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Ask anybody that has bought or sold a home and they will agree how stressful an experience it can be.  Knowing and understanding your financial capability, up front, is paramount in alleviating much of the stress associated with buying a home.

Let’s look at this from the Sellers perspective for a moment.  If you were the Seller and had multiple offers on your property, all things being equal, would you accept the one with Certificate of Financing Approval or the one that was still conditional on Financing?  The answer is obvious.  Why then, do so many buyers wait to start the financing until after they have found the home?  What I have found is that those buyers are usually very good, qualified buyers and are not worried about getting approved.  Even though they usually are correct and will ultimately be approved, the Seller in most cases has no guarantees. It makes sense to negotiate from the strongest position possible.  By not taking the time to speak to a lender about your interests inevitably leads to the disappointment of losing out to another Buyer that has taken this important step in securing financing.

If you work within my System, you can be assured that you will not lose your dream home to another because you are not properly prepared, and this includes those that need to sell a home to buy another.  Let me introduce you to a few of my lenders that have a proven track record of successfully preparing my clients on the front end, so that they can acquire their dream home on the back end…with as little stress as possible.

CHICAGO, IL – February 15, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — Gary Miller, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Destiny in Elk Grove Village, Ill., will soon get a taste of fame: he and two of his clients will appear on an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters in May, with filming to begin later this month.

The popular show follows home buyers and their real estate agents as they search for new homes.

Miller gained the chance to appear on the show after his clients called its producers. The producers liked the buyers’ story, and offered them an episode.

“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Miller said. “It will be a wonderful experience for my clients, me and my office. You ask people about House Hunters, and you’ll find that at least eight of every 10 people have seen the show. It’s a big deal.”

Securing a spot on the show was not the easiest task. Miller and his clients had to download their own audition videos on YouTube. House Hunters’ producers then reviewed these videos to make sure that the agent and the buyers had the camera presence necessary to succeed on the show.

Miller said that filming the YouTube video — which had to be less than three minutes — was a surprisingly stressful experience. Miller filmed his audition video in RE/MAX Destiny’s Elk Grove office, waiting until he was the only real estate agent on the premises. Then standing in front of a video camera, Miller went to work, briefly summarizing his experience as a real estate agent and the traits that would make him a good choice for House Hunters.

Miller’s clients were looking for a home in the Olympia Fields/Homewood-Flossmoor area. They are also attempting to rent out a condominium they own in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Miller is assisting them with both tasks.

The House Hunters crew will fly to the Chicago area for four days of shooting this February. In the second week of March, the crew will return to the area for a follow-up day of shooting. Once shooting is complete, the House Hunters episode is scheduled to air sometime in May.

“To hear about this was simply great news,” Miller said. “It’s a wonderful way to start 2012.”

RE/MAX has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network, with headquarters in Elgin, Ill., consists of 2,100 sales associates and 110 individually owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide a full range of brokerage services throughout the northern one-third of Illinois. Its and websites are leaders in consumer visits among real estate franchise brands. Its mobile search,, allows users to conduct real estate searches on any mobile device with Internet access. The northern Illinois network is part of RE/MAX LLC, a global real estate organization with 89,000 sales associates in 87 nations.

Ask any sales leader how selling has changed in the past decade, and you’ll hear a lot of answers but only one recurring theme: It’s a lot harder. Yet even in these difficult times, every sales organization has a few stellar performers. Who are these people? How can we bottle their magic?

To understand what sets apart this special group of sales reps, the Sales Executive Council launched a global study of sales rep productivity three years ago involving more than 6,000 reps across nearly 100 companies in multiple industries.

We now have an answer, which we’ve captured in the following three insights:

1. Every sales professional falls into one of five distinct profiles.

Quantitatively speaking, just about every B2B sales rep in the world is one of the following types, characterized by a specific set of skills and behaviors that defines the rep’s primary mode of interacting with customers:

  • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
  • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
  • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
  • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
  • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

2. Challengers dramatically outperform the other profiles, particularly Relationship Builders.

When we look at average reps, we find a fairly even distribution across all five of these profiles. But while there may be five ways to be average, there’s only one way to be a star. We found that Challenger reps dominate the high-performer population, making up close to 40% of star reps in our study.

What makes the Challenger approach different?

The data tell us that these reps are defined by three key capabilities:

Challengers teach their customers. They focus the sales conversation not on features and benefits but on insight, bringing a unique (and typically provocative) perspective on the customer’s business. They come to the table with new ideas for their customers that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed.

Challengers tailor their sales message to the customer They have a finely tuned sense of individual customer objectives and value drivers and use this knowledge to effectively position their sales pitch to different types of customer stakeholders within the organization.

Challengers take control of the sale. While not aggressive, they are certainly assertive. They are comfortable with tension and are unlikely to acquiesce to every customer demand. When necessary, they can press customers a bit — not just in terms of their thinking but around things like price.

We’ll discuss each of these capabilities in more depth in our upcoming posts, but just as surprising as it is that Challengers win, it’s almost more eye-opening who loses. In our study, Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers.

Why is this? It’s certainly not because relationships no longer matter in B2B sales–that would be a naïve conclusion. Rather, what the data tell us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter. Challengers win by pushing customers to think differently, using insight to create constructive tension in the sale. Relationship Builders, on the other hand, focus on relieving tension by giving in to the customer’s every demand. Where Challengers push customers outside their comfort zone, Relationship Builders are focused on being accepted into it. They focus on building strong personal relationships across the customer organization, being likable and generous with their time. The Relationship Builder adopts a service mentality. While the Challenger is focused on customer value, the Relationship Builder is more concerned with convenience. At the end of the day, a conversation with a Relationship Builder is probably professional, even enjoyable, but it isn’t as effective because it doesn’t ultimately help customers make progress against their goals.

This finding — that Challengers win and Relationship Builders lose — is one that sales leaders often find deeply troubling, because their organizations have placed by far their biggest bet on recruiting, developing, and rewarding Relationship Builders, the profile least likely to win.

Here’s how one of our members in the hospitality industry put it when he saw these results: “You know, this is really hard to look at. For the past 10 years, it’s been our explicit strategy to hire effective Relationship Builders. After all, we’re in the hospitality business. And, for a while, that approach worked well. But ever since the economy crashed, my Relationship Builders are completely lost. They can’t sell a thing. And as I look at this, now I know why.”

3. Challengers dominate the world of complex “solution-selling”

Given the first two findings, it might be reasonable to conclude that Challengers are the down-economy reps and that when things return to normal, Relationship Builders will once again prevail. But our data suggest that this is wishful thinking.

When we cut the data by complexity of sale — that is, separating out transactional, product-selling reps from complex, solution-selling reps — we find that Challengers absolutely dominate as selling gets more complex. Fully 54% of all star reps in a solution-selling environment are Challengers. At the same time, Relationship Builders fall off the map almost entirely, representing only 4% of high-performing reps in complex environments.

Put differently, Challengers win because they’ve mastered the complex sale, not because they’ve mastered a complex economy. Your very best sales reps — the ones who carried you through the downturn — aren’t just the top performers of today but the top performers of tomorrow, as they are far better able to drive sales and deliver customer value in any kind of economic environment. For any company on a journey from selling products to selling solutions — which is a migration that more than 75% of the companies I work with say they are pursuing — the Challenger selling approach represents a dramatically improved recipe for driving top-line growth.

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Hi, Gary. FYI, here are the comments we sent back to Zillow. Best of luck with this new angle you’re pursuing.   –Howard & Janet 
When we switched to Gary Miller from our first real estate agent, the difference was like night and day. Gary went above and beyond expectations in terms of responsiveness, advice, insights into the crazy new real estate marketplace, and professionalism. We called him a lot and he was always happy to help, no matter what our questions or concerns. Gary is a genuine guy, very knowledgeable, and we felt he truly cared about our situation and was doing everything humanly possible to help us. Rarely do you come across this kind of service these days, and we’re very grateful that we found him. We don’t think it was a coincidence that our house sold six weeks after we signed with him.

I would like to announce that I have recently been awarded the International Real Estate Specialist (I.R.E.S.) Certification.  The I.R.E.S Certification is sponsored and endorsed by RE/MAX International.  RE/MAX is one of the largest real estate companies in the world.  I am now certified to sell real estate anywhere in the world though the 6000 strong I.R.E.S Certified worldwide network of agents.

Never has there been an organization that offers as much to home owners interested in buying, or selling, real estate in the worldwide marketplace. In fact, many properties for sale in the United States are purchased by those outside of the U.S.A who want a new life for themselves and their families here in America.  Over 50% of those buyers are CASH buyers. ALL of my listings are now posted internationally.

Likewise, many “baby boomers” are looking to downsize their homes here in hopes of purchasing another in a foreign country of their dreams, or simply purchasing a second home in another state.
If you would like more information about how I can help you or anyone you know market and sell their property, whether located here or abroad, let me know. I can help.

The most difficult market right now is the condo market.  For those that want to invest in these types of properties, few banks will underwrite a loan for them after they have reviewed the finances of the association.  Many associations are way short of funds because of all the vacancies, for whatever reason, and many are on the verge of backrupcy, or have already dissolved.  One has to be very careful about buying this type of home today.  Many young adults are ready to buy, but they don’t want a house.  They want a “low maintanence” condo, in an area where there is a lot of nightlife, especially in Chicago’s North side.  The ones with cash and a high tolerance for risk are buying condos.   Fortunately the banks are helping somewhat by denying mortgages to otherwise unsuspecting souls.  But even if an association does meet the banks requirements at that particular point in time, and they decide to underwrite the loan, it still can be quite risky.  If you find a solid association with good financials, you can buy a very nice condo for a very good price.

Do yourself a favor.  Ask your lender what requirements they have to underwrite a loan for a condo.  Also, enlist a licensed realtor to help you find out ALL about the complex. the developer and the association, before going to the property to take a look.

As I sit on my TV watching couch, thinking about the recent bowl games and pondering how come the Big 10 continues to be the most overrated conference in college football (I went to Illinois), I am reminded of the utmost importance of teamwork in many things that we do in our daily lives.  During the weeks of bowl games, college football teams attempt to play one of their best games of the season, in front of millions of viewers.  This is the stage where teamwork in the main ingredient for success on the football field.  The individual talent is already there, but without everyone communicating and working together,  adjustments can not be made to better adapt to the many changes that take place on the field throughout the game.  This is why some teams succeed and others do not.  The team with the best players do not always win.  The team with the most teamwork usually does.  Ever hear of the saying “on any given Sunday”?  This saying has been used for years in reference to professional football where most games are played on Sunday.  Whoever plays with the most teamwork, can beat a more talented team “on any given Sunday’.

So what does all this mean and how does the concept of teamwork parallel our world of real estate?  If you have ever bought, sold or been personally involved in a real estate transaction, you probably remember the stress and anxiety you felt during the process.   If your stress level was minimal,  it probably was due to teamwork.

The real estate process is a deceptively simple process.  Many homeowners try to “sell by owner”, but ask them after it’s over if they would  sell be owner again.  Most would say “never again”!  Why, because this deceptively simple process takes more than a real estate attorney to keep a deal together and moving efficiently and comfortably to closing.  The process needs to be coordinated by an expert in the process for all of the many details to be handled properly and handled in a timely manner.   Thousands of dollars are at risk.  Listing information, buyer profile/requirements, contract forms, disclosures, property analysis, pre-approvals, attorney selection, inspections, inspectors, lenders, negotiations…     

So what does all of this mean?  Well, I have successfully closed well over 100 transactions.  I am considered by my clients and peers very good at what I do.  I have never had a deal fall apart because of a detail that wasn’t uncovered, analyzed and acted upon.  “Three heads are better than two are better that one.” 

I am an expert.  I can do it alone, but I prefer not.  That’s why I promote the formation of a team.  Nothing is more important than open communication between teammates, just like in football.  Criticism, constructive or otherwise, usually comes from a perspective completely different from mine.  I need that other pair of ears and eyes.  I need a different point of view.  I need assistance from my team, just like you look to me for my input, help, assistance and opinions  I know that through teamwork, not only will the deal close, but it will close with the least amount of problems and the least amount of stress and anxiety on the part of all involved, especially for you, the buyer or the seller.

After all, “Three heads are better than two are better than one.”  With the best talent and the best team, you can’t lose.  Go Team, Go!

Coordinating real estate process, after a deal has been cut and the contract fully executed, is deceptively simple.  There is much to do to make sure the deal closes.  It doesn’t matter whether I represent the buyer or seller.  When I represent either, I leave no stone unturned and no detail left “to chance” that it get done in a timely manner.  In other words, I direct the traffic of all players involved in one of my transactions: attorney, inspector, lender and the other realtor at times.  I do not like them making decisions about the deal that affect my client unless I personally approve the action.  Call me anal, but I have never had a deal that didn’t close because of a detail that was missed by any of the players to the deal, including the agent on the other side…because I was personally involved in every aspect of the deal.

I have a closing today.  Yeah!  In this deal I changed my approach a bit.  This time instead of the attorney, for example, asking me for assistance in getting pertinent information from one of the other players, I suggested that they contact the other party directly, instead of going through me.  I asked them to inquire via email and copy ALL parties to the transaction in on this email.   In addition, any response to the inquiry needs to be answered REPLY ALL.   Why go through me?  I am still involved.  I still have the option of raising questions about the response and offer opinion on the next course of action…and I have plenty of opinions.

So what happened was this.  Everybody was on the same page because each of us had the same information at the same time.   There was no question the what needed to get done would get done.  There were no excuses like, “I haven’t heard back yet”, “I left a message”, “they never called me”, “I called the other day”, “I didn’t get the message”.  Excuses seem to diminish when all parties get copies on a request, like the emails I just mentioned.  The result?  One of the smoothest transactions ever.

And guess what?  I was still intimately involved in the entire process, but by orchestrating the process via email, me and everyone else knew in real-time what was happening and what was being done.  When the deceptively simply real estate process is coordinated in this way…well, let’s just say that stress and anxiety was diminished to a record low for me, and I’m sure for all others.

EXCELLENCE…in the real estate process!

I’m confident that the real estate market will rebound, but like many others the question is when?  After the first time homebuyers credit expired, it seemed that everything came to a halt.  It was an attractive program for those looking to get into a home of their own.  However, when it ended, coupled with the indecisiveness of Washington regarding the 2011 income tax policies, many decided to sit tight till they had some idea how the new policies would affect their monthly cash flow.  Many, me included, would find a way to adjust to less money per month because of anticipated higher taxes.  Unfortunately, congress didn’t make clear their intentions until recently when they decided that taxes would not go up.  This is a good sign, but it should’ve happened earlier in the year.  If it did, I think their would’ve been more people looking to buy their first home.  So the real estate market remained somewhat stagnate.  After the first of the year, I think that more buyers will be out looking to own their first home….now that they know, or at least have a better idea of what their cash flow will be moving forward.   The tax advantages are still outstanding with mortgage interest and property taxes being the major itemized deduction for many.  If you are not sure what this means, consult your realtor for advice on how to find out more.  They should have the resources you need to find out how your cash flow would be effected by owning a home and utilizing the popular tax deductions mentioned.  It could mean several hundred dollars per month in your pocket…like an getting a raise from your employer.  I will help you if you like.