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Tips for Survival – New Media Worries



The Long Cold Winter

I’m reading around the media sphere and it seems that the economy is not just affecting real estate, but also the social streams. As more and more online companies compete in the social space for advertising revenue, the less some will make overall. Belts will tighten and some will surely dry up and fade away- much like real estate techs and pros.

Denial Will be Your Death

The reality is that there are, in fact, less buyers. Looking inward and trimming the time you invest on marketing problems and solutions is probably the first whack you take at survival, but is that really a good idea?

Prepare for The Best of Times not the Worst

The fact is, many can panic now over the slow market, and as we all do, we begin to assess whether maybe we are wasting our time on some things, and maybe we need less of the things that cost money- okay, that’s just good business. Or is it?

Invest in the Top

One strategy which I absolutely practice is “going all in.” My strategy is “investing in the top.” This means investing in me and things that will further my goals in order that I absolutely dominate in the good times. Think about it. Looking for faster conversion, many professionals will abandon and leave stagnant their online efforts, therefore, we are tripling ours. Our goal is to become mainstays where we’re choosing to dominate, and yes, I said choose… stabbing in the dark was your first mistake, right? You’re a member of every possible social network, right? Wrong strategy. Think about it, are you in every neighborhood?

What We’re Looking at

  • SEO Clean up
  • Site enhancements as well as farm sites
  • Retooling and refocusing social structure, and consolidating
  • Creating more strategic relationships with our national partners
  • Technological investments that help us serve our national niche

It’s really easy when things are booming to let the files go, the systems sort of get thrown to the wayside, and you just try to take on more than you alone can propbably handle, but in the downtime, preparing for the great times that are brewing is probably the best strategy.

So when you’re not with a client, organize and prepare, rethink old strategies, implement new ones, and go all in- leave your competition wondering what in the hell you know that they don’t.

Tips and Suggestions

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large to Extra Large dry erase board
  • Outline your social communities with you in the center
  • Determine if you are overloaded and overwhelmed
  • Looking at the big picture, which neighborhoods seem more worthwhile?
  • Trim the fat (I know, it hurts)
  • Design your strategy and build it now

Things to think about:

  • How much time and energy will I invest in this neighborhood?
  • How am I going to bring my offline neighborhood into this online neighborhood?
  • Once they are there, how and what will I feed them?

You’re an Entrepreneur

“There is no answer in a box.” No one is going to hand you the answers on a silver platter. If by what I’ve designed here, your juices aren’t flowing and you haven’t completely taken over in your own mind, then something may be wrong.

The alternative to going all in is to wait 2-5 years for when everyone else already dominates these online markets and think to yourself “oh, I wish I had done something back then.”

Go all in.

This image illustrates a mini-map we’ve outlined in how we’re organizing our sphere. Yours may look and act much differently.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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  1. Paula Henry

    June 17, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Okay, Benn – you must have been reading my mind!

    I was just talking to a team member about scaling down my areas, while going all out in specific areas. I don’t have it completely drawn out yet – but in my mind – It is coming together and I have taken action on some items already. I had a better year last year when I focused on particular, smaller areas. This year my focus has been too wide. Or is that a lack of focus……

    Can I just fly out to Austin and watch you in action – I mean, I see you everywhere I am online in social networks and think, man, something has to give for me, personally. How do you keep up with it all? It’s a matter of choosing what is most beneficial, trimming the mass and concentrating on the important.

    On second thought, just give me the silver platter:)

  2. Vicki Moore

    June 17, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    It’s really interesting that you’ve written this post at this particular time. This is where my focus has been for the last couple of weeks – asking myself these very questions. One thing I fully committed to at the beginning of the year was to network full steam with one group (offline). I’m also combining my efforts with a strategic partner – spending time brainstorming and fully reviewing where I’m going to spend money and time beforehand. I’ve also started recruiting other businesses to promote me – maybe I should post about that. It’s created results I wasn’t expecting.

    Thanks for the reflective and informative post.

  3. Benn Rosales

    June 18, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Paula, I am really very targeted, and spend little time wasting time. I’d love to say I am perfect, but far from it. I am very lucky in that I have great folks to help me, especially Lani and together we handle most things.

    The key thing you mentioned here is limiting social spheres, and honestly, I do. I spend the time needed in them and move on. I spend really no time chatting or throwing sheep, but 99.9% of time talking to people who buy and sell real estate, and I generally use my phone to make those connections.

    Another thing I do is get the hell off line as fast as i can into more personal relationships rather than keeping it online. This reduces my need to constantly be online to connect, and direct messages do the trick when the phone is out of the question.

    Just in case you and Vicki need a boost of energy, I closed an online contact this past Friday, and will be listing & selling another online contact this week.

    @Vicki that is awesome, and you’re welcome for the post. I can’t wait to hear those results!

  4. Eric Blackwell

    June 18, 2008 at 7:04 am

    I agree with your post wholeheartedly…funny thing is:

    I don’t think you won’t be waiting 2-5 years to see those online markets get dominated. In many cases they already are. Time will only entrench them deeper.


  5. Benn Rosales

    June 18, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Eric, I may not have been absolutely clear in that though, and I apologize. When I say that, I mean micro brand and niche, not so much the forums themselves- am I reading you right here?

  6. Sue

    June 18, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Another great post Benn. I definitely need to define micro niches for myself, my area is a little tricky. Getting off line is a key one…I seem to get caught there and time flies, but I’m here alot, so learning! Thanks.

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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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