes, and I loved being a professional guitar player—I played in lots of bands, I taught music, I’ve written and recorded, and even wrote a performance course syllabus for the Musician’s Institute. I was also asked by the school’s president to record all of the school’s curriculum to create a video learning lab. The project took years to complete and was a huge success.

How long have you been in the real estate business? 

I started my real estate career in 1989 at a small office in Culver City.

How and why did you make the move into real estate as a profession?

I was realistic about my capabilities as a guitar player, and what my income as such would be, and I wanted more for myself. I had worked hard at mastering my instrument, but I was not nearly as good a guitarist as many of the other students were. So, I decided to get into something different. I wanted to be self-employed with no limits on income. My wife Nancy and I had just purchased our first home—directly from the owner. I felt like I had been the real estate broker for both the seller and the buyer. This was 30 years ago and the process was much less complex than it is today. 

In the process of buying that home, I asked a local realtor about careers in real estate. He suggested I get training and experience selling office equipment as a foundation, and to see if I had what it took—selling skills (which are really just listening skills). He told me, ‘If you can get trained to sell office machines at a company like IBM, you will be great in real estate.’ So, I learned to sell office machines while taking real estate licensing courses and a year later I began selling homes. I’m really happy that my real estate career has satisfied my need to be creative and also has been very lucrative.

What aspect of the business do you most enjoy? 

Well, of course, I love it when clients tell me how much they love and appreciate how well their transaction went. And, I really enjoy being a business owner—it’s challenging and fun! And right up there with client appreciation and owning a business, I enjoy the creativity. I believe that to be happy and well-balanced, we all need a creative outlet. For me, that’s not only creating marketing pieces and marketing plans but also creating systems and procedures, jobs, and wealth for my clients, my employees, my company, and myself.

What distinguishes you and your team at Pence Hathorn Silver? 

How much time do you have? Of course, there is the obvious fact that my partnership at Pence Hathorn Silver has been so lasting—25 years!—and that we have had the most productive real estate group in our market each and every year since we started in 1990. Clients literally get four real estate agents working for them for the price of one; but right up there with personal boutique-style service from my partners and me, is my staff. We make it very easy to do business with us. We have completed thousands of transactions in this neighborhood with such grace and gratitude that it makes us stand out.

With all these transactions, including listing and selling some of the same properties multiple times, occasionally a new situation arises that gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our excellent problem-solving skills. We always maintain a great attitude and a willingness to go the extra mile. We attract clients, agents, and staff that are upbeat, positive, and fun. We have the premier location at 14th and Montana Ave. I am a firm believer that who you work with matters, and that not all real estate agents are the same. We all get different results. I am very intentional, very strategic, and transactional with everything I do. 

You grew up in Venice and went to Venice High School. What does life in Santa Monica offer that other parts of L.A. do not? 

Santa Monica is a world-class city with a small-town vibe. The civic services—the police, the paramedics, the schools, the beaches, the parks, etc.—are all very high-quality. Santa Monica city administrators are very responsive. Santa Monica enjoys a relatively low crime rate and is a well-known destination for out-of-area visitors. I’ve done quite a bit of international travel and everyone seems to know of Santa Monica’s great reputation.    

The appetite for tear-downs and brand-new homes is more voracious than I’ve seen. Finding sellers that are willing to sell at realistic prices has been a very real challenge in the past few years. When a realistically priced tear-down or new construction home becomes available, a multitude of purchase offers to follow. Never before has the value of the older existing improvements on a property depreciated so precipitously while the value of the land beneath the house is at an all-time high. It’s almost as if any home older than 10 years is considered a tear-down, because the lot value is so high.

Where do you see the real estate market headed in 2015 and 2016?

That depends. Land value prices will continue to rise; new home prices will rise. Our trade associations—the California Association of Realtors and the National Association—predict only modest growth, but I think all the beach communities will continue to see double-digit year-over-year appreciation for the two extreme ends of the market—tear-downs and newly-built homes.

What do you do in your off hours?

Play my guitar, read, tinker with (and sometimes even ride!) my vintage motorcycle, travel, golf, surf—all the things you might expect from a Westside guy. My wife recently bought a couple of stand-up paddleboards, so I see some of that in my future too! 

How do you balance life and work?

It’s much easier now that my three sons are grown and have moved away. I love my work so I rarely turn it off now that they’re out of the house. My wife Nancy and I have almost always had a regularly scheduled weekly date night and we’ve been married 30 years. She was a stay-at-home mom and that made splitting my schedule to accommodate family activities easy.

And, having balance was the reason Charles and I originally formed the partnership. Loraine and Charles and I all had young children and wanted to be able to take time off to spend with them. I rarely missed any of my sons’ water polo, baseball, or other games, and we always ate dinner together as a family. Of course, sometimes I would go back to work after dinner, but I think I do a really good job of balancing my career and family.

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