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Getting To Know Your Buyer




If you haven’t wanted to insist that buyers come into the office before showing them property in the past, the incredible price of gas may encourage you to do it now. In order to provide good service it’s important to have an understanding of the client, their needs, to create a bond and a high level of trust. If you don’t sit down across the table, that’s pretty tough to do.

At dinner with friends the other night, of course the conversation turned to real estate – what else? A couple I didn’t know was describing how great it was that their agent had driven them around for two days. They were unfamiliar with the state that was going to be their new home and were excited that the agent had shown them the area. I asked if the agent had pre-interviewed them to find out what they were looking for before putting them in the car. Nope.

After spinning my wheels – literally – for a while I created this list. I add to it every time I talk to a new client and you can too.

First Meeting Questionnaire - Get more documents

As a lifelong resident and local Realtor, Vicki has established herself as a respected member of the San Mateo County real estate community. She’s known for her wit, sarcasm, and her personality that shows through in her posts. You can find her spouting off at Twitter, here at ag, and her personal blog, San Mateo Real Estate

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  1. Scott P. Rogers

    May 20, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    > I add to it every time I talk to a new client…

    Very interesting — thanks for compiling (and sharing) this comprehensive list! A few thoughts/questions…

    Do you typically discuss these items face-to-face?

    Do you send them to the client by e-mail and ask them to respond?

    If you do it face to face, how long does such an “interview” take? 🙂

  2. Vicki Moore

    May 20, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I always have this conversation face-to-face. If they won’t come into the office I offer to refer them to another agent. That may sound harsh but experience has taught me that if they don’t have the time or won’t make the effort to sit down with me, the likelihood is high that they won’t buy with me either.

    I don’t send it in advance. I simply ask them to consider and discuss with each other what their likes and dislikes are and what they can and can’t live without. I’m still surprised how often couples don’t discuss their preferences beforehand.

    It typically takes an hour, depending on how many questions they have and how much conversation goes on. If that seems like a long time, I challenge you to try it. I think you’ll find that clients will appreciate it that you took the time to ask, will know that you’re thorough and who doesn’t like to talk about themself?

  3. Ken B.

    May 20, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Well done and very generous. I’ll pass your words of wisdom along.
    Thank you.
    Ken b.

  4. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Ken, if you look at the top of the document that Vicki has shared with us, the grey arrows at the top right allow you to print the document right from the blog. That way it can be distributed to anyone in your office! Otherwise, feel free to email this article to them.


    Vicki, have you emailed this to a relocating client from another city or country before arriving? If so, how was it received? (if not, why?)

  5. Vicki Moore

    May 20, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Lani – I have done that – a shortened version. I try to get them to go over it with me on the phone so at least I can get voice inflections and hesitations.

    Once I get people to sit down they think it’s great – getting them into the office is what separates the serious from the not.

  6. Luxury Homes For Sale

    May 21, 2008 at 2:07 am

    great strategy! great technique to get long with client..
    I’m just curious about the length of conversation?
    it may take time!
    by the way, it is still a nice post! Thanks for sharing..

  7. Jason

    May 21, 2008 at 4:01 am

    thanks for using the embed document feature Vicki, glad its helping out

  8. Mike Taylor

    May 21, 2008 at 4:46 am

    Vicki- Kudos to you for this strategy. Too often people just pile buyers in their cars at the drop of a hat with no pre-qualification at all. I think you are right $4 a gallon may have agent rethinking this idea. Good list. Thanks.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    May 21, 2008 at 6:16 am

    ::applauding:: Can you come with me and help teach ABR? Well, done…

  10. Jim Duncan

    May 21, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Matthew – what does one learn in ABR classes that can’t be found online?

  11. Vicki Moore

    May 21, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Jim – You’re a trouble maker. Have to laugh at that one.

    Thanks Mike. Loan prequal isn’t the only prequal.

    Matthew – I just gave away my only secret. 🙂

  12. Benjamin Bach

    May 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Vicki, it only takes one 🙂

    I use a similar sheet for my initial consultation with an investor. It helps me figure out what they know, what they don’t know, and most importantly – what they think they know, but have no clue about (You can spot these easily – they start with “My Uncle Bob told me….”)

    [ If anyone wants the questionaire I use with investors when we initially meet, let me know. ]

  13. Jonathan Dalton

    May 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Jim, are you tweaking me or Matthew? 🙂

    Oddly enough, the only thing that’s stopped me from getting my ABR is I don’t want to have to pay every year to be able to call myself one. I figure once I have it, I should have it.

    Yes, I’m a stubborn SOB for better or (likely) worse. Cheap too.

    I kinda laughed off the nice conference room my office has with the flat-panel TV and computer hookup. But it’s been a godsend … I’m routinely meeting clients here and vetting the lists long before we go out to see homes. Good way of confirming what they want and you usually can tell by their reaction how serious they really are.

  14. Vicki Moore

    May 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Benjamin – You’re so right. Those questions – and I’m sure yours too – tell me a lot about the person – maybe more than at first glance.

    Jonathan – You’re just too much. lol.

  15. Barry W Bevis

    July 2, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Had a need for a form like this today.
    They are in town buyers; but, he and his wife is on vacation for two weeks.
    He asked if there was anything they could work on while they were out of town.

    Thanks for Sharing!

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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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