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Just ‘Thinking’ Outside the Box Isn’t Enough



original image courtesy of Jim Frazier

I love the real estate blogosphere. It largely a community of wonderful professionals who are dedicated to the practice of real estate and willing to share and learn from each other on a scale that is unprecedented in the industry (at least from what I have seen).

But– Houston, we have a problem.

All of this “outside the box” thinking is great, but what is it good for? Sure, we’re all benefiting from it (aren’t we?), but “we” are a small group of people, relative to the whole. Let’s assume, just for a second, that the number of people reading real estate blogs, learning, participating, is somewhere in the range of 100,000 REALTORS. Personally, I think that is an enormous over-estimate, but go with me on this one.

If it were true, those 100,000 agents who are all sharing, learning, and growing would be less than 10% of the total REALTOR population. LESS THAN 10%!

Clearly, there is work to be done.

Look, I get it. I know why blogging and social media is popular. We all love to be able to easily meet and converse with each other, share information, learn, have some fun, and do it all for free from the comfort of our keyboards.

My point is- maybe this ain’t gonna cut it anymore.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all truly want to revolutionize the real estate industry (as we commonly profess), we are going to have to do something more.

There are far too many agents and REALTORS out there who could benefit in the same way that we have benefited for us to simply ignore them, and say, “well, they just don’t care.” I know this simply isn’t true. I know this isn’t true because EVERY time I talk to a REALTOR or group of REALTORS about blogging, or social media, or technology, at least 3 out of 5 want to know more. They want to know where to go to find this information, they want to participate.

“We,” those of us who are already participating, should be encouraging this. Why? Because it benefits all of us. It makes all of our professional lives just a bit easier to work with like-minded agents. Agents who share the same convictions about transparency, candor, dedication to client service, etc. This won’t happen unless we spread the message to those who aren’t currently involved.

For those of you who are thinking, “but wait, that is my competition. Why should I try and include them?” If you can’t see how including others in this movement benefits you, then maybe you have been missing the point all along. Russell Shaw is a mega-producer. He gets it. Who are you to say he’s wrong?

Sure, we can all sit around and pat ourselves on the back, talk about how great it is to be on the bleeding edge of the practice, and wish things would get better.


We could take the message to the streets, stop talking about changing the profession, engage the people who need the message most, and actually make something happen.

I’m game. How ’bout you?

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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  1. Jay Thompson

    June 16, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Great post oh he of many stripes.

    Just last week I did a presentation titled “Demystifying Real Estate Blogging”. There were 45 agents and brokers there. Maybe 5 already had a blog. Many more had heard the word, and that is about it. *All* wanted to learn more about it. This Friday will be more of the same as the Arizona Real Estate Bloggers Network meets up again.

    After the seminar, two people came up to me and asked, “why would you do this and give away all your secrets?”

    Well, there is no secret. Anyone that wants to see what I do can go to my blog and read it. “Sharing the wealth” makes me a better blogger, and a better agent. I *love* talking to blogging “noobs”. They can provide a wealth of info and ideas. By helping them I can make my blog better.

    And there is plenty of real estate to go around.

  2. Michelle

    June 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I still can’t believe how many agents out there don’t have blogs – some don’t even know how to turn on a computer!

  3. Jim Duncan

    June 16, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Well said, Daniel. I’ll echo Jay – regarding the last presentation I gave to about 50 Realtors – one had a blog, and a couple more said that they wanted to try, and most seemed overwhelmed. It’s more than blogging anyone can write poorly and jam posts with keywords; it’s the knowledge and implementation of that new knowledge that is crucial.

    A lot of these Realtors don’t want to be reached- and that’s fine. Targeting those who both want to be reached and can implement is the challenge.

    I’ve said before that I find that many of the Realtors I meet who blog (well) are more competent than those who do not – getting them to want to learn (regardless of CE credits) … my answer to that quandary is to keep doing. Eventually they’ll come around (and by then I hope/will need to be on the next “thing”).

  4. Jim Gatos

    June 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Well, if it wasn’t for you guys this weekend, I may have just “chucked” it and given up. I sat down over the weekend and thought about WHY I don’t like blogging (been doing it for two years) and why I’ve been avoiding it. I came up with the thought I get tired of playing “techie webmaster” and I considered changing to Typepad from a hosted WordPress blog. I tried Typepad yesterday for a couple of hours BUT they are limited by what you can call their domain names (I want two blogs, one for me and one for my wife), so for now the free wordpress blogs will do. Later on I will finish my post and send a link here to an article totally describing my experiences here, but I want to thank those who encouraged me NOT to kill my blog..

  5. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 16, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I think the big 2 limiting factors for revolutionizing the real estate industry are:
    1. The barrier of entry is too low. In Kentucky, you take a 2 week class, pass a test, pay a few small fees – and BAM! You are now a “real estate professional”. There is no apprenticeship, internship, or really anything else – and beyond a few hours a year of continuing education, you don’t have to keep up with the industry (unless you want to be successful).

    2. People are looking for a silver bullet. They don’t want to have to work. (You really can’t blame them. If theres an easy solution, everyone wants to jump in.) The reality is, it does take a tremendous amount of time and effort.

  6. Daniel Rothamel

    June 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Jim Gatos,

    I’m glad we could bring you off the cliff.

    After all, a blog is a terrible thing to waste.


  7. Jim Duncan

    June 16, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I only wish there were a way to “re-tweet” Jennifer’s comment. Well said.

  8. Barry Cunningham

    June 16, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    “There are far too many agents and REALTORS out there who could benefit in the same way that we have benefited for us to simply ignore them, and say, “well, they just don’t care.” I know this simply isn’t true. I know this isn’t true because EVERY time I talk to a REALTOR or group of REALTORS about blogging, or social media, or technology, at least 3 out of 5 want to know more. They want to know where to go to find this information, they want to participate.”

    Are they willing to pay for this information? Or is it supposed to be given to them for free?

  9. Daniel Rothamel

    June 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm


    I don’t know if they are willing to pay for it. I would argue that some are, some aren’t. (Duh)

    As far as, “is it supposed to be given to them for free?” the answer to that question is up to the person doing the giving. Some will decide to give it for free, some will decide to charge. In the end, the choice as to which sources are more valuable will be left up to those who are looking to benefit from the information. But, hey, ain’t that the way its supposed to be?

  10. Jay Thompson

    June 16, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    “Are they willing to pay for this information? Or is it supposed to be given to them for free?”

    Some paid for Unchained. Some pay for 4Realz seminars. Some pay for Inman Connect. Some pay for Domus Consulting Groups seminars. Some pay for Real Estate Tomato training. Some pay for NAR supported training (for what that’s worth).

    My opinion? Some will pay, some won’t. Some will provide it for free, some won’t.

    But I’m not real sure what the point of the question is?

  11. Jay Thompson

    June 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Apparently Daniel ad I were typing at the same moment. He beat me to the “submit” button…

  12. Daniel Rothamel

    June 16, 2008 at 3:33 pm


    What is it that people say about minds that think alike? 😀

  13. Eric Blackwell

    June 16, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    And I think that the true test of getting the information out is can we get them to take action. I can tell you as a Technology director in a large brokerage that there is a HUGE difference between the # of people who attend my weekly training sessions and those who APPLY what they have learned.

    Jennifer would be one of those who has APPLIED the blogging part of what I teach. To me, it is gratifying to work with people like that.

    Jay, I applaud you for teaching those seminars and pushing the education whether folks take full advantage or not.

  14. Barry Cunningham

    June 16, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    “My opinion? Some will pay, some won’t. Some will provide it for free, some won’t. But I’m not real sure what the point of the question is?”

    Point was simple. Would want to know what kind of personal investment most would find reasonable for re-tooling and improving their business.

  15. Bob

    June 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Most don’t want to pay anything Barry. Even if they did, much of what is being offered has no value.

  16. Jay Thompson

    June 16, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Barry –

    Your guess is as good as mine. There used to be an agent in my old office that would whip out a credit card and buy anything and everything that was thrown at her that remotely promised “success”, regardless of the cost or ROI. On the other extreme, you have people who have to take a crowbar to their wallet for anything.

    The answer, I suspect, lies somewhere between those two extremes. There are people that plunk out $3 grand for a fancy looking blog and end up doing nothing with it. Others turn a free or Blogger site into a money maker.

    The general range I see most one-day seminars falling into is on the order of $75 – $150 (for those that charge of course). Is it worth that? Sure could be, if the knowledge is APPLIED. Hell, it could be worth 10 times that. Sadly, most will do nothing with it. Point in case, I offered free classes with my old brokerage. A whole series of them. Many attended. Ask me how many are now blogging….

    Yep, zero. None, zilch, nada. The typical response when asked why not? “It’s too much work”. This said by the folks standing around eating donuts or playing solitaire on the office PCs for hours.

    Go figure.

  17. Barry Cunningham

    June 16, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Jay..with this line you said it all!!! “The typical response when asked why not? “It’s too much work”.

    Thanks that the answer i was looking for!

  18. Paula Henry

    June 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Daniel – You raise an interesting topic. In my area, I think I have 5 competitors who blog 1 of them consistantly. 5 out of 7000. Like Jennifer said, many want the “silver bullet”, and blogging is NOT a silver bullet.

    I met with an agent, one-on-one early this year. He emailed me and asked to talk to me because he sees me everywhere online. He wanted to pick my brain and I said, why not?

    I gave away everything I could tell him in one sitting. He did much of what I suggested, started on Active Rain, as well as an outside blog. He hit it hot and heavy in February, then a few posts in March, and hasn’t been seen since mid April. Oh, yeah, he’s my direct competition.

    Simply – most do not want to do the work it takes to continue. Or, they don’t like it. In that case, they should do what they like and feel comfortable with, as long as it brings them business.

  19. Dan Connolly

    June 16, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    I had an agent who has been around for years call me to ask about blogging and she had been talking to someone who was trying to sell her a blog for $10K setup fee and 2% of her gross commissions. Comes with hosting and ongoing content. I don’t think she would have signed up even without my (negative) imput but she was considering it!

  20. Ken Smith

    June 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Paula I would guess that is a pretty typical number “5 out of 7000”.

  21. Carson Coots

    June 17, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Wow I just wrote the longest comment on earth, got the math problem wrong, and lost it OUCH. What I was trying to say was:

    The information is free and abundant. There are probably more blogs outside and inside the real estate industry promoting ‘the benefits of blogging’ than any other single subject. I think that the problem isn’t awareness, it’s education.

    Advertising has been around for a long time… so why are agents still writing the crappiest ads on earth by the truckload? The real estate industry (agents especially) are notorious for having horrible, generic, copycat and otherwise worthless ads (sorry its true). It’s because they have not taken the time to research how to write good ad copy, how to craft a headline and learn design theory. It takes a lot of time. They have to either do it themselves, hire someone good (not happening often) or leave it up to the place they bought the ad from (most often).

    Most are convinced that ‘traditional’ advertising is not a total waste of money (too little too late) but do not take the time to learn how to do it well and do it effectively… branding, campaigns, strategy and all that.

    I went to school for 4 years to become a great ad writer… and in the process learned a bit about journalism, media law, PR, sales and media buying. I still came out an amateur after all that studying.

    So blogging… wow there is a lot to cover. Writing, keywords, SEO, link building, social networking, bookmarking, and even some site design in most cases. An entire degree program can be built around that. Where do you start? Thats the problem… not only are people not so convinced of the benefits, they also don’t have the time or the desire to jump into the deep end of all that nerdy stuff.

    What I am getting at is, the reason people are not getting it is for the same reason they aren’t learning how to do anything better, such as advertising, PR, time management, interpersonal skills, public speaking. These things have been around forever and many people lack the expertise based on lack of interest. They would rather build a deck, watch Lost, read thoreau, check sports scores, Nascar, check stocks, and even play solitaire while sucking down powdered donuts.

    Rather than get all tangled in ‘WEB 2.0″ they would rather print and mail a crappy postcard and say “there, I marketed”

    But I’m with you Daniel. You already are doing your part and if it wasn’t for the bloggers of yesterday ‘convincing us’ most of us would not be here now. Good post!

  22. Carson Coots

    June 17, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Oh by the way, building a deck, solitaire, Nascar and donuts are healthy in moderation. In fact, I think building a deck could make you a better blogger. Maybe not Nascar.

  23. Eric Blackwell

    June 17, 2008 at 3:21 am

    @”Rather than get all tangled in ‘WEB 2.0? they would rather print and mail a crappy postcard and say “there, I marketed”

    Exactly, they are either looking for the vaunted silver bullet or are wanting to check that marketing thing off their to do list. Either way is incorrect IMO. Both are looking solely at mostly what to do with a specific listing and not building their reputation and influence in general.

    The thing is though (and 5 out of 7000 is about right) that some pick it up and get with it. The recognize opportunity when they see it and truth when they hear it.

    @Dan Connelly- special spot in hell for the person who tried to sell her that IMO.

  24. Jay Thompson

    June 17, 2008 at 7:52 am

    “she had been talking to someone who was trying to sell her a blog for $10K setup fee and 2% of her gross commissions.”

    Wow. That’s basically criminal.

    5 out of 7000…. interesting number. We’ve got about 45,000 licensed agents and brokers in the Phoenix area. Phoenix is generally recognized as having “a lot” of real estate bloggers. And I think compared to many places, we do. But I can still name almost all of them, and certainly name the truly active ones. (incidentally, I can show you more that were started up and dropped within a couple of months than currently are active…).

    I’d put the number of “active” (and I use that term loosely) RE bloggers in Phoenix at 25. That’s one out of 1800. Or 5 out of 9000.

  25. Jim Duncan

    June 17, 2008 at 8:06 am

    “she had been talking to someone who was trying to sell her a blog for $10K setup fee and 2% of her gross commissions.”

    Wow. That’s basically criminal.

    No kidding; I would have done it for half that. 🙂

    In the Charlottesville market, I’d say that out of 1200 agents, there are about 20 who blog with regularity (including AR blogs) and about 5 that “get it” – “it” being that intangible that I cannot necessarily define but know it when I see it.

    Most Realtors/people are looking for “quick fixes” – those who recognize the value of learning and working hard are fewer and farther between. The Pareto Principle is dead-on in this area. The percentage of people who truly want to succeed on their own is fairly small – and that’s great for those who have the ability and drive to do so themselves.

    What I tell anybody who will listen is this – blogging (well) is work – real hard work – and oftentimes, that statement alone is enough to encourage some to step to the plate and many more to decide it’s not for them – and that’s fine.

    The challenge remains – how to communicate the tremendous knowledge and forward-thinking found on many real estate blogs to the wider masses?

  26. Rudy from

    June 17, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Hi Daniel!

    Well said my friend. Many people think outside the box and have great ideas. But as you point out, there’s so much more to it. It’s about execution and implementation. It’s about the “how”. You can share everything you know with someone and they will still need some hand holding. I know this from personal experience. Although I haven’t blogged about all the cool things I’m currently doing, have done and are planning to do since I joined Trulia, rest assured, we’ve done some great stuff behind the scenes helping agents and brokerages understand how to better utilize new web 2.0 technology and tools. They love it. They want to learn more. But only a handful follow through. For some, it’s about time. For others, there may be a steep learning curve. Nonetheless, the desire to improve their business is there.

    In my opinion, real estate education is the hottest real estate trend in 2008. Getting the masses to adopt what most of us already know is the challenge. Actually watching someone follow through and thrive is the reward.

    Social Media Guru at Trulia

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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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