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Successful Short Sales Seminars/Users/adamp/Desktop/APR08/Optimized/ShortSale

Mention the term short sale and most sellers’ eyes glaze over. The fact is that many sellers have no idea that a short sale is an option for distressed properties. Here’s how to educate the public through seminars.

Not long ago, Greg Addeo helped a family in financial distress sell their home. The husband’s income had dropped by more than 50 percent, while their total payment on a first and a second mortgage climbed from $2,250 to $3,275 a month.

“They were in trouble,” says Addeo, a broker at Dockside Realty Group Inc. in Stuart.  “But after documenting their finances, we repositioned their property on the market [and] negotiated with the lenders, who agreed to release the property without receiving full payment for their loans.

Throughout Florida, these types of short sales are becoming common, especially for owners who bought at the height of the recent residential boom using adjustable rate mortgages. At the same time, many buyers are interested in buying homes from sellers in financial distress.

However, most sellers and buyers are unfamiliar with the complex legal, financial and negotiation issues involved in short sales, which occur when an owner’s mortgage is greater than the current value of the home. Therefore, holding educational seminars for the public is an effective strategy for attracting potential customers.

For example, Wesley F. Brodersen, president and broker of EXIT Gulder Real Estate in Bonita Springs, held seminars in December 2007 and January 2008 at the Bonita Springs Estero Association of Realtors® that each drew 15 to 20 people. “Our agents have already closed on a couple of those transactions and are now working on 20 to 25 listings,” he says. “It’s a hard side of the business, but people need this service and we’ll provide it.”

Here’s a step-by-step approach to holding a successful short sale seminar.

1.Educate Yourself
Before jumping into the short sale market, Florida real estate professionals must take the time to educate themselves on the issues. That could include attending a broker’s training program (see “Tips for Brokers,” on page 27), taking a continuing education course or learning from an experienced professional who’s looking for additional help.

Working through a short sale is not an easy process, and brokers and sales associates must be educated on exactly how a short sale works.

“This is a side of the business that’s not for the faint of heart,” says Jean G. Dorazio, vice president/Florida director of business development for North American Title Co. and sales associate with Dee Adams Realty in Tampa.

North American Title’s broker-training programs, for instance, include segments on foreclosures and bankruptcy, as well as on dealing with short sales, says Dorazio. “You really have to understand how short sales work and set up a system to handle your clients before you think about holding a seminar for the public.”

Brian Sharkey, a sales associate with All Florida Realty Services Inc. in Port St. Lucie, agrees. “The market has changed so much that if you don’t study short sales yourself, you’ll be left behind,” he says. “Buyers [and sellers] have all kinds of questions, and you have to educate them about all the ramifications of a short sale.”

2.Collaborate with Experts
Since short sales involve legal and financial issues, it makes sense for a real estate professional to collaborate with a lender, title company, appraiser or real estate attorney in planning an educational event. “I highly recommend a team approach,” says Robert Carter, a Naples real estate attorney who has given numerous seminars on short sales in Florida and New York.

Having a mortgage specialist and title company involved may help uncover any problems with a new listing at an early stage. As Carter says, “The last thing you want to do is submit the purchase offer to the bank and then find out there’s also a second mortgage on the property with a different lender.”

And it’s important to remember that real estate brokers and sales associates aren’t the only ones getting into the short sale educational market. For example, PowerOne Mortgage in Cooper City, an affiliate of a major South Florida credit union, has been holding a series of short sale seminars, according to Isaac Katz, marketing director. “We have over 200 people at every event,” he says, “and we also put on radio and television programs to help our community understand short sales and answer their concerns.”

3.Plan the Seminar
Whether you expect to conduct the seminar yourself or in conjunction with other professionals, proper planning is one of the elements of success.

To begin, you need to select the right date, time and location, based on the presenters’ schedules and available venues. Look at potential dates in the next four to eight weeks in order to allow enough time to prepare your material and promote the seminar.

Josie Aborlleile, owner of Realty Auctions Intl’ LLC in Sarasota and Miami, says a good location for small-scale seminars is right in the broker’s office. “If you have less than a dozen attendees, you can almost walk them through every step of the process,” she says.

Other potential seminar sites include a conference room at a local financial institution (with a bank representative as a panel member), a community center, a public library or a meeting hall. Some facilities charge a modest usage fee while others are free.

If you’re presenting as a solo professional, you may want to plan for an hour-long seminar including plenty of time for questions and answers. If the seminar has a panel format, you’ll need to add extra time for each of the speakers.
“Think of your audience at all times,” says Carter. “If you’re speaking to only sellers, your presentation will be different than if you are addressing investors as well.” To keep things interesting, Carter recommends a “light and lively” approach, even though it’s a serious topic. The goal is to offer encouragement as well as advice.

4.Promote the Seminar
There are many creative ways to promote a short sale seminar without spending a lot of money.  After all, you don’t need to attract hundreds of attendees to generate new business.

Carter says it’s a good idea to aim for 20 to 40 attendees—a setting that allows the real estate professional to talk personally to individuals and couples before or after the presentation. “If the audience gets much bigger, you run the risk of losing people’s attention,” he says.

Brodersen suggests sending out an announcement or press release to the local media, and inviting them to cover the seminar. That can generate advance publicity or even a news story on the event.

Addeo advises taking advantage of free community calendar listings and promoting a seminar in neighborhood newsletters. If you hold the seminar at an association clubhouse, for instance, you may be able to send invitations to every resident.

However, because many sellers and buyers don’t understand what short sale means, Dorazio says, it may be better to use different words to advertise a seminar. For example, “Are You Having Trouble Making Your Mortgage Payments?” or “Do You Need to Sell Your House Now?”

And any marketing material for a seminar should include a contact number and Web site address as well. After all, some potential buyers and sellers may decide to contact you
directly—generating new business even before a seminar.

To find large groups of potential short sellers, look closely at neighborhoods that enjoyed rapid growth in the 2002–2005 period. Owners in these relatively new communities may have little or no equity in their homes, putting them in financial risk if their circumstances change.

In addition, you can target expired listings or simply promote your seminar to your established farm area. In today’s market, there are probably pre-foreclosure homes right on your doorstep.

5.Turn Attendees into Customers
Ultimately, the success of a short sale seminar can be measured by an increase in business. Therefore, it’s important to have a program in place to follow up after a seminar.

“Have everyone at the seminar sign in with their contact information,” says Addeo.

Another part of the process is preparing take-home material for attendees. This could be as elaborate as a printed booklet about short sale and foreclosure processes or a one-page sheet of highlights from the seminar presentation.  All material should include your name, contact information, including your Web site address, especially if you are set up to provide additional material about short sales online.

After that, it’s a matter of following up those contacts via phone, mail or e-mail. “A short sale seminar has the potential to provide a substantial future return on your investment of time,” he says.

Says Addeo, “There are very few people out there who are proficient in handling short sales. Get yourself some credentials, work with knowledgeable vendors, offer educational seminars and you can become the go-to person in your market.”

Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.