Connect with us

How to

Language: How Do You Use It?



How You Say It

Is just one of the ways we’re being judged. The animal in us is constantly assessing and evaluating situations and the people in them.

Client vs Customer

I’m a customer when I buy socks. I’m a client when I buy a house. One-time purchase > customer. Realtors, attorneys, doctors – professionals have clients. There’s a fiduciary relationship; a high level of trust. Responsibility that goes along with that trust. Significant risk. Professional advice. Mutual respect. All of those determine the difference between a client and a customer.

Talking, Talking, Talking

When I’m talking to a buyer, they’re purchasing a home. A seller is selling property, a commodity. Talking to the title company: Docs, close, prelim. Talking to the client: Paperwork, when you get the keys, title to the house. With an agent: Contract, deal, transaction. Client: Paperwork, the agreement, the process.

Talking to an agent, I’m creating a relationship that’s firm, protective of my client but cooperative. Talking to the client, I’m advising, teaching, suggesting, nudging.

When establishing boundaries, I may be curt. When requesting, I’m kind. When demanding, I’m something else altogether.

The situation determines the language. Every word, tone and syntax is being judged. How do you use language to benefit you?

As a lifelong resident and local Realtor, Vicki has established herself as a respected member of the San Mateo County real estate community. She’s known for her wit, sarcasm, and her personality that shows through in her posts. You can find her spouting off at Twitter, here at ag, and her personal blog, San Mateo Real Estate

Continue Reading


  1. George O'Neill

    September 29, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    “Deja vu all over again!” This sounds like a conversation I had a few years ago at the last professional services firm I had worked at. Some of the local consultants did not understand the subtle difference between the terms client and customer. I have always been an advocate of using the right terms, and I agree with Vicki that for professional services (like real estate) the people we serve are clients. I know we offer more value than just taking an order.


  2. Matt Stigliano

    September 29, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Vicki – Great article. I have been very aware of language used in real estate as I transitioned from consumer to agent. As I started my licensing classes, suddenly lingo I had heard as a consumer made sense. I’ve had to ask questions more than once as I think real estate has become a mess of three letter intials. Are we really that busy that we have to abbreviate everything? And as you point out, its one thing to do amongst ourselves, but when in speaking to a client you start blurting them out, you’re only going to wind up with a client who’s confused and often too afraid to seem “stupid” enough to ask what in the world you’re talking about. I’ve done it myself and I know people do it all the time. Rather than feel inadequate, they sometimes just nod their heads and then wonder what it means later. Hopefully, agents reading this will pause and reflect on how they can better explain things to their clients and the public in general. I truly believe that the more we help the public understand what it is we do, the more they will value our services.

  3. Vicki Moore

    September 29, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    George – This all started when I did a buyer class with a mortgage broker last weekend. He kept saying “deal.” “When we do your deal…” It was like nails on a chalkboard. I couldn’t believe he was talking like that. It drove me absolutely crazy.

    Then the nail in his coffin was when he said: You probably don’t need a realtor when you buy your second or third house but you do on this first one. EXCUSE ME!!!!!!

    Matt – Thanks. Good points. It’s not just what you say, but the way you say it. I always tell my clients to ask as many stupid questions as they want because, firstly, if they want to know it’s not stupid and secondly, I probably didn’t explain it adequately enough the first time. But I’m sure they’re still reluctant to ask.

  4. Rob Aubrey

    September 29, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    on customer vs client, they are a customer if you represent the seller and the buyer is unrep,

    I could be wrong and I have been before, just ask my better half.

  5. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    September 29, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Rush Limbaugh gave some of the best advice I have ever heard about language– “words mean things.” We don’t choose words willy-nilly, and listeners pay very close attention the words we use.

  6. Mark Eibner

    September 30, 2008 at 1:17 am

    we’re at it again Language: How Do You Use It?: When you comment on this article, you *..

  7. Paula Henry

    September 29, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Vicki – The power of words and an understanding of their meaning can never be under estimated. I loved this post. We go through everyday talking to people who have no idea of the power of their words, for better or worse.

  8. Missy Caulk

    September 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Vicki, I changed to Keller Williams in January. Talk about acronyms, I’ve been there for 9 months and I still can’t talk the language. I’m always having to ask please tell me what you are saying, and I’ve been a Realtor for 14 years.
    Is there any wonder the folks buying homes don’t understand their mortgage terms?

  9. Steve Simon

    September 30, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    In Florida if you want to do it according to the statutes and the rule 61J2:
    Client is a term reserved for parties you work for
    Customer is a term used for parties you may be working with.
    They are not the same.
    Those that have taken Florida license exams know they test on this in a number of ways (agency); those two terms are one of their favorite aresa to test on.
    Single agency you work for a client and the object is to find the other party (they would be your customer, with only a few exceptions).
    Of course once receiving the license a large number of licensees say whatever they please…
    Of course when you are in trouble, and it this business it can happen whether you are a bad guy or not, it helps if you have been using the correct verbage throughout your contact with all parties.
    Just my thoughts:)

  10. Gary McNinch

    September 30, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Vicki, Professional business language. Not Perfesshnul bizness talkin. Absolutely correct, our words are so important to designate us as professional business persons, not just “deal” makers. We use the right words that our clients will understand. Most issues and problems can be solved with good communication. And yes, we have lots of acronyms, but our clients don’t get to hear them, we use normal words for normal people. Take care, Gary

  11. Vicki Moore

    September 30, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Rob – I guess I’m looking at it in a less formal way – or more formal?? I’m not sure. I think “client” denotes a degree of respect. I want my clients to know they’re important to me – I want them to know that I respect them and appreciate them. Customer sounds temporary to me.

    Daniel – Oftentimes when working with clients they’re regressed; they’re viewing us as authority figures; they’re relying on us to lead them through an ocean of shark-infested water. Their listening is heightened. The words we use can scare the crap out of them or ease their mind into comfort. Bottom line: I agree completely.

    Paula – I think about how much a smile can change someone’s day, let alone a few words.

    Missy – That scares me. If you don’t know wth they’re talking about, they’ve got major problems. I see you as a great communicator – someone who has no problem making herself understood. I think that’s the way we should all communicate: clearly and compassionately – oh, and of course a lot of humor.

    Steve – Language is another part of my business that I’ve systematized. I speak to my clients like I speak to my friends – minus the cussing.

    Gary – I actually had clients tell me that I dressed too nicely and it made them feel uncomfortable. Now I taylor my words and my clothes to my clients, but I’m always aware of my grammar and presentation. I want to make them feel comfortable but not to the point where I feel uncomfortable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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!

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!