Friday, April 28, 2017

Terrific Tips from the “Give Back Girl”

By Julie Escobar

To wrap up our series of short sale interviews, I turned to another Facebook friend who’s confidence, capability and compassion caught my eye.  Known as the “Give Back Girl” because of her charity work – Gloria Commiso has much to share…

Let’s learn:

Q:  First of all – Thanks so much for sharing your “secrets” with us!  Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose short sales as your niche?

A:  Yes!  I’m a Keller Williams Agent licensed for six years. I was the former wife of a Real Estate Broker but I wasn’t licensed until after we got divorced.  It was an easy choice to get into Real Estate because it gave me a flexible schedule that I needed as a single mom.  Besides — I love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else except charity work.  My slogan is the “giveback girl.” I give a portion of every check to one or more charities. Last year, with the support of KW and Borders Bookstores, I helped to build a small library for an organization called “School on Wheels” in downtown Los Angeles. The facility tutors foster and homeless children. I got involved in real estate because I wanted to facilitate change in people’s lives. It also allowed me to combine my passions of helping people and interior decorating.

I didn’t exactly choose short sales; they choose me through my referral partners. I have a graduate back ground in “Negotiating and Integrative Bargaining.”  Short sales require so many layers of negotiating and follow up/persistence that this seemed like a good fit.  One of my motivations to assist homeowners in distress was to assist my own clients. (I started assisting in modifications for a couple of past clients but luckily none of my past clients have had to sell short.)  I began to realize that many agents didn’t want or know how to approach them. One by one, agents would call and ask me to co-list or assist with a short sale. Over the past three years I have closed 100% of all my standard short sales. The only one I couldn’t close was a “strategic” new construction short sale. The banks foreclosed because the construction loan was not in place for one year.

Q:  What do you believe is important for distressed homeowners to know SOONER rather than later in today’s swiftly changing economy?

A:  What’s really important for homeowners to know is that the longer they wait the less options and more stress they have. It’s also important for them to know that agents aren’t accountants, lawyers or financial planners so they must get advice from one or more of the aforementioned professionals before deciding to execute a short sale. They must understand all the options and liabilities.

Q:  How are you reaching out to distressed homeowners and letting them know that there are options available to them?  How can a new agent getting into short sales find those homeowners who really need help?

A:  I’ve been reaching out to homeowners in distress through past clients, blogging and also through my referral partners by passing out contact and program information for government websites. I wouldn’t advise agents to target these people unless they have adequate training: either CDPE classes, HAFA training, SFR courses or some type of extended education.  Most of my referrals come from other agents and attorneys. I haven’t advertised my services for short sales –I just take referrals.

Q:  What kind of stats have you seen in terms of the rise of short sale in your market and nationwide?

A:  We have seen a steady increase in short sales peaking last year. One of my standard sales was in the city of Lawndale which at the time was 98% distressed w REOs, short sales and foreclosures. I don’t see them tapering off anytime soon and it’s about the same as last year…slow and steady in the Beach Cities South of LAX. The majority of mine have been in Hawthorne, Torrance, and areas east of the beach.

Q:  What kind of training has been key in helping you stand out in your community as a short sale specialist?

A:  I have taken a CDPE course that my company offered and I took a HAFA certification course recently because the guidelines change very fast. I also read all the CAR and NAR legal updates and now that the FTC is involved, I have been immersed in MARS (Mortgage Assistance Relief Servicers) information. The best training though is on-the- job-training.  I’ve shorted or assisted in  negotiating loan modifications with Wells Fargo, Union Bank, BofA, JP Morgan CHASE, Countrywide, Kinecta, Aurora, Chevy Chase.

Q:  Just as I did in our previous article with Nicole Fabiano – I’d love to do a little “myth busting” for distressed homeowners – can you give me say the top three or four misconceptions consumers may have about short sales and foreclosures and what they really should know?

A:  Absolutely!  Myth Buster #1: Short Sales are all a nightmare! If a seller is cooperative and motivated it doesn’t have to be painful BUT you do have to be thorough.  The bank has to have certain documentation packaged (Cover sheet, listing agreement, loan authorization, short sale addendum, MLS profile, hardship letter, financial worksheet, past 2 years tax returns, last 3 paycheck stubs, last 3 checking/savings account statements, seller net sheet, HUD, most recent property tax bill, comparable sales and a property condition report if necessary. If you have retained an offer then also send the Purchase agreement, proof of funds, preapproval and FICO information.

If the agent is consistent with communication and documents all conversations you have a better chance at getting a negotiator to look at the file. There are ways you can package a file that will get the attention of the bank. A good cover sheet with Clients’ name, loan number, listing agent, broker, and settlement officer’s info and contact numbers for all parties is critical. (Loan number should be referenced on all documentation. Also, when dealing with banks on the east coast I get up at 5am to be one of the first calls to check status. If I’m dealing with an attorney or negotiator I copy him on all emails.  Negotiators pay attention when attorneys are involved.  In addition, request the following from the seller: all paperwork signed, completed and include all debt including pre-payment penalties, liens, back due property taxes, HOA back dues, IRS liens, etc.

In addition, cooperation is a must the agent has to insist on the following: a lock box, showing hours, a clean home at all times, access for showings/open houses. Next, agents should carry their phones at all times so they don’t miss a call. Program the bank numbers in your phone and set a ring tone for the negotiator! (Don’t miss a call!) If you do call back ASAP.  Call response time is critical to converting a short sale to sold! If the seller is difficult to get a hold of or travels, see if you can get a power of attorney.  Scan all documents so you have remote access in case the bank needs a copy of something. Get the short sale approval document signed as soon as the bank sends it and send it back w signatures from all parties. Have access to a mobile notary. Make sure you have an escrow officer that is familiar with short sales and can correct a HUD at a moment’s notice.

Myth Buster #2: Your agent can decide for you whether you should short sale. The best way to find out who the professionals are is by hearing this come out of the agent’s mouth before even putting pen to paper. “Have you talked to a tax advisor, accountant or attorney about your liabilities?” In the case of HAFA an agent isn’t even allowed to give the paperwork to the seller. The seller has to call to initiate the HAMP and HAFA and download paperwork from the website.

Myth Buster #3: The bank approves the short sale! The bank in many cases is just the loan servicer. Actually, many loans were sold to investors and it is the investor that makes the decision to approve the negative. That’s part of the reason that it takes so long. First you apply for the short sale then the bank processes your offer internally. Next they contact the investor to see if he will agree. If there are two loans w two different banks it takes time.

Myth Buster #4: The bank doesn’t want to cooperate! Well this is true in some cases — but the reality is that most banks want to do everything they can to come to an agreement – many just don’t have the manpower to deal with the volume of people in crisis. Also, since no one really understood the magnitude of the housing crisis, banks just weren’t staffed and training was happening simultaneously while the banks were deluged with a high volume of short sale and modification requests.

Myth  Buster #5: If I short sell, I can just walk away. Not true.  Some banks are asking for seller contributions in a promissory note. Also, the mortgage debt tax relief applies to people who are short selling their primary residence and has other criteria’s that a seller must meet.

Q:  Great information!  What’s your best advice for agents coming into the field of short sales in terms of arming themselves with the right information to not just succeed in their market – but truly protect their client’s best interests as well?

A:  My advice to any agent getting involved in short sales is to get CDPE training and continue getting extended education because the laws keep changing. Also, shadow an agent that is actively negotiating several short sales at a time. Set expectations with the seller in regards to time frames and processing requirements. Take really good notes and keep a good communication log. If you use a third party negotiator make sure you are both MARS compliant. Have the negotiator copy you on every deal. Have regular updates so you always know what’s going on with the file. Program dates into your calendar, contingency periods, nod periods, short sale approval date and expiration date. Use a system and stay organized. Stay in touch with the client. Know the laws in regards to marketing and be MARS compliant.

Q:  What’s the best part about being a short sale specialist for you?  What’s most rewarding?

A:  The best thing about closing a short sale is relieving someone of the debt that is causing stress and crisis in their lives. In essence, closing a short sale is giving someone their life back and helping them make a fresh start!

Here’s some resources you may find useful: MARS includes any service, plan or program offered or provided in exchange for consideration on behalf of the consumer (I’m assuming consideration to be “money”), that is represented, expressly or by implication, to assist or attempt to assist the consumer” in negotiating a modification of any term of a loan or obtain other types of relief to avoid delinquency or foreclosure.   For more info go to  http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/11/mars.shtm

Our jobs are to both to sell and assist homeowners in retaining their homes when possible. Here is some contact information to pass along to distressed homeowners who want to know what their options are.

Free counseling www.hud.gov Or call the hope hotline: 888-995-HOPE press one for English.  Home ownership preservation is in partnership w the government. Have the loan number and mortgage details available. You can also file a complaint here if you feel you have been a victim of a foreclosure prevention fraud. I called this morning and i got through in a matter of minutes.

Federal modification, refinance and short sale programs:

www.makinghomeaffordable.gov

The HAFA program gives sellers up to$3k credit at the close of escrow for relocating. If a servicer is participating in HAFA they must also offer HAMP (loan modification application). If a seller is denied a loan modification they can automatically apply for HAFA. The seller must contact the servicer to apply

Agents looking for answers – visit:  www.realtor.org/shortsales and contact your local board for accredited courses in short sales.

Wow Gloria – you’re a treasure trove of information!  Thank you so much for your time and insights!

If you’d like to learn more from Gloria – follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gcommiso1.  While you’re there – be sure to follow us too at www.facebook.com/prospectsplus!

If you’d like to take a sneak peek at the brand new short sale templates we’ve just released for short sale specialists – visit our online gallery today here:  SHORT SALE TEMPLATES.  Be sure to use promo code SHORTSALE15 at checkout to save 15% off your order!  While you’re on the site, be sure to check out our resource section for collateral free reports including Seven Must Know Facts About Short Sales and Foreclosures and another that will be posting soon.

When Your Facebook Name is “Short Sales” –You’ve GOT to Know Your Stuff!

By Julie Escobar

As I was researching experts to interview this month for our segment on short sales I look up one day to see a Facebook post from Short Sales – which of course led me to immediately click “MESSAGE” to find out more about Ms. Nicole Fabiano – certainly she would have some perspective on the topic!

Perspective indeed – let’s take a look at some of what she had to share…

Q:  First of all – great score on the Facebook name Short Sales!  That sure caught my eye!  Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose short sales as your niche?

A: Sure, I got into short sale almost 5 years ago. The market crashed in South Florida and for months I didn’t know what to do. I had a friend that told me I should short sell the condo I was currently in. I didn’t know what a short sale was. I did some research, then put my condo on the market and about 6 months later I had successfully negotiated my own short sale. It was one of the most horrible experiences ever but I was sure glad once it was done. I had been in real estate for ten years and had several investors holding on to multiple properties that were all upside down on their mortgage. We started short selling them all to avoid foreclosure. Then other REALTORS® started referring me their business. Now I own a short sale negotiation company and teach agents how and why to do short sales.

Q:  That’s terrific – and what a way to make lemonade from lemons-right?  Tell me, what’s important for distressed homeowners to know SOONER rather than later in today’s swiftly changing economy?

A:  That they have options and that if they can’t afford their monthly payments– foreclosure should be the last option. It can really be an easy process and a homeowner can put their current situation behind them within a few months and start rebuilding their credit and look forward to a much brighter future. I always tell my homeowners, you reach a point where you have to look at your situation as a business decision and take the emotional part out of it.   In many markets and situations – it’s just not their fault that the economy crashed and they’re not alone –thousands of people are in the same situation. Don’t just wait for the bank to foreclose on you, take control.

Q:  Good advice — How are you reaching out to distressed homeowners and letting them know that there are options available to them?  How can a new agent getting into short sales find those homeowners who really need help?

A:  We hold monthly seminars and are doing more and more. We hold them for both homeowners and REALTORS®. If they can’t come to a seminar, they call me! I can help homeowners all over the United States and am happy to do so.  What agents should know is that roughly one in every five homeowners is in a distressed situation. Start by connecting with your sphere of influence and you will be surprised how many clients you will get and homeowners you can help once you educate yourself on short sales.

Q:  Can you share any stats with us in terms of where you see short sales headed in both the immediate future and say within the next five years?

A:  I think short sales are going to stay strong for the next five years. The condo market will experience the hardest hits, especially in our area, because so many were built when the market was strong. It is all about supply and demand and there just is a lot of supply right now. I think investors will come into most these condos and buy them in bulk, many of the condo conversions will go back to rentals. Also, all the shadow inventory is still out there and until it comes and gets bought up the market will continue to do down – but it will then eventually even out.

Q:  I’d love to do a little “myth busting” for distressed homeowners – can you give me say the top three or four misconceptions consumers may have about short sales and foreclosures and what they really should know?   Certainly number one is that “They’re all alone.”

A:  I love this question; in our small training packets for Realtors we actually have a FACT VS MYTH section.  Hmmm, I would have to say my top three are as follows:

MYTH: “I can’t short sale my house because I am too far behind on my mortgage payments.” Wrong!

FACT: I have saved homeowners from foreclosure the day before the house was to be sold in auction for the foreclosure.  It is never too late to try! The banks almost always make more money in a short sale, that’s why they exist! When looking at a short sale, the bank is always comparing it to what they would make in a short sale vs foreclosure. Foreclosure costs the banks thousands of dollars so they would rather short sale.

MYTH: “I have to try selling my house for 3-6 months at a higher price before the bank will accept a short sale.”  Wrong!

FACT: You can put your house on the market at fair market value (I tell all the agents I teach to price the home in what they think it would sell for in a 30-day quick sale). You can’t start the short sale negotiations with the bank until you have an offer, so there is no reason to list it at a price you know is too high for the market.

MYTH: Lenders won’t accept a severely discounted payoff. Wrong!

FACT: In a short sale situation, banks determine the sale price of the home based off the current market value regardless of the deficiency amount.  In fact, my company, Home Solutions has seen deficiencies approved in excess of $1,400,000!

Q:  Nicole, recently I’ve interviewed some top agents who’ve been through extensive training to ensure they’ve got the systems and solutions consumers need, which I believe is important – and I know you provide for agents in your market area.  What’s your best advice for agents coming into the field of short sales in terms of arming themselves with the right information to not just succeed in their market – but truly protect their client’s best interests as well?

A:   My advice is if you’re going to take short sale listings, get the training and position yourself with a short sale negotiator (like Home Solutions or anyone you know has a good track record of negotiating short sales) and you will succeed! Short sale listings are not hard or take much more work than traditional listings. I actually find them to be much easier that traditional sales because the homeowner doesn’t care what it sells for. Plus when you work with a negotiation company, we do all the extra work, the Realtor just needs to list and sell the home like a traditional listing. Agents who haven’t been trained and don’t specialize in short sales should NOT be giving advice.  If it’s not a niche you want to work, refer those listings to someone who can do right by the homeowner.  Align yourself with someone who has the experience and the training to do that.  It is such a “feel good” business when you are helping a homeowner understand their options, avoid foreclosure, and/or get out from under a financial burden.

Q:  What’s the best part about being a short sale specialist for you?  What’s most rewarding?

A:  Saving the homeowner from foreclosure. Helping them understand they have options that they had no idea were out there. Many of our clients have been struggling for months and even years to pay for their home and can’t sell it because the market just won’t allow them to come anywhere near what they paid. We help all of those people and then they can move on with their life and some can even then take advantage of buying again in a few years while prices are still low.

Great stuff Nicole!  I really appreciate your time and insight!  If you’d like to learn more about Nicole and her company, visit www.home-solutionsinc.com and look for them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HomeSolutionsInc.  While you’re there – check out our fan page –www.facebook.com/prospectsplus!

If you’d like to take a sneak peek at the brand new short sale templates we’ve just released for short sale specialists – visit our online gallery today here:  SHORT SALE TEMPLATES.  Be sure to use promo code SHORTSALE15 at checkout to save 15% off your order!  While you’re on the site, be sure to check out our resource section for collateral free reports including Seven Must Know Facts About Short Sales and Foreclosures and another that will be posting soon.

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Press Release: ProspectsPLUS.com just launched a new series of six all-new direct mail postcards for short sale specialists to make reaching out to distressed homeowners in their market fast, simple and affordable!

This simple web-to-print platform allows agents to choose their postcard or the entire series, upload their list and within just minutes place their order and take advantage of the ability to send just one postcard or to an entire database and with prices as low as .43₵ per card!  These full-color cards are printed, addressed, finished and mailed first class within 48 hours, making it easy to capture the attention of rental property owners in every market.

“Our short sale postcards have been a high-demand item as agents seek new ways to increase their revenue in today’s swiftly changing market,” shared Corporate Marketing Director Julie Escobar.   “We’ve paired the new series with a powerful Free Report: Seven Must Know Facts About Short Sales and Foreclosures.   This free download gives agents the extra collateral they often need to create that competitive edge.”

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Tapping Top Tweeters & Facebook Friends for Expert Advice:  Part One

By Julie Escobar

With a nod for some social media love this month, I tapped some real movers and shakers in cyberspace to learn some best practices and cool strategies for real estate professionals to put into play to help build their online reach, referral base and even have a little fun along the way!

First up…social media powerhouse Shanna Lafontaine (aka @slafontaine) from RE/MAX Affiliates in Dublin, Ohio!

Shanna’s been on Facebook since it was a college campus platform!  It was a way to stay connected when she went back to school so she’s definitely learned it from the ground floor up!  She can attribute more than 50% of her new real estate business from a social media source, connecting through Facebook, Twitter or her blog.

That’s powerful –  to help you find the same kind of results – here are a few of Shanna’s secrets for success:

Why it works:

  • People have the chance to “get to know you” through your posts on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. It paves the way for them to get comfortable with their choice of agent.  Just last week I had someone call me and say they looked up all the REALTORS that were recommended to them.  They told me they put my name in to Google and said “You’re everywhere!  That’s what we want in an agent!”  I had the listing before I even walked in the door…
  • Helps to create trusting relationships – but you have to take it beyond the written words online.  Make it a point to get out and socialize with your audience in person to help create a deeper relationship.  Here we attend Ohio State Football, the local music scene, etc.

Best advice for new bloggers?

  • Have a clear plan and idea before starting the blog
  • Write out outlines and notes on ideas – that will help when you get “writer’s block.” I’ll keep them in drafts of my blog so that I can just use those when I need them.
  • Know who you are aiming to reach, speak to that “person” when writing
  • Plan out the time you are going to spend each week – it’s a commitment – whether on your blog or posting on the social media platforms – you’ve got to treat it like the prospecting appointment time that it is.
  • If you’re on a roll – keep writing.  Some afternoons or mornings (or whenever your time to write is) you can come up with four or five posts and then coast for a couple of days!
  • Be consistent – this is a big one!  You’ve got to keep showing up!  On Facebook and Twitter you’ve got to post at least 4 or 5 days a week – blogging a few times a week.  It’s like building that foundation for your business – brick by brick.  If you’re going to tweet for a couple days and then leave for two months – it’s NOT going to work for you.

Good tools to use? (social media platforms, etc.)