short sales, sausage and laws

this one makes me crazy. stark raving, maniacal outa my head nutso.

i do a lot of short sales. too many quite frankly, but i’ve become good at them over the years. so i guess that’s why other brokers and past clients refer their friends, family members and clients to me when there’s a distressed property that needs to be sold.

the short sale process is a lot like making sausage or legislation – neither of which should be witnessed being made, per otto von bismarck. a short sale is a messy, time consuming process that few brokers or consumers have the stomach for, but the end result (when successful) is worthwhile.YouWantItWhen

what makes it crazy (in addition to the reams of documents, arcane rules and byzantine process)  is the short sale lender’s timelines. most have set guidelines for reviewing documentation, moving the file forward to negotiation and providing a decision, but most also don’t follow those guidelines.  they’ll take their sweet time, thankyouverymuch, at slow-walking their process to suit their needs.  the file is “under review,” or awaiting “verification of documents.” and when you press the short sale lender for answers that were promised last week, they offer that the file is “still under review,” without any indication of when it will be “out from under review.” meh.

but when a short sale negotiator gets up from their afternoon nap and decides they need another document, don’t be surprised if you’re pressed to provide it no later than end of business tomorrow, lest they decline and close the file.


short sale negotiator: “we need a new hardship letter. this one’s 6 months old.”
real estate broker: “that’s because we started this file with you 6 months ago.”
short sale negotiator: “it’s too old. we need a new one dated within the last week.”
real estate broker: “my client is a commercial fisherman and he’s in alaska.”
short sale negotiator: “i need it by tomorrow or i’ll decline the file.”
real estate broker: “but my client’s on a fishing boat in alaska.”
short sale negotiator: “tomorrow. or i close the file.”



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smiling and dialing. are you?

from time to time my travel allows me to observe people in a variety of different settings. a recent trip gave me an opportunity to listen to a salesman making calls to prospects from a table in a restaurant.

not that I was eavesdropping. this gentleman managed to make himself heard as he went down through his handwritten list of prospects, diligently calling as he ticked off the names.  his voice could carry the room.

let me stop there here to comment.  this guy was doing what we’re taught to do if we want to be successful. follow up on leads, hot and cold, good or bad.  what we used to call “smiling and dialing.” he worked through his list with purpose.  undoubtedly a sales pro, and likely successful at what he did, which was selling a specialized piece of restaurant equipment. i know that because I heard the pitch.  i heard it several times during the course of my philly cheese steak and beer for dinner.  like i said, his voice carried the room.  and in addition to hearing the pitch, I learned his name and the name of the company he worked for.  which is important to consider for the rest of the story.

because that’s not all i heard…

after several calls with prospects – specifically those that weren’t interested – this dialing machine of a salesman would utter something aloud that those of us within a two table radius of his could hear.  and need i say, these utterances were far from complimentary, oftentimes involving colorful phrases and words. you know, like things you’d hear on a construction site or during a hunting trip with your buddies.

when i heard the aftermath of the first rejection call, i sat dumbfounded and shocked.  after a moment i rationalized the response, thinking, “the poor guy’s on the road, away from his family, and probably having a tough day.  he’s allowed to vent every once in awhile.”

but when i heard this venting on each and every call that didn’t result in an appointment – even those where the prospect asked for more information – i realized it was a pattern of behavior.  and not a good pattern.

how do you handle rejection?

most of us in real estate sales deal with rejection repeatedly throughout the day.  follow up phone calls to web leads that don’t want our services.  sellers that rebuke our requests to re-price a property. a negotiator that shoots down our short sale offer.  it comes with the territory. constant rejection.

and while our objection handling is one of the most critical skills in our sales arsenal, i believe how we handle rejection when we can’t overcome the objections is nearly as critical. it might seem cathartic to blow off steam and utter a few choice phrases after being rejected, but imagine what creeps into your mind while you’re making these calls – “don’t turn me down, cuz if you do, you’re a jerk.”

if you’re poised to vent after every rejection you encounter, pretty soon that scenario creeps into your sales psyche and starts coloring your perception of every prospect you talk to.  you start thinking about how quickly you can flush out this ‘time-waster,’ this ‘tire-kicker’ and move on to someone else.  except that next someone else is (in your mind’s eye) another ‘time-waster’ or ‘tire-kicker.’

change your mind(set)

my advice? get rejected and move on. don’t act out or voice your frustration. get over it and move on to the next phone call or the next door.  if you’re in need of catharsis after all the rejection you’ve had in a day, go hit a tennis ball against the garage door. lock yourself in a closet and scream. or better yet, revel in the call you made that produced positive results. sure beats calling people names.

one final note: if i ever decide to get into the restaurant business and get a call from a representative of this company, i’m not buying. i already know what they think of me.



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hello! anybody there?

so we all know the rules of decency, civility and common sense are out the window in this day and age.  you witness it with every loudmouth on an airplane that continues to talk on their cell phone long after the announcement they’ve closed the doors.  or the belligerent customer with a complaint in a restaurant that is oblivious to the fact that there are others present as she berates the wait staff.   this is becoming commonplace.

how about returning a phone call or email?

in the past year i’ve noticed that 20-30% of my voice mail messages requesting a return call go unanswered, and almost 40% of my emails don’t get a response until after two weeks gave passed.  and almost 20% go unanswered entirely. seriously?

seriously? in this age of connectivity?

ok, i get that we’re overwhelmed.  we’ve all got outside influences: kids to pick up from school, sellers wanting updates, homes to show, smart phones chiming with new text messages and Facebook pokes to deal with.  but email messages languishing for a response for days and weeks? ignored voice mails?  seriously?

get a grip

let’s get a grip on the requests we have for reciprocal communication and provide something. anything. respond to someone with an email that says “there’s nothing new to report”, or call someone back and say “i got your voice mail, i’m waiting for someone else to provide direction.” acknowledge the email / voice mail / web form. whatever.

just let me (i mean, “your customer”) know you’ve received the communication.

let’s get back to some common courtesy, and respond to people. otherwise, insanity prevails.

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say wha?

you’re kidding me, right?!?

recently one of our short sales was denied in equator.  the reason listed was “oops”.  as a company that manages and facilitates short sales all day everyday, we seem to hear it all!
although there have been some significant strides made in the right direction, including the implementation of equator by certain lenders and staffing up, we still find that sometimes what we hear and see from the banks in short sale situations is illogical and really sometimes even downright funny!  after all, if we can’t laugh, we’d likely go insane when it comes to managing short sales.

another funny comment we received on a recent short sale we closed was from the negotiator.  this had to do with their wishes for the seller to bring cash to closing.  it was very apparent with all of the financial disclosures provided to the lender that this seller had absolutely no assets!  when the seller asked where they could come up with funds to bring to closing in order to get the short sale approved, the negotiator simply told them “have a garage sale”!

another seller we worked with literally had $4,000 in his checking account – those were his total assets.  the bank quickly decided they wanted these funds.  this guy had 3 kids and a life to try and pick up the pieces on and this is all the money he had.  they literally were going to have this gentleman bring his last penny to the closing table.  we advised the lender this would be a volatile situation and quickly, the lender backed down.  again, sometimes, we just sit and scratch our heads.  we understand, the banks are trying to get as much as possible to mitigate their loss but to take someone’s last penny is beyond drastic and not logical whatsoever!

we see and hear it all when it comes to these complex, lengthy and frustrating transactions and we know you do too.  the best advice we can give is to keep a sense of humor throughout the process because if you don’t, you will drive yourself nuts; or more likely the banks will drive you there!

would love to hear some of the wacky and potential nonsensical comments in short sales you’ve worked on that have been denied.  what has your experience been overall?  what is the craziest thing you have heard from a lender on a short sale you worked on?

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but my agents don’t have smart phones

the other week i posted a blurb on my facebook fan page on qr codes, two dimensional bar codes that deliver information such as web sites, web-hosted pdfs and contact information to the user when the codes are scanned from a hand-held device.  these codes got their name because they are “quick response” content delivery tools.  they’re starting to take hold in the business world, even though they’ve been talked about for many years (and used for years in Asia).  if you want to read a great blog on the topic, visit lesley weber lambert’s post entitled “top 10 ways to use qr codes in your real estate marketing” on agent genius.  you can read that blog here.

these codes could be huge in our business, as more web content is viewed using mobile devices.  while less than 25% of cell service customers have smart phones and other mobile devices make up an even smaller percentage, the mobile web won’t stay in its nascent stage very long. in fact, current estimates place the number of web pages viewed on mobile devices higher than those viewed on desktops.

scratching my head

within days of posting that blurb i had the good fortune of meeting with the folks at, a company that generates qr codes as part of its virtual tour offering to real estate agents. their director of business development, nick smoot, shared with me a story of a presentation he had done for a mid-size brokerage.  nick had finished his presentation to the broker of the firm, showing the owner how consumers are using their smart phones to access information on listed properties.  at the end of the presentation, the broker told nick that he was impressed by the service. “but my agents don’t have smart phones” were the next words out of the owner’s mouth.

for the last time, it’s not about you

if i would’ve been there i would’ve sprayed coffee through my nose at that remark. nick was very diplomatic in his reply, but the fact that the broker even said it is evidence of how the vast majority of this industry still thinks – it’s about us.

newsflash. it’s never been about us. this provider-centric mentally has hung on far too long in our industry and needs to have a stake driven through its heart.  it’s about the consumer. the highest life form on the planet.  let’s get over ourselves and start focusing on what the consumer wants, how they buy and what they use in their decision making process.  cuz if we don’t, someone else is going to step in front of us and help the consumer.

but then, that’s my opinion. maybe i’m just nuts.

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hold on to your license

this could get ugly

i’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on a phenomenon that’s building on facebook lately – the “single listing fan page.”

given the popularity of the social networking giant, facebook is starting to make headway with real estate professionals as a marketing bonanza. especially given that fan pages seem to be the ultimate tool to trumpet your business success and promote your offerings. this latest tool is no exception.

designed to promote a single property listed for sale by a broker, the single listing fan page offers the opportunity to showcase the property, giving all the salient facts, price, location and multiple photo albums. tied together with the rest of the marketing campaign, this newest form of digital promotion aims to get more eyeballs on the property. what with multiple property sites to advertise on, email marketing campaigns, virtual tours and such, this added “feature sheet” really rounds out the marketing strategy for the property. and it certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

it could if you’re not minding your p’s and q’s

and those p’s and q’s in this instance are the advertising requirements of the regulatory body overseeing real estate licensees in the particular state or province you practice in.

not that i’m well-versed in every state’s regulations, but i’ve been licensed in a few that require certain information be included with any advertisement of a property or service offered by a real estate licensee. and yes, a facebook fan page (also known as an ‘official page’) is advertising. if you don’t think so, just ask your real estate licensing body. and your attorney.

it’s already ugly

of the single listing fan pages i’ve been asked to like on facebook, 75% immediately jump out at me with potential violations. no company name. “oops.” no office phone number. “i meant to put that on there.” violation of regulation z. “they don’t really watch that, do they?” no license number (in states that require it, such as california). “my bad.” violation of an agent’s fiduciary duty to their client. “did i really say that?”

wake up and smell the coffee

social media offers many businesses a new set of tools to promote and advertise their wares. but new tools don’t equate to new rules. use some common sense and apply what you know of your state’s advertising regulations to this ‘new’ digital medium. don’t just take some ‘guru’s word that this is what you should be doing without regard of how it could impact your livelihood. ask your broker or manager before you create your property page. and if they don’t know, call me.

putting your license at risk is insane.

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scary stuff

holy s#*@!

there i was, enjoying myself on a working vacation in hawaii, just coming off a two day crb course on marketing management. i had designs on relaxing on the beach, soaking up some sun and blocking out the rest of the world for just another day. in a weak moment i glanced at my iphone to read an email from my friend les that contained the entire post of david kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of cumberland advisors  ( entitled “the foreclosure mess,” david laid out the anonymous, mostly intact text he had received from sources in the know in the financial industry outlining the mess created by the foreclosure moratorium several lenders had implemented in recent days.

now i’m not much into dire predictions of utter financial collapse, but this post made me stop and think. no, “shudder” is the word. especially if this crisis affects an already tenuous housing recovery (did i just say recovery?) by further causing unrest and unease in the mortgage industry. i mean, when someone writes “this crisis could also spell the end of the mortgage business altogether. of banking altogether. hell, of civil society. what do you think happens in a country when the citizens realize they don’t need to pay their debts?” i’m not hoarding water and ammo just yet, but i have been surfing the web for acreage in remote wilderness areas in the mountains. just sayin.

you decide

these guys are obviously a lot more eloquent than i, as well as being more learned in the ways of high finance. they use capital letters when they write too. but i’m just offering up david’s (or rather, his anonymous contributor’s) point of view for my readers’ review and comment. after you’ve read the post (found here), please leave a comment here on my blog voicing your perspective.

whatya think? are we up a creek without a paddle, or just swimming against a strong current for several more years?

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short sale avoidance

i’ve had more than a few real estate agents from around the country telling me they’re not doing short sales in their business right now.  for whatever reason – too labor intensive, high failure rate, too time consuming, whatever – they’ve simply avoided doing them. consciously made the choice to turn them down or refer them out to others willing to take them on.

is that a sustainable strategy?

i have to admit, when i first thought i was going to get back into sales, i had the same mindset.  i had lived that cycle in the early- to mid-90′s in northern california, and it wasn’t an area i relished getting back into.  but as luck would have it, i never even got to determine a track in residential sales again.  instead i went straight into the speaking/training/consulting arena fresh off the corporate gig.  but if i had decided to pursue sales again, it’s likely i wouldn’t have been able to avoid short sales.  at least not if i wanted to eat.

i commend those that can stay the course and avoid doing short sales at their choosing.  that demonstrates a strong referral and repeat book of business in my estimation.  and if you can make that work in this economy, then by all means keep on keepin’ on.

but i’d like to hear others’ perspectives on this “short sale avoidance.”  is this a syndrome? or a sustainable strategy?  or just crazy talk in this economic climate?

i’d appreciate your comments.

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is that a light at the end of the tunnel?

or is that a train?

i’m not one to be a pollyanna, nor am i mr. gloom and doom. i’m a glass half-empty, glass half-full kinda guy, depending on what day of the week you catch me. guess that makes me “fair and balanced.” well, maybe balanced. in an imbalanced sort of way.

but lately i’m driven to the point of madness with all the conflicting news reports and industry prognostications that are at odds with one another from one day to the next. purchase mortgage applications are up, pending home sales are down, showings are stagnant and closed transactions are off from a year ago. gdp estimates from earlier in the year are revised, showing economic growth much less than thought. new home sales are up.  oops, we meant down.  no wait. they’re flat.

latin anyone?

latin is a dead language. everyone knows that. but its reincarnation has come by way of statistical speak. very little of the statistics churned out make sense anymore, at least not to the average homeowner. and those statistics and revised statistics become mumbo jumbo to the real estate professional.  too much conflicting information. strike that. too much information. period. so what do we do? what can we rely on?

become a scout

native american scouts used to place an ear to the ground to feel the vibrations of riders often miles away. prior to the telegraph, railroad workers would touch the rails to see if a train was moving on the tracks.

it’s time we turned off the tv, folded up the newspaper, stopped listening to the radio and started listening to the street. placing an ear to the ground in our local markets and avoiding the macro malaise churned out by the media.   limit the input from the talking heads that are analyzing statistical reports that have very little to do with our markets.

real estate after all is local, not national. the national information helps to identify trends that affect the industry, but local conditions and events drive the local market.  how else can you explain areas of the country that defy the trends with price appreciation and single digit days-on-market statistics? guess they weren’t watching the news in that market…

put your head on the tracks

time to tune in to the local market, feel the vibrations and understand our individual market statistics intimately. and if it’s a train coming down those tracks, it might be best to step aside and let it go on through.

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in case you were wondering…

no, i’m still here.  still alive. just had to take a break.  a lot of people will tell you at points in their existence “life got in the way.”  life is the way.  live it.  the rest gets in the way of life.

so i’ve managed to recenter myself after many personal challenges and refocus my energy. channeling myself into more productive mindsets and thinking more positive thoughts.  yeah, it’s a lot like “the secret.”  heck, it is the secret. a perspective of abundance and positive thought.  it works.

call it a reboot.  i’m back. and happy to be back.

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