Determining Occupancy of a Foreclosed Home

Fortune has dealt me another fine REO listing, this one located comfortably enough just about 3 blocks from where I live – hey, what’s happening to the neighborhood?!  So I cruise on down there – could have walked, but brought the car in case I needed to make a fast get-away (you never know…!).  Very nicely maintained house and landscaping, so nicely maintained it seems more than likely that it is (former) owner occupied.

Since it’s the middle of the day, I hadn’t really expected to find anyone home, and nobody was.  I took a bunch of photographs, and knocked on a couple neighbors’ doors – nobody else home, either.  I left my nice REO Agent note on the door, saying I’d been by to do an occupancy check and to contact me immediately.

The hours ticked by, and no phone calls.  That evening, just around dusk, I had to go to the store for some milk, and I drove by the subject property – even though it was past the time that most people get back from work, the note was still there on the door.  By the middle of the next morning – note still on the door as I drove by on my way to grab BPO pictures and do some routine property checks.  However by late afternoon when I came back – the note was gone, and there was a car in the driveway – bonanza!

Screech go the tires, I park a couple houses down and walk up to the door – ring the bell.  Wait. No response.  Knock.  Wait.  No response.  Knock again – nothing.  I leave a business card, hop back in my car, and drive away – hmm, are they playing ostrich, what?  But a couple hours later, just after dusk, I happen to drive by again – and the car is there, but no lights are on.  Very mysterious!

Quickly determining who occupies a foreclosed property is the first and a very important task when getting an REO assignment.  Often times, it can be surprisingly difficult to determine this.  Many neighbors today literally have no idea who is living next door to them – they can usually tell you if a neighboring house is vacant or not, but who the actual resident is – pfft, a lot of folks have no clue.  And if the occupant doesn’t call you, and you can’t find him at home – what to do?

I have a lot of good luck using – it has a handy reverse-lookup function, you can type in the property address and do a reverse-lookup.  Probably about 40% of the time, it will come up with both a name and a phone number.  Also using, you can enter in the former mortgagor’s name, and the city and state, and you may find a match that way – either at the subject property address, or at some other address in the vicinity.  One of my favorites too is using – you can type in the former mortgagor’s name and it will do a “deep web” search – searches and that’s usually where the best matches come from, but sometimes you can find other ways of possibly contacting the former mortgagor – e-mail, facebook, their place of business, etc.

A lot of links from will take you to paid searches – PeopleFinders.clom,,, etc.  I have not had a great deal of luck with these paid services.  What I am usually looking for is a phone number, and I have found typically, if the phone number does not appear in, it’s not going to appear on any of these paid reports, either.

Then of course, there’s a good old-fashioned Google Search. When you are search via Google, remember to put the occupants’ full name together in quotation marks for most accurate search results.  So for example if I was looking for a Joe Smith in San Jose, CA – I would type this into the Google search:  “Joe Smith” + “San Jose, CA”.  This kind of search will usually result in some very concise search results, maybe just a page or two of results, versus the dozens or hundreds of pages if you were to search just for “Joe Smith San Jose, CA”.

I hope this information is useful to you dear readers, if you have any other ideas about how best to determine occupancy of a foreclosed home, please leave a comment!

Texas Attorney General Halts Foreclosures

Can you hear it?  I’m hearing it.  It’s the sound of a drum beating, and it’s getting louder.  Now the Texas Attorney General has got in on the act, and he’s ordered a halt to foreclosures in Texas.



Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked 30 lenders to stop foreclosures and sales of foreclosures, while regulators investigate the legality of the process.

Read more: Texas attorney general halts foreclosures – Austin Business Journal

I still think this is all likely to blow over.  And, for the record, I’m not really against putting a temporary halt to foreclosure proceedings while this gets straightened out.  After all, we’ve gone through months of moratoria already, what’s another 60 days while the processes are reviewed and tightened up?

There’s definitely a silver lining on this dark cloud – the banks will help out the nation’s unemployment rate by hiring people to review all these foreclosure documents rather than leaving it to a couple-few robo-signers.  Likely as not they’ll just be contracted/temporary hires, but from the looks of it, many of them will be needed for some years to come.

And it’s also good new for me and other professional REO brokers – fewer assignments getting pulled or canceled due to mistaken or improper foreclosures.  Not that it happens very often – but it does happen, and the less of it the better.

REO Flood, Now an REO drought?

There’s no shortage of prognosticators telling us of a coming flood of REO homes on the market.  OK, a lot of those soothsayers have something to sell you – be it the likes of Lamco Network, REO Vendor Manager, REO Network, numerous REO consultancies and coaches like REO Renegades, SuperStarREO etc. – their message is all the same – join our network, pay the fee, you need to be in all the right places when the flood gates open and the REOs start pouring on the market.

And hey – it’s legit!  I believe it, that explains the copious quantity of dollars flowing from my bank account to some of the above-mentioned outfits.  A lot of folks will point to data provided by our friends at RealtyTrac (who, coincidentally, also have a product to sell you), which, if you believe them, say there are…jeez, I forget how many, 4-5, 7+?… million homes across the United States at some point in the foreclosure process right now.  Of course, they are quick to point out, not all of these properties will go REO – some will be sold via short sale, some will get loan modifications, etc. – but that no matter how you slice it, there’s a lot of REO coming down the pike, although it’s likely to come more as a steady stream rather than an outright flood as many of my colleagues in the REO Brokerage business seem to be hoping for.


Well, that was then.  Now, klaxon bells are sounding and the blogosphere is in an uproar – they’re pulling the plug on foreclosures!  It started with Ally/GMAC but quickly spread to JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America – and now others.  The New York Times has a couple good articles on the subject (Foreclosure Furor Rises, The Gathering Storm over Foreclosures), that old salty dog Bloomberg weighs in on it (Hydra of Foreclosure Probes).  A lot of states’ Attorneys General area getting in on the act, including our own Jerry Brown and the attorney general of Connecticut has ordered a halt to all foreclosures – while at the moment the foreclosures have ground to a halt only in judicial foreclosure states, it seems likely that it own’t be long before it spreads to non-judicial states like California.  And of course there’s no shortage of grandstanding politicians at the national level, either.  This could get messy (not that it isn’t already – foreclosure is a somewhat messy business).

Perhaps not surprisingly, all of this hubbub has actually reached its way down from on high and touched our business here at the Silicon REO Group.  Two days ago, I received via RES.NET a task to list one of the properties I had in pre-marketing.  Awesome!  I fired off the tasks to the appropriate people on the team – flyer design, MLS entry, ordering the sign up, filing the paperwork with my brokerage, posting on Craigslist, etc. Hours after seeing the RES.NET task, the property was listed.

And then, yesterday – kaboom!  An email from the asset manager arrived saying that the property needs to be pulled of the market, any marketing be discontinued, and that no offers/contracts would be negotiated on it at this point.  Of course, I’m expected to maintain the property and continue doing MSRs (monthly status reports) BPOs and whatnot while we wait to see if the property is to be re-listed, or…or what?  Give the property back to the former owner because there was an error in the foreclosure process?

Somehow…I don’t see that happening.  All this hue and cry about the MERS system and flawed titles, by the way – much todo about nothing if you ask me.  But people have advertising to sell to eyeballs looking to see the banks get theirs and hapless underwater homedebtors hoping and searching for how they can get relief for overextending themselves in the easy money mania of a few years back.  And I get that, and it’s fine, do what you gotta do, it’s a free country, right?

Although I’m no sage, and I’m the farthest thing from a legal or financing expert – I predict that all this will be just water under the bridge in a few months’ time.  For all the social tumult and government inquiries and TARP, HAMP, HAFA, HARP and a whole alphabet soup of other catchy acronyms – the foreclosure train rolls on, and I think it’s going to keep on rolling until the root causes of the crisis are behind us (negative equity, unsustainably high home prices, unemployment).  From the sound of it, we’re still some years away from working through it all.  So I’m prepared for lots of foreclosure drama in the headlines for some time to come – and you should be too.

Lenders stepping up foreclosures?

I suppose I’m like a lot of REO Agents in my area in one respect at least – my inventory is way down from the level I was at a year or 18 months ago  Some REO agents talk about the “Kings and Queens of REO” – that is, those listing agents who seem to get a very disproportionate number of listings…dozens, or hundreds, even.

I never had hundreds, but I did use to have dozens – I probably had an inventory of over 40 listings back then, which probably doesn’t make me an REO King but perhaps a Duke or a Count, and certainly one of the busiest agents in my market area.


For a while, though, the listings were few and far between.  I used to get a couple of assignments a week pretty steady; for the first half of this year, it was more like a couple of assignments per month. Yeah, there was a bit of belt tightening here at the Silicon REO Group!

Over the past month or so, however, it’s been like the good ol’ days – I’ve had about eight new assignments in the past month.  So, what gives?  Have the lenders resumed their previously alacrity with pulling the trigger at the trustee’s sale? Does this mean a flood of new distressed REO inventory is about to hit the market, even as the market is hitting the skids?

Or – maybe this is not actually a flood of new distressed REO inventory.  For example, I got two assignments just today.  You know the drill – here’s your assignment, congratulations, go and do an occupancy check within 24 hours or we’ll pull it from you.

So I head down to the first one – and find that it was vacant and had already been re-keyed – and how long ago?  No way to know for sure, but there was mail on the kitchen counter dated from mid-February of this year, about six months ago. The second new listing was miles and miles away, located deep up in the woods.  I had trouble finding it; I spotted a neighbor and asked her if she knew where the property was.  “I don’t know that address” she said – and she didn’t know who the former mortgagor was when I gave his name.  “Maybe it’s that vacant house down the street?  It’s been vacant for a couple of years.”

Yeah, that’s a lot of fun – deep in the woods, marching up a gated driveway with no address on it, performing an occupancy check at an address where whoever is living there might not take too kindly to being disturbed.

Lonely Driveway

It turns out, though, that I had the right address – there was no house number on the property, but on the kitchen counter of this place there was a bunch of mail with the subject property’s address and the former mortgagor’s name.

But I digress.  Point is, in my own business, I’ve suddenly seen a nice (well, nice for me) showering of inventory.  Given today’s findings, might we be seeing the emergence into daylight of some of this much ballyhooed shadow inventory?

Who knows?  Funny thing about this business is that it’s really hard to take some anecdotal evidence and determine a significant trend from it.  Actually, it must be pretty easy, since that happens all the time – Realtors especially are prone to making sweeping generalizations about the state of the national real estate market based on whatever happened to them with their latest buyer/escrow/seller, or whatever.

But not me.  The assignments could (and in all likelihood, probably will) dry up tomorrow and I’ll be left tending to these new 8 and the other dozen or so I had before them and trying to get them sold – which is going to take some aggressive pricing, since as I mentioned earlier, the market is demonstrably weakening (and I have more than just anecdotal evidence about that one!).

As a very wise Realtor once said:  you have to make hay while the sun is shining.  Or maybe it was a very wise farmer who said that – but whoever said it, there was definitely wisdom in those words.  I’ll just keep my head down and work like crazy to beat my deadlines and bring in offers as close to BPO value as possible and get ’em closed on schedule to the very best of my ability.

And this I solemnly swear.