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How to deal with goof ball decisions, idiotic irrationality and Cognitive Bias.



One Hundred Seventeen

That’s how many Ah-Ha and Ha-Ha Cognitive Biases I counted.  117.

I say Ah-Ha, because reading about them explains why people make the stupidest decisions and behave boldly-irrational.

I say Ha-Ha, because I have to laugh at myself and how many of these decision-making, behavioral, belief and social biases I allow to tarnish my day-to-day adventures.  Turns out, I’m biased as hell.  Just like everyone else.  But, I’m gonna do something about it.  How about you?

Because familiarity with the In’s and Out’s of human behavior is valuable, learning more about Cognitive Bias is wise.  When we understand why normally sane and reasonable we and others make goof-ball decisions and behave idiotically-irrational, we can do something positive to correct or avoid them.

Of the 117, I wanted to talk about 2 of them.  They aren’t really related in nature, but I think you may be familiar with both.

First up, the…

Illusion of Control Bias

The Illusion of Control Bias is the belief that one can actually control other people, time, events and chance. When people drop the ball, disappoint and disappear under pressure, it’s normal and natural to feel angry.  Bigger problems bloom when we allow our anger to fester and obsess abscess.  When that happens, the attractive attitude and approach required in our next engagement, and the next, is poisoned.  We kill our futures with poison from our angry past.  This is self destructive and repels opportunity.

Staying angry is a manifestation of The Illusion Of Control Bias.  You stay angry because you thought you could control people, time, events and chance, it’s impossible.  Consciously avoiding the Illusion of Control Bias, and understanding that the only thing we can control is us, allows us to express and relieve our anger if we must, then quickly re-inflate our flaccid attitude and reengage in the positive.

I’ll end this section my saying, “Hi, my name is Ken Brand and I’m a Control Freak. Capital C, capital F.  Maybe all caps?  I have an Illusion Of Control problem and from this day forward I will strive to focus on doing my best and controlling the only person I really have power over, myself.

Next up, the…

Semmelweis Reflex Bias

The Semmelweis Reflex Bias blinds us when we discount new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs and paradigms.

For example, we’ve been fighting to survive some time. Most of us have blisters on our feet, stained optimism and weary spirits.  We’re beginning to see and feel signs of recovery.  Yea!  We want to believe.

A word of caution, as we begin to believe, we mustn’t allow the Semmelweis Bias to lullaby our logic and us into final oblivion.  More to the point, if we want to believe things are on the upswing,  and we’re introduced to contradictory information we shouldn’t scoff, paint it negative and ignore it.  Skipping right off the cliff.

Guess what.  This may scare the crap out of you.  But you need to know.  Don’t let The Semmelweis Reflex bias prevent you from reading Rob’s post Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Rob’s post includes authoritative and semi-positive predictions about where our rosy real estate market is headed.  Rob also shares some disturbing trends you might not know about and people aren’t talking about.

Do yourself a favor and read it now.

lastly, I’ll close with..

3 Take-Aways

  1. The more we know about human behavior, ours and theirs, the better off we are. Let’s familiarize ourselves with the symptoms and effects of Cognitive Bias, we’ll all benefit.
  2. No matter what happens and who disappoints, let’s not allow the Illusion of Control Bias to keep us angry, sad and unattractive.  The only thing we can control is ourselves.  Let’s do our best and let the rest go.
  3. We may not be out of the woods. Uggg.  Possibly we’re in the eye of the storm.  I’m not sure, nobody is sure.  Whether the market is going up or down, the level of In-Person and On-Purpose contact and conversation should be more intense, more relevant and more frequent than ever before.

Like I said, thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Photo Credit.

Ken Brand - Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors. I’ve proudly worn a Realtor tattoo for over 10,957+ days, practicing our craft in San Diego, Austin, Aspen and now, The Woodlands, TX. As a life long learner, I’ve studied, read, written, taught, observed and participated in spectacular face plant failures and giddy inducing triumphs. I invite you to read my blog posts here at Agent Genius and On the lighter side, you can follow my folly on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, you’re always to welcome to take the shortcut and call: 832-797-1779.

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  1. Fred Romano

    May 24, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Ken – Just read this post – to be honest I have no idea what the hell you are saying! It was like reading Chinese with some English words mixed in… One order of General Tso for me please 🙂

    • Ken Brand

      May 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Thanks for giving a whirl Fred. Candidly, sometimes when I spill the english in my head, onto the keyboard, I get Chop Suey. I owe you and some General Tso Chicken. Cheers.

  2. Linsey

    May 24, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I relate all to well to the ‘Illusion of Control’. I am a control freak. For some reason, that’s a tough one for me to learn. Given the number of lessons to the contrary – you’d think I’d figure that one out. Nice reminder.

    Cheers Ken! 🙂

    • Ken Brand

      May 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

      What, you a “Control Freak”. No way:-) Cheers to you too. thanks.

  3. Joe

    May 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Interesting observations on anger, especially. I think anger’s root is a sense of self-disappointment. Whether from childhood neglect, and/or current life style choices. Forgiveness of the past and making healthy decisions today go a long way in keeping anger in check.

    • Ken Brand

      May 24, 2010 at 9:09 am

      Anger, disappointment, disapproval, resentment, regret….all suck the life outta today’s and tomorrows. That’s for sure. I think the real estate business gives us hourly opportunities to focus on the negative or the positive. I aim for positive, but occasionally, negativity shrapnel flies fast and furious. Staying focused and positive (but realistic) is a full time job.

      Thanks for the sharing. Cheers.

  4. Jeff Corbett

    May 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I like your topic Ken…

    The psychological underpinnings of decision making and personal belief systems have always fascinated me…especially when purposefully exploited in the arenas of marketing and finance.
    Considering the forum: Effective Social Media ‘How To’ strategies (and strategists) should be rooted in understanding, navigating and manipulating certain cognitive biases.

    You may have inspired me to write 🙂


    • Ken Brand

      May 25, 2010 at 7:03 am

      Yeah, there’s alot to know that explains, bizarre, but semi-predictable behavior. Fascinating stuff, I look forward to you your thoughts.

  5. Joe Loomer

    May 25, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Had to wash down my Illusion of Control Bias several times before finishing the post! Also had to run and share. I’ll hop on Fred’s comment here and twist it to the point of saying I always read your posts twice before I comment. I think you do it on purpose just to make me – but that might be my RAS talking ;).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Ken Brand

    May 25, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Sometimes I’m not even sure what I said, until I read it a time or two. Cheers Joe.

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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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