REOMAC’s Newest Member

I cannot believe it’s been almost five years since my most recent blog post here on Foreclosure Exposure!  As any close watcher of the default industry will tell you, the REO business is a shadow of its former self in most parts of the country.  The volume just dried up and blew away, especially here…

REO Safety for Realtors

Last week was the REO Expo 2012 – it was the third year I have attended. This year, I was selected to attend a panel entitled “Don’t Be a Victim: Safety Issues in REO”. We had a good group of panelists, but unfortunately we didn’t have a really great turn out in terms of an audience to listen to our pearls of wisdom.

Each panelist was given ahead of time several questions which they might be asked – so I researched the questions and prepared some remarks ahead of time. I am sharing the questions and my answers here in case they will be useful to anyone in the future.

You said that you have never felt in danger while doing your job. Why do you believe that is? Many believe female agents are specifically targeted, could your gender have something to do with your feeling of safety, or do you believe that your preparation is the cause?

I have never felt imminently, physically threatened by anyone, but I have of course been concerned for my safety on numerous occasions. I deal with a lot of rural properties, where if I run into trouble I may not be in cell range to call for help, so I want to make sure that I know as much about the property going in as I can.

I am sure I have a greater feeling of safety than many women will, because yes, many criminals do in fact target females specifically and that is of real and particular concern. If I were a woman, I don’t know that I’d be going out alone to many of these properties, unless I had some good self-defense training, the Moby safety app for smart phones, and maybe a tazer or some pepper spray.

In general I think my overall feeling of safety comes from being cautious and also from not having experienced any truly life-threatening situations.

Do you believe that the National Association of Realtors should do more to help Realtors protect themselves?

The NAR does have a section of its web site dedicated to agent safety. There is quite a lot of material there, including a series of archived webinars about agent safety. The site also provides links to other state associations that have their own additional information about agent safety. They also have a safety guide for Realtors in the NAR store you can buy for $20.

NAR also calls September the National Realtor Safety Month, when they put a focus on safety on their web site and other communications.

I really feel though that NAR is missing the boat on a key issue, such as having NAR vetted and approved safety training classes, self defense classes, and self defense products such as pepper spray, tazers, and the like – especially if NAR were able to secure these products and services at a discounted rate for members.

What do you personally do to prepare for potentially dangerous situations?

Before I go out to a property, I will google the address and the former owner of record to see if there’s anything I can find out before I visit a property where I have concerns. After I am at the property, I make sure to clearly identify as best as possible who is living at the property – I ask to see identification, and do a quick internet search when I return to the office to see what more information I can find. I feel that knowing who you are dealing with is a key way to prepare and avoid dangerous situations.

If I require a meeting with the occupants of a property, I try to schedule the meeting not at the property but in a public place, ideally my office, so there will be other people around.

If ever I am concerned when I leave to visit a property, I will make sure someone in my office is alerted to where I am going and will let them know when I should be back.

I also make sure that my cell phone is fully charged before I go out, and always make sure to bring it with me when I exit the car.

When I am parking my car, I position it such that I can leave quickly – this often means backing up a driveway, ideally parking somewhere that the way out can’t be easily blocked. I also make sure my car doors are locked after I exit the car.

I wear comfortable clothing and shoes that I can run in.

What unique safety situations do Realtors face when dealing with REO properties, and how can they prepare for them?

People who have gone through foreclosure can often be emotionally on edge – even when they might not normally be aggressive, the stress they’ve been under can make them act irrationally. I always try to strike a conciliatory tone with all occupants I find at a property, and seek to get their cooperation. I actually find that the offer of cash for keys or ‘relocation assistance’ is one of the best ways to calm people down and give them some hope for better days.

When doing an occupancy check, if possible, consider doing it early in the morning, as many occupants are likely to be sleeping and it may be possible to get feeling for the property while anyone inside might be sleeping and of less risk to you. Also they are less likely to be inebriated early in the morning.

Before you enter a property on a weekly inspection, check all the exterior of the home before you enter, looking for signs of forced entry. If you see any doors or windows have been forced open or broken, you should be especially concerned and may want to come back at a later time with someone else.

When going into a property that you think is vacant, take a quick tour of the property to make sure it is in fact vacant at the time, and then it’s a good idea to lock the door behind you so that nobody else can enter while you complete your work at the property.

Always bring a flashlight with you, and use it to shine ahead of you when there there is any darkness – there may be tripping hazards, of course, or there could be people in the shadows. I recommend a big 4 “D” Cell police type flashlight which in a pinch can be used for defensive purposes.

Even though you may carry pepper spray, a tazer, a heavy flashlight, etc., I suggest being assertive but non-confrontational as possible with everyone you come in contact with. No point in trying to be a hero – if anything is at all weird or sketchy, I recommend leaving immediately and returning with the police or at least someone else who’s got your back.

Bob Shelton’s REO Bootcamp Grand Finale

I’m sitting here in my motel room in Gaffney, South Carolina, having just attended the Grande Finale of Bob Shelton’s NRBA REO Boot Camp.  Now that everything’s been said and done, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on the experience.

The Boot Camp was held in the small town of Gaffney, South Carolina, about 40 miles away from Charlotte, North Carolina, where my plane landed and to where I will be returning early tomorrow morning.  I haven’t really seen too much of Gaffney – I am not sure there really is all that much to see, I think it’s a pretty small town.  I doubt there are many tourists who come here, and I doubt also that it’s a big draw for business conventions.  Quite possibly, the NRBA Boot Camp is one of the biggest driver of out-of-town visitors this town knows.

I got in last Thursday morning, and Thursday evening there was a welcoming mixer at the Bronco Mexican Restaurant.  Seeing as how we are pretty far from the border with Mexico, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of South Carolina Mexican food – so I wasn’t disappointed.  Although the salsa they served with the chips was pretty mediocre, they did have actual habanero sauce at the table to put on the food, so they scored some points there. The mixer was fun, and I got to talking with a bunch of fellow NRBA members from the four points of the compass.

The boot camp proper began on Friday morning.  I don’t want to get in to the material that was actually covered, but a lot of it was similar to what had been discussed the week prior at the Southern California Business Development Seminar which I had also attended.  There was some new material though and I listened with rapt attention.  That afternoon we headed over to the offices of Shelton Properties to get a peek at how they run their REO business there.

That evening we headed over to the Gaffney Elk’s Club for a little BBQ and some more socializing/networking.  The BBQ was pretty good – they also had a DJ and some dancing, although there wasn’t too much dancing going on.  All too soon though, they announced that we had to get out of the Elk’s Club and we would be regrouping at the Hampton Inn where most folks were staying. After returning to my own motel to say good night to my wife and kids, I too headed over to the Hampton Inn and stayed for a couple of hours, chatting with other members about the REO business.

Saturday morning rolled around and it was back to the boot camp and more sessions – there was more material presented on Saturday than on Friday and again I listened alertly and jotted down some notes with some ideas I will implement in my own business.

And then, just after 3 PM, the session wrapped up and boot camp was over.  It was time to say goodbye to the people I’d met and say “See you in Denver” at the NRBA conference in May.  I did finally get my NRBA pin, handed to me by Bob Shelton himself.  I’m just about to head out the door and have dinner with another member who isn’t leaving until tomorrow morning, and I’m looking forward to that.

So what is the REO Boot Camp all about?  It’s not really a boot camp – the emphasis is more on mixing and networking with other NRBA members in an informal setting.  But to me, that’s really where the value lies.  It’s all about getting to know other professionals in the business, hearing what works for them, and figuring out how to adapt my own business model to incorporate the best of what I learn works for other agents.


How I (finally) Joined the NRBA

When I first got into the REO business, lo these many years and gray hairs ago, I was warned away from paying money to join REO associations and broker networks – except for two.  One of those was REONetwork – which I joined as a Premium Partner as soon as I was able to (that is, after I had closed my first REO Sale).

The other I was encouraged to join – if they’d let me in – was the NRBA, the National REO Broker’s Association.  In order to join the NRBA, you need to provide references from three REO clients for whom you have actually listed and sold REO properties.  It took me a little while to get another couple-few REO clients and close some deals, so it was a number of months after I joined REONetwork that I first submitted my application to the NRBA.

Nrba logo only2

And then, I waited. And waited.  I managed to get an e-mail from someone at the NRBA about six months after I’d initially applied and she let me update my application with more and newer references.  And then I waited some more, and then the person who had e-mailed me – her name is now lost to the sands of time – was unreachable, as anything sent to her e-mail address just returned as a bounced message.

Then, back in February of 2011, I saw a thread on LinkedIn about the NRBA, and there was a message from a master broker with the NRBA, indicating that she’d be able to help anyone who’d been waiting on membership.  I wasted no time in replying, asking for help.  And help she did – a couple of weeks later, I was again allowed to update my references…and then, back to the waiting game.  The master broker in question made a few more inquiries as to the progress of my application, but nothing came of it.

Until about ten days ago, when – boom!  Like a bolt out of the blue, an e-mail landed in my in-box saying that my application to join the NRBA had been approved.  Hallelujah!  Wonders will never cease.  I don’t know what it is that finally opened the door for me – but I do know that one of the NRBA members in my home county…is no longer a member, so perhaps it’s just that a slot had opened up in my area.

Over the years, I had talked to a number of NRBA members that I’d met at various conferences, and almost every one of them has been very enthusiastic about their membership – nobody would provide much in the way of details as to what exactly their membership had done for them, aside from mentioning the training and networking opportunities. As anyone in the REO business knows – there is no shortage of training and network opportunities.  However, I think most will agree that there while there’s a lot of quantity as regards training and networking options, the quality is often below par; at least, that’s how it’s usually seemed to me.

So it is with great excitement that I have joined the NRBA and I really hope to catch the buzz that seems to have so many other members singing its praises.

Time to Get Some New REO Business

It’s November.  Time to take down the Halloween decorations gracing the front porch and get ready to turn the pumpkins into pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Next exit

It’s also a couple of days after my brokerage’s E&O Insurance policy got renewed.  Every year, the old policy expires on October 31 and a new one is put into force.  So every year around this time, I update all my clients with the new E&O information, and then I go through all the various banks and outsourcers I’ve registered with to make sure that they have my updated information as well.

This is something I could have one of my assistants do, of course, but I choose to do it myself.  I remember when I was first trying to break into this business, I got a bit of advice from ol’ Frank Patrick @ the American Society of REO Specialists – actually, ASREOS did not yet actually exist at that point (it was just REO Renegades back then), but ’twas Frank that gave me the advice, and it was: this is where the money comes from, so it’s really something you want to make sure you do it right – so do it yourself.

It’s a pretty rote exercise, but the sad truth of the matter is, business is down.  The cupboards are looking pretty bare, not a lot of inventory kicking around in pre-marketing and I have sold just about every listing I had marketed.  I can think of few times when I’ve been looking at such a trough in the business – even when other brokers were complaining about their lack of inventory, I hadn’t really experienced it to any significant degree – until the past few months.

So now that my E&O policy is good for another year, it’s time to go through the list and make sure my profile is all up to date with the various companies I’ve registered with – I’ve got a little time on my hands, I’m going to put it productive use.

The chatter is all about the build-up of REO inventory, and how the dam is going to burst – but this chatter has been going on for a couple of years.  There’s not going to be a burst – there will be some surges in specific areas by specific institutions – I think the best anyone can hope for is to catch a swell with an old client or a new one and hope to ride the wave and turn it into a lasting relationship such that when the swell passes and it’s back to a slower trickle, the business stays with you as opposed to another agent looking to lap up that same trickle.

Speaking of which, my old friend Rick Sharga (OK, he’s not a friend – but I’ve seen him speak enough time it feels like we’re old pals) is saying he expects “several more years” of 1 million foreclosures annually. I expect the same – how can it be otherwise?  There are 6+ million homes nationwide in some stage of foreclosure – today.  Last I checked, the economy is still terrible, and the recent 2.5% increase in GDP last quarter is but a pinky in the dyke – and I expect they’ll revise that number downward in a month or two.  While the economy remains in the dump, as I expect it will for at least another couple of years, I don’t see any other scenario but that more properties get dumped into that foreclosure pipeline.

One last thing:  in the interests of getting more REO Business, I signed on to become a Giant of REO – and my REO Giants profile page has just been launched.  They sent me a box with ten or so Giants of REO Booklets – not sure what I’m supposed to do with them, but they sure look classy.  If you know anyone who needs a Giant of REO Broker, send ’em my way.  My team and I are ready to serve!


Steve Jobs and the REO Business

What’s Steve Jobs got to do with the REO business?  Nothing at all, not that I know of, anyway.  So what am I doing putting those two together?


Well, for one, Steve Jobs just died, and a lot of people are talking about it.  And two, I myself am in the REO business, and I have been a user of Jobs’ products for decades.

The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of different products I could use instead of Apple products.  I could use a PC, I could use an Android Phone – they would get the job done.  Actually, I have used lots of PCs and of course I do have Windows running inside a virtual machine on my Mac, because so many REO systems are writtten – for no good reason whatsoever – only to work on Microsoft Internet Explorer.

But I use a Mac (and before that, an Apple ][+ if you can believe it), and it’s not often that my iPhone is far from reach.  The question some will ask is,  why, when there are cheaper alternatives out there?

The short answer is, like so many things in life:  you get what you pay for.  I know, you’re reading this blog post here on my web site, – and you see that I am a REO broker servicing the greater Silicon Valley area – you’re thinking I must be some kind of huge geek, right?  Well, maybe.

But the reason I like Apple products is the same reason that for years, real geeks spurned them – it’s not the kind of technology that you’re meant to screw around with.  The thing is, I like technology that just works.  I don’t want to have to screw around with it.  I want to plug it in, and put it to work, so I can focus on what my job really is:  serving my clients.

Sure, sometimes my fancy Apple hardware and software lets me down, and I do have to end up screwing with it to get it to work.  But not often – and seemingly a lot less often than technology from a lot of other vendors.  For the most part, the technology part of the job recedes into the background and I am just left with the task at hand.  Ahhh.  Apple’s technolgoy empowers me to get a lot of work done, wherever I am – at home, in the office, on the road, in the field, on vacation – with a minimum of fuss and worry.  I view it as a force multiplier – I can’t clone myself, but I can increase my producitivty through the judicious application of technolgoy such that the effect is in many ways the same.

Many years ago, I actually wrote an e-mail to Steve Jobs.  This was right after he had come back to Apple and taken over.  I had just bought a Newton MessagePad, and Steve Jobs went and killed it off.  That thing cost me like over $1,000 as I recall, and that was back in the mid-90’s when $1,000 was a pretty good chunk of change.  So I wrote Steve an e-mail and I said basically, WTF?!  I’m sure I must have insulted him in some way, because the next day, I actually did get an e-mail back from Steve – or one of his asisstants,  who knows.

I looked for that e-mail about a month ago – I couldn’t find it, the e-mails I’ve saved only go back about 7 years, not 15.  His response to me was short and to the point – something about how if Apple should once again flourish in the years to come, I needed to look myself in a mirror and say shame on me for writing such a nasty e-mail.

Yes, shame on me.  Sorry Steve.  Mea culpa, or my bad, as they say these days.  Thanks for all those far-out groovy times basking in your reality distortion field.  I’ll go ahead and pre-order an iPhone 4S now, and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.



What to do in a Multiple Offer Situation

One of the most-read blog posts I have written on here is about how to lose at highest and best offers.  I want to take a few minutes here and sort of do a follow up, because I’ve been handling a few multiple offer situations in the past week – I had three properties get a whole slew of offers, so all week long I’ve been working with a number of agents, taking phone calls, e-mail inquiries, offers, and highest-and-best offers.


Here’s the thing:  I keep all offers confidential.  That is to say, if you put an offer in on one of my properties, I will not tell anyone else anything about that offer – not the price, terms, nothing.  I do this because in most cases I am instructed by my clients to keep the offers confidential, in other cases this is only implied, and when it is not implied, I keep all offers confidential because I think it makes the most sense to do so.

So here I have all these offers on these properties last week, and agents call me up, and they ask:  hey, is it too late to put in an offer?  I tell them no, not at all – we are doing highest and best offers right now, so please put in your highest and best offer.  They ask what price they need to come in at – and I tell them my standard line:  all offer prices and terms are confidential, however, given that we already have, say, 6 offers, they should be prepared to be competitive.

If you are a buyer and you want to put in an offer on a property that already has six offers, the question to ask yourself is:  is this offer going to beat out 6 other offers?  Will my offer be the best of seven?  Given that they are already doing “highest and best” offers – you won’t get another shot, you have one chance to offer on the property.

What surprises me is how many buyers, given this situation, will come in under asking price.  It’s amazing.  I am going to say something which if you are a buyer, I want you to take a deep breath, and stare at the next sentence for a minute:

I have never seen an offer below full asking price win in a multiple-offer situation.

Never.  Not even if you are competing against just one other offer.

Now, some buyer out there can doubtless claim that they have done just that.  And I am sure there are agents out there who will tell you that this can happen from time to time.

I have never seen it, though, and I have to say:  it is a losing strategy. If you are going to play the multiple offer game, why play to lose?

What also is amazing is that when I tell agents that their buyer’s offer needs to be competitive to beat out, say, six other buyers – they come in only at full price.  I really hate to try and make rules or formulas for figuring out how much to offer.  But if we are talking about a winning strategy, here goes one:  if you want to win in a multiple offer situation, come in something over asking price.  This is not a rule, but I’m going to put this out there:  if you are competing against 3 or more offers, you need to come in over asking price to be competitive.

Now, I shouldn’t really be telling anyone any of this.  Why?  Because if people took my advice to heart, they would realize the futility of writing up weak offers in a multiple offer situation.  The number of offers that I get on my listings feeds the hysteria and drives the price higher, which is good for my clients  – and good for me, since I’m paid on commission –  except of course when the bidding goes up high over my BPO value, but that’s another story.

Housing Market Not Even Halfway Recovered

The good folks at HousingWire have just put out a story today:

Not even halfway to housing recovery: REthink panel

According to the article, Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae said:  “We are in year four of a 10-year transition.”

That sounds about right to me – and it echoes what I wrote yesterday about the REO Tsunami –  we’ll see about the same level of REO 2-3 years from now as we are seeing today, and we’ll see elevated levels for the next 3-5 years.

Still plenty of legs left in this market, plenty of time to break into the REO market, it’s only 40% done.

And now, off to do a Cash for Keys.

Free List of REO & BPO Companies

I got an e-mail today which is not unlike hundreds of similar e-mails I have received over the past several years. The e-mail asked me a fair enough question, given my line of work:

Are you looking for a complete up-to-date list of direct contact information for Asset Managers across the Country, Asset Management Companies and Banks?

The list

As it happens, I’m always on the lookout for a complete and up-to-date list of asset management companies and banks.  The e-mail then kindly directed me to the following web site:

There on that web site, they’re selling the list for $199.  They also will sell you just a list of BPO companies for $79.  The good news is, if you spend the $199 you also get a separate list of direct contact information for individual asset managers, so you can spam your way into someone’s REO broker network.

I’ve never tried spamming REO asset managers, although I have heard from some people it’s a tactic that actually does work.  I was tempted to try it, but I hate spam, so far be it for me to violate my own principles just for the chance of maybe breaking into some new companies.  If anyone wants to find me, it’s not hard to do – here I am!

If however you doubt the efficacy of spamming asset managers or you are just squeamish about doing so, and you’re just looking for a registry of banks, outsourcers, and BPO companies, they’re not hard to find.  Our good friends at REOPro have a pretty good list:

Also I saw on LinkedIn that there’s another list over at “Ask an Agent” Forum:

There are probably more free REO/BPO company lists out there – I just can’t think of any at the moment, but if any come to me, I’ll add them in to this blog entry later.

Having the list is one thing; signing up is another – it’s a long, arduous process, it could take a really long time.  Fortunately there are companies that will do that for you as well: (I’ve received many a spam e-mail from them – they have a free list too if you give them your e-mail)


I have never paid anyone to register me, so I am not especially endorsing these services.  I think that registering with these companies is really important, and it is something you want done right.  You know what they say – if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.  But maybe these companies do do it right, maybe even better than you could do it yourself – and certainly if you haven’t done it or have no time for it, it’s something you should consider.

Now, about that e-mail I received today.  I ran a quick “whois” check on, and here’s what I found:


I did a quick Google search on the name of the registrant.  It turns out, he’s an REO Broker out in the DC area.  It looks like he’s decided to make a quick buck selling his database of REO contacts.  I’m sure his asset managers really appreciate his giving out their contact info!  Am I right?

Anyhow, I’m all for sharing information, but I’m certainly not against selling it or paying for it.  But at this stage in the game, I don’t think there’s much point in paying for this information – well, not for a simple list of REO and BPO companies anyway.

So I’ll tell you what: I’ll give you my list of REO and BPO companies for free.  Just e-mail me (no phone calls, please!).  It’s an Excel spreadsheet I’ll just e-mail it right back to you.  I’ve got about 200 companies on there – banks, outsourcers, valuation companies (“BPO Mills”), and some other industry-related outfits like property preservation companies, etc.  If you’re interested, just let me know.

To your success – and mine!

REO Tsunami in 2011

Do you believe in Big Foot?  How about little green men, or Santa Claus?  No?  Well, let me ask you another question – do you believe in the much-ballyhooed REO Tsunami?


In case you’re somehow not familiar with it, the REO Tsunami is the supposed tidal wave of foreclosure real estate.  As legend has it, “the banks” are holding on to millions of delinquent loans which they will, probably “next quarter” (it’s always just a quarter away) release into the market and create a flood or a tsunami of bank-owned REO listings.

It seems the most impassioned believers in the REO Tsunami are real estate agents.  Many of these agents have heard from their “contacts” in the REO industry about the coming of this tsunami and a lot of them say they’re staffing up and preparing themselves for the onslaught.

I stopped believing in Santa Clause not long after I was out of diapers – and I stopped believing in the REO Tsunami a long time ago, too.  Yes, it’s true, there are millions of home loans in some stage of default.  And, it’s true that home prices are still dropping and the risk of strategic default by borrowers should be rising right along with it.  Buyer demand remains weak, employment remains weak; all indications point to no quick end to the backlog of delinquent loans.

I just finished reading the story in HousingWire called The Department. The articles talks about Bank of America’s Legacy Asset Servicing department which has been set up to handle the banking giant’s non-performig loans.  The article mentions that The Department is responsible for a portfolio of approximately 6.7 million loans totaling about $1 trillion all together.  It seems that BofA has a goal to clean their books of these loans within three years.  Although the article says it will describe how BofA plans to do it, they don’t go into any detail about this – just that they plan to do short sales, loan modifications including some principal write-downs, and, of course, they plan to foreclose on whatever’s left and dispose of it through traditional REO channels.

Word on the street is that BofA has in fact “opened the doors” to its REO department, and has been accepting applications from agents who want to list BofA’s REO properties.  I have it on good authority that in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, BofA is looking to expand its network of brokers by 300 – which would seem to indicate that they do plan to move a lot more REO here locally in the near future.

But this is just one mortgage lender.  I haven’t heard that any other lenders are gearing up to doing anything comparable.  I have heard (from RealtyTrac) that 2011 will be the “peak year” for REO nationwide, and that some lenders will be releasing more inventory than they did in 2010.  So far, though, I can’t say as I’ve seen any hard evidence that this is actually going to happen. But if it does happen, I don’t think the levels of REO are going to be so much higher that anyone could properly call it a tsunami, or even a flood.  Maybe something of a splash?

I think we’re going to be looking at more of the same for some years to come.  The question is, how much more?  I don’t think much more, but I don’t think much less for the next 2-3 years.  Beyond that, say in the 3-5 year time frame, I still expect we’ll see elevated levels of REO nationwide and locally here in the San Francisco Bay / Silicon Valley area.  In terms of my local market here, when I say “elevated” I mean quite a bit elevated, as historically there has not really been that much REO to go around here thanks to our strong local economy – but nationwide I think it looks like things will be settling down to a more typical level of foreclosure activity a few years down the road.

Of course, anything can happen.  It’s impossible to know with any degree of certainty what the market is going to be like 2-5 years from now.  But I personally am not making any plans based on a tidal wave of REO in the next 1-2 years, but rather that we’ll keep plodding through the bad loans on the balance sheets, bit by bit, until, a few more years down the line, the market will have shifted back to something closer to the “old normal.”

But if I’m wrong, and all of a sudden there is a huge tsunami of REO assets – we here with the Silicon REO Group will be ready for it, thanks to our flexible business model and scalable systems.  Whatever’s coming, we welcome it.  To quote one of the keynote speakers for the 2011 Five Star Conference:  Bring it on.