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TOP 5 IN REAL ESTATE NETWORK, April 2010—

Jim Soda
Prudential Palms Realty
Years in real estate: Since 2001
Region served: Lakewood Ranch and the Greater Sarasota, Bradenton & Longboat Key Areas
Average sales price in your market: In 2009, we dropped down to about $400,000 from about $800,000 the year before.
Average listing time: 120 to 180

What are your best strategies for marketing your short sale skills to the community?

Short sales now account for about 30% of our business. In order to get the word out to the public, we have done two things that have been very successful: we held seminars and appeared on television—a short sale roundtable discussion with a moderator. The television show airs several times a week for several months on our local educational television station, METV. But most of our short sales clients come from referrals and word of mouth.

At our first seminar, we had 50 RSVPs, but more than 80 people actually showed up. The people who came to the seminar were taking it all in; they were hungry for a solution. We utilized the Top 5 brochure, The Four R’s of Short Sales with great success. We believe you have to make people aware of the short sale possibility – which, I want to add right up front, is a privilege, not a right. What has been happening is people are just throwing in the towel, walking away from their homes out of sheer frustration. But why go through the misery of foreclosure when you can plan better for your financial future with a short sale? With the short sale, it’s done and behind you and you can go forward with more financial closure for you and your family.

What does it take to master the short sale process?

Short sales are notoriously difficult because of the layers of people who have to sign off on them and they can therefore take a long time to complete. So we have aligned ourselves with lawyers and attorney CPAs who negotiate directly with the lenders. We have also found that good communication is extremely important. Because of gaining experience and working knowledge, our short sales may not take as long as some to complete. One key is we talk every week with the attorney who is handling the short sale. That attorney is also talking to our seller and or buyer to keep everybody in the loop.

How do you make sure the short sale goes through?

Many times, the buyer will just walk away in frustration. It can be so time consuming. So we believe the buyer needs to have some skin in the game, perhaps a larger deposit so they have something to lose if they walk away. Just as we talk to the lawyers every week, we talk to the buyer’s agent and the buyer and make sure we are communicating regularly. We do what we have to do to close. We find out what the bank needs to be satisfied and then everyone has to be willing to give a little. The buyer may end up paying a little more, the seller may have to give and sign a note, the lender may have to take a little less and we give on commission. We just use a combination of everybody giving a little to allow us to close.

What is the one thing that makes short sales most challenging?

A lot of it depends on the negotiator…and being obstinate and demanding doesn’t help. Our more successful attorneys once sent 20 pizzas to an Arizona Lenders office. We try to be a friendly face in the middle of this stressful situation. You tend to find everyone screaming at the negotiators, so we make sure we don’t scream. It’s whatever makes your file come to the top. Call and be friendly. That’s it…along with positive communication back and forth.

How did you get into doing short sales?

About three years ago a close friend of mine was in a situation and needed to do a short sale. We saved him a lot of money and personal debt. It took five months, but we learned a lot in the process. You have to come to the realization that short sales aren’t going away. Also, consumers and Realtors alike have to be careful of the many scams out there,—for example, people who are going to fix your credit or who have make-believe buyers for your short sales. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers listen to the wrong people. Some of the stories break your heart. So by learning to do short sales, we can help a lot of people get into better situations. It feels good if we can accomplish that for our clients.

Why do you feel short sales are a good way to go in this market?

Banks may be changing their M.O. and they may not take as long. The lenders need to make quicker decisions. Short sales are going to be around for at least the next 2 or 3 years. They help get the inventory off the market so that prices will begin to stabilize.

What are you doing differently in this market to stand out from the pack?

We are very transparent and we go to work every day. We are learning to retrain ourselves. The Jim Soda Group has always had a great brand and is dedicated to networking and participating in a lot of community programs. I began my real estate career in 2001 and glad I did. It’s a difficult and very responsible business. We are dealing with people’s greatest and most valuable assets except for their families. You have to care about your customers. Many of our clients have become very good friends.

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