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Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Your Neighbors.



Door Knob

Community, Connection, and the Hyper-Local

You’ve all heard those words spoken over and over again. I’m not going to break any new ground today. They’re usually preceded by the words “it’s all about…” These are the words that will be drilled into your head both from an online and an offline perspective. These are the tools you will use daily, sometimes without even knowing it. Live in your own little bubble without these and you will probably struggle through real estate. Knock, knock. Your neighbors need to come calling. If they’re not knocking, you’re not rocking.

So what do these three words really mean?


It’s all about your community. Whether you choose to work strictly high-end luxury homes or a wide area of your city, whether it’s farm and land or downtown condos; once you define your community, it will take over and define you. You should be your community as much as your community should be a part of you. Call it neighborhoods, areas, zip codes, types of buildings…the wording matters less than the concept.

With your community in place, you can begin to listen to it and let it shape you. What do the neighbors in your community care about? When they look at you, what do they see? Do they see a neighbor or just an outsider with a real estate license? If you’re the guy blaring the stereo in a quiet neighborhood, you’re not going to be well-liked or accepted. Being a part of the community requires a certain flexibility. This is no way means you should compromise your beliefs, morals, or ideas, but you should learn to meld them together with that of your community. You’re not just selling houses…you’re selling houses to your friends and neighbors, whether you know them at that level or not.


You have a community, it has residents. Connect the dots between those residents. Not just from Point A (you) to Point B (them), but from Point A to Points B, C, D, E, F…etc. Connection between you, your clients, business owners, friends, families brings your community back to center focus. Everyone likes to belong to something. We as humans have it in our nature. Give them something they want to be a part of. Give them the avenues to connect with others in the community and to connect with you. Connections come in many forms; from a kind word to a client to a blog post that answers the questions on everyone’s mind, from a quick meet-up at a Starbucks to a late-night email about the status of a contract. No matter what form it takes, it must be genuine, true, and sincere. Phony connections result in horrible results.

There’s a million and one ways to go about building connections (and community) and once again, this can be done online and off. Build it both ways. Don’t settle for just one or the other. Cross pollinate those two worlds and bring people across the real life/virtual borders.


Now that you have a connected community, destroy it. Cut it up into a million little pieces. Hone in on the hyper-local aspect of smaller groups. Make them feel like they belong to an exclusive club. Go against everything you know about amassing numbers. Sharply focus on the community’s tiny details. Make it about “them” instead of “all of them.” Once you have mini-communities centered around your hyper-local activities, rebuild your connected community. Show them that they are actually a string in a series of hyper-local communities and that each one, though independent of each other, function as one part of a larger whole.

Think of each hyper-local community as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Alone, they are interesting pieces, but when connected to their neighbor, they begin to form a picture. As each little piece comes together with the others, you begin to piece together the community at large – the finished puzzle. No two pieces are alike, no matter how similar they look. Each piece has a specific connection that needs to be need, you just need to find it. Bringing them all together will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Knock, Knock.

Your community connected through a series of hyper-local communities – each autonomous and independent, but all part of the greater whole. And you, with an understanding of how all those pieces fit together, will always be remembered as the one who did it all. Guess who’s door they’ll knock on when they need help? It certainly won’t be the neighbor that never took the time to introduce themselves.

photo courtesy of visualdensity

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. Michael Bertoldi

    January 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Awesome post Matt. Beginning to really dig you writing. Not much else to be said for a post like that.

  2. Susie Blackmon

    January 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I dig your writing too Matt!

  3. Fred Romano

    January 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    dig dig dig go Matt. Lots of buzz words but it’s all real.

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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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