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Congratulations on your decision to volunteer! No matter how big or small a commitment you make, you’ve chosen to join many of your real estate peers in becoming a community leader, advocate and expert. You will reap many benefits not the least of which include building a greater sense of purpose and well-being, forging new friendships and increasing your community network, and learning new skills. Here are some tips and links to help you get started on the right foot.

A Few Simple Guidelines

DO find a volunteer activity you enjoy or that feels important to you, but
DON’T pick something because you think you should or because your friends are doing it.

DO approach your volunteer work with a pure heart and
DON’T go looking for the payoff – your intentions will show.

DO make the commitment and follow through but be careful and
DON’T over commit or take on more than you can handle.

DO choose organizations or projects that will allow you to use your skills and expertise.
DON’T, however, choose things that are obviously self-promoting or self-serving.

DO be passionate about the things you work on.
DON’T be overbearing, controlling or overly aggressive.

DO use your volunteer activities to share what you know but
DON’T forget to listen and learn.

Some Volunteer Resources

VolunteerMatch
Search for opportunities by zip code and keywords

WikiHow
Steps to take, self-evaluation tools & other tips on volunteering

Good Neighbor Toolkit
A great nuts & bolts resource for all kinds of volunteers from realtor.org

I wish you all the best in your community involvement efforts in the coming months and wish you and yours a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling New Year!

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Sarah Cooper

    December 30, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Before I went back to work I volunteered at the animal shelter, walking dogs, photographing all the animals and putting them online in the hopes of finding them homes. I miss it and keep toying with the idea of fitting it into my life again! You get back so much more than you give when you volunteer.

    (And Mitzi looks *fabulous!*)

  2. Lisa Sanderson

    December 30, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Sarah: Finding that thing that lights your fire is the secret to making volunteering rewarding. (Just like @ines said here about finding the spark for your business 🙂 https://agentgenius.com/?p=8704)

    ps: Mitzi thanks you!

  3. Missy Caulk

    December 30, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Lisa, my problem is saying NO. I tend to over commit. I did drop a few things this year to focus more on my passions.

  4. Paula Henry

    December 30, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Lisa – Great observations and list of resources!
    I’m with Missy, I tend to overbook, then feel over obligated. I know there’s a perfect match of time for the cause – I need to find the balance.

  5. Debra Sinick

    December 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for this post. Now more than ever, people need to volunteer. There are so many opportunities to help. There are so many people and organizations that need help now more than ever. It’s a great time to figure out how to help and balance that with what you enjoy. Volunteering is a feel good thing.

    Happy New Year and happy volunteering!

  6. Nicole Boynton

    January 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for the post Lisa. In order to keep from over-extending myself I limit my volunteer work to 3 organizations. A colleague of mine gave me this advice early on she went on to explain has an old 3 tier filing/storage shelf and she has a file on each shelf for each of her nonprofit activities. When she completes her role in one she removes the file and then and only then can she take on a new one. So when she tells someone she cannot volunteer until she has some space open up she really means it…literally and figuratively! There must be an open shelf for there to be time in the schedule. This advice has helped me stay on course. My 3 nonprofit activities are: PTA, Chamber of Commerce, and our local Board of REALTORS. This gives me a great mix of industry, fellow parents, and community involvement. I agree with you…just pick something and get out there!

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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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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: 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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