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Top 10 things not to do at a first meeting with a client

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How dating disasters relate to real estate

I came across an article recently about 10 dating disasters and immediately thought of what so many Realtors do incorrectly (or “do wrong” if you’re here in the South).

I thought I would modify the typical dating lists to read “What Not To Do Before or On The First Meeting With a Client” or in short “How Not To Screw Up…”

1. Do not have someone Photoshop your picture to smooth your skin, remove your double chin or give you hair. When your client meets you, they will be very uncomfortable because their insides will shake with laughter. If you’re ugly, so what? It’s a misconception that people hire Realtors based on their most recent mission to Plasticsurgeryville.

2. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt on a first meeting, no matter how Rico Suave you are. Remember, Hawaiian shirt wearing is for the exclusive few that are (a) Hawaiian, (b) on vacation, (c) are fat and middle aged, or (d) my father.

3. When a local broadcaster or someone of local fame calls you, don’t rent an ultra-luxurious car and claim yours is in the shop! If you’re sportin’ an Escort, just give it a bath and let your client know you intend to roll the Escort until the wheels fall off (oh and make sure it smells nice, no one likes day old leftover catfish smell).

4. Don’t let your cell phone get in the way of your Realtor mojo. If you can’t have a first meeting without gabbing on your phone (and everyone is SO guilty of this), turn the dang thing to silent. Have a general VM that says “I am currently meeting with a valued client, but I have a great habit of checking my voicemail the moment I get into my car, so don’t worry- you’ll hear from me soon!” If you appear to love your Star Trek bluetooth more than the precious time with your client, you may never hear from them again.

5. Don’t be late. Period. You are not the only one who values time and if you are late to a first meeting (or well, to any) it is a great sign of disrespect. Plan on being 15 minutes early, finish phone calls in the car and approach the door of your meeting destination right on time. When you are late, you explicitly tell your client that you are the center of the universe, they should bow because you have entered a room, and you believe that their time and business is of no consequence to you (unless that’s how you see it).

6. Don’t over promise. This is the cardinal sin in Real Estate, especially during listing presentations. If you don’t have a guarantee (see Russell Shaw’s website), don’t promise a home will sell in 6.34 days. Don’t promise to be “available at all times” when you know you don’t answer the phone when it’s dark, the game is on, you’re napping or you’re at your “day job” (which should be #7, but I’ll be nice).

7. You are not Oprah. Keep your bragging to a minimum. Bragging and presenting yourself in a factual manner are different matters. For example, “I’m Austin’s best Realtor” is lame, try “In this subdivision, I sold one out of every two listings last year.” At a first meeting, you are likely applying for a job with that client, so don’t bog down the “interview” with inflating or stroking your own ego. Don’t be bragadocious.

8. Don’t badmouth the competition. Dogging on other Realtors (typically local competitors) online can get you in deep dookie here in Texas, but doing it in person is just low. When someone talks about their past Realtor (operative word being “past” aka non-threatening, so shut up), refocus the conversation casually to you or their current home situation rather than noting “yeah, he’s an a-hole, he spilled a drink on me at this massive party just after admitting that he doesn’t work weekends and he dresses in drag when he’s alone.” Muy mal.

9. Don’t be inappropriate. This includes the joke about the dumb Aggie (they probably went to A&M, poor guy), the racist joke (their absent spouse is likely of that race), the Pope joke (I’m probably Catholic), or the handicap joke (their mom is probably paralyzed). It’s not the time or place. Making dirty jokes, using crude language, any physically inappropriate gestures or otherwise can actually put your career at risk and there’s nothing funny I can say about that. Don’t be an idiot- you’re probably not as funny as you think anyhow.

10. My favorite- don’t be cute. This applies mostly to you guys out there aged 40-55 who are clinging to that last hope that you are as cute as you were when you were president of your frat way back when. If your kids are in their 20s, I’m begging you- don’t flirt with your 25 year old female client- she’s not interested. Trying to bring sexy back during a first meeting can ultimately screw things up.

Now it’s your turn- start adding to the list beginning with #11…

This article was originally published in July of 2007 on a now defunct blog. It came up in conversation recently, and a reader requested that I republish for all of you to see in all of its glory. For those of you who have been around for years and know the depth of “re.net” politics, check out the comments on the original post, you’ll be tickled.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Andrew McKay

    June 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Damn I was doing ok till number 10.

  2. Joe

    June 24, 2010 at 8:31 am

    “Do not have someone Photoshop your picture to smooth your skin, remove your double chin or give you hair.”

    This is huge. The ugly person who shows up seems even uglier when their avatar or professional picture was doctored.

  3. Middleton WI homes

    June 24, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Do not overdo the use of cologne or perfume! Not only is it a distraction, but some people are actually allergic.

  4. BawldGuy

    June 24, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Why would anyone wanna add hair?

    • Shaz

      August 8, 2011 at 12:13 am

      Totally Agree …… the bald thing is always very cool… and sure beats the pretend i have hair look comb over by a monty mile.. hahaha

  5. Jason Improta - Calabasas Homes for Sale

    June 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I like the Hawaiian shirt one. Seriously. And I really agree with the ontime one. It isn’t that hard to be puctual. Wish more people were!

  6. Stephanie Crawford

    June 25, 2010 at 3:11 am

    #3 – LOL. When I was new to the biz I rocked a 12 year old Acura Legend. I was totally embarrassed about it. Looking back, it was a pretty decent ride. Now I’m an Acura believer.

  7. Matt Thomson

    June 27, 2010 at 1:56 am

    #11 Don’t try to make connections on every single comment they make. “Oh, you’re from Utah? I went to Utah once. You played softball? No way! I’m on a beer league team that took 4th last year in a tournament.”
    Some connections are fine (even necessary), but tone it down.

  8. Ken Montville

    June 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Forget Photoshop. Just use a photo that is more recent that your High School prom. Or none at all. If they don’t like the way you look, you won’t see them again after the first meeting. If they see an online or print photo of you from 15 years ago, they’ll know you’re either lazy ro dishonest or both.

  9. Charlie Pitkin

    July 6, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Maybe…don’t park in their driveway? If someone in the house needs to leave in the middle of your appointment, that’s an unnecessary interruption and potentially frustrating if they’re in a hurry.

  10. Chem-Dry Carpet Tech

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Hhaha, not only is this extremely true, but its really funny.  You would think that this information would be a given in the industry, but unfortunately a lot of people are only out looking for number 1.

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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

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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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: 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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