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Google and Real Estate – Some Great Tools



I had the opportunity to speak at the NAR convention on “Google Tools for Real Estate” and wanted to share some of the neat tools that I found. You probably know some of them but it is nice to be reminded of others. Plus there is a great new tool that the the people at the Google booth showed me that you will just love. Here is 5 of my Top Ten Google Tools for Real Estate.

Google Gmail offers email with up to 25 GB of storage per custom email address, mail search tools and integrated chat. It is the poor mans’ synch with an email enabled phone. Aggregate all your email accounts to Gmail and then send them to your email enabled phone with the special program you can download on your phone. There is less spam, plus Gmail groups all replies with their original message, creating a single conversation or thread. So much easier than searching your Inbox for related messages.

Google Docs – Create and share documents without managing attachments. Upload PDFs, PowerPoint, Word and Excel documents. It is a great place for online storage for all digital documents. Always have access to your important real estate documents even when you don’t have your computer.

Google Maps and Google Docs Build a map in seconds, Identify locations of schools, recreation, highways for online visitors. Then, in Google Docs, open an excel spreadsheet and list all the addresses of the homes you want to put on the map either for buyers to tour, or for a listing CMA. Insert a Gadget called Google Maps and select the range of data from the excel spreadsheet to populate the addresses of the map. Publish the map to its own web page or to a blog. Sound complicated? It is not, but email me for a PDF with full instructions.

Google Alerts – Set up alerts for key words, like your name, your business area. Google will email updates of relevant Google search results based on your choice. Great way to keep tabs on the competition. Every time someone mentions me in their blog or website, I get a Google alert. I then go to that blog and comment on their post. Great “PR”.

THIS IS THE NEW ONE! – Google Sites allows you to collaborate Google gadgets like picasa to add photos, google calendar to show Open House dates, and a file cabinet to store documents related to the property.  All of this is secure in the Google environment where you can control who has access to the site to both collaborate or to just view. You can equally use these sites to create public pages that ANYONE can access, even WITHOUT a Google account. Single listing websites anyone?

You can get more information at

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  1. Ann Cummings

    November 16, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I took a lot of notes during your portion of the panel at NAR last week, and I went to see the Google guys for a demo on Google sites – told them you had sent me! Thanks for all the info you shared in this post and at the convention.

  2. Lisa Badalamenti

    November 16, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    In Google Docs, open an excel spreadsheet and list all the addresses of the homes you want to put on the map either for buyers to tour, or for a listing CMA. Insert a Gadget called Google Maps and select the range of data from the excel spreadsheet to populate the addresses of the map.

  3. teresa boardman

    November 17, 2008 at 6:51 am

    One of my favorites is google notebook. I store all sorts of things in it. Can’t live without google alerts either. Our MLS already maps the listings onto google maps and my clients really like it.

  4. Paula Henry

    November 17, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Lots of great ideas – a few I already use and now more to check out. Love the Google sites idea.

    I have seen a few Google maps on other sites and really like the information you can supply about a certain neighborhood and area; parks, shopping, golf, etc.

  5. Chuck G

    November 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I echo Paula’s comment. I was already familiar with and use Google Docs, but Google sites opens up all kinds of new possibilities. I just jumped in and started using it with a buyer to help track the homes we are viewing, and ultimately the same site will be a warehouse for the multitude of closing docs.

    Thanks for the awesome tip on Google sites!


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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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