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Top 10 ways to service a high volume of listings – tips from an active broker

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A major undertaking

I am the Queen of Listings. That’s not bragging. I personally am carrying 52 listings, including 3 developments where I represent the developer. How do I handle so many sellers, and keep them happy? It’s not easy, and sometimes I do screw up and lose one because they don’t like this or that. I have a 100% happiness guarantee. If a seller at any time doesn’t feel I am servicing the listing the way he/she wants, I will cancel the listing contract. Period.

My Top 10 tips for servicing lots of listings:

1. Ask the seller how they prefer to be contacted. I have a checklist I provide at the time we sign the contract asking for home phone, cells, emails, faxes, etc. Then I circle which methods they prefer. Some love texting. Others want emails mostly. And I just had a guy tell me he hates the phone and he’ll stop in the office to speak to me personally rather than discuss things on the phone.

2. Set up a regular communcation schedule. “Joe, feel free to call or email me any time you have a question. I will reply as soon as I can. Sometimes I’m with a client and just cannot pick up, so know if you leave a message, as soon as I am free I will call back. Also, every Monday I set aside extended hours just to speak to all my sellers. I’ll call to check in with you and see how we’re doing, and I’ll update you on what’s going on with the marketing. Do you prefer I call you in the morning or afternoon?” Key concept: if you say this, make sure you DO IT.

3. Use your assistants/office secretary to help you. Ask for help. If you have an assistant make good use of him/her. If you are allowed to use an office secretary to make calls, do it. If something happens on Monday and you CANNOT make that promised call, have someone–anyone–do it for you. Don’t miss the call or they’ll expect it and be disappointed. “Joe, Mary is out of town today and she asked me to call you to check in. Last week we had 3 showings and here is the feedback….. Mary is wondering if it’s okay if we run an open house this weekend?” Don’t do this every week. But if you are tied up and need to contact the seller it’s okay to ask your assistant to cover it. I usually do this, then send a personal email later.

4. Switch it up. Besides the weekly or bi-weekly phone calls, send an email or two in between. “Just a note to say ….” If you mainly communicate with one seller by email, then pick up the phone. Don’t rely on just one method of communication. Drop them a note in the mail (snail mail!), personally written.

5. Send copies of ads/marketing. This is time consuming but worth it! Scan newspaper ads and email, or clip and mail. Send ad proofs that ran to them. Send anything you’re doing, to keep them in the loop. Send them the full MLS sheets to they can critique them/make changes. Be open to those changes and don’t get offended. Some sellers will glance at them and file. Others will indeed suggest wording changes. One this week asked me to remove a photo and add others that they had taken. Do it!

6. Make them a part of the process. If a seller wants to send you photos to use in MLS / marketing, welcome that. Don’t take it as a criticism. If they suggest headline changes or features to emphasize in a flyer, go with it. The more involved they feel with you, the closer the bond, the more you’ll succeed. You are a team, not agent versus seller. Work together.

7. Send auto emails. You know how we send buyer prospects auto emails on new listings/price changes? Set your sellers up too! I send sellers New Listings (competitors), price reductions, and SOLDS. Usually after they get an email like this (that they think I’m sending by hand, not on auto send) I get an email back. This creates a dialog. Use it! You may open the discussion to why their house has not sold but the neighbors did. If they see a price reduction maybe you’ll be able to get them to reduce their price too. It works.

8. Don’t disappear. No matter what, don’t just put a sign on the lawn and disappear. I believe 75% of the agents in my area do this. It’s the number 1 complaint when I get an expired or old listing. I know, it’s easy to NOT call when there are no showings and no calls. I am guilty too. But if you do step #7 at the very least, they can NEVER say you don’t contact them. And it’s the easiest step to enact (unless seller has no email). Even if it’s a phone call or note saying we have NO ACTIVITY, SORRY, but here’s what I did this week to try to sell your house, it’s better than nothing.

9. Apologize. Even when it’s NOT your fault. Buyer’s agent left back door open? Apologize for her lack of attention. Tell them you’ll call her to complain. They’ll say “It’s not your fault” and move on. THey got it off their chests and you acknowledged their complaint. My script is this: “I am sorry that happened. I apologize for that agent’s lack of care. Let me call her now and let her know it upset you.” This week I apologized for a home inspector who walked into an occupied house unannounced, and caught a woman coming out of her bathroom in her robe. I apologized for another agent who insisted on doing a last minute showing, then was a no-show, and didn’t even call to cancel. Whatver you do, don’t say It’s not my fault. No it’s not, but they need to hear the apology.

10. Let them go if they are unhappy. Never keep an unhappy client. Have you ever had a listing where you and the seller just did not hit it off? You felt it at the listing presentation but plowed on anyway, and took the listing. When you left, you knew it. But you did your job, and now they’re not happy with you. They don’t like the photos on the net, they think you should be marketing it this way or that, and they call you constantly to complain. Or they tell other agents they’re unhappy with you. LET THEM GO. Get your broker’s permission to end the listing, or better yet… suggest another agent they might like better. I had a difficult seller once and it just was like butting heads every time he called. Finally I told him there was another agent in the office I thought he’d work well with–and I paired them up. He loved this agent! She sold the house and gave me a referral fee. It all worked out. But if it’s really bad, just cut the ties and wish him best of luck, with a smile on your face. You’ll probably feel a big relief when you do.

Good luck!

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Ben Goheen

    November 17, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Simple steps that every real estate agent should do, but don't. Thanks for sharing this Erica.

  2. Richard Gaasenbeek

    November 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Thanks Erica for this article. Setting up a regular communication and sending auto emails are especially important and there are great systems out there that allow you to easily do these things!

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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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Coaching

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

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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