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11th Hour Closings from Hell



Control Freaks Need Not Apply

As a licensed professional real estate agent, one of the first things you learn is that there are things outside of your realm of control. You can be the most hard-working, diligent, thorough, service-oriented agent on the planet, but there are still aspects to a real estate transaction that you have absolutely NO control over. These 11th Hour Closings from Hell serve to define our character, and our ability to respond to adversity. It is also during these seemingly “out-of-control” situations that help can come from the most unexpected places.

Case in point:

Just ‘Waitin’ on Loan Docs….yeah, right!

I recently represented a really nice family that had, unfortunately, amassed some sizable debt and were in danger of losing their home to foreclosure. We put their home on the market and priced it aggressively. Within a short period of time, we were under contract with some very qualified buyers who clearly loved the house. Everything went fairly smooth. There were a number of minor repairs that needed to be performed as a result of the inspection, but both parties agreed, and soon, we were onto “Pending” status. A week or so later, the appraisal came back at value (Whew!). All we’re waiting on now is loan docs. Or so we thought….

Trainwreck Ahead!

It’s Thursday. We’re supposed to close the following Monday. We HAVE to close on Monday. The foreclosure vultures are circling. I get a call from the Buyer’s Agent late Thursday afternoon. Evidently, there were some funding conditions that had been called out, but the good folks at the Underwriter neglected to share them with any of us. The hearth in front of the wood burning stove needs to be extended and framed, and the long stairway going up to the loft in the converted garage has to have some handrails.

Where’s Bob Villa when you need him?

Now fortunately, I have some familiarity with a hammer and circular saw, but the staircase to the loft has a number of challenging bends and twists, putting it a little out of my league and comfort zone. I make a few calls and all the contractors I trust are busy. Even the ones I don’t trust are busy! My life is passing before my eyes. I see my Sellers going to bankruptcy court, their kids sleeping in a cardboard box on the streets! You get the picture….

An Unexpected Ally

Just then, the phone rings. It is the Buyer’s Agent again. He asks if I am available to meet him and his broker at the home on Saturday. I am getting nervous. “What do you have in mind?” I ask. “Just show up around 9AM, and bring your cordless drill,” He replies.

I show up at the house on Saturday morning, and there is the Buyer’s Agent and his broker setting up saw horses and unloading lumber. I inquire, “So, what’s up?” The Broker looks me in the eye and says, “We’re removing conditions!”

For the next several hours, the three of us worked to extend the hearth, and install a very sturdy ‘code approved’ set of handrails. Bob Villa would be so proud!

Throw a Tantrum, or Swing a Hammer

Too many times, when transactions go sideways or blow up, we simply cast blame. On occasion, we even lose our calm and temper, yelling and screaming for justice. Fortunately, situations like this remind us about the true value of cooperation, and of all that can be accomplished when we work together.

On this day, we weren’t competitors.  On this day, we were like-minded professionals, working together, doing whatever was necessary in order to help both our clients achieve their goals.

We closed on Monday. Life is good!

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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  1. Susie Blackmon

    September 16, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Oh Rich, you are just amazing. Handsome, smart and you can swing a hammer. Be still my heart. Great outcome too.. a closing! Whatever it takes, as they say.

  2. Bridget Magnus

    September 16, 2008 at 9:15 am

    The fact of the matter is sometimes we have to work a little harder for our commissions. At least once my broker has told me “you shouldn’t have to do that!” But the way I see it, a little bit of extra effort can not only save the deal, it can make you memorable as “the Realtor who fixes problems.” Those clients will remember who made things happen, who showed up on a Saturday with power tools. Who do you think they are going to call when their friends need to buy or sell?

    Of course, you still have to do your follow-up notes!

  3. Bob

    September 16, 2008 at 10:41 am

    doing whatever was necessary in order to help both our clients achieve their goals

    Rich, little did we know that we are kindred spirits at the core.

    9 years ago I represented an investor on the sale of 13 of his properties. On one of the properties, the buyer was a retired woman. The terms of the contract included that the property be painted prior to close. The investor called his painting crew (they were cheaper than the guys I use) and we were good to go to close on Tuesday morning.

    On Friday before she went to sign loan docs, we met at the property for the walk through. The paint crew had failed to show and the buyer was furious. I made a few calls, then convinced the buyer’s agent that she needed to get her client to escrow and sign docs and that my paint crew would take care of it. Guaranteed.

    As soon as escrow confirmed docs were signed, I called every painter I had ever sent business to, but no one was available. I headed off to Home Depot, then stopped at home for a few things before heading back to the property Friday afternoon. I got home at 4 am Monday morning, grabbed a quick nap, then met the client at 10 am. The property closed on Tuesday.

  4. Missy Caulk

    September 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Whew……….you had be going. Rich, it makes all the difference in the world when you have great agents on the other side.

  5. Steve Simon

    September 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I love reading about how the problem was solved instead of who created it! I have been involved with seller’s agents two times in the last month. One nightmare and the other a pleasure.
    Neither deal closed due to the lender (short sales on both offers), but what a difference a cooperative person on the other side of problem can be! Why be anything else?
    Enjoyed the post.

  6. Mack

    September 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    “We’re Removing Conditions” What a great line and cooperative effort between like minded professionals. Congratulations!

  7. The Harriman Team

    September 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Now that’s what I call teamwork! Too many times we’ve seen transactions fall apart because one side was unwilling to “do whatever was necessary” to close the deal. The best example of teamwork I’ve seen from some of my colleagues is, “I told the seller I’d lower my commission by .5% to make this deal work, will you lower yours too?” That’s not teamwork, that’s highway robbery. It’s so refreshing to hear about two sides coming together, voluntarily, to remove obstacles to a successful deal. We’ve painted, mopped, swept, landscaped, mowed, washed, trimmed, trapped (don’t ask), and repaired things in order to get a deal through, most times w/o the help of the other side, and we would do it all again to see the smile on the client’s face because they knew they were closing on time. A gallon of paint, $20…new smoke detector, $10…a happy client (& their referrals!), priceless.

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Business Marketing

The secret to crafting consistently high-converting emails?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.



Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject LinesThink about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?

    If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.

    The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.

  2. Nail the IntroNever take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.

    It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!

  3. Use VideoEmail might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.

    According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”

    This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.

  4. Keep Eyes MovingThe goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.

    One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.

    One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.

  5. Don’t Ask Too MuchIt can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.

    Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

What entreprenuers can learn about branding from trendy startups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) What’s the secret of focused startup branding, and how can you apply it to large enterprises?



A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.



Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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