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The Blackhole of Time Usage



The Inevitable Question

You’ve all heard it…THE Question:  “You must never sleep, how do you find time to learn all this stuff?”  It comes up as in excuse in every class and it seems to be a focal objection for learning the current tools available to people.  I simply don’t find it that intrusive, I’ve learned to narrow down the platforms that I engage in and not try to spread myself all over the place.  I write for a few blogs for real estate and a few faith based blogs, I love Facebook and Twitter; but after that, I mess around with other venues and new platforms just to the point that I understand them.

However, I think the wrong questions are being asked.  It has very little to do with social media; social media is a natural fit for me because I love knowledge and take time to engage in learning.  I’m actually tired of social media, per se. It’s not new anymore, its not “cutting edge” it’s simply what is.  I’ve developed a flow in my life that learning and even social media is part of the routine.  I’m not driven by it (although, admittedly I was for the past two years).  In a few years, it’ll be something new.

Manage Your Time

I was reading recently, where a woman was blaming Twitter for her failed marriage.  As someone who has overcome a bad marriage and have worked with others to do the same, I will tell you that Twitter has very little to do with her marriage.  I’m sympathetic, but still want to instill, that a lack of attention and priority to the “marriage” is what is causing the failure – not a computer program.

Success for agents on blogs, is not caused by the agent just having a blog, but because they know about people and it comes through in what they are writing.

Its all a matter of priorities and unfortunately most business people have pretty screwed up priorities.

Think about this…  Your child asks you to come to a play they are performing at school.  Most parents will go, no matter what.  Some will apologies and blame work.  The reality is that you prioritize your job before your child.  It has very little to do with lack of time; everything to do with priorities.  Agents who were sucked into Real Estate because of the flexible hours, failed to step back and look at “successful” people.  Most “successful” people, in business, live and breath their job. Truly successful people will engage in their jobs, but still prioritize family, health and a few their faith, before that next “deal”.

Help with Prioritization

To those people who can’t seem to find time to learn about your real estate career to provide better service, consider altering some or all of the following activities:

1.  Divorce yourself from sitting around the office and engaging in gossip.  This is the one area where, as a managing broker, I felt ate away at most of the day and your own chi.

2.  Remove the urge to complain about the market, as it doesn’t improve your chances of success.  Successful people are rarely caught bad mouthing the market – they are working too hard to find ways at taking advantage of it.  When the market becomes difficult for most companies, they overcame it by being unique and looking for advantages.

3.  Stop sitting at “floorduty” because you’re broker is too cheap to hire a secretary.  (Solitaire should be deleted from every computer in every brokerage.  If you have time to play Solitaire you obviously aren’t taking your career that seriously.)  There are a few exceptions to this.  High traffic offices in good locations with agents trained to convert walk-in consumers are rare, but they do tend to make good incomes off of these techniques.

4. Read at least one book on business (not necessarily real estate specific) every two weeks.  Books such as E-Myth Revisted, will help your career and is easy to read.  Read (or listen) to a book on budgeting, marketing, the economy, how to use time management; anything that will help you.

5.  Stop whining.

6a.  Delete.  Really, go through your blog reader (I just did this) and delete anything that you aren’t really reading.  I found that I skim over far too much, and that I may have subscribed just because I like the person, etc…  I recently went from 200 to 50 blogs that I read.  Two of those are newspapers.  I love all my social media friends, but many of us think alike and I don’t need to keep reading your articles to prove I like and support you. If the author isn’t original, engaging and beneficial to your life, just delete the subscription.

6b.  Delete any and all shows from your Tivo that you watch just for background noise.  Mindless noise and stupid TV shows can really steal your family time, your learning time and quite time.  Most everyone needs quite time, far more often than we know.

I know that this all sounds simply, but not everyone is doing it.  I’ve just recently made a conscious effort to disengage from things that aren’t making me a better husband, father, person or employee.  It’s worked miracles.  Prioritze your time better and don’t think that you have to be into every new thing that comes out or is thrown in your face.  Prioritize.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is

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  1. Melina Tomson

    April 13, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I got a call for a tv survey a couple of weeks ago and was “disqualified because I only watch 1-2 hours a week. TV is at the BOTTOM of my list of things to do with my life.

    I am doing a time study right now for work about how I spend my time, and will analyze it in 6 months or so. If I’m going to be away from my kids, then I need to be doing something that brings me money. That simple.

    If it doesn’t generate money, then I will remove it from my things to do list.

    I want to have a life outside of real estate.

  2. Elaine Reese

    April 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    In my corporate life, we had a GM drill into us that “if it doesn’t move the business forward, stop doing it”.

    If the time spent using social media or blogging isn’t generating serious business, then that time needs to be reviewed or the blogging content or strategy needs to change.

  3. Missy Caulk

    April 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    The EMyth Revisited changed my life. I still read it as a refresher. No, Twitter didn’t kill the marriage, it must have been pretty dead anyway if you are spending too much time there.

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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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