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Do What You Are Doing While You Are Doing It.




Have you ever had the remarkable pleasure of talking to someone who keeps checking their phone for new text messages while they are talking to you?  Naturally, nothing you are saying could matter quite as much as the next fabulous text message they are pretty sure they are going to receive.

The stupid idea of multitasking has spread throughout our society like a contagious disease.  It isn’t simply a “bad” idea (as in unsafe, rude, counterproductive), it also happens to be physically impossible.

One does not “multitask”.  Oh sure, you can think you are multitasking but you are not.  What a “multitasking person” is doing is one of the most inefficient things possible (as far as real work output goes): they are stopping doing one thing and starting another, literally jumping from task to task and back again.  They aren’t really “there” with regard to the other tasks they are “sort of doing”.

Almost all truly successful people in just about every profession and activity (sports, business, entertainment, construction – you name it) have ONE thing in common:  THEY DO WHAT THEY ARE DOING WHILE THEY ARE DOING IT.

A common problem for Realtors is they never quite “arrive at work” so can never really take time off either.  When they are “on vacation” they are still working on deals, sending faxes, taking calls – in other words, they simply changed their location but not what they were doing.  I see agents out to dinner and there – sometimes actually on the table – sits their cell phone.  Oh no, can’t take a chance on missing an important call!

If you are an on call medical doctor (or some profession where it really is a matter of life and death) perhaps being interrupted during dinner makes sense.  If you list and sell houses for a living, I don’t get it.

When working, work.  Really work.  When not working, don’t.  Not even a little bit.  BE. HERE. NOW.

Try it sometime.  You just might like 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. Ken Brand

    November 24, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Nice Reminder Russell. I know from time to time the “Gravity Of In The Now” turns wispy and I go floating into the make believe productivity mirage you describe – multi-tasking.

    Also, ignoring your phones, rings, beeps and pings when you’re in the company of someone important sends a powerful, appreciated confirmation of their significance to you. Better yet, turn it off in front of them. People appreciate the consideration and your attention.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Jim Duncan

    November 24, 2008 at 6:54 am

    This is why I set my clients’ expectations appropriately. I tell them that I can’t help it but I have a sickness that prevents me from focusing on them because I have to know what’s going on right now!

    I tell them that the only calls I will take when I am with them are either 1) One that I’m expecting and have to take (and that I would do the same for them) or 2) Wife/family.

    Generally, they’re ok with those two.

  3. Bob Wilson

    November 24, 2008 at 10:17 am

    When not working, don’t. Not even a little bit. BE. HERE. NOW.

    During the 90s downturn I went to work for Gregg Neuman. I was his first buyer agent. Everyone, including Gregg, had scheduled days off, with a set rule – you are not allowed to come into the office. Gregg said it was burnout protection. When we were working though, it was at full speed.

    The phone thing is huge, and it took my coaching of my daughter’s softball team to finally get it.

    It was between innings and I was on the phone getting ready to coach 3rd base and all of a sudden the ump jumps up from behind the plate, points and screams at me “Coach – you’re phone. It’s… OUT OF THE GAME!”, does the best ejection signal ever seen, then she took my phone.

  4. Matthew Hardy

    November 24, 2008 at 11:06 am

    When someone I’m in a conversation with starts texting I stop talking. They usually say something like “I can hear you” to which I reply: I know, and I’d prefer to resume our conversation when you’re finished. My absolute silence at that point usually stops the texting.

    As most of my work involves programming or some other kind of development, I’ve learned that focus is the best way to produce work I’m really proud of. When I was in sales and management, I also learned that no one ever really appreciated off-hand or aside comments as much as clear, eyeball-to-eyeball communication.

    Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of having one-on-one meetings with people at very high levels of business and government… people who shouldn’t “need” to be so focused during a conversation with me. And yet, they were: they made me feel as if our conversation was the most important one they were having that day. As a case in point: three minutes with Russell is better than thirty minutes with many other people. Why? Because he takes the time to BE with you.

    In studying ideas expressed by David Allen to Eckhart Tolle, I’ve concluded that the best seemingly elusive time that many are scurrying about hoping to get to, is now.

  5. Missy Caulk

    November 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm


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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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