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Speak to me as if I’m the only one in the room.



Dakota Building

I’m listening.

Last week’s post, “Why? Finding real estate career motivation in down times.,” was a introspective piece, meant to show the reader that we all need some motivations in our life and to do my usual of opening up myself to allow me to grow (and you to watch, interject, and perhaps learn a thing or two). The following day, I saw Benn Rosales’ post, “Sales – Getting headspun, and smiling through gritted teeth,” which I read with great interest. I had never heard the term headspun, so for it was something new to me. After reading the post (and re-reading it, just to be sure I had understood it all), I went about my day, but something else started to pop into my head and I thought it was worth noting.

Benn wasn’t talking to you. He wrote the article for me. He was speaking directly to me in a way that served as one part reminder, one part life lesson, one part real estate theory, and one part psychology. He should have just sent it direct to me and not wasted your time with it. He wrote that post for me and about me.

Before you all think I’ve gone all Mark David Chapman on you, let me explain myself. I know Benn didn’t write it just for me. Maybe he was inspired to write it after reading my post, maybe not. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened when I read it.

This site is for me and you – no one else.

When reading Benn’s post, I felt as if we were part of a secret club and the AgentGenius website was there just for me and him to talk to each other on. I forgot all about the other readers, writers, and great posts that exist and concentrated on what Benn was saying. He was speaking directly to me, so I thought I ought to give him my direct attention.

Benn accomplished what so few writers (everywhere, not just here) can do effectively, but all writers should be doing more of. He made me forget that he runs a national real estate website and that he speaks to legions of agents everyday. He made me forget everyone but me and him. I was the only one in the room and Benn wanted to talk directly to me.

I know I’ve handed the new agent torch to Michael Bertoldi, but this thought was so valuable to me, that I had to share. And it’s not just for new agents and bloggers either. Everyone can benefit from the “for your eyes only” lesson.

Ignore everyone.

Next time you’re writing a real estate post on your blog, think about how you write. Ignore the broad appeal of your material and think of how that blog post can affect one person who reads it. Write to that person. Use the word “you” in it’s singular sense and avoid thinking “youse guys” and “y’all” (the Philly boy living in Texas terms for “you” in the plural sense). Don’t write the post to someone in particular (ie, don’t start the post “Dear Matt Stigliano”), but write it based on a singular experience with a client, a question someone asked you the other day, or something you yourself have had happen to you.

The beauty of this singular focus is that it won’t be read by just one person. If you’ve done it right, there should be multiple people out there thinking “they wrote this for me.” We talk about connection all the time; connect one-on-one with someone and you’ve done something stronger than spewing generalities out into the world wide web. You’ve spoken to them directly. They’ll feel as if they know you, they’ll trust you, and they’re more likely to connect with you than ever before.

Not every post will present the opportunity to speak in this manner. The listing post, your community update, neighborhood market reports – all of these probably won’t be super-conducive to this writing style. Take posts about short sales, HUD-1s, financing, transactions…use your knowledge and past experiences to draw from and make these posts focused on issues that matter to your past or current clients. Focus in on the detail of what they wanted to learn from the experience or what they gained from it after the fact. Chances are, there is someone with those same questions, those same feelings, those same ideas out there. Write for them and make them feel like they’re the only one in the room.

photo courtesy of thenails

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. Jennifer Klaussen

    April 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Great post – you were talking to me, weren’t you? 😉

    • Matt Stigliano

      April 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Jennifer – I most certainly was!

      Everyone else reading this post – I was actually talking to you.

  2. Lisa Heindel

    April 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Perfect advice, Matt, but hard for some of us to pull off. We’ve been so indoctrinated in casting a wide net with our marketing efforts that we are afraid to leave anyone out, even when writing about a specific topic that would only appeal to a small segment. That said, I think you wrote this just for me 🙂

    • Matt Stigliano

      April 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Lisa – There’s nothing wrong with some of the wider net-casting, I do plenty of that too. I think the secret is that when we’re specific about what we’re talking about (and not going on about generalities), we have a tendency to cast a wide net with out it feeling like we are. So many people have the same issues out there – take a look at your analytics for your site and see how many different ways some asked Google the same question. The more I start to see that, the more I realize that being specific is actually opening up the doors.

      The true key is to make that visitor feel like you are answering their question not just a question.

      And yes, I had you in mind when I wrote this.

  3. Elaine Hanson

    April 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Matt, this is something I really needed to hear right now as I embark on a whole new adventure in blogging. It reminded me that I write best when I am NOT trying to write to everyone. I find myself absolutely frozen with the thought of addressing a crowd. Literally petrified. To start again, I’ll keep your thoughts in mind. Now, running over to Benn’s post to take a look. Thanks!

    • Matt Stigliano

      April 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      Elaine – This is why I love blogging. People can say “great post” and “I love it” all day everyday, but when you know that someone “needed to hear” something you’ve written – well, that’s an amazing feeling. Made even better by the fact that I’ve actually spoken to you face to face.

      I was never great with crowds. Funny thing for a guy that’s played in front of a crowd of 100,000 before. People always say imagine them naked, but that never worked for me (especially since at European festivals half of them were anyway). I always looked out at the crowd right before the show started, looked at my guitar tech who said “let’s do this,” and never looked back. I had a tendency to fix my gaze right above everyone’s head. Occasionally, as the comfort level settled in during the show, I would seek out the person having the most fun and watch them enjoy the show. That for me was the best feeling in the world. The feedback is what made me love singling someone out like that. When a crowd was stiff, I had to create that excitement in my head and think back to other shows.

      When in doubt, think back to your a blog post you loved and how you felt when someone commented on it. Now write with that commenter in mind – speak to them and others will listen and hear you speaking to them.

    • Matt Stigliano

      April 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      PS Also remember that a billion people might read that post, but they’re scared to put their comments down for the same reasons – they’re as afraid of the crowd as you are. Make them comfortable along with yourself.

  4. Patrick

    April 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Always stirring stuff Matt…great post!

  5. Matt Stigliano

    April 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Patrick – Thanks. I wrote it just for you.

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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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