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I just finished my first day of CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) class, and am reflecting on one of the more profound insights given by the instructor, Mark Boyland. Mark, who is an excellent presenter, compared the difficult issues we have to sort out with distressed homeowners with the rather matter of fact way a doctor handles another rather touchy thing:

“Please take off your clothes. ”

At my last physical, the doctor hardly looked up from his clipboard when he said that. But he was pretty comfortable about the request- so comfortable, that it seemed as mundane as asking his secretary if anyone called while he was out.

Now, when a guy is that blasé about your prostate test, there is a lesson to be learned.

We have to ask clients questions that are probing and invasive in any other context but real estate:

  • How much do you owe on your house?
  • Are you current on your mortgage?
  • Why did you fall behind on your payments?
  • Etc. etc.
These aren’t comfortable questions to ask. And the answers might be very difficult to examine for a seller who is facing foreclosure or imminent default. But we have to ask.  As I have blogged before, privacy does not reside in a vacuum. The more we know about a client’s situation, the better we can serve them.

A physician can’t give a physical to a person in a parka. We can’t help a distressed home seller whose equity position and status with their mortgage company is a mystery. We have obligations of disclosure to others in the market place, but more importantly the answers to the uncomfortable questions affect our pricing strategy, marketing, negotiation methodology, and literally dozens of other critical issues that arise in the obstacle-laden, serpentine maze of loss mitigation.

We are between borrowers under financial stress and a large monolithic financial institution. Information is crucial. Patients need to tell their doctor where it hurts or they can’t be helped. It is the same in real estate. It isn’t fun to ask these personal financial questions, and while some of us are more comfortable than others about it, we have to ask. The more honest and forthcoming the client is in their answers, the higher the likelihood that they can be helped.
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