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3. There is Real Joy in Doing "Meaningful Work"




Years ago my sister went through nursing school and completed all of the requirements to become a Registered Nurse and graduated.  Nurses were in demand so she got a job as an R.N. quickly.  She kept that job for exactly two weeks and quit.  She didn’t like anything about being a nurse.  Shortly after quitting the hospital, she took a job working as a bookkeeper for an accountant, where she stayed for years.  She must have liked the idea of being a nurse but not actually being a nurse.

Many men and women complete law school and yet don’t practice law.  Because the barrier to entry is so much lower a huge (as in very large) number of people enter the real estate business and don’t stay (about 13 out of 14 are gone by the end of the 2nd year).  "I think I would like driving around town in a Cadillac, wearing nice clothes" is one I used to hear a lot when I drove a Cadillac.

People who aren’t actually in a particular game seldom ever know what it is really like to play that game.  They think they do but they don’t.  Even the players themselves have to get "all the way in" a game to really get it.

In his groundbreaking book, "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell identified the three qualities work has to have if it is to be satisfying: autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward.  Being a Realtor – for those fortunate enough to get into the business far enough to make a full connection with those three things – this business can be mostly joy.  Outsiders can’t usually see that part.  It is invisible to most of them and even to many in the business.  Nevertheless, it is there for all who care to partake.

For the following three paragraphs I am borrowing (direct text or concepts) from Malcolm’s wonderful book:

When you come home at night you might be tired and even short on cash and a bit overwhelmed.  But you are alive  You are your own boss.  You are responsible for your own decisions and direction.  Your work is complex: it engages your mind and imagination.  And in your work there is a relationship between effort and reward: the longer or more effectively you work on and in your business the more money you can make.

Those three things – autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.  It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy, it’s whether our work fulfills us.  If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take?  I’m guessing the former, because there is complexity, autonomy and a connection between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money. 

Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful.  Being a teacher is meaningful.  Being a physician is meaningful.  So is being an entrepreneur.   …..  Hard word is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.  Once is does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you dance for joy.

Any Realtor who learns to effectively lead generate (lead generation itself has all three: autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward) can have a business worth having and a life worth living (as in mostly fun).  Lead generation is very well covered in Gary Keller’s wonderful book, "Shift".  I highly recommend it.

Russell has been an Associate Broker with John Hall & Associates since 1978 and ranks in the top 1% of all agents in the U.S. Most recently The Wall Street Journal recognized the Top 200 Agents in America, awarding Russell # 25 for number of units sold. Russell has been featured in many books such as, "The Billion Dollar Agent" by Steve Kantor and "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent" by Gary Keller and has often been a featured speaker for national conventions and routinely speaks at various state and local association conventions. Visit him also at and

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  1. Austin Smith -

    February 24, 2009 at 10:01 am

    “…autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward.”

    insightful words of wisdom. the ‘connection between effort and reward’ is what keeps me going to work every day; sales is an awfully hard industry to be in right now, but every rebuttal is one step towards a sale, and this tangible reward is more fulfilling and exciting than a trip to Benihana’s.

    Nice job Russell. I think the only thing wrong with this post is the Hubbard quote at the top…:)

  2. Trace

    February 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Why oh why are you quoting L Ron Hubbard, Russell?

  3. Jonathan Dalton

    February 24, 2009 at 11:58 am

    People quote the New Testament all the time; I don’t get the point of those references … call me meshugah but that doesn’t mean those references have any less relevance to those using them.

    Back on topic, I’ve been running on fumes for days thanks to a wave of buyers and some well timed offers on my listings. As my wife said, “At least you’re not punching a clock.” Not what you want to hear at the end of a 12-hour day that ended without an offer being written but quite true nevertheless.

    When I get tired of the 12- to 15-hour days, I can make a change to my business and work with some buyers’ agents. All of the control is in my hands.

  4. Russell Shaw

    February 24, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    >Why oh why are you quoting L Ron Hubbard, Russell?
    Because no other writer – living or dead – has ever said that nearly as well.
    Actually, I tend to go out of my way to *not* quote Mr. Hubbard – there are incredible quotes of his I could use in almost every post I have ever written – just so what I am saying doesn’t come off as trying to “convert” people or endlessly proselytize. There is very little material that has ever been written on the subject of success that I have not examined and I will usually use other author’s quotes just for that reason.
    I have been a Scientologist since 1973 and continue to study Ron Hubbard’s work (I am currently taking a course at the local organization) to further learn and be better able to improve conditions in my life and the world around me. There are some materials from Hubbard that do not exist – in any form – from any other writer that I consider *so* vital that I not only quote them, I link directly to them and teach classes to Realtors so they can learn have the benefit of that wisdom, as well.
    My goal is not to proselytize or convert – my goal is impact, huge and positive, on the people around me – to help to smooth out the waves that tend to capsize them. I succeed quite well on that goal thanks mainly to what I have learned from L. Ron Hubbard.

  5. Trace

    February 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Gotcha. 🙂

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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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