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Establishing a Vision for Your Online Engagement



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Wondering From The Trail

I’ve noticed an emerging trend in the past few months in the Real Estate Blog world.  Bloggers in both single-author and multi-author environments have been expanding their topics from the initial visions they had. 

It’s frustrating for some readers to subscribe to a blog and then see the tone or writings change.  I’m not saying that Bloggers can’t broaden their writings and nor do they not have the right to do so, but I think they need to be willing to lose a few readers along the way.

Early on when I started blogging I wrote a post on faith for my real estate blog.  There were only a few people who made comments and did so by email.  Some understood my beliefs, but were nice enough to point out that it wasn’t why they were there.  Instead of sacrificing those readers I established another blog for faith-based writing.  Lots of readers subscribed to both – but it was their choice.

Strategic Planning

I consider my blog a primary marketing tool and thus part of my business.  Every aspect of my business has a strategic plan attached to it.  Why not the blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc…?  I suggest that you sit down with a blank piece of paper and bullet-point your desires from your online marketing.  Here are a few things to consider:

Vision – What is your desired audience and desired response from your readers

Resources – What tools do you have?  Creativity, ability to reach an audience, subject knowledge, etc…

Goals – How often do you want to post?  How many readers do you want to have?  How are you going to earn readers?

Remember that your Plan should be measurable and achievable.  This simple technique has really helped me with consistency.  On occasion I’ve also referenced this Plan to confirm that I’m on track.  Posts that aren’t in line with my vision get posted on another outlet. 

Some authors do a great job of merging various topics on one blog to show the “real you”. I haven’t been one of those authors and this technique has really helped me.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is

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  1. erichempler

    November 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    This is a similar thought I had when I started working in Real Estate. I was finding about all of these different Social Media sites, but not sure where to start. I concluded to look at each one and see how I can put them to use.

  2. Susie Blackmon

    November 30, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Branding and blogging … I appreciate your ‘reminders’ as my business plan is not a ‘quick fix’ situation but one that I do work on as deliberately as I can. My real estate website blog and my horse website blog have ultimate goals and direction and will tie into each other; just wish I could spring for some VA help to gather the information that I am doing, laboriously, in between everything else!

    Thank you for the good read.

  3. BawldGuy

    November 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Though I tend to keep particulars to myself, it’s been obvious which RE blogs have ‘run off the tracks’ so to speak. There’s a huge difference in letting some of yourself spill onto a particular post, even commendable, but some of what we’ve observed this past year has been remarkably chaotic to be kind.

  4. Ken Brand

    November 30, 2009 at 10:31 am

    It never hurts to get the map out and double check, “Where am I, where and I going, what’s the best route.” Thanks for reminder.

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    November 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    @BawldGuy: I don’t think it’s just one blog that has done it. I began reading an insightful blog about engaging Gen X/Y in the Church. Over the past year it’s become more of a technology blog. I dumped it because I already have so many others in that category.

    I think it’s also difficult to change the flow of the blog if the community you’re trying to engage wants to take you there. If the community of readers want more information about politics than the practice of say marketing… Than that becomes your new platform. I think it’s a tough choice for authors to stir the community back to your initial vision at some point. I personally have sorted through my feelings on allowing blogs to be ran by the readers or setting the tone myself. Is there even a difference? It’s a tough call. Personally, I’ve just stopped reading certain posts when I recognize the name of the author.

  6. BawldGuy

    November 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    If it’s not about the blog owner’s vision, then what’s it about?

    Keepin’ the crowd count up, right?


    The answer to that is obvious for those who become ‘shape-shifters’. There’s nothing illegal, immoral, or fattening about it. For me? My blog is about what it’s always been about. Show up, don’t show up. There are 300 million Americans plus the rest of the world. I’ll get whatever share I earn.

  7. Bob

    November 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Mathew, I would argue that th tone has changed or the focus broadened because many think its about quantity, not quality. As long as they are taught that “blog it and they will come” is the answer to ranking better, this will happen because they will run out of stuff to write about and still maintain quality.

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    November 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Bob (I am honestly asking, and not being snarky here) Can I have both quantity and quality? How about Yes, it’s the same topic and vision, but there is a ton of blog posts. Inman and even AG are the same way.

    I’m learning to sift through those authors and posts that I don’t like to “create my own adventure”, if you will.

    I think that many have sacrificed quality for number of readers – but do you think every has to?

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    November 30, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Susie: I meant to thank you for bringing up “Branding and Blogging”. They do both submit to the same considerations!

    Eric: There are sooo many SocMed sites that are out there. After a lot of trial and error, there are some that I just exist in and then a few others that I actually engage in. Twitter and Facebook are where I actually have a plan and purposefully interact with people who have become friends. Everyone else is just a place to be…

  10. Bob

    November 30, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Mathew, I’m not saying it isn’t possible to write a large quantity of quality content, just that it doesn’t happen that often because it isn’t easy to do. You mention Mashable, who now seems to cover everything – from tech to Tiger’s accident. So much of what is blogged these days is “me too” stuff. I dont see a whole lot of originality, and I believe much of that is due feeling obligated to write for some perceived, but unproven value.

  11. BawldGuy

    November 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Matthew — Why does your particular blog exist? What’s your vision for it? What’s your #1 end game?

    The rest is superfluous.

    I suspect most blogs which have, at first blush, gone ‘off the tracks’ have really simply remained focused on their initial vision/goal in the first place. They’re monetizing the best way they know how. Unless the original purpose was totally unrelated to any business (profit oriented) purpose, the idea from Day 1 was to create a blog to generate income — period. They don’t now, nor did they ever envision themselves as a blog version of the Red Cross. 🙂

    A century ago when the automobile began making itself felt, makers of leather goods for horses and carriages had a choice. They could go outa business, or start making leather goods for car interiors and the like. That’s what’s happening with many blogs now.

    They’re simply adapting to the new reality. Make sense?

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    November 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Bob and Jeff: I agree with both points and it’s great to get that perspective!

  13. Karen Goodman

    November 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I think a lot of real estate bloggers with consumer focused blogs lately have been forggeting to create timeless content. One of my goals when I started my blog was to create a vast resource of information for consumers when they stumbled on my site during their home buying or selling period. I just don’t think that the typical consumer focused blog is going to get a lot of long term subscribers. Readers go into intense research mode when they need information, but after they move, they won’t have a reason to keep stopping by. And I’m ok with that.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t comment on current events in our blogs, but when I get hits from long tail searches a year from now, I want the information to be helpful enough that they’ll stay on my site and hopefully contact me when they are ready for an agent.

    There are a lot of real estate blogs that I really enjoyed a year or two ago, but lately there is so much focus on industry changes and national RE policy politics, that my feed reader is a lot thinner now.

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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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