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Stop, Don’t Throw Me Out



Most homebuyers are in the “looking stage” when they first visit our web-sites. I would guess from my experience that less than 1% are ready right now. Nurturing those people and sticking with them until they are ready is the key to successful lead generation.

This week

Spring is a busy time in my market. We get more showings than in the cold, cold months of weather here. So most of my buyer agents were out showing homes all week.

I rarely pick up the phone and call them, or respond to them as I work mostly with the sellers, but this week I did. Bingo

Two were ready right now. Now it is not that my team members had not tried to make contact with them, they had. But, they were not ready at the time. One person had been on my site for over a year. They had saved a home in their favorites and it was on a gravel road with a new subdivision across the road.

The Results

Email Sent: Hi Bob, you saved XXX Main Street in your favorites but your phone number is incorrect. If you send me your correct one I would like to call you to discuss what you looking for… a sub or a rural house. The house you saved is a gravel road but there is a new sub across the street and a quick phone call I can help make your search more specific.
•    A quick response back with the correct phone number.
•    I call
•    Phone tag a few times
•    Then he calls and is coming in town
•    Wants to see houses.
•    After we access his needs
•    We get him approved
•    Show houses last week
•    Fiancee’ flies in on Friday
•    Offer written

Lesson Learned: Be specific in helping them, not a vague welcome to my site email. Offer to help, meet their needs,ask the questions specific to there search.

Second email: This person was looking for condos. She said in her comments please don’t call, just contact by email.  So I did as she requested:
Hi Susan, you said not to contact you by phone so am sending a quick email, just let me know if you need help in narrowing you search. I will not call as per your request.
•    A few emails back and forth
•    Answered her questions on the condo communities she had questions on
•    Last night a list of homes she and fiancee’ want to see in May when they come to buy.

Lesson Learned: Acknowledge how they want to communicate, let them know you are here, be helpful, not pushy.

Third Email: This guy was looking for the value on their home and wanted a CMA.

Email: Hi Gary, I would be happy to send you some listings to help with determining the value of your home can you send me some photos, and information on it with the address?
•    He sent me digital shots
•    Address
•    History of the home

Response: Thank you, Missy, you’ve been most helpful. We’re glad we stuck with our offer of XXX to purchase our home last year. The bank was very hard to deal with and they seemed they didn’t want to sell. Fortunately we should be here a few more years so aren’t pressured to sell. Best wishes to you and your team. You run a 1st class business!

Lesson learned: No, I didn’t really “want” to put a CMA together for an unknown person, I had them send photos, I didn’t go out, but engaged them in the process. Do you think he will call me when he is ready to sell? If we say we are a service industry…serve them.

Babies need nurturing, so do leads or prospects or people….whatever you want to call them. Babies need tender loving care…so do our visitors.

Photo Credit

Written by Missy Caulk, Associate Broker at Keller Williams Ann Arbor. Missy is the author of Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk and Blog Ann Arbor, and is also the Director for the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and Member of MLS and Grievance Committee's.

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  1. Mark Green

    April 5, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Great article Missy, and great examples of gaining trust through permission tactics. Oftentimes, we want prospects to communicate in a way that is most convenient and comfortable to us. We’re afraid of them ‘taking advantage’ of us. And many of them will do just that. But as you’ve identified here, many of them are real – and will turn into real business. Kudos to you for giving without fail.

    I never like when people contact me and ask me not to call but to just ‘send them information’. They just seem like tire kickers, and we’re all just too busy for tire kickers.

    Maybe so, but even tire kickers have raised their hand and told you that they’re going to be in the market sometime – and they’re undecided on who they’re using.

    Nice work…

  2. Missy Caulk

    April 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Mark, for me it is understanding the time frame and that is 99% need some time.

    I think the failure of many is that if those buyers aren’t ready now,they just forget about them. Not wise…

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Paula Henry

    April 6, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Missy –

    I get the same thing, everyday. Just this weekend – two seperate people who were once “just online visitor” became my clients. Two contracts wriiten and two happy clients.

    Nurturing leads without being obtrusive is key.

  4. Missy Caulk

    April 6, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Paula, I think folks just give up too quickly.

    Congrats on the contracts.

  5. Matthew Hardy

    April 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Excellent article. Relationship marketing is about being specific. Now, if you have all the details of these interactions carefully recorded for reference during future communications, the relationships can get deeper and become even more likely to yield referrals.

  6. Brandie Young

    April 9, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    This is great, Missy. A great reminder to follow up and follow through. And, how great of you to share your letters!

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Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go

During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!



magic eight ball

magic eight ball

It’s about getting your way

Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?

When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.

After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.

Value Dispute Process

While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.

  1. Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
  2. Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
  3. Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
  4. Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
  5. Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.

It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.

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Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit

The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:



short sales standoff

short sales standoff

What is a short sale standoff?

If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.

Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.

Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.

How to Avoid the Standoff

If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.

Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:

  • Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
  • Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
  • If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
  • Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
  • In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.

One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.

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Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye

Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.



short sales

short sale approval

Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen

People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.

Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.

Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.

Short sale education opportunities abound

There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:

  • Classes at your local board of Realtors®
  • Free short sale webinars and workshops
  • The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations

As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.

The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.

Don’t take on too much

And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!

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