Cleaning Other People’s Messes.


As a father of three, 4-years-old and under, I am accustomed to cleaning up messes I didn’t make. On a fundamental level, there is no material reward for doing this. So, we do our best to mess-proof our home. It doesn’t work. I mumble threats as I wipe up spills, mop up floors, erase marks on walls. That doesn’t work either.

Oh well, they are children, right? They are going to make messes and that is why I am here. To clean it up.

As an REO professional, a large part of what I do is clean up other people’s messes — both figuratively and literally. We have been asked to report on, re-do, or complete projects assigned to another REO agency where the work completed was substandard. Debris was left in houses when the agency documented they had removed it all. Pools still green. Lawns still uncut. All sorts of half done services.

Even if another REO company was not involved, we still clean up after people. On a typical janitorial, our goal is to remove all evidence that the previous borrower was living in the asset — to wipe away all marks, stains and prints. It is unbelievable at times what we find. In houses that look immaculate from the exterior, on streets you would dream to live on, the level of toxicity inside can get to you. You question how humans lived in such an unkempt state. In these cases, as you debase yourself to clean a clogged toilet, aged several months, or sanitize a spoiled freezer, or steam clean/remove carpets heavily stained and sun-baked with animal urine, you wonder, “Is this the American dream?”

In REO, as you clean other people’s messes, the sheer act forces you to look at the wastefulness, the neglect, the humility of human nature.

You could look at it one of two ways ::

1. You could complain. The thought of cleaning up after any REO company gets to me, admittedly, because we pride ourselves in follow-through. Many times, I feel compelled to comment on the poor level of service observed. Just as I have complained about cleaning after my children, I wondered how a professional agency could leave such a mess behind. Especially after being paid for their work.

It rarely benefits me to complain, though. I cannot change other companies’ standards, I can only affect my own. I can only rest in the thought that eventually their poor workmanship will catch up with them.

2. You could leverage it. I can’t tell you how many times, when we were asked to come in and clean up another agency’s mess (most of the time a national-based agency), we earned trust with the client and shot the gap. We were able to show, though we were the smaller guy, that attention to detail rules the day.

Our philosophy is, why complain about cleaning another person’s mess when we’re being given more work? Whether we come to a property as the first REO company that touches it or we are asked to come in mid-stream, we are getting work to do. In this, we feel blessed.

The job of cleaning up other people’s messes is actually a privilege. As the REO agent, we are directly responsible for removing hazards, unsafe conditions so that a new family can come to a new home.

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