Archive for the ‘Realtor tips’ Category

Increase Your Chances of Short Sale Offer Approval

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Buyers often ask me what they can do to assure their short sale offers are accepted. While for the most part we are at the mercy of the lenders when it comes to short sales, there actually are ways to increase the likelihood of getting that priceless lender approval letter.

The simple answer is to make your offer as clean as possible. Here are some tips:

1.  Do not ask for a home warranty. Most lenders will not pay for this. I always offer to buy a one year home warranty for my buyers, and this makes for one less expense to put on the HUD statement – the document by which lenders decide whether or not to approve a short sale.

2.  If you have to ask the seller to pay closing costs, get creative. In short sale cases most sellers do not have the money to pay for the buyer’s closing costs (they usually can’t pay their own, thus the reason for the short sale), and most short sale lenders will not pay closing costs. Some buyers do not have the money to pay their own closing costs, so they may need to find creative ways to include this – such as writing the offer for slightly over asking price, and then asking for the closing cost credit through escrow. Make sure to discuss any alternatives with your agent and mortgage professional to find the right solution for you, as you need to be aware of any effects this may have on your mortgage, taxes, etc.

3.  Offer a higher initial deposit to show you are serious. If possible, make your initial deposit appealing. Of course this depends on your budget and the price of the home you are trying to purchase, but 2% of the purchase price is usually decent. If you are purchasing a home in a higher price range you may consider 3%. Again, discuss this with your agent.

4.  Find out about termite standing before writing your offer. Many lenders will not pay for termite work, and will only provide a report. But there are lenders who will offer some money toward wood destroying pest repairs. If possible, have your agent discuss with the listing agent whether he or she included termite work estimates in the estimated HUD that was delivered to the lender (if there was one), or discuss whether the agent knows if the lender will cover any of these costs. If the lender has made clear it will not cover this you may consider asking for a report only. Be careful here – I have had lenders pay for termite work, so don’t just write this one off; see what information your agent can discover.

5.  Make sure your agent is constantly communicating with the listing agent. Often buyer’s agents write the offer and sit on the sidelines waiting to hear from the listing agents. I think it is important to contact the listing agent once a week to see if there has been any news on my clients’ offers. I like to do this at the end of each week, so the agent has had the work week to check on progress with the lender(s), but usually do so on Thursday or Friday morning, in case my contact reminds the agent to check for updates.

Short sales can be hard for several reasons, but from the buyer’s perspective the most common and difficult is waiting. Making your offer as clean as possible, and having your agent stay on top of progress, will hopefully make the approval period a little less painful, and make the wait well worth your while.

RSS Feed

Can Social Media Ease Your Workload?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

I read some great blogs this morning, and they inspired me to talk about one of my favorite things: keeping it real. With the advent of social media many people think that there is a “next great thing” that will make their business easier. Right now that thing is social media.

Social media is great – it’s fun, it’s available 24/7, it allows us to connect with industry experts and colleagues, and maybe even find new clients or customers. But it is a mere tool we have in our arsenals, not a “quick fix” that will allow us to take a day off or relax our tried an true methods of doing business. The fact is that RELATIONSHIPS cannot be trumped. We simply need to understand that our relationships with our clients, customers, colleagues and friends are the most important tool we have in our business, and in our lives. Social media cannot replace that, but it should still be a part of what you do each day.

I have blogged many times about the importance of phone calls, meetings, visits to clients. In fact, this is the aspect of my work I truly enjoy the most. Sitting down with a client or colleague for lunch or coffee is actually fun. I get to learn more about him or her, and if talk turns to business hopefully I can educate, share knowledge and answer questions. There is no substitute for one-on-one connections, in my opinion.

Many business people complain that with the advent of social media there is simply too much to do, too much to keep up with, and unfortunately I hear all the time that relationships are left out in the cold. One Realtor friend of mine recently told me that she just doesn’t have the time to connect with past clients. This should be her number one priority!

Here are a few ways to make it easier to keep in touch with people every day:

1. Schedule a time of day to connect. By this I don’t mean sit in front of your computer or phone and email someone. Spend an hour a day: call a past client, meet one for a cup of coffee, stop by their home. It doesn’t take much! If you can’t schedule a meeting every day then make a phone call and plan one. Try to plan at least one meeting a week, but still spend an hour each day calling or doing the next activity…

2. Handwritten notes. Sending an email doesn’t show much effort, but if you write a note to a client/customer it shows you care. Many people don’t understand the value of this, but trust me, people appreciate this. Try to write several notes a day. You can do so on birthdays, anniversaries, house anniversaries, holidays and just about any time. But don’t let this be a substitute to a visit or call – you need to do both.

3. Party. What better way to thank your clients than to throw a party for them? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. You can do a dessert party, or a cocktail hour. You can have it at the beach or a park. The message is more important than the price tag. This obviously is not something you do all the time, but you can plan it and send out notices about it in advance to get people excited.

4. Educate continuously. This is something that you have to strive to do, every day. You are your local expert, so you need to show that to not only your clients, but the locals! If you don’t have a blog, start one. You don’t have to be a writer. You can do a video blog, interview people in your area or do a photo blog. Post calendars on your local blog to keep people informed of local events. If a client asks you a question, turn the answer into a blog. You can also create a monthly or quarterly newsletter for your past and current clients, even highlighting a different person in each one (get their permission first, of course) – this is a great way to keep people informed about the local market and get them excited to read your content. There are many sites you can go to to do so, but it is very easy to create yourself. Once you have a template made you simply have to fill it in with new stories, which of course are easy to find online and by creating your own content.

5. Social media. Yes, you should engage in social media as well as the old basic methods, but you need to do so in conjunction with them, not as a replacement. Try to limit your time spent on social media so that it doesn’t consume you. Use it to post your blogs, connect with industry experts and share area knowledge. It is a great learning tool not only for those with whom you share, but for yourself as well. I definitely do NOT advocate overlooking social media, as it is very powerful if you use it correctly.

It is much easier to keep up with your clients if you make a schedule and stick to it – but you have to keep up with it. It took me 2-3 years of blogging to really see effects, but amazing things have happened and opened up to me because I am vigilant. People start to notice that you are an expert in your field. Besides, it’s great to share with others and helps keep you on your toes too, so make it fun! Remember that nothing can replace relationship building, no matter how shiny it is or how wonderful it may seem. So, the answer is no – social media cannot ease your workload. But if used in conjunction with the above tools it can definitely make your work more fulfilling and likely more profitable.

RSS Feed

Oh So Many Number Ones in Real Estate

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Claiming to be number one in some fields is very prestigious–say if you are the number one tennis player or golfer, the number one company that donates to charity, the number one cancer research hospital. Being the best at a sport, discovering a cure…these things are all something to be proud of and are important to consider in marketing. But when it comes to businesses that provide a service, such as real estate, do we really want to hear that the service provider is “Number 1?”

The real estate industry has changed drastically in the last decade. The housing market crash, economic issues and the explosion of technology and social media have changed the way Realtors do their job. It has also changed the way potential customers feel about our industry. The home buyers and sellers have so much available today at their fingertips, and many feel that a Realtor is not necessary. Realtors need to change the way they run their businesses to make them more client-centric instead of agent-centric.

I read a great blog by Matthew Ferrara, a Realtor in the Boston area, comparing the real estate business to that of Starbucks. Starbucks has had to reinvent the way it does business as well, he says, because people just were not buying the “it’s all about the atmosphere and the feeling” anymore–when it comes down to it, they are still paying for a $4 cup of coffee. He says Realtors are the same–it’s not about the agent, it’s about what the agent can do for the client, and that has to be the focus.

When an agent advertises his services he needs to focus on the client: how would a potential client see that advertisement? I huge billboard with “I’m the number one Realtor in___” will not likely cause the person to want to pick up the phone and call you. The customer wants to feel that s/he will be well cared for, that you will hold their hands and guide them, answer their questions, provide valuable information and be there when they need you.

Recently I was at the movies with my husband. A Realtor in the area advertises on screen. Two middle-aged ladies behind me started to laugh when the advertisement came up proclaiming the agent was “Number 1.” One asked the other, “What makes him number one? How can he say that?” This was interesting to me, because it was an unsolicited response and it proved my point–do people really want to hear/see this? How valuable is it? Surely a customer wants to know their agent has experience, but realistically if you are “number 1” in sales can you truly provide the best service?

We can try to change the requirements for marketing in ways that do nothing more than espouse puffery, but the change has to come from the individual.

No matter what business you are in you should consider how you market yourself and your company. Look at things from a different perspective–what would YOU want to see and get when hiring a service provider? Then project that in your marketing. It’s really a grass roots approach, back to basics. People have choices when they choose a service provider, so tell them what you will do for them. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at the results.

RSS Feed

Who Is on YOUR Team?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Being part of a team is important for so many reasons, in most every field and job. Even if you work for yourself you most likely have a team of people without whom you could not adequately do your job. Those who don’t have strong teams tend to be less positive and have higher stress levels.

In case you are wondering what I mean by “team,” it is a term I use to include all those to whom I turn for assistance, answers, services–things that help me provide better service to my clients. I do not mean handing my work over, because that is something I do NOT believe in personally (it’s just not the way I function); instead I include as team members those who help my clients, or help me to better serve them. My team members are the people who stand behind me, and I behind them.

On my team I have mortgage brokers, transaction coordinators, short sale experts, attorneys, escrow officers and other Realtors, a host of contractors, repair people, internet experts, technology gurus, designers and jacks of all trades. These are people I can reach out to when I need a question answered or service provided, and I know they will provide me with the best information because I trust them all explicitly. I can count on these people and know they will do a fantastic job helping my clients or helping me to provide even better service. In turn I help them.

So, who is on your team? If you have not done so, take the time to evaluate everyone and see what they contribute to your success. Maybe you are missing some players. If so, seek them out–don’t worry if it takes time to do so. When you find the right people it is a true win-win situation.

Working together with all the people I include on my team not only makes my job easier, but so much more rewarding. It allows me to really be able to concentrate on my clients, and I owe much of that to my team. So if you do not have a team working behind you it is necessary in today’s world. Seek those whom you can truly trust and connect with them. You will be surprised at how much happier you will be.

RSS Feed

Fantastic Book & Signing in San Diego This Sunday

Friday, March 4th, 2011

What kind of animal are you? I highly recommend this book, and if you would like to meet the author here is the information for Sunday’s book signing in San Diego.

Meet Stefan Swanepoel, author of Surviving Your Serengeti:
Sunday, March 6, 2011
7:00 pm ‚ 8:30 pm
Manchester Grand Hyatt

Lobby Bar

Bring your own copy of Surviving Your Serengeti or you can pick one up for $20 at this book signing. Stefan will be signing books, answering questions, and giving out “What Animal Am I?” pins. So be sure to take the quiz before coming! (Click this link to take the quiz:

The Manchester Grand Hyatt is in the heart of San Diego right on the waterfront. Find us just left of the check in desk in the open area by the lobby bar.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Manchester Grand Hyatt
1 Market Place
San Diego, CA 92101

RSS Feed

Cooperation Stomps Competition in Real Estate

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Real estate, like any sales business, thrives on competition. But it is the nature of the competition that can give the industry a bad name. There is a time for competition, which can be healthy, and a time for colleagues to cooperate–and actually they can exist simultaneously. So whether you are “the top producer” in an area, someone who sells just a few homes a year, or somewhere in between–listen up.

Realtors are a different breed of business people. True, our business involves sales, but realistically we provide much more: we are guidance counselors, teachers and personal trainers. We don’t just hand someone an apple from the bunch and take a quarter, so to speak. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions a person makes in his or her lifetime. It is not something that typically happens quickly, and there is a lot of work involved. The Realtor who only cares about a paycheck will not last long, especially with technology driving change in our industry. We have to be smarter, more connected, better equipped to assist our clientele and each other.

In such an atmosphere there is one mantra that needs to be followed: we all need to cooperate. No kidding, you say, right? But honestly, there are many agents out there who still think it is all about themselves. Of course, we do compete with each other, but we also need to increase the trust in our industry, and that cannot be done unless we all respect each other and perform our duties in the most professional manner.

Every industry has it’s complainers, it’s sour pusses, it’s bad eggs. Look at lawyers–the general opinion seems to be that they are disliked, but if you are arrested or sued you would be calling one faster than a speeding bullet. There are many amazing lawyers out there, but the bad eggs spoil the perceptions of the industry. The same is true of real estate.

So, get out there and respect your competition. Join industry chats, follow other agents on Twitter and Facebook, read Realtor blogs, share your knowledge with other agents. Return agent phone calls and emails. It doesn’t mater how many houses you sell or how much money someone spends on marketing. If you do the best you can do with what you have and you are happy, you can only get better by cooperating with others and paying it forward.

If you want to take it one step further, keep in mind that cooperation is important but you also need to watch what you say–both to colleagues, clients and online. To read more about this click here:

RSS Feed

You’d Better Watch What You Say

Friday, February 25th, 2011

With the world online it has become harder to uphold reputations and maintain your desired degree of professionalism…you actually have to work at keeping them in check. Clients and colleagues can check up on you in an instant, so what you say online and in person needs to be well-thought out. Realtors are no exception; in fact, they probably have to be more careful than the average person, for fear of violating a myriad of laws or regulations. For some tips on how to keep your reputation untarnished read more at

RSS Feed

The Unloyal Client

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I love being a Realtor, and I especially love using my experience and background to make a difference in helping others. Like many businesses involving sales, the hope is that when you serve people well they will remain loyal to you, but many Realtors find at least once in their careers that loyalty can fly out the window in a heartbeat. So, how do we keep clients loyal?

First of all, you have to understand that it is human nature to always look for the next best thing. Granted, many people respect loyalty–if I find a good service provider I stick with them. But there are people in every industry who are out there preying on consumers, trying to win them over. Unfortunately that is true in our industry as well. And while your clients are free to work with whomever they choose it still hurts when they choose to work with another agent or worse, when they don’t come back to you, especially if you have stayed in touch and provided great service. Here are some tools you can (and should) use to connect with your clients, keep the relationship strong, and remind them of your stellar service:

1. The good, old-fashioned phone call and visit. Despite all the online hype this is the tried and true method for keeping in touch with clients. Call your clients periodically, stop by for a visit, meet them for coffee. Stay in touch on a personal level.

2. Email. Send your clients emails of any interesting articles or blogs/summaries you may read that may pertain to their neighborhood. You can include new listings, events, or anything you like. Make sure you do this once or twice a month at least.

3. Connect with your clients via Social Media. This is another way to stay in touch. Encourage them to “like” your Facebook page so they can get all your great content sent to their Facebook news feed. If your clients are tech-savvy encourage them to follow you on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. Tell them to sign up for an RSS feed of your blog.

4. Anniversary. On the anniversary of their home purchase (if you sold them a home) send them a handwritten note. I love to drop off a little basket of sweets on the first anniversary, in honor of a sweet first year of home ownership.

5. Buyer-Broker agreements. Although controversial, there is always debate over whether to use these with buyers. Some brokerages require them, so if you are in that group obviously you don’t have a choice. The fact of the matter is that a client is free to work with whomever he or she chooses, so a signature on paper won’t really save you. But there are definitely many agents who will not work with a buyer until these agreements are signed.

6. Revamp your marketing goals and campaign several times a year. Take a look at your marketing and see where you can improve. If you are trying to get listings obviously you need to have a listing presentation that stands up to the competition. If you send out marketing pieces to your past clients make sure they are hitting the mark and are consistent. If you work with buyers are you providing them with enough information from the outset? There are always new ways to spruce up your marketing arsenal, so continue to seek them.

If you have done all of those things and your client still doesn’t value you then you have to take it with a grain of salt. It is easy to beat ourselves up in these situations, but if you know you provided great service then you have to chalk it up to human nature. Stay in touch with your clients even if they seek another Realtor’s assistance. I had a client years ago who used another agent to purchase a house while she was in escrow with me on another home (by fluke she had called on the home and the agent convinced her to write an offer–yes, call it slimy tactics on behalf of the agent but the client chose to do so). She called me after the purchase and said she wished she’d worked with me instead–the other agent did not compare to me, according to her. Well, at least she realized that I provided great service. It made me feel a little better.

If you are like me the lack of loyalty will be hard to swallow, but the more you remain true to yourself and continue to provide great service to your clients, the more people will appreciate you. Work with those who truly do, and you will be a much happier person.

RSS Feed

Do You Have Klout?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Well, do you? If not, you need to get it! If you have no idea what I am talking about let me explain.

Klout is the future–it is where internet savvy people will go to check you out and find out who are the informative leaders in your field. Klout is the self-proclaimed “standard for influence.” It tells you how much influence you have online–who influences you and whom you influence. This is done by giving you a score, after evaluating your social media presence (from Facebook and Twitter). It looks at your content and what you are putting out there in cyberspace. Your score changes as your online presence grows or falters.

Klout provides a detailed breakdown of your online presence, covering topics like the likelihood that your content will be acted upon, the influence level of your engaged audience, and the size of your engaged audience. It breaks down these topics into charts or numbers so you can see a detailed analysis of how you are influencing others. For example, under the topic “Likelihood that your content will be acted upon,” you can see how many people have retweeted your tweets and how many times you have been mentioned on Twitter. It will tell you how many “likes” you have and the number of comments you have received on Facebook.

If you are using social media in your business this is a phenomenal tool. It can tell you where you need to focus more or maybe not spend so much time. By far one great advantagel is seeing who influences you and whom you influence. It’s a great way to learn how to grow your presence online and become an expert in your field. You can see the topics under which your content falls. For example, mine include real estate, law/attorneys, sales and social media.

Klout also gives you a classification, with 16 possible classifications, which Klout calls “a personality test for your style of influence.” Check it out at All in all it is a great way to see where you are making a difference, or how much clout you have. Ahem, I meant Klout.

RSS Feed

Social Media Etiquette 101

Monday, January 31st, 2011

If you use social media it is imperative you know your manners. So many people write things on Facebook, Twitter and other sites that clearly indicate they did not think before posting. In fact, one of the hardest things to teach our children–the first generation of social media people– is that what you say in cyber space can effect you, even years later. Here are some simple tips to assure your social media manners are in tact.

1. Do not post anything disparaging about yourself or others. There are plenty of stories about people who have lost their jobs or not been hired because of what they post on sites like Facebook. If you got drunk last night or you don’t like your boss, it may not be such a great idea to post these things. Even if your intention is to post something in jest, think about whether it could compromise views of you as a professional. If a co-worker did something unethical and you post about it, you could wind up in trouble legally…it’s called slander. Some of the laws regarding slander and the internet are still evolving and will continue to do so, so be careful if you write about another person. If you even allude to that person (“my boss,” or “the secretary of my company”) that could possibly be slanderous too.

2. Do not use social media as puffery. Social media sites are used by some–those who don’t truly understand their purpose– as a means of self-promotion only. You will quickly lose friends and connections on sites like Facebook and Twitter if the majority of what you post is about you, promotion of your business, or what a great ___ you are. People want good content, not bragging. It is ok to talk about yourself and your business, but make sure to mix it in with a lot of good content–useful information that will make people want to read your posts.

3. Learn the benefits of the different types of social media to make the most of each. Each site is different and realistically, you can post different things on each. For example, I find many people do not understand the benefits of Twitter. I did not when I first created an account over a year ago. But what I have learned since is that Twitter is not a means of getting business so much as it is a means to connect with industry experts and learning from them. It is the content that matters here–you follow those whom you respect or have good content, read their blogs, and hopefully get some great ideas for your business, your blog, etc. This is not the place to post “Call me for the best service,” although there is a time where you can do so (for example, if you are a Realtor and you are promoting a listing).

Another example is Facebook, which is a bit different and can have long comment threads. Feel free to comment on topics but realize that you need to think first. If you make a strong political statement or bash an industry it could come back to haunt you later. I have a good friend who is a recruiter for a big company, and her job is to check all social media sites of an applicant before they are called for an interview. Be careful.

4. Remember what you post is a reflection of YOU and your business. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice (and I have written entire blogs dedicated to it), yet I am constantly amazed at how many people do not use spell check or read through their posts before hitting send. Grammar mistakes, typos and poor use of words reflect that you do not take the time to proof what you write. This is not only unprofessional, but makes it look like you don’t care. Is this the image you want to portray to colleagues and potential clients? It really does not take long to proof-read.

In conclusion, there are things you need to keep in mind that will truly help you to become a social media guru, and learn a lot in the process. Social media is an incredible tool, one that is necessary in today’s business climate. If you use it correctly the benefits will be plentiful. One last mention: if you want to read a great book on just how effective social media can be, why it is so important and how your role plays out, pick up a copy of Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

RSS Feed