I really wavered on writing this article but after some deep thought, it occurred to me that this secret is used by vendors to cheat stats of clients. I am writing this in no way to attack anyone’s integrity, but maybe if I point it out, Google will level the playing field.
If you really want to cheat one’s traffic stats, one only needs three things- time (age of site) an image (any pretty picture) and a name of a major city (event, building, or anything famous) as the image name.
After reading this thread over at BHB, I decided to use the site in question and would ask you to open another window and go to google images. At Google Images, type in ” long beach real estate” and what do you see? You see this same site (www.longbeachrealestatehome.com) listed multiple times in the top page results. Now, that may seem pretty harmless, but think globally with me.
In my own hyper-local blog, I innocently captured a picture and named it our city. I had no idea what ramifications this would have. Three months later, checking my stats as I do daily, I began noticing huge bumps in page hits. We typically disregard page hits and pay more attention to page impressions. Hits often count how many images are loaded as well, so it really simply depends on the counter. So in watching the page impressions, I noticed the spike was happening there as well, meaning, whoa, we’re famous- what are we doing right here?
Now, the next obvious step (if you really want to know the source of the traffic) was to begin closely watching referring urls, and the above image is what I see- 1,748 impressions of this one image from one country alone in the last 90 days. This list of referring google traffic reaches into at least the 10s of thousands since January. I wanted to post the list of numbers, but our backend provider does not give us a way of downloading a file so here is a screen shot of the one image reference. If you look above the highlighted line you can see the traffic generated off of the same image and others from all around the world.
In one day, I remember a single image counting for over 600 impressions. Granted I was disappointed, I got over it and still tag my images in hopes that folks in the US are just as interested and maybe they’ll move here and call us, but honestly, I get more international traffic on Austin images than nationally.
So, if an SEO guru wanted to fluff numbers to impress his or her client, they would simply insert lots of rich, colorful, well named images to the site- totally legal in the Google world of law and completely hidden to most clients as referring urls have not always been so easily provided by most site designers in their backend.
After realizing this phenomenon, I began looking deeper and deeper into sites with high Alexa rankings (some, not all) and learned that this is not uncommon at all. So before you tout numbers, one must always know where that number comes from. I would imagine the site so earnestly debated over at BHB gets just as much traffic for a simple image times seven in a single week from folks looking at beach pics, beach homes, sunsets, and a whole lot more.
If for your own vanity you wish to partake in the image hit game, one must only place a well named image in their blog or site, wait for google to crawl images (takes about 60 to 90 days) and voila! You too can boast 1000s of hits in a single day!
For the record, I am sure that Laurie has every bit of 1000 hits a day over at her place. Her site is lined with lots of rich wonderful content that her buyers surely love, as well as contribution from our favorite guy in suspenders, Brian Brady and a whole lot more. This is more advising folks to ask lots of questions of their vendors.
Just a side note: I took this screenshot at 8am, and the image in question already has referred 17 folks to our site.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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:
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.
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 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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