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An Astounding ROI

There have been a lot of articles here on AG about constructive ways to deal with the economy and real estate slowdown, most of it involving finding ways of keeping a positive outlook and building our business foundations through learning and tweaking our systems. I submit that getting involved in our communities is one of the best ways we can achieve all of these goals. What better way to feel good about yourself, network and learn about things in your community that affect your business?

Find Your Niche

We real estate agents are in an ideal position to affect our little corners of the world through volunteering. Our careers take us in to the homes of our neighbors and allow us to talk one on one with them, learning about the challenges they face, the things that affect them day to day. And, if you are any good at your job you know a bit about the areas in which you work and where improvements can be made that will increase quality of life, smooth out real estate transactions, promote the interests of property owners and more.

So why not get involved in your community? I am not suggesting you take over or run for office, although that possibility is there for many of us who are so inclined, but why not join a committee in your homeowners’ association, or even help out at the library, the PTA or the sports team booster club. Go to meetings of the town or school board in your area and look for opportunities to pitch in.

Whether your strong suit is baking, or event or project planning, or marketing, or computer technologies or fund raising or whatever, there will be something available for you to do.

Make a Difference

Every organization out there is desperate for people to help out. Even if you are comfortable taking on only a small responsibility for now, they will be more than happy to have your input. Accept a task, see it through and feel the sense of accomplishment. Also, notice the impact you have on the people around you, the contacts you have made, the impression you have left with people as you expand your sphere of influence.

Yes, It’s Good For Business

So make it part of your business – especially now when things are a little slow. Take on a small volunteer activity and fit it in to your work routine. Interacting with the community is the best kind of prospecting and marketing there is, after all, and we are fortunate to have the kind of jobs that allow us the flexibility to fit things in to our schedules that many people who punch a clock cannot.

Give Selfishly

Give back a little to the community you work in…even if it’s not going to produce referrals, even if nothing would ever come of your pouring your energy in to a cause, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of being a real community participant is the best way to build feelings of positivity, belonging and outright joy. Do it for yourself.

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

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  1. Craig Barrett

    December 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Lisa, I couldn’t agree with you more. Creating a running club and co-chairing a local festival has proved invaluable. I’ve met and worked with people in my own community I probably never would have known if I hadn’t gotten involved.

    Doing something you love, spreading the passion, expanding ones personal sphere, and influencing change is gratifying.

  2. Missy Caulk

    December 16, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Good advice, we need to get off our computers and get involved with our boards and associations.

  3. Paula Henry

    December 18, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Lisa – In every city across America, there is a need. Finding one which you believe in and can give to “unselfishly”, not only helps the community, but more importantly, helps us.

  4. Vance Shutes

    December 19, 2008 at 7:25 am


    This is one of the most uplifting articles I’ve read in a long time. Wow! Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Anna Kuttner

    January 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I agree and have implemented that philosophy into 2009. For years I gave as a Platinum Sponsor for Hospice of the Valley ($5,000 cost). This year there was no way I could swing it so I decided to jump in and chair the silent auction. It has given me more gratification and I have only been to two meeting so far!

  6. Candy Lauderdale

    January 20, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Getting involved in your community really pays off! I worked with my local Association and it helped me to close a two million dollar deal. Because, I helped to educate them on the land development process. See you at the closing table in 2009.
    Thanks Candy

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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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