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The glamour of real estate – Keeping busy in a down market.



I am busy, but not quite as busy as I was three months or a year ago. I suspect I am not alone. And since I am, by all accounts, the only agent with a blogging habit who isn’t in Las Vegas today enjoying continuing education at REBlogWorld, I have to find other productive things to occupy my time.

Real estate agents know that many things come in waves: Surfers, sound, and, for us, business and pay checks. I long ago learned to not fret (too much) during the lulls, as fretting rarely pays the bills. Even when the work is on the sparser side, there is never any excuse to not put in the requisite day at the office. So, this week, I have been enjoying the relative down time by focusing on the stuff the tends to get shoved under the rug during the busier times – business systems and tools.

Oh, I know. It’s not glamorous, but to be successful in this business you need to treat it like a business, and improvement is always possible. And so many of the droll, mundane tasks which we must periodically pursue if we aspire to world domination (or even a modest, consistent living) involve measurable blocks of head-down focus. Now’s a good time.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few of the little projects which have been occupying my dance card.


OK, I finally made the bold decision to retire my crayons (Quicken) and act like a big girl — a big girl with a business to run. Granted, I am not a big-snooty Broker-Owner like Jay Thompson, but we all run a business. It’s time for me to start acting a little more like a CEO (or CFO). I could have used the free version of QuickBooks or even the moderately priced professional version, but of course I popped for the “Premier Edition,” because, in the words of Loreal, I am worth it. Even if your balance sheet is mostly or all debits, it is essential to know where the money is being spent. Not only is it an awesome accounting software, but the back end analytics are impressive, which helps in developing the…

Business Plan

Yes, we all need one of those. Sure, I have one, but it could use a turbo boost. Working backwards from what I “want” to earn is like listing a house for what I “need” to get. A thoughtful business plan requires that I am honest about where I have been, what got me there, what’s stopping me from getting beyond “there,” and fixing it. It requires that I don the Big Thinking Hat. I am wearing it right now.

Systems, systems and more systems

I have had such a full head and full plate of to-dos for so long, I have started to feel like a ship lost at sea. I am in the process of tightening the jib, of getting organized. This includes everything from rewriting my Transaction Point templates to better manage transactions to decluttering my on- and off-line files and to updating and integrating my procedures and checklists for everything.


In my ongoing battle to simplify my own life and the transactional lives of my clients, not to mention to save on costs, I have been “playing” with Docusign Professional. The bad news is that Docusign Professional runs on your hard drive. The good news is that it allows you to set up templates for all of the documents you use on a daily basis. I am in the process of setting up templates for all of our standard disclosures. With the Pro version, you can add check boxes or text boxes which can be completed by the agent before sending or by the customer upon receipt. You can also define the order in which multiple recipients will receive the documents. I am absolutely giddy about these features; No longer will I have to print out and deliver a one-pound steaming mound of disclosures for my clients to complete. They will now be able to fill out the forms on-line, at midnight and wearing their fuzzy bunny slippers if they wish.  No more will I have to scan said one-pound pile o’ paper back into the system. The completed PDF is returned directly to me. It takes me one step further toward my dream of the truly paperless transaction.

Web Site

My web site is due for some serious prettification. I am finally popping for some professional help after a couple of years of the DIY bandage approach. I am smart enough to know when it is time for an intervention. With a new template design, virtually every page (and I am running at about 90 right now not counting the hundreds of floor plans we have on-line) will need to be subsequently tweaked by me to some extent. This should keep me out of trouble until the Feds straighten out that little financial crisis I’ve been hearing about.

There is more, of course, and you might recognize that all of my projects take both time and money. But, the result will hopefully be more of these same things. I am investing in myself in my down time. Glamorous? No. But I’m worth it.
Photo credit: Thanks to

Kris Berg is Broker/Owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She is the perpetrator of the San Diego Home Blog, a locally-focused real estate blog, and in her spare time enjoys fencing, luge, and kittens.

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  1. St. George Rentals

    September 19, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Business is business and there are plenty of things to do. Continual education and improving your online presence should be at the top of the list. Networking with people on the internet and in your local community is a must. Even though building construction is down you still need to meet the contractors and speak with them so you get your name out there.

    This was an excellent post because I do feel there are a lot of people who sit around in the real estate industry.

  2. Bob

    September 19, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Kris, how do you like TransactionPoint? I know it is a Pru staple, so I guess the real question is, if you were a big-snooty broker-owner like Jay, would you still use it?

  3. sheilabragg

    September 19, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    The glamour of real estate – Keeping busy in a down market.: If you\’re not in Vegas right now, there..

  4. Mark Eibner

    September 19, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    we’re at it again The glamour of real estate – Keeping busy in a down market.: If you\’..

  5. Kris Berg

    September 19, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks, St. George.

    Bob – The answer is a resounding yes. I used Transaction Point’s agent version before going to Pru and (ironically) actually miss it as compared to their corporate version.

  6. Jay Thompson

    September 19, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    “big-snooty”? OK, I’ll have to give you big — A significant portion of my 230 pound frame is in my stomach. But snooty? 😉

    DocuSign is the greatest invention since TiVo. I’ll have to check out the pro version.

    We use QuickBooks Premier too. Our CPA loves us for it.

  7. Drew Meyers

    September 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    I think you’re smart for investing in yourself during the down time — with the economy sputtering along, you’ll probably find services can be had for cheaper as the majority of people cut back their spending and vendors are finding it difficult to find new clients. It’s smart business to utilize whatever leverage you have.

    And of course you deserve a pretty web site 🙂

  8. Steve Simon

    September 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I liked your post and actually had no disagreement with what you wrote; but I would offer an additional idea.
    I would use the down time to hone in on one or two niche real estate areas, like 1031 exchange.
    Put in six months of regular study (self study if you’re well motivated, a structured course if you’re not).
    This will yield a very favorable return in any market…
    { Not a contractor type, go through a solid Home Inspector career course}
    There are plenty of Avenues for you to take a walk on…
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  9. Kris Berg

    September 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Steve – We aren’t THAT slow! 🙂
    Jay – I can send you a disclosure to sign if you want. That way you can see how the fill-in-the-form system works. It’s fussy to set up, but a really big deal once you’ve got the template.
    Drew – Ah, shucks.

  10. Bob

    September 19, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Read #6 and couldn’t wait to see Kris’ response. LOL.

    What is the learning curve on DocuSign?

  11. Kris Berg

    September 20, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Sorry for the delayed response, Bob. My Home Inspector course ran late. 🙂

    No learning curve – It is super easy!

  12. Bob

    September 20, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Will play with today.

  13. Bob

    September 20, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Funny thing is that the online page on the Docusign site it provides for cc info to pay for service isnt secure in either FF or IE.

  14. Paula Henry

    September 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Kris – The systems take so much time! Being an anal person who HAS to do it to make sure it is done right has not worked. I have to hand some stuff off to accomplish more. I too, love Transaction Point, but only “I” can change the templates to my satisfaction.

    Where do I get a clone?

  15. Matthew Rathbun

    September 21, 2008 at 5:22 am

    Kris – again….my heroine

    I was just having this conversation with an agent who said that she was “bored” and thankful that in the down time her husband made enough to pay the bills… I could never be bored in this industry, although if I were slow enough to take a home study home inspector’s course, I would probably just go bag groceries at Wally World.

    I was happy to e-mail a link to your post to this “bored” agent. She e-mailed back that she had forgotten that she was a CEO and there were lots of back burner stuff.

    I am glad that you found time, not only to make some improvements to your business, but to share them with us, as well.

  16. Bob

    September 21, 2008 at 11:36 am

    The only way to be bored in this industry is to not be engaged.

    Boredom is not her issue.

  17. Bill Lublin

    September 21, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Terrific post – sometimes people forget that part of our job working on our business as well as working in it.
    Big fan of QuickBooks – we use it everywhere. I think you’re going to make me a big fan of docusign – it sounds great!

  18. Kay Baker Wilmington NC Real Estate

    September 22, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, you are exactly right. Now, while the market is a little slow, we need to be implementing systems. I have used quickbooks for almost 10 years for my real estate business and absolutely love it. I even have my husband set up on it for our rentals.

  19. Mike Wagner

    September 25, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Glad you find DocuSign beneficial.

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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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