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Back in my day

We’ve come a long way with Internet design. I started coding HTML back in 1992 roughly 3 years before HTML 2.0 was formalized. I was 12. I’ve seen a lot of evolution of web design over the years, starting out with basic text pages with links to other text pages.

We went through a phase when graphic designers ran amock on the Internet and almost ruined it for us all by using tables within tables within tables and 1 pixel by 1 pixel placeholder images. It was a dark time.

Then CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) pulled layout apart from content. I still see real estate sites that haven’t adopted CSS, even though it’s been around since 1996. CSS was a great movement in the evolution of web design.

Thanks for the nostalgic slide show gramps

Fast forward (beyond Flash, beyond resolution-based design, beyond browser-specific design) to today. HTML 5 is just around the corner and it is going to make layout and design much simpler. I encourage you to take a look at this article before going on. Below is an image showing the basic page structure layout of HTML 5.


The part I’m hoping you’ll notice is that the navigation is across the top. It has been determined by people smarter than me, that for web usability, navigation should be across the top. So here’s tip #1:

Tip #1

If your primary navigation is running down the sides of your page, you may want to consider moving it. Have it be above the fold. Trying to be clever and different is great, but not when it comes to helping your site visitors navigate your site.

Right at this very moment, you are reading a blog. You probably have your own (or two or three). These are considered Web 2.0 because of the essense of community and interactivity (think the comments box below). We’re all connected via email, Twitter, Facebook and countless other methods. People like to share information. So here’s tip #2:

Tip #2

Make it as easy as possible to share information. Please don’t hide your RSS Feed. They standardized on the orange icon for a reason – so it stands out and is easily recognizable. Place it near the top in an obvious location. Use Feedburner so your users have their choice of how they want to get your information.


Also, give your users the EASY option to email your site to people. I have problems with local and national news sites frequently NOT making this process easy and as an efficient web users, it is one of the most annoying aspects of browsing. AgentGenius and I use a tool called ShareThis (you can see it right below the article). There are several others out there, so pick one you like as long as it allows users to easily pass your web site along to their friends. These tools also allow users to easily share your site or article on a variety of social networking sites.

Feed my addiction

In college, friends joked that I had “seen the Internet”, now they don’t like telling me to check out a site because the first words out of my mouth frequently are “what a terrible site”. I have plenty of tips that I’ll be sharing, but these are a couple to get you and those you know started.

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Missy Caulk

    April 11, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    People smarter than you….your pretty darn smart !!

  2. Aria Schoenfelt, Austin Real Estate

    April 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Great post, Nick! I’m ashamed to say that my site is currently a hybrid of tables and css but for Reboot 2008 it’s going to be full CSS. Like you, I’ve been on the web site there was one, even before web browsers (ah, the BBS days). Keeping up with web standards can be difficult, but if you make a habit out of it it is SO much easier to run your business. In a frenzy to throw up my site I did not have the time to learn full CSS and really wished that I had just kept up with the trends as I did before.

    So for those of you who fear coding yourselves, ask your web designer what they use. If it’s not CSS, you’re behind. If it’s Ruby on Rails, you’re way ahead of the game.

    I also love the top navigations and prefer to keep it simple.

  3. Nick Bostic

    April 11, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @Missy thank you very much, I definitely have a trivial mind 🙂

    @Aria ah yes, I remember the BBS days, then Compuserve, then Prodigy… It’s an excellent point to ask your web designer questions, but it does require a bit of your time to research what questions to ask – maybe that’ll be another article I write…

  4. Vicki Moore

    April 12, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Done. Done. And can’t figure it out. Thanks!

  5. Steve Simon

    September 24, 2008 at 10:41 am

    You were 12, I was 40!
    16 years later and I still like left side navigation.
    But I’ll change if I have to; horizontal tabs are nice…

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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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