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Why? Finding real estate career motivation in down times




Can you meet with me?

I had a meeting with my broker a few days ago. No, I didn’t get called into the principal’s office… I actually asked her to take some time to sit with me. I’ve had a lot going on in the last few months. One of the things I haven’t had enough of was business. I felt I had lost my way earlier in the year and lost my focus on my business plan a bit. I needed a) a bit of a butt-kicking and b) some inspiration. She promised me both.

We met up and sat for about two hours. We covered everything from basic ideas to deep rooted concerns. Lucky for me, my broker is a great woman and is more than willing to dive deep into something like this. Double lucky for me is that she’s not the only one that would do the same things for me. The conversation was real, honest, and at times, a bit raw. Open, honest conversations like this are not always fluffy and warm – sometimes you need to discuss the harsh realities too.

The question.

We came up with a list of things I needed to refocus my energy and thoughts on and those are going quite well. I’m definitely feeling a renewed spirit and it’s obvious I needed that conversation to spur me on. But there’s one question that came up during the conversation that I can’t shake. I didn’t have an answer at the time, and although I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I still don’t have one. Not having an answer is never easy. Seeking the true answer is my mission now.

The question came as one word and with no explanation when it was asked. “Why?” That’s all she said. She paused and my head began to wonder why she had forgotten the rest of the question. Maybe my muddled brain showed its hand and that’s why she continued or perhaps she had made it a one word question on purpose. No matter what the underlying reason, it was a strong question with a lot of weight behind it.

Why? Why what? Her elaboration helped me understand the question… “Why do you do this? (real estate)” Immediately, I thought of a hundred reasons: I enjoy real estate as a theory/concept, I like to make money, I need a job just like anyone else, I like the freedoms of being my own boss, the potential is there to earn more than the kinds of jobs I could qualify for outside of real estate, etc. Lots of answers to that question. Let’s move on to the next, shall we? But wait. The question had something deeper to it. I could tell by the way she was looking at me. She wanted me to think about the root reason for all of this. She wanted to find the secret motivator inside me that answered that question.

She looked at me again after a bit of silence and said, “It’s not the money. I know that.” I thought about this for a moment, I mean, seriously, who doesn’t do this for money in some sense or form. Without money would you still be a real estate agent? Would you do this as a charity, pro-bono job for your entire life? Look, I loved rock and roll, but the facts are the facts, if it didn’t put food on my table eventually, I was going to have to get a real job. For me, it did pay off eventually and I lived quite well from it at times. Could I have done it for fourteen years without making a dime? Probably not. Was money my “why” for being in a band? No. If it had been, I may not have left when I did.

If real estate wasn’t about the money/job aspect for me, what was it about real estate that made me get out of bed everyday? What made me take calls at ridiculous hours and work weekends? What made it fine for some days to be twelve hour days? Why?

The answer isn’t always the obvious.

I could name all those reasons for wanting this to be my career, my passion, and my income. I could say that those are my motivating factors that drive me every day. I could easily claim that I have the answer. But I don’t and that’s what I’m searching for now. I don’t have to have that answer today to know that I’m enjoying real estate and to work hard it. I need the answer to move forward and grow my business bigger and better. I need to know just what it is that makes real estate something I truly care about.

Ever wondered what exactly it is that motivates you to do this? Ever thought beyond the surface answers and looked for something deeper? Ever needed something to light a fire inside of you every time you said “this is why I’m a real estate agent?” Have you found it? Do you live it everyday? This is what I’m on a personal quest to find. My own answer to “Why?

photo courtesy of quinn.anya

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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  1. Ken Brand

    March 31, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Nodding my head, reading, smiling, reading, nodding head, yeah. Chuckle.

    That water’s about 100 feet deep. But, however deep, that’s where we dive for our pearl.

    For me, it’s many of the exact same reasons you mention. At some early point, like a blink, one day, I believed. Going forward, this was the only thing I ever wanted to do or ever could do. At that time, I burned my boats and marched, smiling. For those twisted enough to follow this path, there really isn’t another profession like it.

    People, get in and people get out. There’s no dishonor or failure in leaving the business, it’s not for everyone. I hope in the blink of your eye, you understand why, and you stick like super-glue. The biz needs you and so do all those hundreds and hundreds of future clients.


  2. Matt Stigliano

    March 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Ken – One of the things I enjoy most about your posts and comments is that I see a bit of me in you. Usually that phrase works the other way around, but although I know your much wiser and knowledgeable, I think you and I have traveled similar paths at points. That combined with your sharp wit and occasional sharp tongue make me think of you as someone I can’t wait to meet someday. Your comments always make me want to do better and figure everything out.

    I have no desire to leave this industry. In even the worst times, I have found pure passion for it. I love it, but now it’s time to figure out why and use that seed to fuel my business. Something so basic and boiled down to its true essence that says to me, this is why you do this. Not the hundreds of larger, generalized reasons, but the core reason I stick by this day in and day out.

    Perhaps I’m on my own Siddartha like quest to figure out the true meaning of my life.

  3. Brandie Young

    April 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Cool post, Matt.

  4. Ken Montville

    April 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    “Why” is at the root of everything from, “Why be a Realtor?” to “Why do you want a 3 BR, 2 BA house?” to “Why are you married/life partnering with whoever it is?” to “Why do you really like Cap’n Crunch but eat Special K, instead?”

    I recently listened to an author on another marketing site (Marketing Over Coffee – – they do podcasts – going on about his book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. It seems that it makes a lot of sense to start with why. Of course, the flip side is “why not?”.

    For me “why?” always leads to “what’s the alternative?” This “why” question tries to mine your soul for passion (the buzz word du jour). I, for one, would love to know what passion is all about. There comes a time when doing the “fun stuff” stops paying the bills (as you point out). Mick Jagger can rock and roll into his 60s. Why not you? What’s the diff?

    Get out of real estate because it’s really not as fun and lucrative as it’s made out to be? Sure. Who’s gonna pay the bills? Beside, as wise and wonderful as your Broker/mentor is, I’m guessing that when she is in recruiting mode the “why” question really doesn’t come up. At least not in this context.

    Matt, here’s a hard truth. This real estate market sucks. I’ve talked to veteran’s of 30+ years in this business and they all say it sucks (paraphrasing). Sure. Some people prosper. Some people get by. Some people go on to other things.

    I hear and feel your pain. Seriously. I’ve been doing this for a tad over ten years and I ask myself “why” every morning.

    Your last couple of sentences: “This is what I’m on a personal quest to find. My own answer to “Why?”” If you ever find out, you can toss real estate and go into the personal development field and make a bundle. Trust me on this one. I’ve spent thousands on the quest.

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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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