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Response Etiquette 101



Answer Me !

I’ve found more and more that people are not concerned at all about the response time for various avenues of communication. How long does it take you to respond back to someone trying to reach you? Or, do you answer at all? I’m still in shock I have not received an answer from a representative at a major real estate news company sent two weeks ago! What does that say to the person waiting? If you can not answer a question, just say so! If you need more time to give a response, just say so! But do not do nothing!

Sometimes, you can kick yourself in the butt because you set people’s expectations too high. For example, if you are adamant and always return calls/emails within 5 minutes, and all of a sudden you take 8 hours – this can be misconstrued as rude because it is so much longer than normal.

Here are some examples of what I feel are acceptable response times for non crisis responses …

  • Voice Message – Same day
  • Text Message – 1 hour
  • Email – 4 hours
  • Twitter @ – 2 hours
  • Twitter DM – Next log in (no more than 24 hours)
  • Commenter – Next day
  • Instant Message – Instantly
  • Lead from Buyer (no matter what avenue of communication) – 1 hour

Leave them Alone – NOT!

Of course there are always exceptions – and the best practice is “as soon as possible” But, there are times when that just doesn’t work. And remember, don’t just ignore.

While we’re at Etiquette 101. If you are engaged in a conversation back and forth – it is polite to end the conversation before you disappear. Responses should be immediate if the conversation is flowing; but not end abruptly.

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  1. @Fresyes

    January 15, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I have learned (and I am still trying to perfect it) to keep expectations at a minimum. For instance I used to say… I’ll have this for you in an hour or by the end of the day. The client may not have needed it that soon but because I said I would have it by a certain time, they would be disappointed if I didn’t in fact have it complete at that hour. Now I may it a point to ask… when do you need this by or I will get it to you as soon as I can. It’s still I priority to me, just now I can take on life’s surprises without stressing that I may be missing a deadline.

  2. Chuck G

    January 15, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Hey Kim,

    Interesting that you’d post this. It seems obvious, but it’s still something we tend to forget when we get busy.

    Whether it’s fair or not, that first interaction we have with a potential client leaves a lasting first impression. You could be the most responsive person on the planet, but if you drop the ball on their first inquiry, their impression of you that you’re too busy or not responsive. And like all first impressions, it takes a LONG time to overcome that.

    There’s nothing that makes me happier than when a person replies back to me with “Thanks for the quick response!”


  3. @Fresyes

    January 15, 2009 at 7:11 am

    gosh my grammar was horrible in that reply (I guess not sleeping is me effecting more I than realized 😉

  4. Ken Brand

    January 15, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Human nature = I want to feel significant.

    Delayed response/acknowledgment = I’m not significant.

    I’m not significant = You fail, I move on.

    Nice reminder.

  5. Steve Krzysiak

    January 15, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Interesting, but I think the times show be reversed for a twitter dm and @replies. I see my @replies when I log in, which is not as often as I’d like. However, my DMs come to my cell phone, which prompt me to go log in and respond asap.

    I guess I could see my @ replies on a more regular basis, but I havent found the right mobile solution for my phone(the G1)

  6. Nick Bostic

    January 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I think the big key really is to set expectations clearly. We now know the best/fastest ways to get in touch with Kim based on her usage habits. Mine are different:
    Voice Message – If you left your email address in message, email response within 4 hours, if not call back within 24.
    Text Message – 1/2 hour
    Email – Used to be minutes, but due to overload, now 6 hours
    Twitter @ – 6 hours
    Twitter DM – Minutes (I do SMS alerts too)
    Commenter – 2 Hours (thanks to Intense Debate)
    Instant Message – May be a while, IM is always on, but I’m not always able to respond

    So now you know the best ways to reach Kim and I, just make sure your customers know the best way to get in touch with YOU!

  7. Missy Caulk

    January 15, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Kim, I respond to DM when I log on to Twitter, and that has not been much lately. LOL

    Leads get responded to asap, within minutes and no more than an hour.

    Emails usually right away but at least that day.

  8. Melina Tomson

    January 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I think this is a matter of setting expectations for people. During winter months (which are slower here in Oregon) these are all reasonable. In summer when we are really busy…everything by the end of the day for sure, but times get lengthened out.

    If I’m out with a buyer, I don’t spend a lot of time on my phone or texting other people. I wait for natural breaks to do that. You want to be responsive, but not at the expense of the clients you are with at the time.

  9. Mark Storolis

    January 19, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Good etiquette is good business.

    A gentleman is never in a rush. And a gentleman never handles calls/texts in the presence of another person, client or otherwise. Never.

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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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