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Study reveals apologizing isn’t always the right thing to do



A recent study published in the Scientific American reveals that “I’m sorry” just isn’t good enough. Subjects were tested by being shorted money and those who imagined getting an apology were happier than those who were apologized to.

Additionally, those who only envisioned apologies proved to have higher trust levels of trust in subsequent testing, revealing that people who soothed themselves were happier and had higher trust levels than those relying on others to soothe them.

“The expectations for an apology to make us feel better and even forget about the bad things that have happened are overestimated,” says study co-author David De Cremer of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. “In light of fraud cases, the financial crisis, the moral escalation that people seem to witness in contemporary society, there is a cry for apologies, such that we seem to live in an apology culture.”

The study did find a benefit to apologies, however- restoring social order (think Bill Clinton’s apology).

Apologies are a part of the fabric of call centers, political speeches, gas station attendants, and part of the script of business and often unnecessary (“I’m sorry you were put on hold”).

How to use this study to your advantage:

The bottom line is that when a client calls you or your assistant, you may feel good about yourself because you sucked up your pride and said, “okay, sorry,” but if there is no sincerity or empathy behind it, your client will most certainly lack happiness and trust, according to this study.

I learned from Benn years ago the mantra, “tell me what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do,” and it comes to mind today- next time you’re tasked with apologizing, you should not only mean it, but tell your client/caller/whatever what you CAN do, not just a scripted or insincere apology.

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    January 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    this is true for dating too!

    • Lani Rosales

      January 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

      You think so? I don’t know about that!!

  2. Mariana

    January 27, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    “I’m sorry” becomes meaningless so quickly. I rarely apologize. Mostly because I rarely do something worth apologizing for. I’m more likely to say, “wow, that sucks.” I teach my kids that, unless you will never ever do it again, do NOT apologize. So, they rarely apologize either.

    • Lani Rosales

      January 28, 2011 at 12:40 am

      I think it’s kind of like confession- if you don’t mean it and you plan on or think you might do it again, you aren’t truly absolved even if the priest says you are (he can’t possibly know what’s going on inside your head). Not that religion and business is the same, but communications are communications. Good call on not saying empty apologies!

  3. Agent for Movoto

    January 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    @Mariana – that’s a very good parenting technique, i think (i don’t have kids, sooo…..). I remember coming to that conclusion on my own as a child – “i’m probably going to do it again and it’s not that big a deal if/when i do” – and totally failing to understand why my parents insisted on apologies. they just wouldn’t see reason!

    I think more often than not the apology vindicates the sinner MUCH more than it consoles the sinned-against. But . . . . . what’s the alternative?

    • Lani Rosales

      January 28, 2011 at 12:41 am

      From a business standpoint, the alternative is to solve a problem whether you’re sorry or not! Right? 🙂

  4. Sheila Bell

    January 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I don’t know how you do it, but you always seem to hit on a topic of importance to me. I couldn’t agree more with the notion of using “I’m sorry” as a substitute for thinking in advance. Apparently this study gives some empirical evidence that people aren’t necessarily swayed by the words. My feeling is saying that you’re sorry is simply a statement that reinforces the idea that one should have considered behavior more closely before acting!
    Thanks, Lani, for another good article.

    • Lani Rosales

      January 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      Oh that’s such a huge compliment, thanks Sheila!! 🙂 Your thoughts about a scripted apology are right on- don’t do things that require an apology in the first place!

  5. Liz Benitez

    January 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Surprisingly this post comes on a day that I screw up and need to apologies to a client. We have a courtesy moving truck. I thought I had them scheduled to pick up today but really they were scheduled for tomorrow, so when they showed up this morning it was still out. Lucky the agent in the office was able to get a hold of the current truck user and get him to bring it back a few hours early. Not before my clients sat around waiting for a hour :-/ Hate little screw ups like that.

    • Lani Rosales

      January 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Liz, I believe that because you made it right, you took more steps than the average professionals and you will make the clients trust you and be happy because it clearly bothered you which leads to empathy and sincerity, so kudos!

  6. BawldGuy

    January 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Since I’ve never learned how to walk on water, when I do something I think merits an apology, I do so. I don’t hand them out like cookies from Girl Scouts. When I’m told an apology isn’t enough, that for some reason I don’t seem contrite enough, I offer them a way to explore themselves. On the flip side, when folks apologize to me, I accept it as graciously as possible, assuming their intent is real. Since I can’t know their minds/hearts, I assume the best, knowing they’re as imperfect as I.

    Those who insist on some sort of sad face, overt emotions, or similar such theatrics, are nothing more nor less than cheap manipulators searching for power — petty emotional terrorists if you will. My apology has always carried with it the assumption I’ve wronged someone. I apologize to them, but am forgiven by a higher power.

    I never expect, nor do I ever demand apologies from anyone. I always expect myself to apologize ASAP when I’ve judged myself to have been in the wrong. I’m not anyone’s judge, and they’re certainly not mine.

    Make sense?

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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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