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Are “Topless” Meetings For You?



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My Quandary

Recently I was at a multi-day event where the facilitator announced that the meeting was a “Topless Meeting”, in that no lap’tops’ were permitted.  She also excluded Blackberries, PDA, Treos etc..  It was curious for a variety of reasons, especially because some of those in attendance, were chosen as a result of their online leadership qualities.  When I first heard the facilitator announce that she had banning technology, my first thought was that the participants were adults and should be permitted to decide on their own.  My second was the question of the speaker’s ability to be more interesting than the attendee’s e-mail.


 As an instructor and meeting leader, I’ve never really thought about it, I’ve just encouraged participants to bring their laptops in to the class or meeting.  Recenly I’ve asked a group of Realtors, numbering about 20, what they though of the trend toward laptops in the meeting or training session.  The entire group (various ages) felt that it was rude to use any of these devices in a classroom.  

I’ve felt that we had to make meetings and education as non-intrusive as we could, in order to get agents to participate.  However, I’ve neglected the fact that many other participants are easily distracted and offended by the introduction of technology by participants.

What Say You?

I know that asking a question about technology on AgentGenius is already a bit like asking Congress if they like spending non-existant money; but I’ll do so anyway.  Do you think that meetings should be “topless”?  How can we establish good etiqutte?

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  1. Chuck G

    January 23, 2009 at 7:14 am


    Absolutely topless. Just like people can’t talk on the cell phone and drive properly, they can’t listen to someone giving a presentation while they’re reading their email. You’re either IN the meeting or you’re not. The idea of “multi-tasking” is really a farce, and it’s rude to the presenter to tune them out like that.

    Now…that picture. Good grief, I think I’m going to need therapy after seeing that first thing this morning.


  2. Sarah Stelmok

    January 23, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I don’t agree with topless meetings. I guesss sometimes they would be appropriate, but in general, I see nothing wrong with my students having technology with them in the classroom. I’ve actually asked students with laptops to research a topic quickly for the class or google something for us to prove a point. Many students also use a laptop to take notes. Now, there are some rude people out there. But for the most part my students that use technology while I teach and very conscious of what they are doing and try their best not to disrupt those around them.

  3. Paula Henry

    January 23, 2009 at 7:46 am

    As much as I like having access to my laptop and Crackberry – anytime, I have to agree with Chuck. Admittedy, I have tried it, and always miss something. Could have been the golden nugget of the meeting!

    I have even been trying to shut the lid on my laptop when conversing with others. It’s too distracting.

    Chuck – I must disagree that “muti-tasking” is a farce, though – as any mom knows. If we didn’t multi-task, we would all only have one child:)

  4. teresa boardman

    January 23, 2009 at 8:11 am

    To go one step further, I have been at a few conference sessions where presenters were seated on a stage with open laptops in front of them. That is a great way to disconnect the audience from the presenter. It is cold and maybe even a little rude.

  5. Darren Kittleson

    January 23, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I think there are appropriate times for laptops and inappropriate times. My pet peeve is the attendee who pounds the keyboard like they’re playing something ragtime on a piano.

    When is it appropriate? When the instructor is doing a “hands on” technology training. I’ve found it much easier for the attendees to grasp the concepts when they can actually go through the steps of technology being presented.

    When is it not appropriate? Any other time. I love the term “Topless Meeting”. Thanks for adding it to my vernacular.

  6. Chuck G

    January 23, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Certainly there are times when it makes sense to have a laptop open in a meeting. With the advent of web conferencing and shared presentations, this adds a positive dimension to the education process.

    But if you’re reading your email, Facebook, or working on your blog, you’re simply NOT paying attention to the instructor. Your brain can’t give 100% attention to both. For the same reason, I refuse to answer my cell phone if I’m in a face to face meeting with anyone.

    @Paula — I guess it’s all how one defines multi-tasking. I look at it as doing two things at the same moment. I hope that doesn’t mean checking the blackberry at the same time as pro-creation 🙂

  7. Paula Henry

    January 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Chuck – Now that would be interesting 😉 I was thinking more along the lines of cooking dinner, while holding one chld and feeding the other a bottle. Man – I don’t know how I ever did it.

  8. Bob

    January 23, 2009 at 9:42 am

    If it is educational/instructional in nature, the laptop for many is no different than paper and pen.

    In other types of meetings or seminars, I’ve used my laptop to verification or cross reference aspects of the talk or presentation.

    I think “topless” demonstrates a bit of arrogance from the instructor/facilitator, in which case I prefer “meetless”.

  9. Ira Serkes

    January 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Sounds like the wrong speaker for the job. My Mac Book Pro has a practically silent keyboard and take extraordinary notes, which I then proof, check the URL links, create into a PDF and email to the people attending the meeting.

    If I had to rely on my memory… going to the meeting would, IMHO, probably turn out to be a complete waste of time.

    I’d be very interested WHY this speaker feels that this is an appropriate decision. Perhaps it’s as simple as people with noisy keyboards.

    And me? I almost always sit in the back of the room anyway – that’s less likely to disturb the luddites, more accessible to the power plugs, and closer to the rest rooms!

    Ira Serkes
    Berkeley, CA USA

  10. Jordan Nilsen

    January 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Bob’s comments above. Laptops/smart-phones are the tools of tech-savvy business people. For those behind the curve, new technologies are intimidating; it is always easier to apply a negative moniker instead of recognizing the benefits of any new system.

  11. Ted Mackel

    January 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Oh Poppycock!

    Laptop can be a great way to take notes. Also to see running commentary for other attendees on Twitter.

    It can be a distraction if you cannot disconnect from email and other activity. But note taking is nice on a laptop.

  12. Monika

    January 23, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Good question! I am torn as an instructor. I feel it’s okay in tech type classes but not in regular classes. But I know that many people take notes using a laptop… so I usually do allow it.
    I don’t mind the PDA’s at all and found it hard when in a meeting recently where the committee chair said no Blackberry/treos. Yuck!

  13. Candy Lynn

    January 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    NO to “topless” meetings!

    I take lots of notes – its a trick I’ve learned to keep my mind from wandering during class.

    Notes on laptop are a must for me. My notes are more concise, coherent & legible when on laptop. I often refer back to them – my old handwritten notes are NEVER looked at once I leave the class.

    IMHO “topless” meetings & classes are discriminating against those of us that take notes on our laptops.

  14. Candy Lynn

    January 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    PS Matthew –
    Thanks for posting about this! As I sat beside you for a few minutes during that meeting – I was dismayed to discover the attendees were not allowed to use the learning tools they depend on.

  15. Missy Caulk

    January 24, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I just finished a short sale class for two days, I took notes on my computer. I was the only one the first day.

    The second day on other person brought theirs.

    I like to take notes on my computer. I was the first one finished everyday with the test.

    I learn more that way.

  16. Chuck G

    January 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Don’t get me wrong. I certainly see the value of taking notes on a laptop. I for one can type faster (and WAY more legibly) than I can write. (Isn’t that sad???)

    But I think people who use the laptop for staying engaged to the meeting, via note-taking or cross-referencing, are a small minority.

    I gave a presentation recently where a person was banging on his laptop continuously throughout the presentation. No way he could have been taking notes unless he was transcribing every word of my talk, which could not have been a good use of his time.

    If more people used the tools the way you all do, I think more speakers would be supportive of “top-up” meetings.


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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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