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Want your creativity to take flight? Constrain it first.



Create something.

Go ahead, I’ll wait. . .

Having trouble coming up with something?  Why?  I just said, “create something.”  I didn’t give you any crazy rules, or tell you what you had to create, just go and make something.  That should have been easy.

But it’s not.

One of the funny things about creativity is that it functions best when it is all bound up, when it has walls to bang up against, when it has a space that needs to be filled, constraints to keep it in check.

Scientists are so creative because they follow very strict rules

All of the greatest works of creativity in the history of the human race share the same thing– they were brought about under tight constraints.  When NASA was able to rescue the astronauts of Apollo 13, they exhibited unsurpassed creativity in devising a solution that not only kept the astronauts alive, but also returned them safely to Earth.  That type of creativity was made necessary by the VERY strict constraints of not only the limited materials available on a spacecraft, but also the immutable laws of physics.  That’s hefty stuff that forced the NASA scientists to stretch their collective creativity to its very limits.  The goal and the constraints were clearly defined, both forcing and allowing for maximum creativity.

And so it is with blogging

Every blogger comes to a point where they are not feeling most creative.  Sometimes, you don’t think you can come up with an idea, sometimes, you might not feel like creating anything.  Maybe what you need is the challenge of some self-imposed constraints.

If you want your creativity to shine, put it to the test.  Put some constraints on it.  Try these:

1)  Write 1 post per week about outlining one important aspect of the buying or selling process

2)  Write 1 post per week that highlights a nearby cultural event.

3)  Write 1 post per week that answers a common real estate question.

Hey, look at that, now you’ve got 3 posts a week.  And, on top of that, you’ve got some criteria that will give you something to look for when you need new ideas.

And if your initial response to #2 is, “but, I don’t have that many nearby cultural events,”  then I say- BS.  Yes you do, you just haven’t been creative enough to seek them out.  You haven’t been creative enough to highlight them.

Despite the way you may feel, you are never in want of new blog post topics or ideas.  It’s just that you haven’t given yourself the structure and constraints necessary to discover those ideas.

Give yourself some boundaries, you may be surprised how creative it makes you.

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  1. Gordon Baker

    September 28, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    There are many different topics to write about and we our creativity will expand if stop for a moment and reflect on the different aspects of our lives. I recently did a blog about my son’s swim club that he attends 3 days a week. I had plenty of time to take pictures while I was waiting for his 90 minute practice to end! Or feature your favorite place to eat. Interview business owners. Something not so creative but effective; visit other blogs and see what they’re talking about!

  2. Michael Price

    September 28, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    This is the kind of constructive tutelage that I think your fellow agents can really sink their teeth into when it comes to developing a blogging strategy. You’ve overcome some of the classic objections to blogging in one succinct post. Well done Chico!

  3. Steve Simon

    September 29, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I enjoy reading when someone has accurate substance as the base for their writing!
    Well done…
    I could go on and on about how and where we agree, but this is your post 🙂

  4. Bobby Carroll - Crystal Coast Blog

    September 29, 2008 at 7:35 am


    Spot on post. With so many resources available to RE professionals writing post should be easier than ever. In addition to your ideas for blog post, here are a few more:

    Week 1: Interview the local Chamber of Commerce President – ask “Why the area is so attractive to new businesses?” or Interview your mortgage guy or gal – “Talk about the State of the Mortgage Industry”, Interview the home inspector – “What is the most reoccurring “condition” found during your inspections and how can home sellers avoid them?”

    Week 2: Use your RE License text book for many great post ideas – “Why it is important to have a survey performed” or “What does it mean to enter a fiduciary relationship with a Realtor?”

    Week 3: Conduct a local photo/writing contest on “Name/photograph 3 qualities of your area”. Coordinate with the school principal and appropriate faculty members. Ask students at your local elementary-middle school-high school to compete for prizes for the top 3 entrants and publish their work on your blog.

    Week 4: Interview a past client. Ask them what lesson they learned about the process of buying or selling their home? Ask your client to provide a fellow consumer a “gold nugget” from their experience.

    Use your own comments and write post from them. Take a look at your sent folder in your email client. I’ll bet there are two sent emails waiting to be written from your sent emails. Last but not least, read-read-read. Be inspired by others!

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Jonathan Bentz

    September 29, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Zebra – great post, and I totally agree. I typically blog about topics COMPLETELY unrelated to real estate, but I’ve noticed the same things in myself. Having a clear outline of topics to discuss also gives first time blog readers the knowledge that they can come back to your site at the same time each week for similar content. Magazines do this each month… and blogs really are “of the moment” magazines. Great tip.

  6. Mack

    September 29, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Write about personal experiences in your real estate career. This past weekend I met with a young couple being transfered to Ohio. Unfortunately prior to negotiating the relocation package they utilized the services of an online home valuation tool which provided them with some very inaccurate data. That meeting generated a blog post this morning which I hope shows exactly how I feel about these online tools.

  7. @AustinAaron

    September 29, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Mos def appreciate the tips. I’m not a blogger. I don’t even like writing. So coming up with viable topics in sometimes a challenge. However, one such topic I think everyone could benefit from is writing about “that” house you always drive by and just love. We all have a property we can’t take our eyes off of. Stop by the home one day, knock on the door, present your business card, and ask the owners about the home. Tell them your concept. You just want to write about the uniqueness of the home, what it is about the home that you love, etc… One, you’ll make a new friend. The owner obviously loves the home, so the two of you now have something in common. Two, you’ll now know just about everything you need to know about that home which makes you look like a bad ass when you have clients in the car and you just start rambling on about the architecture of a specific home. Three, you have a new post with rich keywords.

    Next week just repeat week one. Before you know it, you’re a home specialist. Spotlight one home each week. Even if it’s not for sale. In a few months, not only will you know details about several different styles of homes all across your market, but you will have a grip of content for your blog, and maybe even potential clients. I mean, when someone wants to sell their home who better than someone that stopped by their property to learn more just because they “love it”. While at the home, ask for their contact info so that you can “forward the article over” before you publish it. If done correctly, they’ll obviously appreciate your interest, and that’s built-in traffic. Why? Because they’ll tell everyone they know.

  8. Danilo Bogdanovic

    September 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Great “back to the basics” post! This is a question often asked by rookie as well as veteran bloggers and your ideas/tips are excellent.

    To add to your suggestions, try reading other blogs and checking out what questions people are asking over at Trulia Voices or other “discussions board” places. A topic or question may pop out at you causing you to say “I should write a blog post about that as it relates to my market!” (Just my .02)

  9. Missy Caulk

    September 29, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Daniel, I have a whole folder of future blog topics. Now to find the time… but I agree it has to resonate in my heart to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

  10. Brian Block

    September 29, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Daniel, I don’t think I’ve ever run out of topics to post about… but have often run short on time to post all that I want. There are so many resources out there such as your post which provide novice and experienced bloggers alike plenty of guidance and fodder around which to craft their posts.

  11. Kim Wood

    September 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    No excuses for a freeze up – like I have all too often 🙂 Thanks for those ideas – and Bobby, aka Real Estate Coach for yours as well.

    Sometimes the topics/posts just flow – and other times they don’t. But I hear everyone saying that, so I know I’m ok 🙂 LOL

  12. Lane Bailey

    September 29, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    When I quit my “real job” (retail management) and started “doing other things” (investing and a few other varied things) before I finally came home to real estate, I was overcome with ideas for businesses. I was free to think… and it was great.

    Now I have comitted to write a post a day on my blog… and I almost always seem to get an idea at crunch time. Those rule make for creativity, both when they are there and when they are gone…

  13. Teresa Boardman

    September 30, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Lists stifle my creativity.

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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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