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Challenge Yourself, Challenge Others



You might remember…

Not too long ago, I wrote “Blog, Blog, Black Sheep.” here on AgentGenius, because I felt slightly overwhelmed by the talent I saw around me in reading other real estate agent blogs. I was feeling a bit “beat up” in a sense, even though I had tons of encouragement and overall, I don’t think I’m a bad blogger. What I did think (and will always think) was that I could always get better.

In a recent post on ActiveRain I asked the question “Are we getting away from our roots?” The question wasn’t really to the general public, but more to myself, but through it I learned something very important – that I needed to begin focusing on real estate related posts a bit more. I didn’t learn it because someone told me, but I could feel my thought patterns shifting and my focus getting clearer. All posts relate back to real estate, but I wanted to beef up my real estate facts, info, opinions, and advice. I just felt that I was blogging a bit too much about the fluff and not enough about the core of what we’re here for – real estate.

And so the journey begins…

In last week’s post, “What’s the next step?,” I alluded to some changes and some of them have been taking effect. I recently signed up with AltosResearch in order to be able to provide market data with ease for my readers. In doing so, I have found myself studying the statistics much more and getting deeper into the movements of the market. When you’re sitting in an office meeting and can throw out a few stats for the market, it always makes the broker feel good too.

And then came Darren Rowse of I’m not 100% sure of how I came across him or how I heard about his blog, but he had just announced the “31 Days To Build a Better Blog Challenge” and I clicked through and read the post. What I saw was an opportunity to learn some new things, push myself to write more, and to focus my writing on specific tasks in order to train my brain.

It’s only Day 3 at this point, but I’ve already found myself pushing myself to my blogging limits (well, the limit for now – it expands daily). I like the challenge – knowing that I have something that I must do everyday. A path to success, a road to better blogs, a journey to bring new readers and new business. As I do each daily task, I think of new offshoots to each task and what each of those can do. Right now, my brain is bubbling over with thoughts and I’ve even begun writing notes for future blogs – something I hadn’t done before.

Accountability and encouragement.

One of the bloggers I read, Chris Somers, suggested some people on ActiveRain get together and do it together to create some accountability and to encourage each other through the 31 days. I thought it was a good idea and I enjoy Chris’ work, so it was an easy choice. While emailing back and forth, we created a group on ActiveRain and it has quickly become a hang out for those working the 31 Days Challenge. By coming together as a group, there are ideas bounced back and forth and you get to see a different take on any given task. Much like why we join Kiwanis, frats, BNI, Facebook, or Twitter – like attracts like. We, as human beings, are drawn to the group experience. As we come together, we borrow from the strengths of our group and make up for the weaknesses of others. We learn how to correct our mistakes through advice from others. When you feel you’re lacking, find others who might be able to help give you some guidance.

Challenging yourself is never easy, but the rewards are always worth it. Challenging others is easy, but supporting them is a bit more difficult. Give to them what you wish you could receive and you’ll build a stronger individual through a stronger group. I’ll be challenging myself for another 28 days and then I’ll find the next challenge.

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Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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  1. Ok, what is the group called? I’m also doing the #31DBBB challenge and no matter how I search, I can’t seem to find the group on AR. THANKS!

  2. Brad Coy

    April 9, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Whoa .. Striatic.

  3. Bob Stewart

    April 9, 2009 at 11:50 am

  4. Matt Stigliano

    April 9, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Christina – Sorry about that, looks like Bob got you the answer.

    Brad – I thought I’d use the photos since all the posts were linked in a sense.

    Bob – Thanks for getting this up there before I did. Its been a long day.

  5. Missy Caulk

    April 10, 2009 at 4:50 am

    That was a great idea for them to start that small group. Always good to connect with people in large communities in a smaller way.

    I can’t keep up with all the links from people following the 31 Day Challenge. The response was overwhelming, to be trained by the Master.

  6. Matt Stigliano

    April 10, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Missy – I definitely found that it has gotten my charged up and ready for more. I view this as an opportunity to learn a few new tricks and to challenge myself to think a bit differently on some issues (see your own post about embracing change).

    There are a lot of posts to read and I admit I can’t keep up with all of it.

  7. real estate syracuse,

    April 11, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Iam a learner in the world of blog. Please give details about “ActiveRain “.

  8. Matt Stigliano

    April 12, 2009 at 8:20 am

    real estate syracuse – ActiveRain is a networking site for Realtors, a blogging platform, a SEO helper, and a place to learn new tricks and tools – all rolled into one.

    You can check it out at:

    I’ve used it to help strengthen my blogging skills over time. It also has a consumer element to it as the consumers use it to learn about real estate and localities through the massive amounts of blog posts available to them.

  9. Brad Coy

    April 16, 2009 at 2:12 am

    he takes some wicked good photos. I follow him on flickr. sorry to get off topic… I kind of bugged when I saw his photo.

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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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