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Four Tips to Help You Write a Better Report NOW

Four Tips to Help You Write a Better Report NOWIf you want to be successful in just about any line of work, solid written communication skills will help you immensely. Yesterday I talked about report writing as it pertains to audits. I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful with DEL and FIN if I had not been a good writer.

One of my favorite writing-oriented blogs, Copyblogger, has predicted that content creators will be the next generation of in-demand workers.

Think about it: how many blogs do you follow? I follow at least 10, if not more, and a blogger who sticks around for any length of time gets better ranking in search, and a lot more credibility. After all, how many scam artists stick around for five years generating great content that you want to read? Not many.

I am working on an ebook that will be filled with tips on how to write a great report. In the meantime, here are four tips to help you write a better report NOW, regardless of the type of report.

1.    Organization is Key!

Organize your thoughts BEFORE you begin writing. A solid report is key to being taken seriously when it comes to loan audits, and perhaps every other type of report needed in the workplace. How do you do this? Well….

2.     Start by Creating an Outline

Remember that English teacher who told you to sketch an outline? Yes, it still works. And it’s OK if you don’t go with your initial ideas on how to organize the information. The point is to get something down on paper, and refine it as you go along.

Consider the most important points. If you have one or more very important points to make, put them first. Refine further by priority.

Are there points that you MUST make? If so, consider placing them first in your outline.

Also, think about how the information will flow for the reader. Is the information choppy and out of logical order? If it’s not well organized, the reader could be confused.

3.    Group Similar Points Together Under Headings

To illustrate my point on this tip, I will use an example from my own materials.

If you’ve read my DIY Mortgage Review for Borrowers, you know that I have different types of audits. To make things flow for the reader, I break up the information in the book by audit type.

Here are some of the headings/sections that might make sense in an audit report and an appropriate order:

Introduction
Discussion of limitations of report
Disclaimer
Snapshot of details
TILA
RESPA
Chain of Ownership/Recorded Documents
The Note
The Deed of Trust/Mortgage
Bankruptcy Proceedings
Public Sources of Information
Conclusion
Appendix

This is almost exactly the order my reports follow, with some variation when it makes sense.

3.    Is Your Final Conclusion Supported by the Evidence You Uncovered?

This is a BIG one. If all of your research points in one direction, and you reach a conclusion that is going in the opposite conclusion, there’s a problem.

In coaching people in report writing, I’ve found that this is the single biggest problem, aside from grammar and punctuation. Your conclusion must be supported by the evidence.

If your conclusion is NOT supported by the evidence, people will wonder about your motivation.

I talk about incentives all the time – whenever I see a report that does not make sense, I immediately think that someone is being paid to reach a particular conclusion. This happens frequently with some large studies, for example, medial studies underwritten by pharmaceutical companies. And yes, you are being paid to dig around for your client, but that does NOT mean you should make up or modify your conclusion because your client wants it to turn out in their favor.

Another reason this is bad juju is because anyone with critical thinking skills (like an attorney) will pick your report apart in minutes. And then you’ll be dealing with a very angry client who will want to blame you for telling them what they want to hear.

Sometimes, homeowners and even attorneys are not logical – they are angry and will do things that could come back to haunt you. Be brutally honest with your client about your findings so that they don’t do something they, or you, will regret later, and be sure to document that.

4. Use Proper Grammar and Punctuation, and a Consistent Font and Margins Throughout the Report

This is all about attention to details. People do make judgments about you when you don’t use proper English. If you don’t know how to spell something, look it up!

And make sure your margins and fonts are the same throughout the report.

Use promo code FREEDOM to get 20% off everything at DIYMortgageReview.com through November 16, 2013!

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A Great Written Report Sets You Apart from Your Competition

A Great Written Report Sets You Apart from Your CompetitionOne of the main questions I am asked by people who want to learn how to audit for others is about report writing. Specifically, I get asked by people if I have created a cookie cutter solution to their report writing problems.

The answer to that question is “no.”

All of my reports do have some consistent features. They are on my letterhead, with the same re: line, and show a snapshot of the loan’s details on the first page of the report. After that, they are organized by the main parts of the audit.

My reports have always set me apart from the competition. If you want to be taken seriously in any type of work, write a great report and watch what happens.

Written communication skills are important these days. I can’t tell you how many times people (homeowners, lawyers, others) have made assumptions about me, my services, and my audits, especially during the “loan audits are a scam” period of time. When they read my report, usually the light came on for them. Many were openly surprised at the quality of the report.

Contrast that with cookie cutter audit reports using software, which don’t really tell you anything. However, they were 100 pages long, and looked like it was a great value. If it was 100 pages long, it must be packed full of information. Who wouldn’t be impressed by that?

You can’t impress everyone, however. Some people have already made up their minds about what you have to say. They just won’t be able to use a crappy report to discredit you. You’ve just removed one issue from their arsenal. This makes is much more likely that that their agenda will be exposed.

Written communication skills are rare these days, so when someone reads a professional looking written report that clearly conveys their points and arguments, it impresses the hell out of them.

I can honestly say that my business success with FIN and DEL are attributable in major part to being a good writer. I became a good writer because I read a lot as a kid.

My parents divorced and I lived with my dad and stepmother. We had a “democracy” when it came to television, and there were three of us kids: two boys and me, the oldest, and the only girl.

You have probably already figured out that I was “outvoted” 99% of the time when it came to watching anything on television.

I started reading instead. I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I read stuff that I wasn’t supposed to read. I learned to read fast and got very good a reading comprehension.

I was terrible at math, however. That didn’t improve until grad school.

However, you don’t need to be a genius at reading to write a good report. Maybe now that you’re “grown up” you’ll be better at it, like my math skills.

Or, perhaps you just need to spend some time organizing your thoughts and develop YOUR signature report.

If you can string together sentences using proper grammar and punctuation, my guide will help you organize your thoughts so that you can write a great report – whether it’s an audit report for someone else, or for something else you need to write for work or even for your personal goals.

A solid written report will knock the socks off your clients, supervisors and whoever else matters.

Come back tomorrow for a new series I’m starting about writing a great report for anything. This is in preparation for the launch of my new writing guide, which will be available on December 1, 2013.

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Thank You to Our Veterans!

Thank You to Our Veterans!I wanted to say “Thank You!” to everyone, past and present, who has served in our military forces!

We all know that freedom isn’t free, and many of our service members have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives to keep us safe. Still others spend a lot of time away from their families on deployments in less than ideal conditions.

To say thank you, I’m offering a discount on the products at DIY Mortgage Review. Use Promo Code FREEDOM for 20% off everything at DIY Mortgage Review, through November 16, 2013.*

By the way, here’s a great list of freebies and deals for our servicemen and women from one of my favorite coupon blogs. There are a lot of companies extending deals, so please take advantage of them if you can!

*Instructions for coupon code: Visit DIY Mortgage Review to take advantage of this offer. Once you make your selections, a box will appear in your cart for the promotion code.

Enter FREEDOM  and click “Update Cart” to see the new price. Then, check out using Paypal.

You don’t need a Paypal account to purchase anything. You can pay with a credit or debit card through Paypal, and I never see your payment information. You will be directed to the download page immediately after purchase. Remember to save the product to your computer!

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Fall Updates: What I Did This Summer

Fall Updates: What I Did this SummerI have a few updates for you after taking the summer off from posting.

I don’t normally talk about my personal stuff, but I’ve spent the summer focusing on working less and having more leisure time. I currently write blogs for my brother’s company, BluSolutions. I write about cars for his dealer clients. So, while I haven’t been writing about foreclosures and the law, I am still writing.

I have been following the paleo eating plan for over a year now, and I lost a total of 32 lbs without ever stepping into a gym. It’s hard to believe that, right? Well, it turns out that you cannot outrun your eating habits. Your diet is the key to success.  If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, look at the science behind paleo (also called Primal). I can’t say enough awesome things about it, because I feel amazing. Check out Mark’s Daily Apple for a great resource on the lifestyle and eating plan.

I struggled with physical fitness even while I was in the US Army, so it seems strange to me that I fell in love with crossfit. Two months ago, I joined a crossfit gym. I go to Wildfire Crossfit in Phoenix and I’m now in the best physical condition of my life.

For those of you following my saga of foreclosure, it is still dragging on, although I have moved out of the house. I did get a very nice Cash for Keys offer which I accepted, and I also got sued for eviction.

I am currently appealing the eviction judgment where the Court ignored the evidence, the Rules of Special Eviction Actions, Superior Court Rules, as well as the established Arizona case law that requires personal service. I think a comprehensive post on the post-foreclosure eviction process would be helpful for a lot of people, but I am still pissed about my own eviction. I don’t know if I’m ready to write about it yet. It sucked.

Although I haven’t written much about foreclosure defense this summer, but I am still working behind the scenes with homeowners and their attorneys. The only cases I work on these days, simply because very few people have success in state courts in Arizona, are adversary proceedings in Chapter 13 bankruptcies.

I am working on one case right now with a borrower with enough resources to fight the good fight, and his case just took a very nice turn in his favor. I am working on a handful of these cases, but I obviously cannot talk about the details.

I am really happy to report that my audit process, as outlined in the DIY Mortgage Review products, has withstood the test of time. It still works great for finding REAL evidence that is actually useful.

Aside from being focused elsewhere, there are a couple of reasons I have not written much this summer.

First, I don’t feel like I have anything to add to the conversation. Hasn’t everything been said by someone else? It sure seems like it.

Also, reading, writing and talking about the corruption of our system is exhausting. I read Naked Capitalism regularly, and Yves posted recently about the toll it takes on her to maintain her sanity in reporting about all the crap going on.

I think Arizona homeowners have been big losers in the foreclosure mess. The Arizona courts will not give homeowners any justice in the foreclosure process. They have thankfully strengthened the anti-deficiency protections AFTER foreclosure, but if you want to keep that house, you’d better have some great evidence, above and beyond the foreclosure arguments. For example, a forged Note, or altering loan documents.

What do you think? Do you think the homeowners won or lost? So far, it seems like the homeowners/taxpayers are the big losers, and the banks are the big winners. The government is making some noise about prosecuting bankers, but will it go anywhere?

I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I am going to pick up the pace on posting. I have a folder full of content ideas that I’ve been reading all summer, and look forward to sharing them with you.

I am also getting ready to launch a couple of new digital products. Stay tuned for that!

Thanks for reading! Happy Fall!

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Promising Case Law for California: Glaski v. Bank of America

For those of you who have not seen this, Glaski v. Bank of Americahere’s a great case decision for Californians. The good news is that Bank of America’s petition for rehearing has been denied, so it looks like this is now law in California.

Notice that I said the case is “promising.” It’s definitely a breakthrough, but there is still more work to do in California. This time last year, it seemed to me that California was a lost cause for homeowners in foreclosure. The legislature took some action, gave homeowners a Bill of Rights, which specifically gave homeowners a right to sue, which was a good start.

So, it’s good to see some case law too, although the case law isn’t based upon the Bill of Rights. I haven’t seen any case decisions yet on the Bill of Rights, however.

The  Glaski v. Bank of America, National Association, et al., 160 Cal. Rptr. 3d 449 (2013) will make it harder for pretender lenders to keep the PSA out of borrower-lender disputes.

In my observation, the main problems with using a PSA in foreclosure defense is that the borrower is not a party to the agreement. Some homeowners argued that the borrower was a third party beneficiary of the PSA, but I’ve never seen that argument convince a court to enforce the provisions of the PSA.

Side note: that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work, it just has not worked in any Arizona cases that I’ve seen. Arizona state/federal courts are not going to give homeowners any relief in foreclosure defense. Our legislature could fix some of these problems like California’s legislature did, but I don’t think they will.

In the Glaski case, the borrower’s home was foreclosed on by the purported successor of a securitized mortgage pool.After the foreclosure, the borrower filed a complaint for fraud, quiet title, wrongful foreclosure, declaratory relief and cancellation of foreclosure documents against the successor to the securitized trust, among other entities.

The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (known as a demurrer in California) to the complaint, which the lower court granted. The borrower appealed and the California Court of Appeals, revived some parts of the borrower’s complaint.

The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court on the wrongful foreclosure count of the Plaintiff’s complaint. The borrower argued that the loan was not properly transferred into the mortgage trust.

The loan was originated by Washington Mutual Bank, FA (WaMu) in 2005.

In late 2005, the WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Series 2005-AR17 Trust was formed under New York law. However, the loan documents were not transferred into the trust at that time.

Side note: I see this all the time. They don’t create the paperwork to show standing to foreclose until they need it, which is usually years after the formation of the mortgage pool.

The borrower tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a loan modification with Chase. When Chase decided to foreclose on the borrower, the loan documents were created that showed the loan was transferred to the mortgage pool. Chase as trustee transferred the loan documents to Bank of America as Trustee. Plaintiff also alleged that the foreclosure was initiated by a party that did not hold the deed of trust.

The borrower argued that because the loan was not transferred by the cutoff date of the trust, as provided in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement, dated 90 days after December 2005, the purported transfer to the Securitized Trust was void, resulting in the foreclosure being void as well.

In order for the borrower’s arguments to succeed and to have standing, the borrower needed to assert a defect that would void the assignment of the loan documents, not merely render the assignment voidable.

The Court of Appeals found two types of case decisions: those holding that New York law provides that where a pooling and serving agreement establishes a closing date after which the trust may no longer accept loans, a trustee’s attempt to accept a loan after the closing date is void; and those that hold such attempted transfers simply are voidable.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the former, finding that the attempted transfers were void.

The Court of Appeals stated, “factual allegations regarding post-closing date attempts to transfer his deed of trust into the WaMu Securitized Trust are sufficient to state a basis for concluding the attempted transfers were void. As a result, Glaski has stated a cognizable claim for wrongful foreclosure under the theory that the entity invoking the power of sale (i.e., Bank of America in its capacity as trustee for the WaMu Securitized Trust) was not the holder of the Glaski deed of trust.”

The court also said:

“[t]hat a borrower may challenge the securitized trust’s chain of ownership by alleging the attempts to transfer the deed of trust to the securitized trust (which was formed under New York law) occurred after the trust’s closing date. Transfers that violate the terms of the trust instrument are void under New York trust law, and borrowers have standing to challenge void assignments of their loans even though they are not a party to, or a third party beneficiary of, the assignment agreement.”

The Court of Appeals found that the “mistake” in failing to transfer the loan in question into the trust could render the foreclosure void and, in any event, could form the basis for other types of relief such as damages.

If you want to know how to find your Pooling and Servicing Agreement, check out the DIY Mortgage Review for Borrowers.

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