You know how much I love good content, without good content your site is useless – and while it’s true you could generate good links and buy clicks with a PPC campaign, without good content you will never build a loyal following of readers. Brace yourself – content is not everything. There, I said it. That’s quite a load off my chest. Your site needs more than just good content, otherwise it will just be an un-charted island somewhere on the web that no one but Gilligan and the Skipper knows about. That’s where SEO comes in.
Your site needs good structure and a delicate balance of code and content. It needs tools and services that make it easier for the search engines to find you, and therefore easier for people to find you. You need tools that encourage your readers to spread the word about you, and to come back and visit again and again. That’s where WordPress plugins for SEO come in.
List of SEO Plugins
The list below is by no means all encompassing, but rather the bare minimum you need to have installed on your WordPress site if you are even half serious about Search Engine Optimization.
All in one SEO Pack
This hand tools lets you customize many of the previously hidden aspects of your web site. You are able to easily set default values for page titles, descriptions key words – everything. Even better, you can override these settings for each individual post. This is a very powerful (and easy to use) tool.
Occasionally things go wrong. Maybe you moved hosts, or somebody is linking to you incorrectly, or you just went crazy and deleted something one night after a few cocktails – whatever the reason, you need a way to give people (and search bots) looking for those missing pages something to look at at besides “Error 404 – Sorry, page not found”. The redirection plugin lets you very easily create redirects (301 for permanent or even 302 for temporary). One of my favorite features about this tool is that it logs all of the 404 errors on your site, making it easier for you to detect possible problems.
Subscribe to Comments
When you have somebody interested enough in what you wrote to leave a comment, often they will also be interested in comments left by other readers as well. This plugin sends an email to them when someone else has commented, keeping your site fresh in their mind and hopefully sparking them to come back again (and again).
Much like the comments plugin, we hope that when someone likes a post they will want to share it with friends and peers. This tag makes it easy for them to do so on about 40 differant social media sites. A nice feature of this plugin is that it lets you sort and organize the list of sites that show up in your posts. If you write about SEO, you may want Sphinn at the top, or maybe MySpace or Facebook is more to your liking – you decide what is the most relevant way for your readers to share information.
Google XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps are something that SEOs can’t agree on. Some say that if your site is built correctly, with well navigable pages, the search engines do not need a map to find everything. That’s true – however, when I visit a new city…I want a map. Yes, I might find what I want without one, but having it just seems to make things a little easier – don’t you think so? The plugin goes beyond just creating the sitemap, it also notifies Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN Live that you have updated your site, and to me, that alone makes it worth while.
SEO Smart Links
Internal linking is good for SEO, it shows both people and the search bots that you have more than just one article on a particular topic and are therefore a good source of information. The problem – as your site grows it can become a chore to track down pages to link to. This plugin locates previous posts based on keywards and provides links automatically. It’s settings alow you determine how many links you want per page or per keyword even.
Tip of the Iceberg
Of course this list is but the teeny-tiny tip of the iceberg that is WordPress plugins, but these are often reccomended by SEOs as a good base. Of course, you may find others you like as well or even better…please share.
What plugins are you using now?
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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:
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.
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 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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