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Outlook Letters



From time to time I think that we forget, in, that there are some old ideas that may help some of the newer readers.

Do it Yourself E-mail Campaigns

I am forever trying to find low cost ways to help agents get the job done. Lots of folks spend countless dollars on e-mail newsletters and automated e-mail systems. First, let me invoke opinion here – no one wants to be on your e-mail campaign list. They want information and yes, you need to remain relevant and in touch. So, don’t wast your money on canned e-mail letter campaigns.

Find a pace and pattern that fits you. Yes, you’ll find yourself sending the same e-mails over and over again, and here is a way to save some time and effort.

E-mail Signature’s to the Rescue

I am basing this on Outlook, but the pattern is similar for Mozilla’s Thunderbird. If you don’t have Outlook, you can get Thunderbird for free.

This is going to be a quick tutorial on using e-mail signatures as routine responses to your clients and customers.

First open up Microsoft Outlook, and go to “Tools” and then “Options”:


Once you’re opened up “Options”, click the “Mail Format” tab and “Signatures” down toward the bottom of the window.


Once the window is open, you can see a list of your current saved signatures. Most people only have their master signature. You can see that I have several, including one titled “Affordable Weblead Response.” (This was back when I referred to potential clients, as “leads”) Below you can see a typical response that was sent when consumers would request additional information about “affordable housing.” I sent it so often that I simply created a signature file.


Each time that I received a request for workforce housing, I opened a new e-mail, I can click on the “Insert” tab and then select the “Signature” button. A pop-up list will appear and you can then insert your e-mail response. Note: If you have a signature that automatically populates when you open a new e-mail, it will still be there and will be below the signature file that you enter.


Now that your response has been entered, make sure that you go back and tailor it to the client’s actual request. I’ve found that adding “Mr. or Ms.” and their last name has been a good way to start off. Potential clients don’t wish to be treated with a canned response. They want to know you’re real.

This is particularly good if you create HTML based e-mails that have links to resources, and maybe contact information for a few lenders. I’ve created signatures for each listing, with photos and links to YouTube videos of the house. Therefore, each time you get an online inquiry about your listing, you can automatically send the e-mail AND CALL THEM. Let them know that you’ve sent the information they requested and you wanted to follow up and see what additional information they would like.

I would also recommend that you not deliver your entire buyer or seller interview without speaking with the clients and getting permission to send such requests to them. The ultimate point is to get a personal meeting as soon as possible. This technique is especially good for providing routine information to clients after the meeting.

Once you’ve got your list of signatures setup, you should setup dates, from the point of initial contact, in which to deliver phone calls and e-mails in alternate patterns, and make those plans on your calendar, with reminders.

Numbers tell us that internet contacts need to be incubated for between 9 and 12 months. So, set down and write out a plan to keep in contact with personal relevant information. Most of these potential clients have tons of agents possible sending them stuff. The competition tends to fade away after the first 30 days or so.

Hope this is useful for you!

Good Luck!

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  1. Jay McGillicuddy

    May 25, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I found it useful and appreciate the reminder, I use signatures but I usually have to copy and paste from a word document for my web leads. Didn’t dawn on me to use my Outlook signature file to do it.

  2. Barry Cunningham

    May 25, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Setting up your own email server isn’t that expensive at all and then you can create your own templates. One investment..have it forever.

  3. Tyler, The Wealth Creation Guy

    May 25, 2008 at 9:57 pm


    Great suggestion. Just like Jay, I had never considered using the signature to automate the whole process. Cool stuff!


  4. Bill Lublin

    May 25, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Matthew – With all the work that went into this post, I’ll give you a pass for your other post
    Why? that was so short and effective, I wanted to cry for not having thought of it!
    Great idea and a reminder that keepin’ it simple is still a great way to go!

  5. Frank Jewett

    May 26, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Matthew, I have a technical question. When I use signatures for HTML based e-mails, Outlook always inserts a few blank lines at the top of the message. Is there any way to change that so that the top of the signature (an HTML newsletter, for example) appears at the top of the message?

  6. Vicki Moore

    May 26, 2008 at 12:58 am

    I use the signature function for directions to my office. There’s all sorts of things you can use it for.

  7. Missy Caulk

    May 26, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Matthew, I have so many signatures for different responses to people, which web site they came from depends on which response. I use the advance feature to get the html in.

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    May 26, 2008 at 8:37 am


    I (like Missy mentioned) click on advance and use Word for those that require HTML modifications. I know the problem you encountered, but only faced it in Outlook 2003. In the 2007 version it hasn’t been an issue.

    The biggest Issue I ran into, was that a surprising number of people still receive e-mail in plain text, which now becomes an issue of attachments and firewalls seeing anything with more than “X” number of attachments as spam or malicious e-mails.

  9. Kelley Koehler

    May 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Matthew – that’s a sweet idea.

    Just a perspective on the plain text vs HTML issue – I’m one of those people who only sends and receives in plain text. I only receive in plain text as a security measure – I can see details of links, and only download attachements or photos if I elect to, which helps me stay less visible if people are tracking whether I open a message or not. I can elect to show the message as HTML if I want to, if I believe it is safe or don’t care if they track my actions.

    Given my reasons for only receiving in plain text, I return the favor and only send plain text.

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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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