How to Undo a Default Judgment

By | Collection Defense, Consumer Rights, Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate, General / Litigation | No Comments

Default Judgment means a court judgment was granted against you, in your absence. Sometimes, there is a judgment against you that you don’t know about until after the fact. You can possibly still undo such a judgment. If the judgment was obtained wrongfully by not properly serving you with the court documents, and you can prove it, it will be voided. If it was obtained because you somehow missed the trial date, then you may be able to reverse the judgment if you can prove that you didn’t intentionally ignore the court proceeding.

Default-Judgment-blackwhiteYou or your lawyer may file one or more of the following:

  1. Motion to Set Aside Judgment
  2. Motion for New Trial
  3. Motion to Strike the Service of Process (if applicable)
  4. Bill of Review (if too much time has passed)
  5. Objection to Garnishment (if applicable)

Each motion listed above has specific facts that must be pleaded inside the document. Be sure to at least consult a trial lawyer before filing anything. New trial may be granted only within a certain number of days from the time of the judgment – usually maximum of 75 days in Texas. Don’t delay. Your lawyer will calculate the time frame for you. If you are already outside the applicable appeal time frame, then the Bill of Review will be used instead.

The court will make a decision on the motion(s), or bill of review, following a hearing. At the hearing, you will give testimony and may be asked questions by the opposing side and/or the judge. The other side will also give testimony as to what happened. If the court agrees with you, then that Judgment will be set aside and you will have a new trial hearing. If the service of process was struck as well, then the opposing side has to serve you properly first, before going to trial. If there was a garnishment in process such as a frozen bank account, that will be released if the underlying judgment is voided or reversed.

As always, it is best not to evade service because that could lead to an unfavorable default judgment against you and not all judgments can be undone.

3 Easy Resolutions That Actually Work

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…for Real Estate Buyers and Sellers. However, even if you aren’t planning to buy or sell, most of these also apply if you want more disposable cash, a better credit score, or property that is well-maintained, and in great condition. It’s that time of the year again! The time when we make (and break) resolutions for the new year. Easier resolutions have a higher chance of being completed. Here are our top 3 easy resolutions for Real Estate buyers and sellers: 

Start-now-1-concentrate3 RESOLUTIONS FOR BUYERS

Spring Clean Finances Weekly Start cleaning up your finances NOW. Decrease expenses and debt load and increase savings. Discontinue unnecessary or used services and set that money aside towards your real estate purchase. The trick is to start early. The dollars add up quickly.

Know Your Maximum Budget – Know your starting budget i.e. how much can you afford if paying cash? How much can you truly afford monthly for mortgage plus other bills? If taking a loan, get pre-approved to determine how much the bank/ mortgage company will loan you maximum. Also, determine whether you will need to have money for a down-payment.

Improve/ Maintain Credit Score – Be sure to maintain your credit score if already stellar. If it can be improved, it doesn’t hurt to figure out how to improve the score, which may give you better terms on a loan, even if going with owner-financing.

BONUS – Know your timeline. This may be determined by how much you have to clean up your finances/ credit score first. Lastly, find a trusted realtor to help with the buying process.


Spring Clean Property Weekly – Start cleaning up the property NOW. De-clutter as much as you can every week, then invest in a cleaning company for a deep cleaning of the property. It makes all the difference in the world if the floor boards and blinds are sparkly clean. Donate extra items that you haven’t used or touched in over a year.

Make a Repair a Week –  Pick a repair to complete in each month. It can be a minor or major repair like a broken mirror, burned out bulbs, missing outlet cover, or chipped paint…these can all affect the perception of the potential buyer. No detail is too small when it comes to showing the property in the best light.

Set a Timeline for Selling – Know your timeline for listing the property for sale, then work your way backwards. This may be affected by your individual circumstances, and/or how much you have to clean up the property, and make repairs first.

BONUS – Once you know your timeline, find a trusted agent to provide a fair market value analysis. This will help you set a listing price and realistic expectations for what the property might fetch.

Whatever path you choose to take, or resolutions you choose to make, we wish you all the best, and a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Portrait of a Real Estate Deal

By | Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate | No Comments

Buyers get super excited once they find that perfect property. Sellers get excited once they finally get a decent offer on their property. After the initial excitement, reality kicks in and it’s time to protect one’s interests. For the buyer, the main concern is doing adequate due diligence before handing over a pile of cash or taking on a big mortgage loan. For the seller, the concern is making sure the transaction goes smoothly without losing money in the process.

Much of the due diligence starts with selecting a real estate agent that is not cookie-cutter but actually keeps the client’s best interest first and foremost. For buyers using a loan, it is also very important to pick an ethical and diligent loan officer. These two players – Realtors and Loan Officers – will have a big impact on how stressful, smooth, or sloppy the process goes. 


Cash deals are finalized quicker since buyer has the funds ready -usually in 2 weeks to a month. Deals involving a lender typically take 60 days from Contract to Closing. That time frame can be affected by all the players listed below. Documentation, information, and services are requested from so many sources, before Closing documents can be finalized for Closing Day. 

  • Real Estate Agents
  • Surveyor
  • Lenders
  • Attorneys
  • Property Inspector
  • Appraiser
  • Title Company
  • Closing Agent
  • Homeowners’ Associations
  • Homeowners’ Insurance Company
  • County Records Office


  1. Contract: This is after an offer has been made and accepted. The written contract can be drafted by either side and will specify key terms such as the Price, Closing Date, Down Payment Amount, Earnest Money Amount,  Survey Needed or Not, Right to Inspect, Title Company. Termination Clause, Who pays for What, etc.
  2. Survey: The Buyer can agree to use an existing survey, or order a new survey if the existing survey is very old, or if there isn’t a survey in the property records already. The survey shows the exact layout and boundaries of the property. Seller typically pays for the survey and the buyer receives a copy.  
  3. Inspection: The Buyer can order an Inspection by a professional inspector, or rely on his/her own visual inspection. The Inspection report may reveal certain defects that will influence the buying decision, or trigger renegotiation of the terms or the purchase price. Buyer typically pays for the inspection and is not required to share the Inspection Report with the seller. 
  4. Appraisal: This happens behind the scenes and is done by the buyer’s chosen lender, if buyer will be taking a loan. The appraised value gives the lender an idea how much money to actually lend to the buyer. The reason is that the collateral must be worth more than the loan. Costs of appraisal are billed to the buyer (factored into the loan). Both buyer and seller can request a copy. 
  5. Title Search: This is done behind the scenes by the chosen Title Company. The search of the property records is done to ensure that the seller has clear title to the property and that there are no outstanding liens or potential other claimants to title. The Title Insurance is issued afterwards and is a way for the Title Company to protect the buyer from any oversight in title search.
  6. Title Report: Both parties will receive the Title Search Report. If a party is represented by a real estate agent, the report is sent to the agent. It is important to review this report carefully for any issues detected, and also for any restrictions that may affect the use of the property. Most times, a lawyer is needed for a thorough review and understanding of the report.
  7. Title Issues Resolved: The Title Company may find some title issues and insist that some things need to be done/ resolved before it will insure title i.e. before closing can take place. If the things are not resolved, parties can still close if they wish, but the particular Title Company would not insure the title. Sometimes the issues to be resolved are not required by the Title Company, but by the buyer. If no resolution can be reached, the contract may be cancelled, depending on the terms of the contract.
  8. Closing Day: The parties will show up at the Title Company for Closing which means they will finalize the deal on that day. Parties will review the final settlement statement which is a statement that itemizes the purchase price, costs, expenses, taxes etc., and shows which side pays what (as agreed under the contract.) Parties will also review and sign all disclosures given to them, and also sign the deed transfer documents. Buyer’s funds are released to the Closing Agent on the Closing day. Buyer’s lender will require buyer to select a homeowners’ insurance company before closing date. 
  9. Money Transferred: This happens at Closing or shortly after. Closing Agent will transfer the funds to the seller, either from the buyer directly, or from buyer’s lender. This is done after all signatures are verified and on the deed transfer documents. If there is any money that was put down as Earnest Money or Down=Payment, that will be released to the appropriate party as well.
  10. Deed Documents Recorded: The newly signed deed documents are recorded into the property records by the Title Company’s agent. Once the recorded documents are made available by the county, the parties will receive a copy.

NOTE: This synopsis is for a typical real estate purchase/ sale deal, not for a refinance, brand new build, or other type of deal. For questions specific to your situation, please contact our office directly.

Accessory Dwelling Units (Tiny Homes)

By | Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate | No Comments

A few years ago, the City of Austin approved a city wide change to allow accessory dwelling units on all SF-3 zoned lots as small as 5,750 square feet in every neighborhood in Austin. Most homes in the Austin area fit this description. The City’s objective was to improve the housing crisis by allowing people to create smaller, more affordable housing. portland-ADU-1

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) a/k/a Secondary Dwelling Units (SDUs) are commonly referred to as garage apartments, granny flats, or tiny homes. They tend to stand beside or behind the primary residence, and are independently fully habitable. By law, they are usually no larger than 1,100 square feet and are at least 10 feet from the main house. They can be used as a guesthouse or rented out (see limitations below).

ADUs come with fewer requirements for building permits, than a traditional construction and can be beneficial for homeowners and investors to maximize their investments. Homeowners can earn extra income through the secondary property, and investors can purchase a single property and then later split it up and sell it as two separate units, for much more money. Many ADUs are created from detached garages which increases the value of the overall lot considerably. Keep in mind though that between permitting, plans, and construction, even a modest ADU will cost close to six figures. However, there are specific types of construction and rehab loans for these types of projects. It’s also sometimes possible to place a pre-manufactured structure on the existing lot and connect utilities. This will depend on the subdivision rules and any other deed restrictions in the area. Make sure to factor everything in before making the decision to add an ADU.

At the November 2015 meeting, the City of Austin Council approved the following changes to the ADU regulations:

  • Reduce minimum lot size for ADUs on SF-3 zoned lots to 5,750 square feet.
  • Set the maximum size of an ADU to 1,100 square feet or 0.15 Floor-Area ratio, whichever is smaller
  • Reduce building separation to 10 feet (front to back and side to side).
  • Eliminate requirement that an entry be more than 10 feet from a property line.
  • Remove driveway requirement
  • Provide one parking space for the ADU in addition to main structure parking.
  • Eliminate parking requirement for ADUs within 1/4 mile of an activity corridor that is served by public transit
  • Limit use as short-term rental to a maximum of 30 days per year for ADUs constructed after October 1, 2015.
  • Prohibit use as a Type 2 short term rental (owner not living on site)

What is a HomeStyle Renovation Loan?

By | Consumer Rights, Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate | No Comments

The HomeStyle Renovation loan is a Fannie Mae (FNMA) mortgage loan that allows a home buyer to purchase residential property (1-4 units) and include the renovation costs into the mortgage. This includes manufactured/ mobile homes. Not all lenders offer the HomeStyle loan. Eligible borrowers include individual home buyers, investors, nonprofit organizations, and local government agencies. The loan is a permanent 15 or 30-year fixed loan and since it’s FNMA backed, has similar interest rates and fees as a conventional mortgage. Renovation


It can help finance one or more major renovation projects, repairs and/or remodeling and is available for new and existing homes, even new construction. It could also be used to refinance an existing mortgage as long as funds for repairs or renovations are also needed. It’s convenient and economical since it allows borrowers can make repairs and renovations with a single-close first mortgage, rather than getting a second mortgage, home equity line of credit, or other more costly forms of financing.

The loan amount can be based on the as-completed (after repair) value of the home, rather than the total amount needed (purchase price plus renovations). This potentially allows for a larger loan than usual. The final loan-to-value ratio (LTV) will depend on the individual lender but can be up to 75% of the as-completed, appraised value of the property. FNMA recently made changes to allow LTV of up to 97% for some single-unit properties. The LTV may be lower for rental properties (non-primary).


  1. The property must need some repairs (moderate repairs are justifiable.)
  2. The property does not need to be currently habitable/ livable.
  3. The loan cannot be used for a tear-down/ demolition.
  4. The loan cannot be used solely to construct another residential dwelling on the property.
  5. Renovation General Contractor must be approved by the lender.
  6. All the subcontractors must work with one General Contractor to get paid.
  7. Lenders require General Contractor’s Scope Of Work (SOW) with itemized repair budget.
  8. Lender will require a *HUD inspector to inspect the property and provide a report of repairs needed. 
  9. Lender must approve the SOW and corresponding repair budget.

Under FNMA guidelines, for 2-4 unit properties, the lender is required to add a buffer to the repair budget i.e. a contingency reserve. This is usually 10% – 15% of the total budgeted cost of the renovation. That amount is added on top of the loan amount and is to help cover any costs that run over the estimated repair budget.

Remember, not all lenders offer the HomeStyle Renovation Loan and normal mortgage qualifications like minimum acceptable credit scores still apply. Consult with your loan officer for the full requirements.

*HUD is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Handling Consumer / Credit Card Debt

By | Collection Defense, Consumer Rights, General / Litigation | No Comments

Most clients come to us for help with handling credit card debt  (or other consumer debt) upon being sued by a creditor or collection company, or when looking to get a mortgage loan and needing to clean up their credit reports. This blog post covers options that are an alternative to bankruptcy.  Debt-doughboy-backing-country

The steps to handle the debt is similar for both groups of clients, except that with the first group of clients, the case is in already in court, and with the second group, the case is limited to their credit reports. If a lawsuit is involved, make sure to file a proper Answer within the require time frame so that the creditor is unable to get a judgment by default.




Try to get the matter dismissed by challenging the lawsuit or the reported debt. Here are some things that could lead to a dismissal:  The time period to sue has expired; The debt was already paid off or settled; The creditor/ collector sued the wrong person; The case is brought in the wrong court; The case is brought by the wrong party. There are other things that could lead to dismissal. Whenever in doubt, consult a debt defense attorney for help.


Send a written debt validation request to the creditor. A debt validation request is a request that the debtor makes for the creditor/ collector to prove up its right to collect the debt, as well as prove up the debt amount. Validation may fail due to lack of proper documentation to prove the charges, lack of proper documentation to prove assignment of the debt; or lack of a response to the validation request. If validation fails, you should seek a dismissal of the court case (if in court), and removal of item from credit reports.


If unable to get the matter dismissed, and the debt has been validated by the creditor, make an offer of settlement. The goal should be to settle for the terms most convenient and most favorable to you. It is important to know that the following components are possible and should be part of your offer:

  • Request a steep discount (start with 75% discount)
  • Request waiver of attorney fees and court costs
  • Request a delayed payment date
  • Request a payment (can be up to 36 months)
  • Request a Paid in Full/ Settled in Full letter (upon final payment)
  • Request suspension of filing of a Judgment
  • Request Release of Judgment (if a judgment was agreed to)
  • Request credit report update (upon final payment)

If you need legal guidance on any of the steps above, contact our office or seek other legal help. Make sure all offers and acceptance are in writing and that all the terms agreed to are covered inside a Settlement Agreement document signed by both sides. If not in writing, it will be difficult to prove or enforce the agreement in the future.

FHA Mortgage Loans: What Exactly Are They?

By | Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate | No Comments

An FHA loan is a mortgage that’s insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA program was created to help the housing market by making loans accessible to people that couldn’t afford a big down payment, or with below average credit scores. The federal government insures these loans for FHA-approved lenders, to reduce the lenders’ risk of loss should a borrower default on the loan.

FHA loans are frequently used by first-time home buyers because they allow low down payments even with a low credit score. For non-FHA loans, lenders usually require a down payment of 20% of the loan amount. For example, for a $300,000 home, a traditional loan requires a 20% down payment of $60,000, while the same $300,000 home with an FHA loan will only require $30,000 at 10% down payment, or $10,500 at 3.5% down payment. The actual down payment amount for an FHA loan depends on the borrower’s credit score but will never exceed 10%. Essentially, borrowers can borrow 90% or 96.5% of the total loan amount.

Borrowers can qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment of as little as 3.5% if their credit score is 580 or higher. The down payment is 10% for credit scores between 500–579. As with any loan, the lower the credit score, the higher the interest rate.  Unlike regular loans, borrowers of FHA loans must pay mortgage insurance premiums, which is what protects the lender if a borrower defaults on the loan payments. The mortgage insurance is typically a small amount paid monthly (added to mortgage/ escrow payments) and is required for 11 years or for the life of the loan, depending on the terms of that loan.


  • Steady employment history for the past two years
  • Borrower intends to use the home as a primary residence
  • Borrower has a minimum credit score of 500
  • No bankruptcy in the last 2 years (Lender can make an exception)
  • No foreclosure in the last 3 years (Lender can make an exception)
  • Borrower’s mortgage payment (plus HOA fees, Property taxes, Homeowners’ Insurance and Mortgage Insurance) must be less than 30% of borrower’s gross income (or 40% if Lender approves)
  • Borrower’s monthly debt (mortgage, credit card payment, car payment, student loans, etc.), must be less than 43% of borrower’s gross income (or 50% if Lender approves)
  • Property must pass FHA appraisal standards (if seller won’t make repairs requested by lender, borrower can opt to pay for required repairs at closing; the funds will be held in escrow until the repairs are complete)

If you believe an FHA loan is right for you, ask your realtor, loan officer or lender to help you find out whether you may qualify for an FHA loan. Keep in mind though that not all lenders are FHA approved.

When Real Estate Seller is not a U.S. Resident

By | Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate, General / Litigation, Legal Haze | No Comments

Non-residents can acquire and invest in real estate in the U.S. by sending money over to purchase property located within the U.S. or by purchasing property while physically present in the U.S. Either way, Uncle Sam must get his cut. The law that governs these investments is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA).

When the Seller is a non-resident, Buyer is responsible for withholding 10% of the Purchase Price, and reporting to the IRS on IRS forms 8288 and 8288-A (IRS will then send Buyer a stamped copy of the 8288-A and Buyer will give a copy to Seller). The forms and money must be sent to IRS within 20 days of the Closing date, or there might be penalties to the Buyer. Seller must have a TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) prior to the closing date and can apply for one on the IRS website. These additional requirements are put on the Buyer to ensure that the U.S. government gets the taxes due from the Seller. Since the Buyer is the one bringing funds to the table, Buyer is in a better position to withhold some of the funds and send that directly to the Internal Revenue Service. Uncle-Sam-I-want-Your-Money-freshblue

If Buyer or Buyer’s agent suspects that Seller is a non-resident of the United States, Buyer must ask Seller directly if he/she is not a U.S. resident. If Seller maintains that he/she is a resident of the United States, Buyer must get an original notarized statement from Seller stating that the seller is not a foreign person and showing seller’s U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number (usually a Social Security Number). Buyer would then have no obligation to withhold any funds, or report anything to IRS. However, Buyer must keep an original copy of the signed Seller’s Statement of Residency. Even when Seller is a non-resident, there might be exemptions that allow the Buyer to skip the withholding altogether.

The 2 Most Common Exemptions are:

  1. If there will be no cash to seller (no profit). Seller will need to apply for a withholding certificate from the IRS that will grant Seller the exemption on the transaction using IRS form 8288-B. Seller must give Buyer a stamped copy as proof, and Buyer will then send all the forms in to IRS within 20 days after Closing.
  2. If the total sale price is $300,000 or less, and buyer or buyer’s family will be living in the house for the next 2 years. Buyer must sign an affidavit stating that the purchase price is under $300,000 and the buyer intends to occupy. The Title Company will usually provide a Buyer’s Affidavit of Intent to Reside. If not, have a real estate lawyer provide one to you. All parties must keep an original copy of the signed Buyer’s Affidavit of Intent to Reside but there will be no need to send any forms to IRS.

If there will be a profit to Seller, and Buyer will not be living in the house for the next 2 years, then Buyer must withhold 10% of the Purchase Price through the escrow officer, unless there is another exemption available. (15% for all distributions after February 2016). The escrow officer will send the funds to the IRS within 20 days of Closing. To avoid penalties, Buyer should make sure that the escrow officer at the Title company gets this done timely.

Lastly, remember that there are other exemptions not covered in this post. Contact a real estate lawyer or tax lawyer for help with figuring out if Buyer or Seller qualifies for any other exemption. Even when there is an exemption, the non-US resident Seller is still required to file a U.S. tax return to report the sale and then some taxes may still be due at that point. Sellers should seek guidance from their accountants or CPAs.

Building a New Home? 8 Things You Must Know

By | Consumer Rights, Foreclosure Defense / Real Estate, General / Litigation | No Comments

A new construction contract is very complex. This post summarizes the main issues that homeowners tend to run into the most. Keeping this list in mind should help make the process smoother for you and your loved ones.

1. EARNEST MONEY. Earnest money on a new build is typically much higher than on a resale contract because the builder is creating a specific home for you and you get the option to choose structural upgrades and finishes.  The builder takes on the risk that if you fail to follow through, the next buyer may not love your particular taste in customization.  So, builders will usually require earnest money upon signing the contract. Additional earnest money may be required depending on selected upgrades.

2.  COMPLETION DATE. Most home buyers expect the home to be completed with a few months, based on conversations with builder’s sales agents. Inside the written contract, builders typically give themselves 1 – 2 years to build a home although they are usually done within a year. Do not move into a hotel or put in a lease termination notice until you are absolutely sure of the actual completion date.

3.  INTEREST RATE. You will not know the interest rate of your loan upfront. New build contracts take longer to complete therefore buyers cannot lock in an interest rate until much later in the timeline because lenders don’t lock in rates that far out.  This uncertainty makes some buyers uncomfortable since interest rates may be higher at the time of locking in a rate. Make sure you keep your credit score same or higher over the next year.

4.  INSPECTIONS. The builder’s agents will give you a calendar of expected inspection dates. If you find issues on a new build, you cannot use that as cause to back out of the contract but the builder is obligated to fix those issues while in the building process, or while you’re under warranty after closing.

5.  CHANGE REQUESTS. Most builders build off a preset plan that they offer their customers and are called production builders. These types of builders are not as open to change requests i.e. custom changes. For a more customized build, choose a custom builder. Regardless, all Change Requests should be in writing and approved by you and any additional associated costs made clear in the Change Request Order form.

6.  FINANCING. With new builds, a buyer typically has 30 -45 days to back out for loan issue reasons but some builders will hold back a portion of the buyer’s Earnest Money.  If the buyer’s loan falls through late in the building process, the builder typically keeps the Earnest Money. Do your own due diligence by reading the contract terms and making sure you understand them.

7.  APPRAISAL. Builder contracts are not contingent upon an appraisal matching up with the contract price/ agreed price.  If the appraisal of the home comes in lower than the agreed price (once completed), the builder is not obligated to drop the agreed price to match the appraisal.  In such situations, the buyer will have to bring more cash to the table from another source because the lender will only lend up to the appraised value.  If buyer chooses to back out due to the home appraising lower than anticipated, the buyer usually will lose the Earnest Money.

8. REFUNDABLE FEES/ DEPOSITS. Make sure to ask the builder’s sales agents about this. Sometimes, there are clauses in new construction contracts that provide for nonrefundable fees or deposits. If so, make sure you review those terms inside the written contract in case you need to back out of the contract at some point.

The main complaint we get from buyers is that the builder is taking too long to deliver the  finished goods. Construction involves a lot of steps and processes which are not visible to the buyer. Such tasks and processes include approval of plans, obtaining the required permits, setting up for utilities, ensuring appropriate easements etc.

The written contract trumps any verbal communications. So, study the written contract in detail to make sure all the terms discussed are in there. Keep your credit score up and know under what conditions you are able to terminate the contract without losing your Earnest Money.

4 Unusual Strategies for Any Dispute

By | General / Litigation | No Comments

There is the technical strategy to handling a dispute, and then there is the human element. Have you ever  been in a dispute where the other party was right about the facts but was so obnoxious that you refused to give in?  Well, that’s the human element to negotiation that’s often overlooked. The overarching strategy is that of reasonableness. You must appear reasonable to the opponent and/or the court. The appearance of reasonableness is all that is needed although the more reasonable you are in everyday life, the more convincing you’ll be. shouting-man-1170x500

4 Strategies To Appear Reasonable

  1. Don’t be rude.  No one (including a lawyer) is motivated to agree with, or cooperate with someone who is rude to them. Use your manners even while disagreeing. Listen, or at least appear to listen with minimal interruption. Use your poker face and if unable to speak politely, at least maintain a neutral tone of voice. Yes, the other side might be annoying but the most composed person wins.
  2. Don’t be a jerk.  Jerks intentionally set out to provoke or bully others, so as to get their way. This approach never helps your case because it causes people’s defenses to go up. This type of forcefulness may get (false) temporary compliance if at all. This is why some people will pretend to agree then back out. You want your opponent’s defenses down when negotiating. The person with the calm but assertive approach wins.
  3. Do tell the truth. Unless you are intentionally choosing to omit some information for leverage purposes, do tell the truth in the things you decide to disclose. If caught in a lie, you will put the other party on guard and he/she will be less cooperative overall. This isn’t very conducive to getting you to a favorable outcome.
  4. Do keep your word. Deliver on promises made. If a deadline isn’t going to be met, communicate it to the other person ahead of time.  This shows respect and integrity. It conveys to the other side that your word is bond.  This is important because if it ever gets to a point where you have to make threats, those threats won’t be viewed as empty threats and you will be taken seriously even if you’re actually bluffing.

Appearing reasonable does not mean that you should be passive in a dispute. It means that your forcefulness must come mostly from your intention, not your action. It should be an underlying, controlled current that is directed towards getting you to your desired outcome, not directed at the other party or the lawyers. Developing the appearance of reasonableness will get you more wins, with a lot less resistance from the opponent. It will also come in handy if you’re in court.