FORCE agents are known for their professionalism, education, and expertise; but even the most qualified agents can struggle to get their foot in the door with asset managers. This month we spoke with agents who have stayed the course and found success in the REO market, as well as an asset manager who shared his perspective on what really works in today’s shifting market.
For REO agents, making strong connections with asset managers is essential. However, this is often easier said than done.
Educating yourself and obtaining certifications to augment your resume are not bad ways to start, but establishing contact and following up are key. When REOs were on the rise and every bank and asset manager was furiously trying to grow their network and unload properties, it was easy for REO agents to get a foot in the door with asset managers.
Today’s market is quite different. Foreclosures across the country are on the decline, and many agents are beginning to find success in the traditional home buying market. Foreclosure starts were at their lowest level in 10 years in November, according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released in December.
“Banks are continuing to work through the backlog of lingering foreclosures, pushing bank repossession numbers higher in the short term even as foreclosure starts drop to new lows,” said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac.
In a few states, REOs were up more than 200 percent over the year in November. Tennessee (608 percent), Mississippi (341 percent), Texas (298 percent), Nebraska (295 percent), New York (270 percent), and New Jersey (205 percent) charted the greatest increases.
What this means for REO agents is there is still more work to be done in the REO market.
Pursue the Right Contacts
Those who follow market news know large lenders have been unloading mortgage servicing rights to smaller nonbank servicers for some time. “Most of the larger lenders’ networks have all been closed for a very long time,” says Christina Griffin of Coldwell Banker in Tampa, Florida.
However, “I would recommend you go after local small banks,” she says. “This is a market where it is still possible to get your foot in the door.”
It can be tricky to pursue some of these smaller companies because their contact information is not always readily accessible, according to Griffin. However, it may be worth the effort of tracking them down.
“I recently picked up a few new clients by going through aged inventory of foreclosures in my current marketplace and sending my resume to the mailing address,” she says.
Start Small with BPOs
Sometimes you have to start small. Many REO agents got their start doing BPOs. Matthew Diehl with Coldwell Banker in Chicago says doing BPOs is a good way to get on an asset manager’s radar.
“They’ll see your name keep popping up and see you as a resource,” he says.
Griffin got her first listing with Chase after completing about 50 BPOs for them. “I got my first listing because of how powerful the content I put in the BPO was,” she says. “The asset manager called and said it was the best BPO she’s ever seen.”
For those who are turning to BPOs to make a good impression on an asset manager, Griffin advises inspecting each property personally rather than relying on an inspection service.
Turn to Your Peers
“Working with other agents is an excellent way to establish yourself and get your foot in the door,” Diehl says. He encourages agents to attend both national and local networking events—conferences, FORCE events, and company events.
LaCrisha Butler of The Butler Group @ Independent Realty in Washington D.C., has found networking with other agents to be of great value. She says networking with agents from other states at national events like the Five Star Conference can be a great way to gain information and referrals.
“We’re not competing, so they are more than willing to provide information and introductions,” she says.
However, she was even more surprised that “one of the best contacts I’ve made was at Five Star in Dallas, and it was an agent in my own area. I wasn’t expecting that. I would have thought that someone in my area would not be willing to discuss.”
Networking with peers can be particularly valuable if you serve a rural area. Bryan Palomares, VP of Asset Management with Skyhill Financial, says his company already has an established network of REO agents, but sometimes they need to find an agent in a rural area where they do not already have contacts. In those cases, his first course of action is to reach out to an agent nearby to see if they can provide a reference.
Griffin also recommends networking with local loan officers. If they have foreclosures, they may “go out on a limb and try to get you into their network,” she says.
Deborah Ball admits “it’s hard to crack,” but she stresses the importance of following up and emailing asset managers.
Butler agrees, saying, “The follow-up is what’s key.”
After making contact with an asset manager, Butler follows up and makes sure they know she is a local market expert. She makes sure asset managers know there is an uptick in foreclosures in her area—the metro D.C. area—right now and that she has expertise in her area’s rigorous laws pertaining to foreclosures, tenant rights, and more.
Many servicers are dealing with multiple jurisdictions, so knowing they have a local expert on hand can be very valuable, according to Butler.
Palomares says in the current market, expensive packages aimed at catching an asset manager’s attention don’t have much of an impact. Referrals and a strong record of experience are much more effective, he says.