My post on social media in real estate was pretty well-received, which I was glad to discover. While I was writing the post, it quickly became apparent to me that one post was not going to be anywhere near enough time to cover all the things that I wanted to cover. It was also suggested to me that perhaps readers could benefit from a more in-depth look at social media to go along with my general primer. That is the beauty of social media at work, people. I write one blog post, people make suggestions to me through the comments, Facebook, etc., and here I am writing follow-ups. It’s a beautiful thing.
I am going to treat this series like a class. Here’s the deal: if you read my first post, congratulations! Reading that post means that you have just passed Intro to Social Media for Real Estate. Now we step it up a bit.
Welcome to the first day of Social Media for Real Estate 101. Attendance is completely voluntary (although highly encouraged). There will be homework (although no one will grade it). There will be no tests (sweet!).
Class Session #1: Twitter
For those of you who are thinking, “Twitter? Really? Twitter? You can’t be serious.,” you may want to take a second and go back to the intro post and check out what I had to say there. I’ll repeat some of it here, but you really shouldn’t blow-off Twitter. Plus, you wouldn’t skip the first day of class, would you? On second thought, don’t answer that.
I’m starting with Twitter for a few reasons:
- Twitter is simple.
- Because Twitter is simple, it is easy to get started.
- Twitter is fun and interesting.
As I mentioned in the intro post, Twitter is essentially a micro-blogging platform. The original idea behind Twitter is simply to answer the question, “what are you doing?” and to answer that question in less than 140 characters. If you think that sounds stupid, you would be partly correct. In fact, Twitter is a lot more than just answering that question. A whole lot more. Twitter is really an entire online community of people engaging in constant conversation. These conversations are about all types of things. Topics range from the completely mundane to the totally engrossing.
“Conversations? But I thought Twitter was just micro-blogging.” Again, that is only half-right. Think about it like this. Have you ever been around a group of people and made a statement to get a conversation started (i.e.– “Boy, this weather is great.”)? That is exactly how Twitter is working. You might be making statements, telling people what you are up to, telling people about interesting things you just learned, sharing blog posts and links, etc. All the people who see that have a chance to share and respond. It is like the world’s biggest chat room, and you can be involved in all the conversations.
“I like good conversation. How can I get started?” I’m glad you asked. As I mentioned in the beginning, Twitter is simple and easy to start. All you have to do is go Twitter.com, click “Join” and then pick a Username and password. Simple.
I would suggest that you think carefully about your Username. For my Twitter account, I use RealEstateZebra, for obvious reasons. I also registered an account using my name as the Username– DanielRothamel. While I don’t use the account for anything, it is there if I ever decide to do anything with it, and I know that no one else will hop on Twitter and try to pretend to be me. I have a very unique name, so that works. It may not work for you, but you should still choose a recognizable name that isn’t so outlandish as to offend anyone. DO: “DanRothamel,” “RealEstateDan,” “CvilleDaniel,” etc. DON’T: “DanLovesBeer,” “SexyDan,” “HotLoveDan,” etc. Oh yeah, almost forgot– you probably won’t want to use a name that might misuse the REALTOR trademark. We all know how that goes.
After signing up for your account, you can start writing “tweets” right away. Call them “tweets,” not “twitters.” Here’s why. But before you start tweeting, you are going to want to set up your public profile. Your public profile is what people will see when they click on your username, or visit twitter.com/yourusername.
If you clicked on my link above, you saw my public profile. In the profile, you can share your name, location, links to your website (or blog) and a 160 character description of yourself. In order to update your profile, all you have to do is login to Twitter, and then click on the “settings” link at the top of your homepage. Enter in all of the information that you want and you are done. You can also add a picture to go with your account, and even change the background of your profile page.
While we are on the subject of “settings” you are going to want to take a minute and set your “phone and IM” settings so that you will be able to send tweets and receive updates on your cell phone, and through the IM client of your choice. All of this is explained on the settings page, so take a minute and go through it. Being able to send tweets and receive notices on your phone is quite handy. I honestly don’t use the IM service, but more on that in a minute.
“I haven’t seen anything about other people yet. How am I supposed to converse with others?” Through following. You can use the search function to find other people by keyword. From their profile page, you can click on the “follow” button to follow their tweets. If you really like them, you can even have their tweets sent to your phone. Currently, I am following 30 people. Once you have an account, you can view everyone a person is following or who is following that person. You can also send out invitations to people to ask them to start using Twitter, and then you can follow each other.
“My account is set up, I have a cool pic to go with my username, and I’m set up for mobile, I found a few people I want to follow, can’t I write a tweet already?” Sure! Go for it. The only restriction is that you only have 140 characters to work with (spaces included). Tweet wisely. I also came up with 5 Rules that I think are handy when you are writing a tweet. There are some things you are going to want to take advantage of that will make your life a bit easier when writing a tweet, though. The first is shortening URL’s. At 140 characters long, you don’t want to waste them with over-long links. Use a service like TinyURL to maximize tweet space.
The other thing is to learn how to use the tweet commands. Using “@username” is called a “reply.” When you do this, that person will receive a notification that you have said something to them. Similarly, you are going to want to make your settings such that you are notified when people send an “@” to you. You can also send someone a direct message (it won’t show up in your Twitter stream at all, it will go directly to that person) by using “d username” This is good for private stuff that you don’t want everyone following you to see.
“Is there some way I can write Tweets without having to go to Twitter.com all the time?” There are quite a few ways you can do that. There are programs out there that you can install on your computer and then will sit on your desktop displaying your feed and allowing you to post tweets. There are 3 that I have tried so far:
- Snitter (Windows & Mac)– Snitter requires you to download the Adobe AIR before installation. The program seems to work well, and it has plenty of options you can set up. It also has an option to shrink URLs so that you don’t have to visit a separate site. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I am not crazy about its aesthetic design.
- Spaz (Windows & Mac)– Another Adobe AIR program. All of the same features as Snitter, but I find it a bit easier to get to all of the options and change the display windows. It doesn’t have as many formatting options, but it looks pretty cool.
- Twitterrific (Mac only)– It seems to me that this is what most Mac owners are using, and it was the first program I tried. I like its look and feel, but I have found that Spaz and Snitter are a bit easier to use and are a bit more full-featured.
UPDATE: Review of Twitter apps here.
I already mentioned the mobile text-messaging option, but you can also visit m.twitter.com from your phone and tweet right from there. I have used it often from my Palm, and I like it. You even have an email option– TwitterMail will give you a unique address that you can send emails to. Once you compose and email and send it to that address, it gets posted to your Twitter feed as a tweet. One of the coolest features of the program is that it automatically shortens URLs.
There are also ways to integrate your Twitter feed into your blog or link it to your Facebook account. A quick Google search will yield plenty of Twitter options, and I am sure that there are more to come in the future.
“Okay, Twitter seems kinda cool, but how is it going to help me in the real estate business?” Ah, yes. There it is. The million-dollar “what’s in it for me?” question. Well, I can think at least three simple ways of using Twitter to help your real estate business:
- Look at Twitter as an educational resource. If you can find a few people to follow who inspire you and share insight and information that can improve the way you do business, wouldn’t that be great? There are plenty of people on Twitter who do that for other industries, tech and marketing especially. That is why Twitter needs a larger presence from the real estate community. We could all be helping each other professionally.
- Use Twitter as a networking resource. There are some really interesting people on Twitter. There are probably some interesting people right in your own city on Twitter. Seek them out, engage them, and increase your network. You can even meet them in real life. At least you know that you have one thing in common right away– Twitter.
- You can use Twitter as a way of touching your clients. Invite your clients to use Twitter. They can follow you, you can follow them. You can all exchange information and ideas. You could notify them of new listings, open houses, share links you think they might enjoy or find informative. Basically, you can build your very own Twitter real estate community. If you want, you can even make it private. If you set up a separate account that you only want your clients to have access to, you can simply set the privacy settings so that only people who you approve can view your tweets.
I am sure that once you start using Twitter, you will come up with all kinds of creative and fun ways of using the service. Plus, once you start following people and see all of the cool ways they are using Twitter, you are sure to be inspired. I know that I have been.
Give it a Try
The key thing here is to just give Twitter a chance. It is free, after all. Set up your account, find some people to follow, write some tweets for a few weeks, and see how things go. As you start having some fun with it and get involved in the community, you are sure to uncover new opportunities to use the service to help your business. If nothing else, at least you will have had fun and learned a few new things along the way.
If you have any questions about Twitter after reading this, feel free to ask me. Just send me an email (my address in under my pic in the sidebar). Or here’s an idea– find me on Twitter and send me a tweet!
You Don’t Have to Take my Word for It
If you are still skeptical about using Twitter, I can understand. Here is a sample of what others have said about Twitter:
Next Edition of Social Media for Real Estate 101
I hope that you have enjoyed this look at Twitter and learned a little bit. Hopefully you have been inspired to give it a try, or at least keep and open mind to new types of social media and how they can benefit your real estate business. My Social Media for Real Estate 101 series will continue next time with a look at LinkedIn. Be sure to keep a look out for it!
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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