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The Stigliano Chronicles - Fail Road

My life is a series of failures.

I’ve failed at quite a few things in my life. More than I probably care to admit. Sometimes they were epic failures. Sometimes they were tiny mistakes. No matter how hard I try to scrub myself clean, I’ve got failure all over me. It sticks to me like vinyl seats on a hot summer day and just won’t come off. It’s like I have a giant blinking neon sign over my head: Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure. It lurks around every corner and can’t wait to sink its razor sharp claws into me as I go down kicking and screaming.

Failure is not always evident, sometimes it’s a slow process, other times it’s of the crash and burn variety. Failure is a chameleon coming in all different shapes, sizes, and patterns. It could be about to happen to me right now, but I’m too busy typing this to even notice. Failure is good at coming when you least expect it.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

Regardless of whether you believe that Gene Kranz every uttered the phrase or not, “Failure is not an option.,” is about as American as apple pie. I’m here to tell you that I like cherry pie. I disregard this phrase every day of my life. Why? Because it’s not only an option, it’s a requirement. I got to thinking about failure recently while speaking with AgentGenius’ very own Chris Griffith and ActiveRain member, Craig Rutman. In two completely different conversations, I was reminded of my thoughts of what it meant to fail.

In chatting with Chris about her “MLS Fail Shots” series, I thought about my first listing and what had happened there. After a few emails, I decided to come clean with Chris and offer up myself as an example. You can see the results for yourself – if you can hold in the giggles over how bad I handled the photos.

With Craig, our telephone conversation zipped from point to point. Craig’s great for a chat and it was a fascinating conversation, full of funny stories, tips and advice, and talk about our lives as agents. Somewhere in there, I remember Craig talked about how you needed to fail in order to learn how not to fail. I’ve actually had this post title in my head for a long time and I told him about it. The phone call left an impression on me and here I am on a Wednesday night pondering failure once more. Seems my week has been full of “failure.”

“But, if I fail, I lose…right?”

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Wrong answer! Failure will always be the winner’s way. Failing is about opening yourself up to accepting that you’re not perfect, that you might not know everything, and you may have made a mistake here or there. Constant failure may not be a good idea, but without the occasional failure you never move forward. Failure is life’s educator. Failure is a reminder to sharpen your skills. Failure will kick your butt, throw you down in the mud, and laugh at you. Do you want to lay in the mud waiting for the crowd that’s gathered to start laughing like Nelson Muntz (Ha-Ha!)? Or do you want to get up, wipe the mud from your face and keep on moving? Stagnate or forward momentum? Failure is not just an option, it’s the only way forward.

photo courtesy of fireflythegreat

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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  1. Rudy

    June 3, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Home run my friend.

    I’ve had my share of “life learning experiences” in the past. We all have. One of the things that can set those that grow and succeed apart from those that constantly “fail” is so simple – acknowledgement. Think about and accept what has lead you to the place where you are, and learn how to avoid those same mistakes in the future. Repetitive results with no progress = failure.

    Another saying is – “Winners never quit and quitters never win” – by Vince Lombardi. In my opinion, not true. If you read the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin, you’d know that knowing exactly when and what to quit at the right time can be the best thing for you. Know when to say when……..

    Blog on rockstar!

    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  2. Joe Loomer

    June 4, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Awesome MAtt – If it doesn’t kill you – it only makes you stronger.

    …Or as my buddy SEAL Master Chief Mad Dog Madison used to say – “Pain is just weakness leaving your body!”

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Matt Thomson

    June 4, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Gary Keller’s theme of his ’09 company address was “Down is the new Up.” By that he meant exactly what you are saying. You need to get knocked down to get back up. That’s where you grow and get stronger. Failing your way to success is hard and humbling, but history shows it’s where the greatest levels of success come.

  4. Matt Stigliano

    June 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Rudy – I had to wait to get to this one, but I’m glad it’s finally here! I like your/Seth’s way of viewing that infamous Lombardi quote…there is a time to admit it’s time to throw in the towel. It’s a hard balance between failing for progress and flat our failing to recognize that you’re not improving with each failure.

    Joe – Military people (all branches) always have the best quotes to push people to new limits. Your buddy’s is one of my new favorites. Unfortunately, I don’t like the feeling of weakness leaving my body all that much either.

    Matt – I’ve read excerpts of different things by Gary Keller and I find him to be a bit of a realist with a dose of motivational speaker. I typically don’t enjoy the “hang in there kitty” type stuff, but sometimes I need it. Taking over my failures is one of those motivational moments…when you can control the situation, you can control the outcome.

  5. Lani Rosales

    June 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

    @rerockstar you may have just written a new American mantra, “Failure will always be the winner’s way.” This may be my favorite article of yours… it’s so hard to take risks because failure is highly possible, but when that risk pays off it’s SO sweet.

    We really love having you here- most people just starting off in the industry would be terrified to comment on a blog let alone write for one on this magnitude. You sharing your trials as you learn the industry is helping others and we thank you!

  6. Matt Stigliano

    June 6, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Lani – I hate failure, I have to admit it’s one of my biggest fears. But, I also recognize without it, I can’t move forward. Being a new agent isn’t easy in any way, shape, or form. It’s a big world out there, there’s so much to learn, you face the stigma associated with being a new agent, and it doesn’t pay well to start. It doesn’t surprise me one bit how many people don’t make it very far in this industry. By learning that failure doesn’t mean the end of the game though, I can push through the bad days. And I do have them. I’ve thought before “is this really for me, is this really working out the way I had hoped?” It comes with the territory. I’m no positive thinking coach, but I know enough about the will of the brain over life. By recognizing the power of failure to create a better, stronger, faster, smarter you – suddenly, you can do anything. A failure is nothing more than a misstep. When you trip on your shoes while walking down the street you don’t give up walking…you just learn to keep your feet from tangling up underneath you.

    I love being here and I don’t thank you nearly enough for the opportunity. Not only has it given me a chance to tell new agents how I feel as I go through what they’re going through, it also gives me the opportunity to connect with agents that I want to be like. AgentGenius helped me find people that thought of the industry the way I did and helped me shape opinions when I didn’t even know I needed one on a subject. That’s invaluable to me. The day of the Rolodex is long gone, but if I had one on my desk in front of me, I’d know I could always reach in there to pull up a name to help answer my questions. Not just the writers either, but the community as a whole. With all the help and encouragement I received here at AgentGenius, my articles are just my attempt to help pay a little bit of that back. If I can encourage one agent to hang in there, I’ve done my job.

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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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