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When Giving Back Takes All You’ve Got



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It Ain’t All Sunshine & Roses

By now you know I am a big proponent of getting involved…in your local, state or national REALTOR Association, in your community homeowners’ association, in the PTA or little league, whatever. The point is to contribute to your surroundings and be an engaged citizen. I realize that all my ‘RAH RAH RAH, go out and make a difference’ rants might be getting tiresome, so I thought today I would tell you that volunteering may not always be all that I’ve cracked it up to be. As much as I love to give back and help mold the direction of things, I do hit low spots occasionally. Right now is one of them. Volunteering sux this week.

I know, you are shocked that I use such harsh words. And negativity is usually not my thing. But too bad-I get a pass today. I’m worn out. Perhaps I’m doing too much, have my hands in too many different things. Or maybe it’s just a bad week. I feel unappreciated, kicked around, and down right weighed-down by the responsibilities I have taken on. The tough decisions and the extra work that I had this week are burdensome, even keeping me from my writing! The criticism and flaming darts being flung my way hurt and, at times, get me really PO’d.

You know the feeling, right?

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

It is times like this that I have to remind myself (sometimes with a nudge from a friend or peer) to look at the big picture. Think about accomplishments. Remember, like always, this too shall pass.

Sometimes I meditate and pray to sort things out. This time I may put pencil to paper and resort to Ben Franklin’s decision method by listing the pros and cons of doing what I’m doing and putting things in perspective in order to rein in the chaotic jumble in my mind. It’s also productive, when I stop and breath and let myself relax a little, to remember to think of positive results – anything at all to balance out the negative forces challenging my resolve. There is a lot going on and if I get too bogged down in the small stuff, the big picture gets fuzzy.

Yep, I think I’ll get through this ok and soon settle back in to the peaceful <ahem> rhythm that is usually my life. Really if you think about it, if there wasn’t a little excitement and challenge in it, why would I even bother to begin with? Overcoming adversity builds character, right? Easy’s no fun. And I do love a challenge!

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

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  1. Steve Simon

    December 2, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I agree with most of your post except:
    Overcoming adversity builds character…
    I am of the opinion it reveals character not builds it.

  2. Missy Caulk

    December 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Lisa,I had to cut back on everything I wasn’t passionate about 2 years ago. It really helped. Being the the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors, and Chair of MLS is enough. Now my team leader wants me to be on some leadership team, I just don’t want to get involved right now. Yea, I’ve told him….

    He still thinks he needs me. (((ugh)))

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    December 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Steve: You’re probably right.

    Missy: My problem is that I love it all. I think it’s a disease. (and he probably *does* need you!)

  4. Joel McDonald

    December 2, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    “My problem is that I love it all.”

    My philosophy is “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” You’re making a big difference, and sometimes that’s all you have to get you through rough spots…

    Tis the season to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Here’s hoping you can watch it under a warm blanket, and start tomorrow with a better vantage point.

  5. Todd Tarson

    December 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Lisa… keep up the good work. Our industry needs quality and motivated leaders now more than ever. You won’t get the credit you deserve, but in the end you will make a difference.

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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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