Connect with us

How to

Think of Your Business Generation Like a 401k – Writer Debut



Please welcome Jonathan Benya to the Agent Genius family! Jonathan has been licensed for three years but has skyrocketed his career from newbie to holding at least 25 listings at any given time, using blogging and social networking to bolster his hold in Southern Maryland. Jonathan works alongside his family at their brokerage and stands out in his market for his honest blogging and his keen analysis. Please welcome him in the comments!

3491395689_fe1d2050fbHow do you plan your business goals?  Do you invest all of your marketing time and money into short term goals, hoping the market continues to flow in your favor?  Or do you try to balance yourself more, investing into long term plans as well, preparing yourself for the next shift in this volatile real estate market?  It’s a task of constant self examination, necessary for the development of a strong Reator.

I consider my lead generation methods to be more than just an attempt to gain immediate business.  I build my business towards the clients I want three years from now as well as the clients I want three weeks from now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating ditching the 401k or blowing the nest egg, but consider this: your business plans should be more than just a way to make money.  They need to be a preparation for where you want to be in the future!

Planning For Your Goals

Just like your 401k requires different planning for different goals, your business should be run much the same way.  When I got my license, one of my long term goals was to find an opportunity to exclusively represent a home builder.  Chances like that don’t come every day, so as I built my short term business, I kept my long term goals in mind, waiting for the right time.  I built a strong stable of listings (both residential resale and land), familiarized myself with the process of how construction loans worked (and drove the lender for my buyers crazy, God bless her patience!), made myself a fixture at county development and planning meetings (Speaking up in support of development projects certainly didn’t hurt), studied other agents methods of selling new homes (and thought about how to do it better), and spent many a late night in my office making sure I was doing as much as possible for my clientele.

Short Term Returns

Being able to list homes and gain business immediately was simple.  I started back in early 2007, before the bottom fell out of the market, so I started by calling FSBO’s, contacting expired listings, and of course, blogging.  While that worked out well for the short term, it was very time and labor intensive, and as the market shifted, more and more of those potential clients were underwater, unable to move, and falling into foreclosure.  Market forces were making my lead generation less profitable.  Just like you would a 401k, I had to shift my marketing time and money to other potential client pools (such as short sales and foreclosures) in order to keep business going.

Long Term Returns

All the while, I was continuing to build towards developing a reputation as an agent that could handle representing a builder.  Those best laid plans paid off when a builder who knew of me from people I had met at planning and development meetings called me.  Within 48 hours I set up a meeting to see if I could earn the business.  I got the business, my listing portfolio doubled, and my buyer volume increased substantially thanks to the additional exposure.

The key ingredient to it all was the time I spent over a period of two years positioning myself to be able to handle that sort of client.  The challenge to it all was making sure that I didn’t solicit another agent’s client (a MAJOR breach of the NAR Code of Ethics!).  Local builders grew to know me, and when one decided he was unhappy with his agent, he was the one to pick up the phone and call me, not the other way around.  It took me two years to create the relationship, but it was well worth it to be able to double my listing volume as well!

Your Business Needs to Be Your Retirement as Well!

The typical Realtor doesn’t enjoy the benefits of, well, benefits.  Being self employed, we’re on our own when it comes to planning our financial future.  Our current business plans need to not only support us today, but our tomorrows as well.  If you’re working with foreclosures as your primary business, that’s great!  What are you going to do when the well runs dry?  How valuable is that CDPE designation going to be in five years?  Are you going to be ready for the next big change?  We’ve seen massive market shifts in the last few years; the key to success is preparing for when the next shift comes!

I'm a Realtor in Southern Maryland. I grew up surrounded by the RE business, spent time as an actor, worked as a theatrical designer and technician, and took the road less traveled before settling down in real estate. I run my own local market website at and when I'm not at the office or meeting clients, I can usually be found doing volunteer work, playing with my 3 rescued shelter dogs (Help your local Humane Society!), or in the garage restoring antique cars.

Continue Reading


  1. MIssy Caulk

    January 22, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Welcome to AgentGenius Jonathan.

  2. Kathy Jerzak

    January 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Great first article.

  3. Kathy Jerzak

    January 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Great first article – look forward to more.

  4. Ken Brand

    January 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Cheers Jonathan, looking forward to more gems.

  5. Jonathan Benya

    January 22, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Thanks so much for reading! I’ve been a long time reader here, and I’m thrilled with the chance to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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!

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!