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At The Crossroads …

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I find myself at a bit of a crossroads these days. Why do I tell you this? Because I’d hate to think that I’m the only one who gets to feeling this way.

Self-examination is a positive step both personally and in business. I’ll focus on the latter here, at least for the most part. If you are not looking at what you do with a critical eye, if you’re not actively searching for what could be done better, then the stagnation is bound to catch up to you.

For me much of the problem is I tend to be too smart for my own good. And far too stubborn as well. I tend to make a decision and that’s the decision, even when circumstances dictate that a change is necessary.

Here are a few examples …

Trulia Voices

Oh, how I love ripping Trulia Voices. There’s an endless supply of tripe, blatant self-promotion, Fair Housing and Code of Ethics violations to be written about if only you take the time.

Rudy suggested a couple of weeks ago that I try to change the platform for the better by jumping back in, providing focused answers where possible, lead by example (not that I’m any sort of role model, lest that be read into these sentences.) And so I’ve tried, even as I’ve watched agents from elsewhere in the state try to convince buyers they don’t want to live where they want to live.

Ultimately, though, the question I had to ask myself is whether my frustration with the miserable answers should cause me to not participate at all. Is there value to answering questions there? I still lean toward no … but just in case I’m wrong, I’m back.

All Phoenix Real Estate.com

Here was a stroke of genius. I discovered that the domain allphoenixrealestate.com was not taken so I purchased it … it’s hard finding a keyword-rich domain name these days. Then I took the next step and changed the domain for Dalton’s Arizona Homes Blog to the new domain. Instantly, I fell from Page 1 and 2 on Google for Phoenix Arizona Real Estate to page 36 while the name seasons.

Call this a case of being too smart for my own good. Fortunately, I get enough traffic off long tail searches and my neighborhood sites that I’ve not doomed my business by shooting down my SERP at the height of the buying season. Or so I keep muttering to myself as I bang my head against the keyboard.

It’s Getting Crowded in Phoenix

Once upon a time I was the only agent regularly writing about absorption rate here in the Phoenix area. Now I’m one of five who are posting the same figures on a fairly regular basis. (Two now work for the same brokerage as part of Jay Thompson’s scheme to take over the world, but that’s another story.)

This was my hook … my bread and butter … the first and best routine post I had. And now it’s being done all over the place. Not exactly the way I do it, mind you, but after two years the absorption rate concept has been copied and repackaged and is becoming standard fare in multiple locations.

I need a new hook.

Enter the Phoenix Real Estate wiki, which at least will be difficult for folks to duplicate. It’s already managed to consume far more time than I imagined and it’s nowhere close to being complete. I’m not going to go into too many details but suffice it to say that when I’m done, I’ll be reaping the benefits of having longer tails than … well … an animal with a really long tail.

(My daughter suggests a raccoon or a lemur. We’ll go with that.)

Agent Genius

Part of my re-examination also focused on my role here at Agent Genius. I was told not so long ago that I’m the guy who says what everyone else is thinking but doesn’t dare say, which is true to a degree. You can argue that I’m fearless or that I lack in discretion. I’ll accept either verdict.

Agent Genius has given me a platform from which to vent in the past … but the question I needed to ask myself was whether I was contributing as much as I was taking from the venture. Looking at the full body of posts here, I believe I’ve added more to the conversation that I’ve taken away with my tangential rants.

What I’ve found is in the middle of the ranting rage I often lose focus on what’s important. In the most recent cases, I cost myself the chance to have a cool orange monkey – a fact the Housechick tends to wave under my nose whenever possible.

The rants make me feel better for a time but they don’t change the things that aggravate me in the first place. And that in turn tends to aggravate me even more.

The Conclusion(s)

I can’t afford to be aggravated any more than normal. Real estate is stressful enough. Having a teenager come home with her first hickie is stressful enough. Being synagogue president is stressful enough.

Someone told me the other day you only have so many heartbeats and then you’re done. That’s a truly frightening prospect. (Maybe not frightening enough to get me to the gym, but still.)

Life has a way of telling you when you need to slow down, to get rid of the slow burn and to relax. My heart has been telling me this on and off for a while now and the time’s come for me to listen.

In everything we do, we’re either being productive and contributing or we’re not. And sometimes the things that once were productive no longer are so due to changes in circumstances, competition or whatever.

Believing … no … knowing that you’re always right is about as dangerous a thought process as any of us can have. Because no one’s right all the time. And even when you once were right, you may find out later that the rules have changed and what you once knew, you don’t know.

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Frank Jewett

    June 3, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    The rants make me feel better for a time but they don’t change the things that aggravate me in the first place. And that in turn tends to aggravate me even more.

    I call that “Jonathan Swift Syndrome.” Maybe you could write a book comparing agents to petty little creatures and brokers to disgusting giants. I’ll bet you could devote an entire island to ActiveRain. 😉

  2. Ricardo Bueno

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    (Jonathan, you’ll have to excuse me if this sounds off topic…)

    I met a fellow blogger not too long ago…I forget how I came across her site but I did (probably through someone’s blog-roll)… Anyway, we exchanged comments back and forth. Soon those comments turned into conversations and so on and so forth. Then one day much to my surprise she had sent me a copy of one of her books! It was a really nice gift and unexpected.

    At first I only glanced at it. But then I sat there one day wondering what I want to be when I grow up. So I picked up the book and started reading it. That’s when these words kicked me into gear:

    “We are only victims of our own thinking…

    Decide on the life you want, visualize it, affirm it, decree it, focus on it, believe in it, have faith in it, and you will find yourself living this life much more quickly than you ever dreamed possible.” — Barbara Berger

    If you think life sucks that thought manifests itself and you walk around feeling like crap. You slouch when you walk and you sound irate when you talk. And nobody likes a sourpuss.

    But once you start focusing on the positive you start to walk with that extra pep in your step and everyone likes to be around a confident “you” (clients, friends and family). You make things fun.

    Needless to say I’ve decided to focus on the good things and though sometimes I feel like I’m still wondering what I want to be when I grow up, I’m walking tall and taking steps in the right direction.

  3. Jay Thompson

    June 3, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Not really the world per se, just the greater Phoenix metro area. At least until the franchises kick in. 🙂

    Excellent post my cross-town friend. Laying it out like this is not an easy thing to do, and I respect you more for doing it. (Well, I had the utmost respect already, so I’m not sure how you can be utmoster, but you know what I mean.)

    For what it’s worth (which probably isn’t much), I still look to you for Phoenix absorption rates. And APRE will bounce back, I suspect swiftly, and higher.

  4. Benn Rosales

    June 3, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Jonathan Dalton and family are what’s important- Everything has a way of sorting itself out.

  5. Rich Jacobson

    June 4, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Jonathan – It’s always better to come to such realizations through intelligent logical deduction, as oppossed to making the same conclusions while the paramedic is hovering over you yelling “CLEAR!” Perhaps they could confer a “Blogger Emeritus” title for you here, and simply afford you the occasional ‘token’ article? I have always enjoyed your posts as being rather no-nonense (well, some nonsense) fly-in-the-face of popular opinion stuff. I didn’t always agree, but you always got me to think. Where and what you spend your time/energies on, reveals your passions and priorities. Pull back, regroup, refresh.

  6. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 4, 2008 at 4:50 am

    There are 3 considerations that I always try to evaluate for the choices I make: Cost, Time, Reward. Whatever it is, it always comes back to those 3 things. Trying to keep the cost & time factors somewhat in balance can be a real challenge.

  7. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Jonathan;
    C’mon – you really just wrote this because you know that I had that kind of day yesterday didn’t you? This was just your attempt to make me feel better – and to remind me that every day brings new opportunites as well as new challenges.

    I also empathize with your frustration about finding out that being first only counts until someone else starts doing what your doing, and people will always do that if the idea was good – the crappy ones you get to have all to yourself! But your nature will force you to move forward to the next new idea and so on and so on and so on.

    Mazel Tov on your Presidency (In your Schul does that come before or after being President of the Men’s Club?) – on having a perfectly normal daughter (remember that daughters are God’s way of punishing fathers for being men – that hickie will be a story you’ll share one day with her and her husband as scary as that sounds) – and therefore enjoying your life and making memories to treasure later. Keep that balance – believe me , after living through lots of down markets, “this too shall pass” so keep on keeping on at work, but take of your self so you can take care of yur family and enjoy both

    Life has a way of telling you when you need to slow down, to get rid of the slow burn and to relax. My heart has been telling me this on and off for a while now and the time’s come for me to listen.

    In everything we do, we’re either being productive and contributing or we’re not. And sometimes the things that once were productive no longer are so due to changes in circumstances, competition or whatever.

    Life has a way of telling you when you need to slow down, to get rid of the slow burn and to relax. My heart has been telling me this on and off for a while now and the time’s come for me to listen.

    In everything we do, we’re either being productive and contributing or we’re not. And sometimes the things that once were productive no longer are so due to changes in circumstances, competition or whatever.

    In the words of an old Pre=Blog Sage – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”
    😉

  8. Benjamin Bach

    June 4, 2008 at 5:14 am

    Rev Hillel makes it to AG – my zaeda is schlepping nacahas on our blog now

  9. Benjamin Bach

    June 4, 2008 at 5:15 am

    *nachas

  10. Charleston real estate blog

    June 4, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Is anyone up to starting up a yiddish real estate blog 🙂

  11. Benjamin Bach

    June 4, 2008 at 6:06 am

    https://www ganza-mishiguna-real-estate-mishpucha com

  12. Mike Farmer

    June 4, 2008 at 6:33 am

    As Yogi Berra said, “When you are at a crossroads, take it.”

  13. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Benjamin; Big Props for Hillel – Now there’s a writer! Nacahas is an Indian Princess though 😉

    So let’s get back to Jonathan’s tsuris 🙂

    I know that its really easier to comment on someone else’s state of mind then it is to work on your own, because we are all the stars of our own movies – So the next time you have a really crappy stress-filled situation think about what you would say to me if I was going through what you are going through. If that doesn’t work call me and I’ll do it – Lani has my number (actually my wife really has my number, and has had it for many years!)

  14. Matthew Rathbun

    June 4, 2008 at 7:07 am

    I think several people have come to this type of cross-road recently. I disagree that you’ve taken more than you’ve given. I have gotten a great deal out of your posts, even if they were not necessarily in a format that I would have appreciated initially. Challenging people to think is a gift.

    You’re very gifted as a writer, and sometimes to gauge ROI there will intangible factors. The first is that we have no idea how writing may benefit us in the future and the second is that there is always a benefit to pouring oneself into another’s life.

    By you sharing, you’ve maybe help give a voice to folks who didn’t necessarily have one in the past. At some point that will directly or indirectly come back to you.

    As for the hickie? Cut a small hole in the bottom of the bedroom door to slip food and water in; then morter up the door till she’s 30!

  15. Paula Henry

    June 4, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Our heart always has a way of directing us toward “our” greater good. Listening usually requies self examination, which is never easy. Actually – it’s excruciatingly painful at times.

    The change which comes from such self examination is often the impetus which moves us to greater things – like the All Phoenix Real Estate Wiki – It looks like a winner!

    As an aside- I’m glad I sit here in Indy and not back in Phoenix competing with all of you! 🙂

  16. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 4, 2008 at 7:41 am

    @ Benjamin – I actually tried that link you posted. 😛

  17. Jonathan Dalton

    June 4, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Where do I start … it’s still early here …

    Frank – Active Rain as an island … there’s a joke forming here.

    Ricardo – accentuating the positive always helps. I tend to let frustration get in the way.

    Jay – How much is the franchise fee?

    Benn – I think we both were right

    Jennifer – sounds like a solid way of evaluating everything. Cost and time have become bigger factors for me (especially cost) over the past several years

    Rich – Blogger Emeritus has a great ring to it, I do admit. If it sounded like I’m leaving, I’m not. I wouldn’t retire publicly … I’d just slowly slip away. I had my two weeks off (and yes, this was the best I could do afterward.)

    Bill, Benjamin, Howard – are we trying for a minyan? And where were you (okay, Howard, you were here) when every post had yiddish in it somewhere?

    Here’s one just for you three and any other Landsmen in the crowd … I’ve been known to mutter the shehechyanu when I get into escrow. My rabbi said it wasn’t the right prayer. Then she explained one night the shehechyanu was appropriate for “unexpected happy events.” At which point I told her I was right all along because escrows these days are quite unexpected. (Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”

    Matthew – heading to Home Depot right now. You should have seen the look when my wife told her what I wrote. 🙂

    Paula – It’s easier to hear if we take the time to listen, which doesn’t always happen. And thanks on the wiki! It’s gonna be a bear to finish but it’ll be worth it.

  18. Kelley Koehler

    June 4, 2008 at 9:27 am

    SOMEONE GET THIS MAN A MONKEY, STAT.

    Homegain, you listening?

  19. Benjamin Bach

    June 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I never felt you needed the mishpucha before.

    I feel you give more than you take here, for what it’s worth. Practically Tikun Olam.

  20. Barry Cunningham

    June 4, 2008 at 10:18 am

    JD I’m on it getting you a monkey pronto…and goinna ask greg if he will give you some quiet time to write Jack Handy thoughts and Spartan words of wisdom on Bloodhound Blog!

  21. Barry Cunningham

    June 4, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Last comment went like into cyber oblivion…

    JD..I’m on it getting you a monkey pronto and writing Greg right now to give you space and opportunity to write Jack Handy thoughts and Spartan words of wisdom on Blood Hound Blog! It may lessen your aggravation..seriously LOL

  22. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Jonathan; – Forget the Wiki, let’s start work on a new Blog “Catskills in Arizona”

    A Rabbi a Priest and a Minister walk into a bar and the Bartender says “Hey, is this a joke?”

    Badump Bump! (Rimshot)

    A Horse walks into a bar and the Bartender says “Hey, Why the long Face?”

    Badump Bump! (Rimshot)

    “Thank you Thank You , Please don’t forget to tip your waitress, we don;t pay them very much”
    😉

  23. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I want a yarmulke now, I feel left out.

  24. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Benn; If you’re reform you don’t even need the yarmulke – besides we all know you’re a real mensch (honorable, decent person )
    😉

  25. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I kust realized the post was “chai-jacked” !
    chai=life (and the number 18 – Go figure)

  26. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 11:45 am

    #26 If this post is about what is important in life, I would say it is absolutely on task. Remembering that there is more to life than just a transaction or lead, that there is more to life than writing ground breaking concepts or ideas- then it is directly the message.

    This thing we do is about relationships and because we write to fellow peers and collegues means we’re all forming a fellowship, a camaraderie, a friendship, that allows us to discuss those ideals and is exactly what agent genius is all about- and that we can all relate to J in this forum is another piece of the puzzle J has to fashion into his journey as do we all.

    Does all of this matter in the end? If I come away from agent genius a better man having met and had opportunity to debate with you all, as well as listen and learn from you all, then I would have to say that Jonathan (as do you all) impacts my life in a very personal and professional way- meaning that what we do here does matter.

  27. Jonathan Dalton

    June 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks, Benn … and if you really feel left out, we’ll send over a mobile moil.

  28. Russell Shaw

    June 5, 2008 at 12:46 am

    “You know, Moishe, if I were as rich as the Rothschilds, I’d be richer than the Rothschilds.”

    “Really? How do you figure that, Heshie?”

    “Well, I’d do a little teaching on the side.”

  29. Kris Berg

    June 6, 2008 at 7:25 am

    JD – Once again, you have written what each of us is thinking. While it appears you are having a one-time ephiphany, you have just described my every morning inner struggle while I wait for the laptop to boot. (If only it was a simply as hickies, btw. You just wait.)

  30. ines

    June 9, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    reflection is the inner workings of life – dang that was deep! As I take a deep breath and feel exactly what you say.

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Coaching

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!

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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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Coaching

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:

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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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Coaching

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.

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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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