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How to stop the curse-of-experience from murdering your real estate business



What is the Curse-Of-Experience?

The skies were tall, blue and sun glasses bright.  Lounging in circled chairs sat 3 supremely smart real estate types, and me. One woman and three dudes.  We were in Austin, sitting in The GoodLife Team’s backyard.  We met to share ideas and shoot the breeze about our beloved real estate industry.  (FYI, while we four played, Kristinna, Gary, Jack and the rest of The GoodLife Team were working with and serving others – thanks for letting us hang out.)

The conversation drifted into eLead territory and the horrid reality of piss-poor conversation rates, unserved consumers, lost opportunities and income.  Eric, a young (compared to me), accomplished and brilliant entrepreneur, shared his thoughts on a strategy process service he was contemplating.  He was aiming to turn what many real estate agents consider Fools Gold and frustration, into 22K Gold.  I was listening hard.  In our company and in my office, the lost opportunities we were talking about were opportunities we squandered struggled with too.

After Eric outlined how his service might work, he arrived at the part where he shared what his GCI-Generating-Service might cost a real estate broker to swing it into action.  Like I shared earlier Eric’s brilliant, so naturally components of his proposed approach were counter-conventional in nature.  Eric asked what we thought.  Linsey and Rob responded, then I chimed in.

Most of it sounded pretty good, but the fee structure he was imagining would never work.  Brokers would never go for such a thing.  I know, I’ve been doing this for 30+ years, we’ve never done it that way.  The conversation continued.

There was some back and forth troubleshooting, um-hums, whys, why nots and what have yous.  Next, Eric smiled and asked a question.  I’ll never forget the moment. His smile was genuine, relaxed and hinted amusement.

Eric, “Do you know why you think the fee structure won’t work Ken?”

I thought, “Yeah, I know why it work.  Because nobody will go for it. I’ve been around since there were MLS books, one page contracts with pink, blue and yellow carbon copies and pay phones.  I’ve survived 20% mortgage rates and three real estate depressions busts.  I’m an experienced Pro – a 32 year Vet.  I know what I know.”  But that’s not what I said.

I said, “No, why?”

Eric, “You don’t think it will work because you’ve been in the business for 30 years.”

My eyes widened.  My pupils dilated.  I remember leaning back and tilting my head.  I could feel the sun beaming down on my ever growing bald spot (but that’s another story?), and I knew. He was dead-bang right.  In this case, my experience was not a benefit.  In an instant I realized that my reliance on experience, when mixed with lazy thinking, was not a asset or a blessing, it was a hateful liability!

That’s what the Curse-Of-Experience is.  It’s when we rush to conclusions based on previous experiences.  It’s when we approach opportunities and challenges with a half-open or closed mine.  It’s when we think we know it all and we forget that everything is ever-changing.

If we allow it, our experience can become a curse and a liability, instead of a blessing and an asset.

The Curse-Of-Experience murders our opportunities when we become comfortable and over-confident.  When we’re comfortable and over-confident, we don’t what to mess with what we think we know works.  When we’re comfortable and over-confident, instead of thinking ahead, learning and leading, we protect our status-quo.  Before you know it, we’re falling behind and earning less.   Further and further behind, earning less and less.  Ugg. The Curse-Of-Experience is real and to be avoided at all costs.

I’ve learned my lesson.  These days, here’s what I do. . .

When I approach a challenge, I try to remember to consciously pause and ask myself to suspend my experience and wide-open my mind and imagination.

Yeah, how to keep the Curse-Of-Experience from murdering your real estate business can be that simple.

As a friend, I thought I’d share my experience with you.  I don’t know if on occasion you suffer from this curse as I do?  But, if on occasion you do too, hopefully we can all avoid future missteps and course correct our current behavior.

Thanks for reading.  Cheers to a good year.

PS.  I want to thank Eric Stegemann for reminding me of the importance of keeping my eyes, ears, mind and imagination – wide open. Thanks man.)

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. Chris Hanson

    May 2, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Yes, I to suffer with an occasional case of "hardening of the attitudes;" however, it is easily cured with a quick injection of reality. Now I know the main topic of this blog is possibility thinking, but I'd like to know more about your friends eLead conversion proposition. Perhaps a future blog on the subject?

    • Ken Brand

      May 2, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Goog question Chris. Maybe we'll hear more about it soon. Thanks for you comment. Cheers.

  2. Scott L

    May 2, 2011 at 8:49 am

    You've described exactly what has happened to the entertainment industry. They desperately hold onto the status quo and fall behind. All the while they are losing market share. What worked before doesn't always work best now. Embracing that idea will help move you forward and not left behind.

    • Ken Brand

      May 2, 2011 at 9:36 am

      I think it's the same everywhere in every industry. Things are moving so fast, you can't rest in comfort or you'll rest in Peace. Thanks.

  3. Denise Hamlin

    May 2, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great food for thought on this Monday morning Ken. I run into agents all the time who think real estate is a relationship business and tell me you can't form relationships online. (!) Another example on how experience can be a curse.

    • Ken Brand

      May 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

      That's the perfect example Denise. Cheers and thanks for sharing.

  4. Liz Benitez

    May 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Great story and great insight for the future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ken Brand

      May 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks Liz. Yeah, when I realized what I was doing, it was a big Ah-Ha. Then I sorta went Ut-Oh. Then tried to be open minded. It's tricky work to strive, strive, strive. Cheers.

  5. Paula Henry

    May 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Ken – I haven't been around long enough to be too entrenched in the past. The right now is moving much too quickly. I struggle with the lost opportunity of leads and have been evaluating how to better manage that aspect of my business and I'm just a five man/woman team at a small brokerage. Even so, I hesitate to spend money on unchartered territory, especially when I don't know exactly how much you I am losing. It is an area we, as agents and brokers are going to have to get better at or continue losing. Of course, if we stick our head in the sand, we will never know how much we are losing or the potential of what we have. That's probably the easier course 🙂

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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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