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How to Improve the Real Estate Industry: Shut Up And Listen

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I Love Lamp

Last night Lani and Mariana tweeted “I love lamp” – of course it’s the out of context nature of the statement that is funny, but it goes beyond that.  It made me think of the many times our industry fails to provide good service because of the mere fact many of us don’t listen (for the record, I’m including myself just to be polite and to see if anyone is paying attention).

Some of us have the bad habit of interrupting or worse yet, thinking of a response while the other person is talking.  Can you shut up for a second and listen?  It amazes me that listening has become a skill, one that is difficult to find in our industry.  Clients complain all day long that their needs are not being met, not because they can’t find the right property or because they don’t qualify for a loan, but because their agents are not paying attention to their needs!

Come on people, it doesn’t get any more basic than that!  Stop and Listen, let your client talk, pay attention and you will see what a difference that will make in your business.

We received this via email today…

…that represents what I’m talking about:

I am a loyal person who openly, honestly, and respectfully communicates my expectations and you can expect that from me as your client.  And, in the spirit of transparency and open communication from the get-go, in truth, my frustration with prior REALTORS both in NYC and here Miami since my search began have surrounded around what I have determined as REALTORS simply not listening to, or ignoring, what I’m saying…. regarding architecture and style of home, for example (or its eventually potential should it need work) … over the past year what I’ve heard about homes shown is simply, “this is a good-buy,” without taking into any consideration what I’ve said from the beginning regarding what I’m looking for in a home.  More specifically, overall space or mass raw square footage in a house is not paramount for me, but rather the thoughtful use of that space and how it is, or could be, designed that really matters – especially taking into consideration how I and my family typically spends our time and uses our home, you know?

So please humor me and shut up for a bit – really take time to listen to your clients needs and expectations. Our industry will thank you for putting a stop to the stigma.

**NOTE:  if you love lamp……then you are a good listener**

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors Miamism.com, PrimeMiamiBeach.com, and MiamismPix.com and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Tom Vanderwell

    November 9, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Ines,

    That is so true. One of the first lessens that I learned back in the late ’80’s was to do exactly that. Be quiet, listen more and say less.

    Well said!

    Tom

  2. Doug Lazovick

    November 9, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Ines,

    “I’m kind of a big deal.” Unfortunately that’s the reason why most do not listen to others. They have a heightened sense of self-worth and the only person in the room they want to hear speak…..is themselves.

    Doug

  3. Jay Thompson

    November 10, 2009 at 4:11 am

    “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk the less.”
    — Epictetus
    Roman (Greek-born) slave & Stoic philosopher (55 AD – 135 AD)

  4. Jim Duncan

    November 10, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I try to tell all of my clients that while I strive to listen and interpret as best I can, I expect them to tell me if they perceive that I’m not listening. You’d be surprised by how surprised they are that I have expectations of them, and of myself. 🙂

  5. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    November 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Tom – I don’t get how something so trivial can be so difficult for some – is as if they want to impress and don’t realize they are failing from the moment they open their mouths

    Doug – I think that applies to some, but not the main reason people don’t listen. It’s as if their world revolved around a series of superficial events and never get down to the core. Personally, blogging has made me a better listener.

    Jay – but some have a really BIG mouth 😀

    Jim – priceless! We ask our clients to repeat themselves often as not to have to interpret the space between the lines – it is definitely a two-way street. But as you can tell from the guy above, he has very specific needs and expectations and many have failed already. He even goes to say that if at anytime his expectations are ridiculous, to please let him know and put him in his place. I love good communicators.

  6. bficker

    November 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    This is something I work on everyday (with my wife too, not just clients, lol). I know I fell into the bad habit when I first got into the business when I had three different clients by a house that I didn’t show them with another agent.

    Client A: ONLY wants to see duplexes, bought a detached single family $30k higher then he wanted to spend.

    Client B: Had to have Jack & Jill sinks in the master bath of the newer (post 2001) built home; bought a 1950’s bungalow which didn’t even have a master bathroom.

    Client C: Would not look at anything attached (too much noise from the neighbors); bought the middle unit on the 2nd story of a 3 story condo conversion.

    Can you believe I heard the term “Buyer’s are liars” a lot that first year? Fortunately, I’ve learned to qualify my buyers wants vs needs better since then 🙂

  7. Kaye Thomas

    November 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    When I was doing training I always emphasized that the way to make more money then the competition was to talk less and listen more. Clients will tell you what they want you just have to take the time to actually hear them.

  8. Benn Rosales

    November 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    @ines ima letchu finish, but @laniar @Mizzle had the best lamp of all time!

  9. Matt Stigliano

    November 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Hey Ines, only have a minute to chat, then I have to fly to Miami to meet up with Yngwie.

    So yeah, lamp, that’s great. I get it. Did I tell you I’m visiting Yngwie? He’s got a few projects he has in mind for me. It’s going to be spectacular.

    Maybe I can squeeze you and Rick in for a…what do you call them…mo-jeet-toe? Yeah, it would be fabulous, but I’m so busy with Yngwie, I’ll have to see what I can do for you.

    Oh and he has the fabulous lamp, would have been great for your article. Yeah, absolutely super.

    (If you’ve ever listened to me before, you’d know that that was completely tongue in cheek.)

    Ines – You just gave me an idea for a post. Thanks!

    And yes, I do love lamp.

  10. mariana

    November 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Oh. So. True.

  11. amycesario

    November 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    We have been provided:

    Two Ears
    and
    One Mouth

    For a reason. 🙂

  12. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    This is quite possibly one of the most inane and insulting posts I have ever read.

    I can’t believe this is what our professional forums our reduced to. Penning a post to tell agents not to be rude; in the rudest of all possible ways.

    To be honest, I miss the Bloodhound days, where a post was researched, vetted and the writer brought up issues and ideas that needed airing. This is not of that caliber and what I call “internet bile.”

    Benn, do people get 25 points for comments here, like AR?

    Ines, you love good communicators? Do you think you communicated your message well?

    Crass and insulting come to mind.

    Here comes the obligatory “Good post!”

    Ines,
    If I told you your post sucked, and to stop writing, would you consider that rude?

    Here’s the point to actually vet: Not listening is not exclusive to the real estate industry.

    I go to Home Depot; they don’t listen. I talk to Verizon Wireless; they don’t listen.

  13. Trace

    November 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    @Kevin: Are you for real?

  14. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 10, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Completely.

    Come on. Did you read the comment?

  15. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    November 10, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Kevin – you have the choice to not read

  16. Trace

    November 10, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I did read the comment, it seemed considerably harsh considering this post seemed like nothing more than a gentle and innocuous reminder to listen, something we all seem to agree everyone could do more of.

  17. Kevin Tomlinson

    November 10, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Ines,

    Posts like this don’t help the industry they only further negative stereotypes.

    The post was condescending.

    Trace:
    gentle and innocuous? From Wikipedia: “Shut up” is a slang phrase with a meaning similar to “be quiet”‘, but commonly perceived as an angrier, “meaner”, and more commanding attempt to stop someone from talking or making noise

  18. Benn Rosales

    November 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    @kevin you said The post was condescending.

    No more condescending than anything you’ve said here. Personally I agree with the consumer that wrote the email that inspired the post to a certain point. She sounds like a lady who will drag you to a million properties before she decides she likes the shingles, and that’s okay, she just needs to be closed or brought to reality imo.

    I’ll listen to a point of deciding I can or cannot help someone, and in this case, I’m not there to assess it, therefore I can’t debate it.

    I wonder though, did you Kevin get the same email and ignore it?

  19. Matthew Rathbun

    November 10, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Kevin,

    I think your comments are certainly the stereotypical comments of self indulged Realtors. It’s certainly what I’ve come to expect of many agents.

    If the phrase “Shut up” were to be changed to “Be Silent” would that have made a difference? If your comments were intended to be constructive, doing so off the forum would seem to be a better way to reach your intention.

    …25 points, please…

  20. Jay Thompson

    November 10, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Kevin wrote: “I go to Home Depot; they don’t listen. I talk to Verizon Wireless; they don’t listen.”

    So what? Because others don’t listen that makes it OK for real estate agents not to listen? I don’t recall Ines saying poor listening skills are exclusive to real estate.

    Interesting to compare this post to BHB, where the primary owner / author frequently makes very personal, sometimes vicious attacks. If you miss it so much, go read it. It’s still there, and the personal attacks are still happening.

    Given the widespread lack of listening skills I’ve encountered in this industry, I think what Ines said needed to be said. Not every blog post needs to be deeply researched and vetted to make a viable point. Just my opinion.

  21. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 10, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Benn,
    No I didn’t get that email. I understand that my comment was harsh. I knew it when publishing it. Real estate is a “real” tough biz. In my 17 years of real estate I have never “closed” a client. A buyer can detect being “closed” a mile away. They know it the second it starts.
    Though some people may find me obnoxious, I’m ok with that. The problem here is:
    1. agents don’t have common sense
    2. agents don’t know enough about biz

    Telling an agent to shut up isn’t gonna help them.

    If someone finds my comment so harsh–they may not have the cojones to stay in the biz.

  22. Jay Thompson

    November 10, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    It’s probably just me, but calling a post “inane and insulting” and “internet bile” is WAY more “crass and insulting” than saying “shut up”.

    Way.

  23. Benn Rosales

    November 10, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Telling someone to shut up may be ‘harsh,’ but real estate as you said is a tough biz, obviously you’re an effective listener.

  24. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Ok Jay.
    Great.

    I’m horrible. Heinous. I do read BHB. But I have the balls enough to read it and and not run from it and hide in a pretty little cloud with rainbows and butterflies of hashtags and acronyms.

    I was having a conversation with someone else who was commenting that they quality of content at another publication, not this one, was dissapating rapidly.

    Should we all just stand back and comment with “Great Post” with 14 million acronyms and hashtags? If not, that’s what seems to be happenin’

    I think there is a place for Agent Genius, BHB, AR, et al. It’s clear that you don’t like BHB—but I read it for other things (not the personal attacks).

  25. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Benn,
    I respect you. I like your pub. Listening isn’t all that hard. Helping someone is even easier.

  26. Benn Rosales

    November 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Kevin, of course, tis why I let you comment and not call you names in rainbow land.

  27. Jay Thompson

    November 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t think you’re horrible and heinous for reading BHB Kevin. There is some brilliant stuff there. There’s pure unadulterated bullshit there too (just like on any blog, newspaper, TV or any other source of information — my own blog included).

    I just found it ironic as hell that you were rude to Ines for being rude and then mentioned BHB, where Swann has redefined the word rude on multiple occasions.

    It doesn’t take “balls” to read BHB (or anything else) Kevin. Read whatever you want to, I don’t care. I enjoy some of the BHB authors, but I can’t stomach the vitriol spewed there at times. So I chose not to read it unless someone sends me a link and says “you should read this”. It’s as simple as that.

    #JustSayin

  28. Jay Thompson

    November 10, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    And where is my diet coke and popcorn?

  29. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 11, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Jay

    I became incensed from “shut up.” My parents taught me a few things that still stick with me:
    1. never, ever tell people to shut up. Dogs are told to shut up.
    2. never eat while you are walking
    3. never walk while smoking. My sisters smoked so my mom would go off if they would walk and smoke. “Prostitutes do that,” she would say.

    Inane was professional. Insulted is the way I felt.

    “Internet bile” well…not so much.

  30. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate

    November 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Jay
    Consider this comment four acronyms and three hashtags.

  31. Jay Thompson

    November 11, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Benn – please give Kevin 50 points for that last comment. That was funny.

  32. Kevin Tomlinson

    November 11, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Matt,

    I didn’t understand your comment until I read your profile. You train agents.

    Stereotypical? I sell multi million dollar properties. If I need to scrub the floor, I have no problem doing that.

    There’s nothing stereotypical about me.

    The last chastising I rec’d was yesterday from a “coach” who “used to be” an agent.

    HMMM.

    #wink

  33. Susie Blackmon

    November 11, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Great banter! I’m in love with Kevin already because I know he has a big ……. brain.

  34. Matt Stigliano

    November 11, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I find it interesting how two people (and many more) can read the same post and get something entirely different out of it.

    Insulting? No. Although I can see where you see it as insulting based on what your parents told you about “shut up” and dogs.

    What I read was a reminder to agents to stop and listen closely. A way to make our industry better. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the million ways we think we’re improving our client’s experience that we miss some of the basics. Sometimes we get so excited about our latest tech tool that we forget to communicate with our clients on a personal level. Sometimes we’re just tired and not doing our jobs to the best of our ability. Whatever it is, there are times when a reminder of the simple things in life need to be reinforced – even if you practice them everyday.

    Ines’ ideas are common place in agent training classes – it’s not as if she jumped out of bed and said “I’m going to tell all agents to shut up.” I’ve heard the same theories many times before and sometimes the message has been harsh, sometimes it’s been given softly. The delivery caught the attention, but the message remains the same.

    Posts like this don’t help the industry they only further negative stereotypes.

    I’m on the other side of the fence on this one. Let’s bring the garbage to the surface and expose it for what it is. Let’s be open about the mistakes our industry has made and some continue to make. I’m not a fan of the “let’s keep it in the closet” and deal with it amongst ourselves set. I am all for an industry that stops the attitude of sweeping things under the rug in order to make sure we all look squeaky clean. It hasn’t worked. The consumer is a lot brighter than that and this attitude of hiding our flaws from the consumers only makes them more suspicious (they can see right through most of the gloss that we paint over everything).

    Ines’ topic doesn’t quite fall into what I’m talking about here in my opinion, but because of the comment, I decided to expand it a little deeper.

  35. Ken Brand

    November 11, 2009 at 8:05 am

    I’ve been in the biz for 30 years. It’s been a pretty good run, big ups, big dips, laughs, tears, etc.

    This listening thing is huge. I have no doubt that my lapse in listening skills has cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars (figure $20K X 30 years minimum) over the course of my career.

    This post reminds me, again, listen more than I talk…which is so HARD.

    Thanks for sharing.

    PS. I don’t mind being told to “Shut-UP”. In fact, you could have said “STFU” and I would be cool with that too.

    Cheers.

  36. Kevin Tomlinson

    November 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Ken,

    If you read the Wiki thing for “Shut Up” it might as well be STFU. I saw/read the post differently. I spoke my mind, and now I’m done.

  37. Janie Coffey

    November 12, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Looks like Harvard thinks listening (or the lack thereof) is not only a problem in the real estate industry…
    https://sellsius.posterous.com/is-listening-an-endangered-skill-harvard-busi

  38. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    November 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Looks like listening paid off – just executed contract for above client and received the following:

    Rick, thank you for speaking our language from the very beginning and for educating and guiding me (miamism) before we even started working together! While I don’t think we’ll be moving again anytime in the near future :-), when/if we do, my wife and I have found partners in both of you that will sustain and be lifelong relationships. In a business where referral is king, you both will get all the praise you deserve from us. You really have made an amazing, seemingly impossible to realize, dream come true for us. Thank you so so much.

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Coaching

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!

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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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Coaching

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:

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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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Coaching

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.

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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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