Never Leave an Asset Unsecure.


The first point of service for an REO contractor is that of securing the newly vacant asset. On the day of eviction, the contractor is at the site to change locks for security measures as well as to provide access for services soon to follow which will return the vacant property to a marketable state. A work order for “initial services” from any client is understood to be a request to secure first, then provide other services. Industry guidelines have been designed to provide for this feature without the contractor having to bid on it. That is because it is recognized that above all a property in distress must be secure.

We have been asked to secure countless properties in lieu of administering cleaning  and repairs. In time, we have come to learn that the appraised cost of the asset, the community it is in, and the little amount of time it has been sitting vacant is all irrelevant when it comes to a property being unsecure. A vacant property always attracts interest.

It is preferable when this interest expresses itself in a postive fashion. Most people neighboring a vacant property want to maintain a certain level of security on their street or in their community. When they see a door standing open, or a window smashed in, or even lights on they do something about it. If  they witness an act of vandalism, out of responsibility, they call the authorities and many times the realtor attached if there is a sign out front. I have been called to perform services on a property because a concerned neighbor called the lender to inform them that a vacant house was left open. Most people want a clean, safe street. And, most people will do what they can to see this happen. They will walk over and lock the doors and windows themselves if they have to. They will cut the lawn for free. I’ve talked to many good-hearted neighbors who had taken on a role as a default-contractor for months after a property became vacant in order to maintain the cleanliness and safety of their street.

Then, unfortunately, there are those whose curiosity is peeked when they find a vacant asset. For them, a darker nature comes to the surface. Vacancy is a license to them. It could be a mischievous teenager, or a drug addict, or a homeless individual, or even worse a criminal. A vacant property in any neighborhood is a place to go. A place to take out their frustrations. A place to hide or party or live for free. Nothing is of any value to them. When I think about what brews beneath the surface of ther person who makes access to a vacant property for the purpose of vandalism or theft or any other devious reason, I sympathize with neighbors who feel unsafe.

This is why the work of an REO contractor is at the first level a community service. There are many involved in the process of moving the property from inactive to active to sold. Some of these people see the property only as a file in a different state. It is not that they do not care about the safety or general condition of the asset, they just have so many others like it.

 Most of my clients who are lenders have portfolios with hundreds or thousands of properties that need to be managed. And, the point of contact is in an office at a desk using email to administer their end of the process. They are just as concerned as I am on the foot soldier level (even more so), but because of the sheer quantity of similar issues and other responsibilities they cannot give their full attention to a single asset.

Then there is the asset management company who serves as the middle man. Many work orders for the REO contractor come from this level. These agencies are also not in the best position to affect community service by way of securing the vacant property. They may be able to give more attention that the lender, but they are also usually swamped with status requests, invoicing, order tracking, and reviewing results. Plus, they may also be in another state.

The role of the realtor was not designed with property management in mind. Mind you, I work for and have come in contact with superhero agents who go beyond the call of duty to ensure that a vacant property sells in a timely manner and stays secure during that process. But, in reality, they should be busy performing the service they have been licensed for — selling homes. Not changing locks, boarding windows, filing police reports, etc.

The REO contractor is the point person for security. They often know more about the asset than anyone because they place foot on the lot, often repeatedly if they are asked to complete routine condition reports. It is knowing this that heightens my sense of responsibility. It is not a light thing to be responsible for making a street more safe. And, it’s not an exaggeration to say because I secure a property, I am improving the neighborhood.

This being said, if you are a contractor and you are asked ot visit a property for any reason — do not never unless you know for sure that the asset is secure at all points. Design a point check for yourself to ensure before you leave that you have done due diligence on your part to make for a secure structure. Lock all doors and windows. Board broken windows. Secure all potential entry points. In the very least document these openingswith photos and notify your client before you leave the site. The house must be secure. Mind you, if Santa wants to come down the chimney, who can prevent that?

Even when asked to simply inspect a property, this service of documenting security is essential. The best way to hold ourselves accountable to this process is to remember that we as REO contractors are at the best possible position to affect security. Not the lender. Not the asset management company. Not the realtor. We could even be responsible for an act of vandalism if we leave an unsecure asset. The insurance companies see it this way at least. Which is another reason to check everything. It might be tempting when you have a list of 10 – 15 assignments to complete in one day to speed through any given asset on the way to the next. But, what have you accomplished at the end of the day if one of your clients’ assets has been compromised and you did nothing to make it secure?

Think of it as the house next door. Would you want to live next door to an open vacant house?

Point made.

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