Posts by sebfrey

PMH Introduces REO Social Network

I got an e-mail this morning from the folks at PMH Financial.  I am a registered agent with PMH Financial, although they’ve never assigned an asset to me.  I do hear they’re good to work with, though.  So anytime they send me an e-mail, I perk up and pay close attention.

Social networking

It seems that PMH Financial – led by Ken Blevins, CEO – has started a new web site, REOSocialNetwork.com.  There isn’t really a shortage of networking sites for REO professionals – it seems like the opportunities for social networking are mushrooming even as the REO business remains flat.  When you think of it, though – all the more reason to have more opportunities for social networking, because, increasingly, it’s going to be more who-you-know rather than what-you-know when it comes to getting into a lender or outsourcer’s REO database as an active REO agent or broker.

It’s a pretty cool site, and is based on software from Ning.  Ning is web site that allows people to create their own social networking sites – a very clever idea.  The first time I ever came across Ning was REOPro – another REO social networking site, with thousands of members.

The REOSocialNetwork is free to join, so there’s no good reason not to, unless of course you’re already overwhelmed with your other social networking sites.  I’ve already created my profile there and I look forward to watching the site grow.  I hope to see you there!

I bought a REO in Santa Cruz!

Sheesh, it’s been over two and a half months since I wrote my last blog entry!  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since last I wrote.  I’ve had a lot of stuff I should have blogged about, but didn’t – maybe I’ll blog about it in the coming weeks, while it’s still somewhat fresh in my noggin.

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The big reason for my silence these past 10+ weeks is … drumroll please… I bought my very own REO property!  And not as an investment/income property, either:  I bought one to live in. I closed escrow back on January 20 or so, and since then it’s been a blizzard of activity:  repairing the property, moving, buying new furniture and all the other stuff which is typical anyone anyone buys and moves into a new home.

It almost goes without saying – yup, we got a good deal.  A great deal, actually.  In my professional opinion, we got one of the best deals on real estate I’ve seen around these parts in quite some time.  That’s one of the joys of buying a REO property, of course:  they are generally priced to sell and represent excellent value.  Some more than others, of course, and the home I bought is definitely in the “more than others” category.

Of course, when a good property hits the market, there’s no time to waste. We put in an offer the day the property was listed, and got our offer accepted hours before two other offers made their  noisome appearance.  Fortunately for me my reputation as an upstanding and stalwart REO agent precedes me, and my beautifully-crafted offer was accepted without counter, except for the seller’s standard addendum.

So am I worried that there’s going to be some defect in the foreclosure, some robo-signing scandal that’s going to bite me in the rear years down the road?  Nope.  Lots of things keep me awake at night (like making my new mortgage payment!), but fear of improper foreclosure or title defect isn’t one of them.  So let it be known:  I put my money where my mouth is and stand behind the product I peddle:  there’s nothing like getting a sweet deal on home sweet home.  I know from first hand experience!

Alright, time to put the kid to bed and get ready for what will surely be another exciting day in the REO business.  Stay tuned for more blog entries, I’m back on the blogging bandwagon!

#1 REO Agent in Santa Cruz County 2010

I’m a forward-looking guy – that’s why I got into the REO business, after all – so I usually don’t spend too much time looking at what’s gone by.  In this case, though, I’m going to make a bit of an exception, since it happens to be kind of flattering for me.

At my brokerage’s holiday party last December, I was talking to Ruth Bates, one of my colleagues at Thunderbird Real Estate.  She told me something that kind of surprised me:  she had run the numbers, and I, Sebastian Frey, was the #1 REO Listing Agent in Santa Cruz county by unit volume for the year 2010.

Ruth was instrumental in getting my brokerage to run an advertisement in our local newspaper congratulating me and other Top Performers at Thunderbird.  Here is a copy of part of that advertisement;

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All I can say is, wow!  That’s an old picture of me!  🙂

I should say that I have not verified the claim that I am the #1 REO Agent in Santa Cruz county.  It wouldn’t surprise me, since I do work very hard and I do a tremendous amount of business here – but I have a lot of very good and also very busy competitors, so you shouldn’t be expecting me to rest on my laurels.

Looking forward to 2011 I hope to remain on top and grow my business further still.  I love a challenge, which is why I love the REO Business.

Wishing you all the best in the coming year!

Double Dipping in the REO Bucket

As 2010 fades into dust – a year which many think is best forgotten – the dawn of 2011 beckons on the horizon.  The question before us is, what’s 2011 going to look like compared to 2010, 2009, and even 2008?

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If the headlines which greet us in the dying days of 2010 are any guide to go by, we can expect more of the same as we’ve had in years past.  In fact, it seems like it’s pretty much back to the future, as many pundits are saying that the dreaded Double Dip in real estate prices is now upon us.

From CNN:  Nation on the Edge of double-dip in Home Prices

Home prices took a shockingly steep plunge on a monthly basis, an indication that the housing market could be on the verge of — if it’s not already in — a double-dip slump.

From Bloomberg:  U.S. Property Values Decline More than Forecast in S&P/Case Schiller

Home prices dropped more than forecast in October, a sign housing will remain a weak link as the U.S. recovery accelerates into the new year.

From CNBC:  Housing Double-Dip Ahead: Economist (video)

David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, tells CNBC another decline in housing prices is being underestimated.

To me, this is hardly sensational news.  I, for one, have been waiting for some time for the other shoe to drop.  I’ve been telling anyone who asks for a long time that I believe that we are in a gradual, prolonged decline in home values that will probably continue for some years.

Granted, it has been a little difficult to hold that tune when there has been so much optimistic chaff from housing bulls about how prices have stabilized and in fact are rising in some markets – a contention that is now put to lie by the latest Case/Schiller numbers.  Certainly, there are some areas and of course specific neighborhoods where prices have stabilized and may in fact have risen somewhat.

In general, though, it’s pretty clear that we are nowhere near out of the woods yet with the housing crisis.  And in fact, the coming of the double dip clearly indicates there is more “correction” to come.  For those in the REO Brokerage business such as myself, it means that we can anticipate that 2011 will probably be comparable to the recent years gone by.

The reason for that, of course, is that there’s no shortage of research which indicates that a key driver of foreclosure is lack of equity in a given property – that is to say, the more underwater a borrower becomes on their mortgage, the ever-increasing likelihood that they will simply chose to walk away from their mortgage obligation and let the property go to foreclosure.  This is known as strategic default, and it’s something keeping up many a banker late at night.

It all points to a continuing stream of steady foreclosures pouring into the REO bucket, continued pressure on housing prices, and good and perhaps increasing affordability for buyers.  Of course, many buyers are still on the fence because they fear they may lose their jobs, or the market may have more to fall – and both are good reasons to stay right there on that fence if you ask me.

For those buyers who do feel secure in their incomes and plan to buy a house to – gasp – live in for some time to come, raise their kids – you know, the things people used to do with houses – it’s probably a fine time to buy.  To these buyers, it matters little to them if the price drops another 5-10% over the short term, so long as the payments are affordable and they have long time horizons.

REOMAC Dinner Roundup – December 9, 2011 – Los Angeles

Avid readers of this blog may recall that a few months ago, I sent my assistant down to the REOMAC fall conference in Hollywood, Florida.  Since i myself wasn’t able to personally go this passed October, I decided I would for sure go to the REOMAC dinner in Los Angeles in December.

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I’d never been to a REOMAC dinner, and I was curious to see what it would be like.  I have a lot of respect for REOMAC – I’m not a member, but I’d love to be.  Unfortunately they are chock full of real estate brokers and agents – you literally have to wait for someone to die to get in as a real estate professional at this point.

I decided to drive down there.  I calculated that it would take about 4 hours door-to-door if I went via airplane, and about 6 hours door-to-door driving.  The drive down was a breeze, a little rainy to begin but later it was smooth sailing all the way down past Santa Barbara, when the traffic choked up with typical LA snarl.

The reception began at 5:00 PM – unfortunately, I had a few tasks I needed to complete in various portals, so I sat down, whipped out my laptop, and worked quietly for an hour or so until dinner was served at 6:00 PM.

The festivities were opened by Ivan Choi, the present of REOMAC.  I’ve met Ivan before, and he strikes me as a really nice guy.  His remarks were humorous and to-the-point as always, he’s got a great speaking style.  I met Ivan when he was with Prospect Mortgage; it now seems that Ivan, according to his LinkedIn profile, has stared at outfit known as Savvia Home Loans – props to you Ivan for stepping out!

At 7:00 they started a panel discussion.  The discussion started off talking about robo-signers and foreclosure affidavits and the crisis in confidence of the foreclosure process.  As you may recall (and as I blogged about) this was big news a short while ago.  The panelists included a title professional and a lawyer, and the message is that if there are mistakes in a foreclosure, it happens less than 1% and probably less than 0.1% of cases.  And, if there are any technical errors in a particular foreclosure, it does not change the fact that in most cases the foreclosures are valid because of the essential fact that the borrowers did not make their payments as per the contract.

Ray Methoda was one of the panelists – formerly of IndyMac, now with her own outfit called AssetPlanUSA which provides training and for HAFA certifications.  I’ve seen her speak a couple of different places before, and she’s always a pleasure to hear – very sharp and informative as always.

I left shortly after 8 PM, but I understand the festivities were to continue until about 9 or so – I had a long drive home.  The drive was uneventful, but the fog was so thick in so many places the drive home took about seven hours all together.

All in all it was a great trip.  I enjoyed the drive (I got a chance to catch up on some podcasts), and I enjoyed meeting some of my colleagues in the REO business.  From what I can hear, it sounds like the REO business will continue to be strong for several years yet to come – for better or worse, the market we have today has got legs – but it’s not going anywhere.

 

Rocky Road REO: Foreclosure Recisions, Lawsuits, and Show-Me-the-Note!

Oh boy.  Since the last time I shared some spicy anecdotes from the REO World a couple weeks ago, I’ve had some ripples-cum-waves rocking the REO boat here at the Silicon REO Group. Pull up a chair and allow me to share some anecdotes from the REO Broker trenches.

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It started last week, just before Thanksgiving.  There I was, getting into the Holiday Groove and looking forward to spending some time with my extended family, when I get an e-mail from a pre-marketer telling me that a listing was being cancelled because the foreclosure sale had been rescinded.  D’oh!  It was actually my most expensive listing, and I’d spent the past couple of months working on it on-and-off:  the occupancy check, weekly inspections, BPO, activating utilities, and I was just waiting for the listing agreement to be sent over and the calls from hungry agents to roll in. But no – instead of the listing agreement, I get the e-mail about the recision, and sure enough, the property promptly vanished from RES.NET.  It was completely unexpected; usually, the former owner will contact me, the listing agent, and inform me they are working on getting a recision (which rarely happens) – but this time the former owner (who I never met or communicated with) kept me out of it.  Hmph.

Well, bully for the former owner, I hope it works out for him.

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I have another assignment where I’m working on getting the occupant to vacate the premises.  First, the occupant wanted to get the foreclosure reviewed by the lender, as he thought he’d been working on a loan mod.  A couple of weeks ago, the word came down that the foreclosure would not be rescinded, the loan mod had definitely been denied, and that the bank wanted the occupant to leave the property, and the occupant was presented an updated cash-for-keys offer.  I left messages and e-mails for the occupant about the new CFK offer, but did not hear back from the occupant for over a week.

When I finally did hear from the occupant, he let me know he was insisting that the lender show him the note.  Oy vey.  So I let the eviction rep know that the occupant refuses to negotiate further on surrendering possession until he is shown the note.  I also let the occupant know that in all likelihood the seller will be able to provide him with the note, and that he will need to be leaving soon one way or another, and please let me know when he can be out of there, assuming that the requested documentation will soon be provided.

The whole show-me-the-note thing kind of aggravates me.  The show-me-the-note folks usually don’t deny that they didn’t make their payments as agreed upon, the remedy for which per the note is that the house is foreclosed on and ownership reverts to the lender.  Nope, that’s not in dispute in most of these cases; rather, the former owners are looking for a technicality which allows them to keep the property even though there is no question that the borrower did not keep their mortgage commitment.  A lot of folks can justify this by saying the banks are rapacious predatory lenders or whatever and therefore they deserve what they get – whatever.  The buyers were happy enough (even thankful, grateful! in many cases) with the bank when they originally got their mortgage loan, I can assure you of that.

My sympathy for the occupant in question has evaporated at this point.  Time to go, Jack.

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If that wasn’t enough fun for one week, the capper came yesterday as I was going about my rounds inspecting the REO properties in my care.  I got an e-mail from my broker, saying that we had received a certified letter from the former owner of an REO listing I have.  The former owner was writing to us as a courtesy to let us know that she would be filing a lawsuit against the lender for wrongful foreclosure, and that we might want to cancel the sale – naturally, the property in question is in escrow and set to close in a few weeks.

Fun stuff.  I forwarded a copy of the letter to the asset manager, who said we should proceed as usual until the lawsuit actually gets filed.  I also sent the letter to the buyer and suggested they consult an attorney.  Naturally, my brokerage immediately consulted our attorney and our Risk Management company to get advice.  I read the letter (and several pages of print-outs from the blogosphere pointing a bunch of smoking guns at the lender) and was left with the distinct impression that the former owner has gone off the deep end – probably several years ago – and that in all likelihood the former owner was a victim of the exploitative foreclosure rescue industry.  The former owner will probably pay thousands of up-front fees to a lawyer to sue the lender, and more likely than not, end up losing both the case and a lot more cash.

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Ahh, good times, good times.  To many people on the outside, the life of a busy REO Broker must seem like a dream – but to those on the inside, it’s often more like a nightmare.  I just take the good with the bad, roll with the bunches, and await my next assignment with eager anticipation.

Happy Holidays!

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Thanks REO Network!

I’d like to give a brief shout out to the REO Network and especially Windy Keefe.  Just out of the blue, they sent me a very nice fleece jacket emblazoned with the REO Network logo.  Windy included a nice hand-written card, thanking me for renewing my Premium Partner Plan with them.  It’s a very nice jacket and is helping me to keep warm which is especially important because of the nasty weather we’ve been having.

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I renewed a couple of months ago – for two full years, first time I’ve ever done that (in the past I’ve signed up just six months at a time).  To me it seems clear the REO business isn’t going away for at least the next two years, and I might as well save the $400 by paying for the listing on REO Network in advance for those two years, and I get to take the tax deduction this year, which I’m sure I’ll need.

 

 

REO Asset Management Companies are accepting new agents!

If you’re an aspiring REO agent – or if you’re a salty old REO guy from decades time forgot, it may be that you’re looking for some REO clients.  If you’re new to the REO business, you probably don’t have any REO clients, or maybe you just got a one-off because you did a BPO somewhere along the way.  And many seasoned REO brokers will tell you their volume is way down, and they’d love to have some new REO clients. It may be easier for the seasoned REO pro to get those new clients – but getting them is no sure bet for most of us out there.

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If you read around the internet where REO agents (and many more aspiring REO agents) hang out (think LinkedIn, AgentsOnline.net, and REOPro) , you’ll hear a common angst-ridden wail:  is it too late to get into the REO business?  I remember when I got into the REO business full-time back in 2007, a lot of folks were singing that same doleful tune – that maybe it was even then too late to make it in the REO game.

That was three years ago, and while it’s been a roller coaster of a ride for much of that, overall my business has grown and matured, acquiring new clients along the way.  I remember thinking back then that, at least in my local market, there was likely only to be an REO business for about 3 years.  In other words, if you’d asked me back then, I would have said I’d expect the business to be rolling up by late-2010 – right about now.

However, in that time, I think it’s become clear to pretty much everyone that the housing market – and, crucially, the economy as a whole – are in considerably worse health than most people thought, myself included.  What seems clear now is that we are at best half way through the REO extravaganza, but the likelihood seems to be strong that real estate will not resume meaningful appreciation any time soon, and that the low-, no-, and negative-equity positions many homeowners find themselves in and many more will soon find themselves in will continue to drive defaults and keep REO lisitngs coming on the market.

One thing’s for sure about the REO business:  it’s dynamic as all get-out.  Traditional real estate is sleepy by comparison to the REO world, where things move very quickly and it seems the only constant is that the whole industry is in a state of change.  Of particular interest for the aspiring REO agent, or the old pro looking to pick up some new clients, this means that many servicers and outsourcers lose and gain clients (lenders, investors) all the time.  As many a REO veteran will tell you, one client can provide a steady business for years, and then that client loses their servicing contract and with it the REO business – and the REO veteran can see the volume from that client drop to zero literally over night.

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His loss is another agent’s gain, though – those REOs will go somewhere, to another servicer or outsourcer.  And that servicer or outsourcer may not have a large or strong enough broker network in an area where those bad loans are concentrated, and in that way will all of a sudden will have need of a new REO agent.  Even though their web site probably says they aren’t accepting applications, they may be actively recruiting agents – perhaps from within their BPO provider network, or perhaps through a web site like REONetwork.com.

I know this happens all the time – and I’ve got proof!  Here it is: just today I was given an REO assignment for a company for which I have only heretofore done BPOs for. They’re a well-known player in the default servicing business, and I look forward to working with them on many REOs – but first I’ve got to work on hitting this one out of the park to hopefully begin cementing the relationship.

If you’re looking to jump on the REO bandwagon, fear not:  the ship hasn’t sailed – it’s still there at the dock, taking on fuel – or taking on water, depending on your perspective.  To be sure, it isn’t easy to break in and even harder to actually be successful at it with a stable client base – but it can be done, by those willing to pour on the time, energy, dollars, and effort.

How to Lose at Highest and Best Offers

If you’ve been selling real estate for the past several years, it’s quite likely you’ve come up against this:  there’s an REO foreclosure home, you have clients who want to buy it – but there are a lot of other Realtors who also have clients who want to buy it, because it’s very attractively priced as so many REOs tend to be.

Girded for battle, you submit your client’s offer, and then the listing agent turns around and says, “We have multiple offers, the bank wants your client to present us with your highest and best offer.”

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The listing agent will usually tell you how many offers there are.  Some agents will actually tell you how much the other offers are for – although I don’t, as my understanding is that my clients wish the other offer amounts to be kept in confidence.

Some agents think that if you tell other buyers what the highest offer is, you’ll end up getting more money for the property.  My feeling is that when buyers know there are multiple offers, but do not know what those offers are for, that they will often act in fear of losing the property and come and bid higher.  You see, if people knew they only needed to come up by $5,000 to win the property, they might only come up $5,000.  However if they have no idea how much they need to bid in order to win – well, they might bid $10,000 or $20,000 higher, just to be sure.  I see it happen all time.  Highest and Best offers work well for my clients.

A lot of buyers and agents try to calculate, based on how many offers they’re competing against, how much they need to offer to be the winning bidder.  To me, this is a losing proposition.  There’s no way of really knowing how much the other people are going to offer.  A lot of people figure this wrong, and they offer less than their true highest and best offer, but they think they’re offering more than everyone else is asking – and more often than not, they’re wrong.  Many times I have heard agents say, after losing out at the highest and best round, “That really wasn’t their best offer, how much more do they need to offer?”  Alas, you really only get one shot at highest and best – don’t pull any punches if you really want the property – really figure out what your highest and best is for the property, and offer that.  That way, if you don’t win – no sweat, you would have needed to pay more than you thought the property was worth to you anyway.

Some banks have special forms they need everyone to sign in a Multiple Offer / Highest and Best offer situation.  This form might be called by a variety of names, but let’s refer to it here as the multiple offer disclosure (MOD).

I have a listing right now where we had several offers in on it.  One of the offers was from a lawyer, who apparently thinks he knows all about buying real estate from a bank.  His first offer included an escalation clause.  I let him know that the client doesn’t allow escalation clauses.  We went a few rounds over that one before he finally submitted an offer without the escalation clause – a low offer, lowest of the bunch actually, and a fair amount below asking price.  So much below asking price, in fact, that even if there hadn’t been any other offers, the bank would not have accepted his offer, since the listing is so new on the market.

Since we had multiple offers, the seller turned around and issued Highest and Best counter offers to all the buyers, and I sent the bank’s MOD (multiple offer disclosure) form to the various agents for the buyers to sign, in order that they acknowledge they are in a multiple-offer situation and we are seeking their highest and best offer.  The forms were sent out along with some instructions to the buyer’s agents, and the instructions indicated that if the buyer does not return the multiple offer disclosure, the offer will be considered to be withdrawn.

The buyer who tried to submit the offer with the escalation clause (remember, he’s a fancy-pants lawyer) objected to the wording in the multiple offer disclosure and refused to sign it.  Apparently he would waive too many rights if he signed it, boo hoo.  I told the buyer’s agent that he must sign it if even if he doesn’t want to increase or otherwise modify his offer, and if he doesn’t sign it, his offer will be considered withdrawn.

And before I know it, the buyer wrote to me directly (his agent had forwarded the client some of my previous e-mails so he had my address) and said that if his offer is not presented, he would sick the DRE on me.  The nerve!

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To make a long story short, the asset manager confirmed that I was to withdraw the buyer’s offer unless I received the signed MOD.  After all that, the buyer still refused to sign the disclosure, and his offer was withdrawn.  Or rejected – apparently it mattered something to the buyer if his offer was considered withdrawn versus rejected.  I’d hate to ask that guy what the meaning of is is.  As it happens, in the seller’s offer management system, the final status is “Rejected/Withdrawn” – you say tomato, I say tomahto, but the client says both.

It’s a moot point – and actually it was moot the whole time – because again, this buyer wants offering less than everyone else.  But here’s the lesson for everyone:  in a multiple-offer situation, especially for a hot new REO listing, it’s not a winning strategy to offer significantly less than asking price.  You’d never get it significantly less anyway because the property is new on market, so if you’re going to bid, bid strong – at least asking price, in my opinion – and if you really want the property, bid what it’s worth to you, which may be (and often is) considerably higher than asking price.

The other lesson is:  sign the multiple offer disclosure when it’s presented to you.  Don’t think you can bully your way past the listing agent – even if you can, you surely cannot bully your way past the bank itself.  It’s their way or the highway, if you won’t sign their forms – they don’t care, they’ll blow you off and move right on to the next (much more cooperative) buyer.

 

Cash for Keys Gone Sad

I had a couple of cash-for-keys appointments today, a couple more of my listings moving up the status chain – now they’re vacant and secured and in pre-marketing, they should both be listed within the next 1-3 weeks.  Ordinarily the prospect of some good new listings coming on the market is cause for a smile, but today the joy is bittersweet.

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One of the cash-for-keys appointments was a full week past the originally agreed-upon date.  A day before the original vacate date, I rolled by the property to see how the occupant was coming:  he wasn’t coming along quickly, the house was still full.  I found him in his driveway standing amid an ocean of possessions, he was having a garage sale – not the quick way to divest yourself of a whole house full of possessions.

We talked, and he agreed he’d need some more time; he said he’d need just til Wednesday, but when I wrote to the client, I said I didn’t see him getting out of there any earlier than Friday.  The client agreed to extend the vacancy until Friday at 5 PM, which was good – because sure enough, once Wednesday rolled around, he wasn’t ready then either.

By Friday morning, he still wasn’t ready.  I drove by to see his progress – still far to go.  He said he’d be ready by Saturday morning – but come Saturday morning, he still had a few more things to do. And so it was on Saturday afternoon, when he then swore up and down he’d be ready by 9 AM on Sunday morning.

A rainy Sunday morning at 9 AM found me at the house with a contractor to change the locks.  Unfortunately, the occupant still was not ready.  Bummer, because now I’d have to pay the contractor a trip fee – which he generously waived (thanks Mike!).  I told the occupant that he should just call me when he was in fact ready, rather than saying he’d be ready on such-and-such a date and time and blow it again.

The next day, he called and said he would be ready.  I called and asked the client if he could still get all his cash for keys money, even though he was a week late.  The client said for me to go ahead and give him the check if the property was vacant and in broom-swept condition.

And so it was, the occupant had followed my instructions to the letter and the house was totally empty.  We were walking from the garage into the house, and I noticed he wasn’t behind me.  He’d stopped back in the garage, and was weeping quietly against the wall.  “Hey, are you OK?” I asked.  No answer…so I walked inside the house and gave him some time alone.

He didn’t want to let go of that house.  He said he’d never refinanced it like so many others had, he’d bought it, and put $45,000 worth of materials and his own time upgrading the property, remodeling the kitchen entirely, etc.  He was going through a divorce, had recently quit his job, and had three kids – and now he’d lost the house, and was living in a rented room.

There’s really no way around it:  that blows.  There’s no shortage of hard-luck stories in the REO business, but sometimes the emotions are just so raw and you’re right there in the thick of it – and what’s there to say?  A lot of times in this business I feel like I’m part life-coach, part therapist – which is something I really ought to put on my REO Résumé because it’s definitely part of the job description.  All in a day’s work, can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.