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Stigliano Jones and The Template Of Doom

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Photo credit – jasohill


Temple, Template

I’m sure you’ve all seen them. I’m sure most of you have them. I’m sure when you look at one you feel just like Indiana Jones as he dropped into the Well Of Souls only to be surrounded by snakes.

Seeing as how we’re all looking to further ourselves and our careers through the use of technology, I thought I’d discuss my website and where I’m going with it. For right now, let’s all take a look at my temple (I mean, template).

www.mattstigliano.com

Ok, first off, you’re probably wondering why the name and not all the “rockstar” business I told you about last week. Well, Dr. Jones, we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s concentrate on the site first. Landing page – B to the ORING. Any other page? Exactly like every other agent in our three offices – in other words, nothing to sing the Indiana Jones theme music about.

(Note: Mariana Wagner wrote a great AG article about how to make a template site better, so if you’re still inclined to keep yours, read it now.)

So where do we go from here?

As Harrison Ford once said, “We walk from here.” I want my site to grow and evolve in time and with the knowledge we all gain from comments and our discourse, I think I will build a site to be reckoned with. So I may take some baby steps and crawl along, but this is why we’re here.

First step is to get a domain name. My old template was at www.exitnsa.com/mattstigliano. Try giving that to your clients or printing it on your business cards. Now that we’ve started to build the rockstar identity, I thought it was appropriate to buy www.RErockstar.com and find a host (as our IT company doesn’t offer any sort of hosting and in fact once asked me “What’s WordPress?”). I was tempted to ask everyone for ideas on that, but to be honest, I’m pretty good with this end of things. Like Indy with a leather whip, I’ve tackled many hosting companies in my experiences with the band and laid most of them to rest. I went with Dreamhost, as I’ve used them for many years without a single hiccup. Cheap, reliable, great features, a hilarious monthly newsletter, and to top it all off – they’re carbon neutral. I may not be the biggest tree hugger on earth, but I do what I can.

After purchasing the hosting, I installed WordPress as it was what I knew most about and Dreamhost has a “one click install” of it. Since they support it, it makes my life easier. Now, the new site is at www.RErockstar.com, but its barely started.

The first couple of days of having it was when the whole “rockstar” revolution began to take shape, so the first few entries are rather dry and will not be on the eventual site (or in some new form). It was all about the test and getting used to it.

The adventure begins…

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will begin to build the site. Yes, I said we. With your comments, ideas, suggestions; the site will take shape. As things get done, I will report back within the comments (until its time to write a new post that spins off one of those topics).

First off, a theme. Although I’m a decent coder, I’ve never coded with WordPress, so we’re going to have to get our hands dirty. I have installed a theme that looks ok, but the fact is, it shows no “rockstar” personality. Truth is, if we’re going to go with an identity, we might as well go whole hog as they say.

So who wants be the first brave soul to raise their hand and kick start this adventure? What would you do if you could start all over?

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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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Bill Lublin

    October 2, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Dude; Not sure I can help you build the web site. I am available for barn raising if there are hot Amish women making high carb meals though 😉

    On second thought if you has cheesesteaks maybe I can help.

  2. Jason Sandquist

    October 2, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Well, you’re using the same theme as me. I am no coder, has kinda been learn as you go. Definitely off on the right foot. Yes, my next step is a righteous header and it is in process.

  3. Vicki Moore

    October 2, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Just to add my 2 cents to the domain thing. Start with the right name. Don’t advertise anything with “wordpress” or “typepad” in it. I promise you’ll change services or want to and it’ll be nothing but frustration – you won’t be able to take those with you. Also buy your name – unless it’s Stigliano it’s going to get sold. My name was available at one time and I thought “Oh, no, that’s silly. I don’t need my name.” Well now it’s not available and I WANT IT. It’s cheap. Buy it.

    If I could start over would take too long to list. But that’s one super important one.

  4. Ben Goheen

    October 2, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Hey Matt,
    It’s a start, and definitely better then the template site. I’ve tried many different WordPress themes over the last couple years, but I recently stumbled across the Options theme and can’t stop raving about it. It’s so easy to customize and the support forum is one of the best out there.

    I personally use Media Layer for hosting. It does cost slightly more then the cheapo hosts out there, but after several months I’m convinced that you really do get what you pay for. If Dreamhost ever ticks you off it’s a great option to consider.

  5. Mark Eckenrode

    October 2, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    hey matt, off to a good start with a domain that supports your identity. as far as wordpress themes and coding goes… i recommend you go with a paid theme for a few reasons:

    1) paid themes have a community of users that range from the new to the highly skilled coder. you’ll be able to get all the help and input you need to spruce up your exact theme.

    2) since it’s paid it’s not seen as often as many of the free ones… it matters

    3) most of the creators have a business model so they’ll work to support the theme through wordpress upgrades and feature additions

    the Thesis – https://www.diythemes.com – community is awesome and it’s by far the best paid theme i’ve come across for ease of use and customization, or try Revolution at https://www.revolutiontheme.com. fyou can check out HomeStomper.com to see how I’ve modded my Thesis theme.

  6. Heather Rankin

    October 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I am pretty new to all of it – real estate and blogging. I started out with http://www.heatherrankin.net with wordpress adclerum template. After a few weeks figured that, while I could make the domain name work, it was not what i wanted. I keep that for my email and at some point I’ll clean it up.

    I bought Lakepowellrealty.net (most everything else was gone) (i’m late to the game) moved everything over there, kept the same wordpress theme. It’s not finished, and some things I still don’t like, but am tweaking.

    ERA provides a landing page “super profile” for each agent, as well as one from our local brokerage. It is not dynamic, but useful as a landing page. I have everything linked back to my lakepowellrealty site.

    For now, i just sort of stumble through things. Have figured out how to get a few plugin’s installed, and, yes, working! I’ve added some widgets, then removed them and looked at others. I am learning that it will never be “done” as I try and keep it fluid.

  7. AustinAaron

    October 2, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Dude, you’ve got about a billion fans that would kill to pimp YOUR theme. Pull that card, homie. Hold a contest for designers to set you up with a rockstar template. The winner gets a spotlight on your site, some autographs, etc… Another affordable alternative is to hit up your local university. A plethora of affordable, qualified talent. Hell, you can even post on craigslist specifically asking for a high school student that knows WP. Their services are about as affordable as it comes. $50 goes a long way for a 16 yo, and they get to add your design to their portfolio. A lot of times, students have class projects. Parlay that need for a project into dollars saved on your end.

    Use the resources around you so that you can spend your time increasing your business. Not learning code.

  8. Paula Henry

    October 2, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Matt – I like the colors and love the Revolution themes – I would almost trade in my Tomato Blog for Revolution. Since I am not a coder, I let the Tomato team build my blog. Still, almost everyday, I would like to change something.

    One idea I am working on is having a static front page which links to interior pages by category for ease and simplicity to the end user – my potential client. When I check site meter for phrases/keywords/search terms which lead the public to my site, I find they may not be landing on the page or category they were searching for, instead they land on the front page.

    Just my latest thoughts……….can’t wait to see your finished product. then again, it’s never really finished.

  9. The Harriman Team

    October 2, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Well, I certainly am no expert where blog sites are concerned (just look at our blog if you want to feel superior!), so all I can say is it looks good, nice and clean and uncluttered. I’ve heard good things about the Revolution theme, but have been toying with moving our blog to WP using the Thesis theme, as Jay Thompson does, and which looks great, BTW. But now, Ben comes along with the Options theme, which also looks pretty good, so now I’m back to square one. My gut tells me to go with Thesis, so that’s what I would recommend to you as well. I think whichever one you choose will definitely function better than the template. If you’re going for the rock star image, you should use rock star apps and services, too. I just wish I could get the cajones to take the plunge and move to WP from Blogger, but the more I read about the flaws in the newer updates, the more hesitant I become, and we all know he who hesitates is lost. Also, much thanks to you,and Ben, for touting the services of Dreamhost and Media Layer as hosting services. I see this rookie still have much research to do. Best of luck building your new site, I’m planning on visiting often to see how it comes out.

  10. Sherry Baker

    October 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Matt, what a difference a little effort makes. I’d better watch out or you’ll inspire me. Been thinking about doing some of the same, and purchased a customizable and flexible WP theme, Thesis: https://diythemes.com/thesis/demo/ tho I haven’t installed it yet. Little nervous. So inspire me, Matt! Inspire me! Great start!

  11. Jay Thompson

    October 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Obviously I’m a Thesis fan. Having used and abused several themes, I think I’ve finally found a home there. As Eckenrode said, the user support is outrageous.

    I’m with AustinAaron though – parlay that fan base. You’re not taking advantage of them, trust me, they’ll love it and be honored.

    But if you like to tinker under the hood yourself, Thesis is a good option. It’s well structured, and the code makes sense.

    @Sherry – just do it!

    @Paula – you’re right. It’s never finished.

  12. monika

    October 3, 2008 at 6:01 am

    We’re using the same theme on a site my husband is building and I hope to convert my blog to a new theme soon. Although it is so big that I’m not sure how easy it will be to convert over.

  13. John Kalinowski

    October 3, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Matt, This is great! I appreciate you putting this together, as I’ve been procrastinating for months over tackling my own WordPress site. I’ll eagerly follow every detail!

  14. Missy Caulk

    October 3, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    matt, I like the idea of a contest. I know my daughter would love to try, she is a great designer, only 18 and has done some awesome work. She would probably do it on the MAC and let you install it.

  15. Sam Basel

    October 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Matt, As a fellow “rookie blogger” I am looking forward to following along with your train of thought and the comments get along the way. Valuable information and Huge Timesavers already. Thanks!

  16. Brad Nix

    October 4, 2008 at 5:35 am

    I’m a Revolution fan myself and have completely customized the Rev 2.0 theme to create https://maxsell.net Plus, Brian Gardner is planning to take Revolution open source soon!

  17. Matt Stigliano

    October 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Sorry I haven’t replied up until now, but I’ve been keeping busy this week trying to decide what to do, how to do it, and all that good stuff.

    I’ve heard a lot of different opinions and thoughts, but haven’t quite nailed down where I want to take this blog (in terms of theme). Its actually proving to be much tougher than I thought it would be to find/create exactly what I think will make my site stand out, before I even add content.

    The idea here was to take this theme (or perhaps even another) and then begin to customize it to make it even better, as I don’t want a cookie-cutter style site, that has never been my thing. Especially since what I’m attempting here is to take a specific persona (rockstar) and create a real estate persona with that in mind…so cookie-cutter would be completely against the idea.

    I’m going to give some ideas some more thought and then I’ll be back here to post again. See you very soon.

  18. Bob

    October 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Matt, have you taken a look at WP Remix? It is highly customizable to the point it wouldn’t look like anything else (you don’t even want to know how many downloads of Thesis there were just last month) and the code is cleaner than Revolution.

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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

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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Coaching

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

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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