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Creating client loyalty with a simple phone technique



Clients lacking loyalty?

I have been vocal in the past about how clients/customers have short attention spans and lack loyalty to us (their devoted agents). It stinks when you have a buyer who calls another agent from a sign, or who buys a property when you’re out of town… or a seller who doesn’t renew your listing contract after you’ve worked your hardest to sell the property and they’ve ignored your advice.

I tell agents it’s not personal– it’s business. Someone sits in front of a new listings, starting at the sign and if (a big if!) they call you, and if you don’t pick up… they hang up and call the number on the sign, right? We say they don’t “get it”–that we’re working hard to find them a house, sacrificing our nights/weekends and family time, why can’t they just be loyal to us? Why can’t they wait 30 minutes or 3 hours or a day for us to call them back and get them in the property? Why do they call the listing agent???

Why? Because they DON’T CARE about us. They care about THEM. They want a house and they want/need to see that new listing they spotted now. Before it’s gone.

Even if they like us and treat us like friends–or we ARE friends!–their motivation to FIND A HOUSE drives them right now. Erica didn’t pick up her cell phone? (Maybe I’m with another client, or at the doctor’s office, or in a dead zone…) Oh well, call from the sign and get the price. Yes we want to see it, can you get us in???

They don’t MEAN to hurt us, they just want what they want NOW.

Dell vs. Staples – a real world analogy

I’ve known this in my brain for ages, but it was driven home when I was computer shopping. I have a Dell account and normally order online, but I wanted it NOW and I wanted to set it up over the weekend, so I headed to Staples

I went right to the computer department, where an elderly salesman was helping a young guy with his computer choice. I hung around the area for about 15 minutes, playing with the models and narrowing it down to 2. The salesman gave this kid 100% of his attention and didn’t even notice I was there. Just as he sent the customer on his way, with a box, another person asked him a question and off he went with her. Again I hung close by, waiting to catch his eye–but no go. Another 10 minutes and I had figured out on my own which of the 2 I wanted. Give me the box.

I went to the cashier and told her I wanted a computer off the shelf and knew which one. She paged computer guy. He responded he couldn’t help as he was with a customer now. She looked at me like I must be stupid! Can’t I see he’s busy? I told her I just wanted to buy one and knew the model if she’d send someone for the box. No can do. Seems there’s only one guy who can do that.

I waited another few minutes, stood in front of the model I wanted and waited for him to take his time explaining all the features of every computer on the shelf to a woman. I’d had it.

I picked up a few jump drives and went back to checkout. The girl NEVER ASKED if I found what I wanted or why I didn’t have a computer. She just rang me up and I walked out.

Back home, I went to and in 15 minutes had purchased a more expensive model than I planned to at Staples. I didn’t care. I will have it in 3-5 days instead of walking out of a store with it.

I like Staples and order online office supplies from them. I stop by when I have to. But do I care that I bought a computer directly from Dell instead of the system I planned on buying in the store? Nope. My needs are met. Staples lost out this time.

NOW… it’s not 100% perfect analogy. I’m not personal friends with Staples or their owner. I don’t have a relationship with Staples, not personally. I’ll still use them in the future, but I don’t care if they lost out.

They want what they want when they want it

Think there’s a little relationship there to our buyers/sellers? They just want what they want, when they want it. We have to learn not to take it so personal. And we have to do everything in our power to show our clients that we are working hard for them, even when we cannot pick up the phone.

One technique I use is this: When I am with a new buyer/seller I keep my phone ON. If we’re at a table I put it on the table on vibrate. If I’m with them 1-2 hours, it’ll ring perhaps 5 or 10 times! At some point, the person will say, GET THAT if you have to.

Then I say: Joe, my appointment is with you right now. After I leave here I’ll return all those calls, maybe even before I leave your driveway. But right now, you are my priority. If you call me and I’m with someone, I will call you back immediately after I am finished. That’s how I give all my clients full attention.

Then they GET IT. The lightbulb goes off and when they call, they’ll leave a message: I’m sure you’re with someone, so call me as soon as you can. They usually don’t hang up and call another agent, or don’t think I’m slacking.

The key here is you MUST MUST MUST return their calls promptly, or they think you truly are ignoring them. And then they’ll pick up the phone and call another agent who does answer.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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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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