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Using the Socratic Method when working short sales in real estate – tips and tricks

Short Sale QuestionsI’m a little bit embarrassed to admit to this, but during my daily drives to and from the office (about 25-30 minutes each day), I listened to quite a bit of both the Conrad Murray and Casey Anthony trials on my satellite radio. It’s not that I’m a total gossipmonger, but (having not gone to law school) I was intrigued by the methods of questioning used by the prosecutors in these cases.

Commentators stated that litigators, when interviewing witnesses on the stand, never ask a question for which they don’t already know the answer. Using the Socratic method of questioning, attorneys can actually use carefully worded questions to lead to a particular train of thought.

While I ain’t no Socrates (or Plato, rather), this is certainly a very convenient method to use when speaking with bank employees about short sales. Instead of alienating and bullying, see the conversation with the bank employee as a method of obtaining answers—perhaps the ones that you want to hear.

Use Leading Questions

Short Sale Listing Agent: Thanks for ordering the BPO (Broker Price Opinion). How long should it be until I hear from the agent?

Bank Employee: You should hear something in less than 7 days.

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Short Sale Listing Agent: What happens if I do not get a call from the BPO agent?

Bank Employee: Let me know and I will see what I can do.

Short Sale Listing Agent: Sometimes it’s hard to get ahold of you because you are so busy. Is there a better way to reach you?

Bank Employee: Well, if I don’t get back to you in 48 hours, you can call my manager.

Short Sale Listing Agent: While I have you on the phone, can I get your manager’s name and contact information?

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Of course, I always want the contact information for the negotiator’s supervisor at the very beginning. And, often times, that information is not easy to come by. But, with a little help from Plato and a few prominent attorneys, that information can be freely provided in a sweet, innocent conversation. Hey, I guess there may be something to that philosophy stuff, after all.


Photo: flickr creative commons by Avia Venefica


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Written By

Melissa Zavala is the Broker/Owner of Broadpoint Properties and Head Honcho of Short Sale Expeditor®, and Chief Executive Officer of Transaction 911. Before landing in real estate, she had careers in education and publishing. Most recently, she has been able to use her teaching and organizational skills while traveling the world over—dispelling myths about the distressed property market, engaging and motivating real estate agents, and sharing her passion for real estate. When she isn’t speaking or writing, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, walking the dog, and vacationing at beach resorts.



  1. agentknowhow

    November 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I have your email address as ___________ is that the best way to contact you? I find that when working with short sales, it is more about figuring out which questions to ask the negotiator and ask plenty. Getting the right person on the phone can take up to 45 minutes in some cases.

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