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Op/Ed

6 lessons from failed transactions that will save your next deal

(BUSINESS) Failed transactions can be a tremendous source of learning for any level of real estate professional.

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The late Maya Angelou was known to have said, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

And while I believe that this humorous quote is quite true, you can also learn a lot about a real estate professional when the going gets tough. That is, when a real estate transaction begins to face challenges or when there are signs that the transaction itself is going to fall through, you can learn a lot about an agent by his or her behavior in the face of adversity.

Having assisted agents in closing thousands of transactions, here are the six largest lessons that I’ve learned about real estate from these failed transactions.

  1. Never oversell your services. Don’t promise the moon if you cannot even deliver the stars. That is, don’t offer up marketing programs that you cannot deliver. Don’t promise your client that the property will be on page one of Google if it will not. And, never promise that you can save a client from foreclosure or negotiate a sale for top dollar. It’s not generally a good idea to guarantee that you can sell a property—especially at a price that does not align with current market value. When you cannot deliver on your promises, clients get angry. This anger will result in bad reviews, no referrals, and possibly even a cancellation of contract.
  2. Don’t be pushy. If a client is on the fence about making an offer or listing the property for sale, never be too pushy. It is generally a good idea to document pros and cons in order to help a client make a more informed decision. However, if you push clients to list their home as a short sale when they are still considering a loan modification or when you push buyers to make an offer on a property they don’t really like, your behavior will come back to bite you in the butt. Help clients make informed decisions in their own best interest—not yours.
  3. Always read the preliminary title report. If you are listing a property for sale or if you represent a buyer on a purchase, one of the first things that you must do is review the title report. If there are a significant number of unpaid liens, the seller will need to pay those off at closing. Often, this can be difficult or there may not be enough funds to close and cover the seller’s obligations. So, don’t put your buyers into a situation like this and don’t take a listing if you are not going to be able to get it closed.
  4. Always check proof of funds. If the buyer is an investor buying on behalf of a corporation, limited liability company, trust, or partnership, make sure that the buyer has the authority to sign on behalf of the entity prior to moving forward. Obtain proof of funds monthly if you have an ongoing relationship with the buyer in order to confirm that the entity has the necessary buying power.
  5. Have the lender update the pre-qualification letter monthly. Since lending guidelines are constantly in a state of flux, it’s a good idea to ask your buyer’s lender to provide you with a new pre-qualification or pre-approval letter monthly. With the fluctuation of interest rates and the risk of a buyer purchasing a big-ticket item on credit, you’ll always want to be certain that the buyer will qualify for a loan before moving forward and making an offer.
  6. Don’t waste time on anyone with irrational expectations. Perhaps you are working with an investor buyer that wants to purchase a home to flip for 50 cents on the dollar. Or… perhaps you are working with a seller that wants to sell his home for $300k over market value. It doesn’t matter how hard you try; this individual may be a waste of time. Consider how many money-making opportunities you’ve lost while spending time showing countless properties and making lowball offers. Instead, focus on lead generation and money-making activities for individuals and transactions that will actually close.

You can avoid panic mode in your next real estate transaction if you heed this advice. The greatest benefit from a failed transaction is what you actually learn and how you can apply it. You don’t want the same stinking stuff to happen to you over and over again. With that advice in mind, I wonder why it is that the Christmas lights are always tangled.

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Melissa is an in-demand business success speaker and author, as well as a real estate broker with thousands of short sale transactions under her belt. She leverages her experience as a short sale insider to motivate thousands of business professionals to plan their careers better, execute more effectively on their plan, and earn more because of it.

Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

The texting sin to never commit with your clients, period

(EDITORIAL) Clear communication with clients is important (and that’s an understatement). This study found one error that separated the sincere text from the insincere.

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I have enough issues making myself understood when I speak with someone face-to-face. Now I need to pay attention to how I text so as not to be misconstrued.

According to the latest findings from Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, the mere use of a period (.) can make a person seem less sincere compared to say, using an exclamation point (!), which, by the way, ranks higher on the sincerity meter.

The study, led by Celia Klin of Binghamton University, and published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests ending your text messages with a period makes them seem less sincere to the receiver.

Participants in the study read short exchanges with responses that either did or did not contain messages that ended with a period.

When the messages were in text message form, as opposed to handwritten notes, the messages that ended with a period were generally rated as being less sincere than messages that didn’t end in a period.

Klin points out that “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on.”

Instead, adds Professor Klin, people who text rely on what they have available to them: “…emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and punctuation.”

I’m not sure what the alternative to texting is. Lifehacker.com recently published its findings of what it feels are the five best alternative texting apps. But at the end of the day (or end of the sentence in this case) you are still texting and thus still setting yourself up for the dreaded improper use of a period (.)

That said, Lifehacker’s survey revealed that WhatsApp leads the pack. WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging system that supports Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices. WhatsApp is popular because the service is backed by hundreds of millions of active users, and allows you to send text, photo, and voice/video messages to individuals and groups for free using mobile data or Wi-Fi. And there’s not a Period (.) in sight. You can see the rest of the top five contenders by clicking here.

In terms of expressing myself, the use of emoticons works perfectly for me. Trouble is, within a professional context the cartoon-like emoticon looks out of place. That’s OK. It’s the next best thing to speaking in person (which I’d rather do anyway) and it sure beats worrying about period (.) misuse.

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Op/Ed

Why you should lose the sweat pants if you work from home

(EDITORIAL) While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity.

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There are many often discussed benefits to working from home. If you’re not spending time on a daily commute, that means you have more time to work on personal projects and share with your family and friends. Plus it saves you gas and/or fare money.

While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity — even if you’re just commuting to your couch!

You should wear pants (yes, everyday).

When you look your best, you feel your best, and arguably work your best.

It’s pretty hard to resist the temptation of vegging out a bit if you’ve rolled out of bed and headed to your desk while still wearing pajamas. If you have no plan to get dressed for the day, the temptation to hit the snooze button until the moment you need to be present and accounted for will really work against you.

Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed.

When you’re working from home, planning to get up early and prepare for your day allows you to create a transitional space that will help distinguish your home life from your work life. Dressing for success, even if you don’t see anyone during your office hours, will drive your sense of purpose and help you carve out a more productive space. It will also signify to any family members or roommates that you’ve entered the workspace and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you work from a restaurant, coffee shop, or workspaces, it can make you more approachable.

If you’re not dressed for the part, those around you may assume that you’re spending your time recreationally. Even if you are constantly answering your phone, drafting emails, or working on a project. It’s deceptively easy to look like you’re simply browsing the internet or socializing in casual attire.

There are plenty of opportunities to network and meet new people, even when you work from home. You never know who you may end up connecting with, and dressing appropriately to your profession can send the message that you’re an expert and take what you do seriously.

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