By Gino Blefari
President & CEO
Intero Real Estate Services, Inc.
No one can deny the economic challenges we face as a country. They are the most challenging we have seen in generations. This environment demands more from brokers and Realtors than ever before; especially when dealing with those caught up in the epidemic of distressed and foreclosed properties.
Planning. Organization. Training. Execution. Leadership.
Let’s take a lesson from our own military, the Marines. Their reputation as hardened fighters is well documented. Their success stems from their organization and the precise training that enables the unit to understand and execute the mission of the unit leader. Their order consists of these five elements:
- Command and Communication
Simple. Direct. Concise. Effective. And I believe this order can be implemented in real estate and guide us through and out of this current market situation. I’ll break it down as follows:
Situation – This is the background to your problem or the events leading up to where we are now. We have been facing incredible pressures and fluctuations in the housing market for over 24 months. Starting with the stricter lending requirements and plummeting home values during the sub-prime mortgage crisis that started in 2007. Two years into this foreclosure crisis we see unemployment, the traditional driver for foreclosures, come into play. While the focus has been primarily on Wall Street and the individual homeowner we recognize the tremendous pressures that have been placed on the individual agent and brokerages.
Mission – This is what we do about it. As I assess this new environment, it becomes painfully apparent that in order to respond to the needs of a distressed marketplace, we had to first and foremost ensure that our own company did not become distressed.
Secondly, we recognize that for our neighbors and prospective clients the immediate goal is saving their home. Granted, this appears counter-intuitive to our core mission of selling homes, but the underlying situation called for this. As Realtors, our mission is to get up to speed quickly, briefed on issues and expand our network of strategic business partners like never before. Therefore it became our mission to train our agents to do just that.
Execution – This describes how our mission is to be achieved. In a distressed market like the one we face today, the solutions we offer and the unique obstacles associated with delivering those solutions are changing rapidly. That is why we have created a department that specifically addressed the problems, opportunities and solutions in the distressed markets. We provide internal loss mitigation training through our Short Sales Division. We also encourage our agents to become Certified Default Resolution Specialists, to better connect and guide distressed homeowners through all of the options available to them. In addition, we are reaching out to servicers, local government agencies, non-profits and to the community to work collaboratively to address the issues and to help jumpstart neighborhood stabilization.
Administration – This regards the resources required to accomplish your mission. A brokerage’s most important resource is its agents and empowering them was the most important thing we could administer. Everyone is working frantically to create new processes, new technologies, new laws to help homeowners, but they are all fruitless if there is not a trusted source to help the homeowners engage in the process. This is where our agents come into play. Servicers are overwhelmed by the number of defaults and homeowners not able to make contact with their servicer, thus never realizing they have options to avoid foreclosure, who better to address and administer to their problems than the Realtor.
Command and Communication – Who’s in charge? Who do you report to? How do you communicate with each other?
With all other forms of loss mitigation, making initial borrower contact is still the key. The fact remains that in a great number of foreclosures, estimates are between 50-60% of all REO properties, there was never any contact between the homeowner and the servicer. Obtaining accurate borrower and property data is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts and players, which can easily lead to loss of communication.
At Intero, it is the individual agent that remains the most viable solution to engage the distressed market and affect the greatest change in the housing recovery in the years to come.
The challenges we face are daunting. The road is neither short nor straightforward. It is littered with obstacles, both old and new. But it is the road we must travel in our chosen profession and the road we choose to improve for the well being of the communities we serve.
Take inspiration from my Dad, a decorated WWII Veteran awarded with two Purple Hearts, and the Bronze Star of valor (just to name a few,) quoted often, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is forging ahead in spite of it.”