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Dictionary Hacks



Modern Dictionary Hacks

There are several options for modern dictionaries that exist perpetually on your sidebar so that all you have to do is download a plug-in for your browser and you have an immediate dictionary at your mouse’s fingertips:

(1) Safari Browser- Live Dictionary which becomes a transparent part of Safari and offers a wide array of dictionaries for technical terms, general language, and bilingual usage.
(2) Firefox Browser- Dictionary Search will show the definition to a word you highlight on any website- how cool is that??
(3) Firefox Browser- Dict similarly looks up definitions by highlighting and right clicking on a word.
(4) Internet Explorer- actually offers a sidebar toolbar for IE where you type in the word you need defined. Simple!

My First Real Dictionary

I got my first dictionary when I was three years old and could barely lift it myself. I still have it (although it is now dilapidated) and it smells a little musty and I love touching the soft pages that don’t crinkle and feel as if they’re coated in a light powder. My grandmother taught dyslexic children to hone their reading skills and I learned phonics at an early age. We lived in the country and the selection of books that are interesting to a child was limited to the Nancy Drew series (which I read by age five). I accomplished this without my grandmother knowing, rather with my father’s encouragement.

Most children ask “what does ‘anarchy’ mean? What does ‘exhume’ mean, daddy?” My father’s answer was consistently “go look it up.” We thought he was being mean, especially when we were told that before we could read, but later in life I realize that he persisted so that I would learn to rely on my own tools as well as be able to commit words to memory having sought them out myself.

Why I Use a Dictionary Every Day

I still use the dictionary every day and not for sentimental reasons. I know what you’re saying, “Lani, you already know every word in the English language.” Or perhaps you’re saying “Lani, I don’t really understand what the hell this has to do with my business!” Listen, as bloggers (or hell, even just a professional), we interact with written and spoken word daily and regardless of our vocabularies being active or passive, we must never ignore words we can’t define (meaning if we hear or read a word we don’t know, we should look it up and learn it).

My default dictionary has been for some time now (although I still cherish the ratty Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary with the unraveling cover and the word “liar” underlined because of the time I got in trouble for fibbing to dad and my punishment was writing the definition of the word 100 times) but it’s time I got hip to an inter-browser dictionary!

And here’s a bonus Dadism for you, “do you know where you can find sympathy?” He would ask when we pointed out a boo boo that already stopped bleeding. “In the dictionary between sh!t and syphilis” (to which a six year old asks, “what’s syphilis?” to be told (say it with me now) “go look it up.”). Classic. Thanks dad for always making me look up words, even if they were sexually transmitted diseases- I’m a stronger thinker because of you!

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Chris Shouse

    August 29, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I love this post Lani:) My dad took the dictionary and learned one word a day for all of my lifetime. He then proceeded through out the day to use it in sentences and say it to as many people as he could. It was quite interesting and I learned a lot of words that I otherwise would never run across. I heard one the other night that I have not looked up yet but it sounds like I could use it sometime. The word is obfuscation.

  2. Vance Shutes

    August 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm


    LIke you, I use a lot. It’s just one of the (millions of) ways that the internet has so improved our lives and our businesses. We just open our browser on our PDA, go to, and Presto! the answer to our question about spelling or meaning of a word. That is SO much better than toting around a tiny dictionary with so few words as to be useless, or lugging around a huge dictionary with every conceivable word (though it might improve our upper-body muscle tone a bit!).

    Are you sure we didn’t have the same old, musty Webster’s dictionary as kids?

  3. y'dad

    August 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    One of the reasons I put an emphasis on the dictionary when you were little, was because I was raked over the coals in a freshman English class for not adequately defining “adamant”. The prof told us, “I’m a full professor and I only go to the dictionary a dozen times a day. And YOU ain’t no prof”, looking right at me. Hell, I thought he said “Adam Ant”… He died that same semester.

  4. Lisa Sanderson

    August 29, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Why did it not ever occur to me to get a browser plug-in? See, this is why we hang out here…cool tips, tricks and ideas sprinkled with sexual, potty & pop culture references. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.

    ps: I am so sending this article to my daughters cuz they hate it when I say ‘look it up’. Here is proof that I am not totally whacked. Ok, maybe it’s not proof of that but they are getting this anyway!

  5. Sheila H. Bragg

    August 31, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I love it! My Mom used to tell me all the time, “GO look it up!” She was a World Book sales rep, so we had the latest World Book Encyclopedia set available back in the 70’s.

    Now, I tell my teens to go look it up on the internet and I get, “Mom, the internet doesn’t know everything!” in response. 🙂 Times change, don’t they?

  6. Vicki Moore

    September 1, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I share the love of words/definitions with you and really get excited when I hear a word I don’t know and have to look it up. I’m the one always saying, “Wait! I’ll look it up!”

    Thanks for the fun post.

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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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