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Tracking Important Dates




I use Outlook. I’ve spent money on Act!, Top Producer (the old one and the new one), I borrowed an Agent 2000 disk and promptly deleted it. Outlook is easy. It does pretty much everything I need it to; and what it doesn’t I’ve worked around. So I ended up back where I started.I know some agents believe that we shouldn’t give closing gifts or call our clients on their birthdays. I’m not one of them. I not only call clients on their birthdays I sing to them – horrible singing voice and all.

I get everybody’s birthday – kids, pets, whatever – anniversaries – I’ve got the COE anniversary – have you tried to find a card for that? – if they’ve got a special date I want to know it and acknowledge them for it.

Then I had to figure out how to track all that info. Back to Outlook. I wanted to add it to my calendar but I didn’t want it to show up during my scheduled day. Ready?


Click on New Appointment
Type in the Subject.
See where mine says “bday” even though it’s a wedding anniversary? That’s so I can print a shopping list without search for birthdays, anniversaries, COE dates separately.
Set the Reminder for several days in advance so you can get the cards, gifts or set time aside to call and sing. Here comes the good part:

Click on Recurrence
Set the Start and End Time for 12:00 am and the Duration for 1 day.
Recurrence Pattern for Yearly.
Verify that No End Date is checked and you’re done. You’ve got your reminder there for next year.

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. Vance Shutes

    May 29, 2008 at 7:30 pm


    I’ve been using Top Producer for years too, and like you, I find Outlook much easier to use. Thanks for tip on how to set those recurring reminders for special dates. But I’m curious why you wrote “See where mine says “bday” even though it’s a wedding anniversary? That’s so I can print a shopping list without search for birthdays, anniversaries, COE dates separately.” How is it that you print such a shopping list?

  2. Tyler, The Wealth Creation Guy

    May 29, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I’m also an outlook user. You could use Plaxo and it would act as a backup for your calendar. (Just a tip). It also automates e-mails to let you know your contact’s birthday is coming up.

    Great advice Vicki. Some people avoid this stuff just because it’s too hard to implement. You’ve displayed how quick and easy the process can be.

  3. Paula Henry

    May 29, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Vicki – I hear about more amd more agents who use Outlook. The only drawback I see is synchronizing with others on my team.

  4. Dan Connolly

    May 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Paula, I have been using Outlook 2003 with business contact manager It can be synched with a thumb drive and the backup function. I am not sure if that would work with basic Outlook but it’s worth a try!

  5. Bill Lublin

    May 30, 2008 at 2:40 am

    I love when I find posts that let me use the programs I already have more efficiently – You are spot on! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  6. Chris Griffith

    May 30, 2008 at 5:27 am

    I recently had to wrestle with my Treo 755 and Outlook because I had too many reoccurring appointments and it was stopping my system from syncing. (i use outlook over TP and Act) Anyone else have this issue? When I googled it TONS of others had it too.

  7. Ken Smith

    May 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    KISS method is normally the best. We have tried all sorts of high end solutions for tracking everything also and find simple solutions are normally the best. Found Google calendar actually takes care of everything the same as outlook, but also allows us to share between team members or keep items private.

  8. Vicki Moore

    May 30, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Vince – That’s how I sort all those that I need to buy a card for – anyone having a birthday, anniversary etc. So periodically I want to print a shopping list for cards. I go to my calendar then Tools – then Find – I type in “bday” – Search in Calendar. Click Find Now. And THEN! Up pops my shopping list. I print it and off I go to Hallmark.

    Tyler – Plaxo is great because everyone who belongs inputs their birthday, then Plaxo gives you an alert when that birthday is coming up.

    Paula – I haven’t tried that. I would imagine there’s a way. Let me get back to you on that one. Did you see that Ken uses Google calendar??

    Bill – Yeah!

    Chris – Haven’t heard of that one. Anyone else have input to help Chris??

  9. Nick Bostic

    May 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I have seen too many people have their entire databases of 1k+ people be destroyed (or duplicated endlessly) by Plaxo, so I personally avoid it like the plague.

    Regarding sharing appointments, there isn’t a perfect way in Outlook that I have discovered unless you are running on an Exchange server. Google Calendar works great. Google does have an Outlook Calendar Sync (link). It DID work great for me (and a couple of other people on a shared calendar), then randomly stopped working. It’s a known issue, but no word on when it’ll be fixed. It’s worth trying though. Basically, create a Google calendar, share it amongst everyone you want to share with, load the sync on everyone’s computers, tell it to sync the specific calendar and viola!

    Let me know if it’s working for you so I can go cry to the Google Gods to ask why are they punishing me.

  10. Ken Smith

    May 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    As a side note we don’t download anything into Outlook. The calendar has everything we need so no need to try and make Outlook and Google work together. Even if they are supposed to any little update can cause issues so why chance it.

  11. Jim Gatos

    May 31, 2008 at 5:30 am


    I used to use Top Producer (first I started with 61, then the online 7i), UNTIL 4 years ago when I realized that Top Producer and all those “proprietory” real estate solutions are like a “narcotic”, bagging you with expensive 1 year subscriptions that won’t allow you to think, be innovative, and independent. If Top Producer goes up in price and you are technologically not knowledgable, it’s like gas; the price of gas goes up and you still pay.

    I used Outlook for awhile but Outlook 2000 is not going to be supported by M$ (Microsoft) next year I heard, so I downloaded Mozilla Thunderbird, and along with with a couple of extensions, including “More Functions for Addressbook”, the Lightning” calendar extension, and “BirdieSync” a $30 or so program, I can do everything I used to do with Outlook, for a cost of … $30!.. Thunderbird and all the other extensions are free. I have a totally compatible Mail and calendar program that sync with my Windows Mobile Phone, and I don’t have to worry about getting outdated. My info can be exported easily and so on and so forth. No more ball and chain from Top Producer for 97% features that I never used anyway. But that’s another post for you, LOL…

  12. Gail Robinson

    May 31, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Vicki, Thank you for sharing this. I’ve tried TP8i, ACT, and even been a beta tester for an add-on to Outlook 2007. I was hoping that Business Contact Manager would provide a good solution, but it just created more problems and I use Outlook 2007 without BCM now. How do you ask for birthday dates and anniversary dates? I just can’t imagine how I would ask for this info. I’d like to do it, but it seems so personal to ask for this from people I don’t know and from those that I do know, it seems like a strange time to ask for the info. How do you explain why you want the info? Thanks.

  13. Vicki Moore

    May 31, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Jim – Good points. With the new Top Producer 7 you’re paying monthly for ever for a lot of functions you probably won’t use – I didn’t use them either. Thunderbird sounds like a great option. Thanks for another post recommendation! I can always use those.

    Gail – I also used the Business Contact Manager and deleted it too! I hated it. Oooo, you’ve gotten a clue of my next post! I’ll be explaining how and when I ask for those things – so be sure to look for it coming up. It’ll save you from giving a bottle of wine to someone who doesn’t drink! Another faux pas I’ve made. 🙂

  14. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Just my 2 cents on TP. I had it for a year. I paid up front and used it for about five months before realizing that I needed to hire an assistant just to run it. Not worth the money for what was my business model.

    I feel that way about any tool. Agents typically used about 10% of their computer and software and spend countless dollars and hours trying to use systems that are typically nothing more than a fancy database that can done on a spreadsheet and contact management that can be done on outlook.

    A good idea before you buy is to really look at home much the assistants, support, education and time will cost to you to learn a new systems.

    I teach Outlook for Realtors all the time and I’ve yet to be asked about a task for agents that we couldn’t find on OUtlook or Excel.

  15. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 2, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Its almost like an AA meeting. Hi. My name is Jennifer. And I use Top Producer. 🙂

    I’ve not looked into Thunderbird. Going to have to check it out. Nifty tip on Outlook – probably should spend more time playing around with it. Thanks.

  16. Judy

    October 9, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Sounds like we have a lot of recovering TP Users here. As it so happens I’m considering joining the “former” user of TP group. How did you export all of your TP contacts into Outlook. Is it step 1 to infinity or pretty easy to do? Thanks!

  17. Vicki Moore

    October 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Judy – I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I know I did. I’m sure TP support will help you. Or the “help” button. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

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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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