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Unrepetant Belligerence Becoming More Difficult



New Year

For some of you, it’s merely the first days of fall (whatever “fall” is … it’s not something that exists here in the Phoenix metropolitan area.) For others, including myself, it’s a few days shy of the beginning of a new year. (And for those folks, l’shanah tovah.) And this new year traditionally carries with it more introspection than soon-to-be-broken resolutions.

Here’s what I discovered over the past few months. My business was broken. Not irretrievably broken – I’m on pace to shatter my own personal records for sides, for total dollar sales and for gross commissions – but broken nevertheless. Broken in the same way that a car with one faulty spark plug still will get you from point a to point b, just not in the smoothest manner possible.

What did I do to fix it? I asked for help from my friends. And then I set to work on fixing the preconceptions and methodology I had used that were causing the journey to be more bumpy than necessary.

What’s Your Name?

For the first nearly four years of my various websites existence, I never required registration of any sort. Search for homes as often as you want, I was simply the vessel. I was adamant to the point of being belligerent in defense of not requiring registration … No! No! A thousand times no! When someone was ready to buy, the theory went, they would contact me.

Except …

The methodology worked to a degree. But it also flew in the face of the basic reality that many consumers work with the first agent with whom they come in contact. To become that first agent, I couldn’t sit back and wait for them to reach out to me. I needed to be able to reach out to them – providing value in some manner, even if it was only making sure their search turned up the right homes.

Arguing against registration makes sense if you’re seeking some sort of moral purity. But you know what, folks? I’m just a guy trying to sell some homes to make a living.

Everyone has a different theory on when to force a consumer to provide you their name and phone number. For me, visitors to my sites can perform a search and see the basics on a property but need to provide an e-mail and phone number (or be smart enough to fake one) to get the details.

The result? Of the couple hundred people who have registered, only a handful provided fake information. And I currently have one client in escrow who already had planned their trip but was days away from making the call to an agent to arrange property showings. I called them before they started calling around. The rest, as they say, is history.

Listings, Listings, Listings

Short answer – I’ve not pursued listings this year. Here’s one of those areas where I’m trying to change my thinking. I absolutely recognize the logic that it takes fewer man-hours to sell a listing (in most cases) than it does to work with a buyer to the point of purchase. But given the current market, I’ve not had a great deal of interest in actively pursuing listings.

Let’s call this one “in progress.”

The Shackle I Don’t Want

At one point this was going to be the last obstacle I’d need to overcome to improve my business, but the necessity seemingly is growing. Or maybe it’s growing only because I’m taking the time to notice what I could be doing. I’m trying to deal with it but the bottom line is I’m working with equipment that’s small and insignificant. And while it gets the basic job done, there’s little excitement or extra value to be had.

I’m talking about my lousy phone. (And you thought only Poppy and Lani could so snark.)

At a real estate bloggers’ meetup a few months back, everyone was showing off their phones. Blackberrys, iPhones, whatever. Same thing at Inman Real Estate Connect. I’ve got a Samsung something or another. It works great as a phone. Even can send text messages. But the Internet? Terrible. And e-mail? Forget about it. Not going to happen.

And the truth is, I’ve viewed that as a good thing … until recently. The last thing I wanted for the sake of my own sanity was access to e-mail wherever I was. Because there were some times when I just wouldn’t want to know if I had e-mail but I’d still be tempted to check. (No, Kris, this has nothing to do with the question you once were asked.)

But here’s the thing … to be that first person, it would help to know if someone registered on the site. It’s not so much of an issue when I’m working out of the office but when I’m running between appointments or listings or showing homes, on days like yesterday where e-mail and I were separated for about 14 hours due to various commitments, the need is there.

The only question that will remain is whether I’ll have the discipline to turn the damn thing off. But that’s just one more thing for me to work for as the gates begin to close and the new year begins.

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  1. Chris Shouse

    September 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Wow Jonathan, you make some very valid points and am heading over to my website and am going to try requiring registration and see if it is good for me. My website sends me a text when I have a prospect so email was moot however my blogs do not have that ability. Is there a plug in for that?

  2. Missy Caulk

    September 26, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Well, well, well, a man after my own heart. I have been a strong advocate for registering on web-sites for years, and not without persecution from people I love and admire.

    Getting back to a lead ASAP, is so critical. So you have to have a smart phone to do it. Besides the business aspect, I can read blogs and news while I wait for inspectors, or whoever is running late.
    So I enjoy mine too.

  3. Jonathan Dalton

    September 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Chris – don’t know of a plug-in. My IDX is through Diverse Solutions; I’ll receive an e-mail but not a text.

    Missy – did I persecute you? Decent chance before I changed my mind … it was the conversation we had that also helped convince me the time had come.

  4. Nick Bastian

    September 26, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    “speed to lead” – getting to them first as they search can’t hurt. I bet you will be a cell phone email, twitter,gps junkie in no time.

  5. Faina Sechzer

    September 26, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    L’shanah tovah. The rest you said best in your post. Waiting for my Palm contract to end, so I could get I-Phone:)

  6. Bob

    September 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Jonathan, I quit making the argument and now let guys like you make it for me.

    BTW, no one is forced. It is a choice.

  7. Ruthmarie Hicks

    September 26, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Faina – hi there,
    I’m waiting for my verizon contract to end to get my iphone…can’t WAIT!

  8. Paula Henry

    September 27, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Jonathan – Happy New Year – it looks like you’re off to a great start.

    I received various answers on the subject of required registration. Since one of my IDX solutions requires registration, I sought a solution to test the differences of required vs. not. I now have two different solutions and the one with required registration produces 1000 times the opportunity to connect with a prospective client.

    one irony – although I do not require registration on one site, I have noticed some people will sign up on both sites – the same people. Those out there searching will go from one site to another, and when we are first to follow up, we win.

    Now, go get your preferred phone, so you “keep connected”. I don’t care about all the extra gadgets on a phone – I just want my email.

  9. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    September 27, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Jonathan what I love about your article is that you don’t wax poetic about your being bullet proof- the sign of a true success is the ability to examine, re-examine, re-examine and then re-examine your strategies and never being satisfied. No business is perfect and there are always ways to improve (whereas some people believe that they have mastered the art of everything).

    The phone is important- while you wait for your contract to expire (ours has another year and it’s not $200 penalty per account, it’s $200 penalty for EVERY LINE- we have six, do the math… thanks Sprint), consider getting an iTouch which is the same as an iPhone without the phone line and relies on area wifi, so if you are in a wired area, it’s a simple solution. Obviously if you live in the sticks, this option won’t help.

    Dalton, thanks for keeping us on our toes!

  10. Jonathan Dalton

    September 27, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve never considered myself bullet-proof, Lani … that’s the key. I know who I am and I know what my business is, both good and bad. Hopefully admitting the bad and correcting it will help someone else.

    I’m trapped with Sprint myself. Not sure about the new Samsung iPhone knockoff. If I don’t go that route, it’s going to be a blackberry.

  11. BawldGuy

    September 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Jonathan — The whole register vs free ride debate has cracked me up since the beginning. The so called purists have been eating their young now for years. Their logic is non-existent. Why?

    Because the whole idea is to get your belly in front of their bellies. Duh.

    It’s somewhat if not totally analogous to the SEO worshipers who failed to realize traffic in and of itself was golden. Turns out the right traffic is golden. Back to the drawing board. 🙂

    I am disappointed though, in your abject surrender to the GeekPhone masses out there. Thought for sure you’d remain with the resistance on that one. 🙂

    I spout that last bit of BS as I prepare to acquire my own GeekPhone.

    As you’ve put it so well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

  12. Bob

    September 28, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    The so called purists have been eating their young now for years.

    which ones are the purists?

  13. BawldGuy

    September 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    🙂 The ones who scolded everyone about non-discriminatory SEO, and those who said registering those seeking IDX use was a losing strategy.

  14. Cyndee Haydon

    September 28, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Jonathan – I need to get a “geekphone” – I’ll have to check out the ITouch – that’s one area I am sooooooooooo behind on – Thanks for sharing your journey – can relate to many similarities

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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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