Loss mitigation specialist

Davina Anderson, a loan resolution consultant for Wingspan Portfolio Advisors, Carrollton, Texas, has been in the trenches for years.

A mother and homemaker, she operates her "corner office" from her home in South Carolina. On most days Davina starts placing calls at around 8:00 a.m. "I then log back on two days each week for three hours of evening calling. Working from home gives me the flexibility to do this. I can work a few hours during the day and then log back in the evening to make some important evening calls after schoolwork, eating dinner and putting the kids to bed." And no, she is not in her pajamas when she calls her clients. "I do not dress in a suit, but I dress appropriately for a home office," she says.

Davina joined Wingspan at the beginning of February, but has been working in loss mitigation since 2001. "Before that I worked in the finance business, which is a little bit of everything, for five years. That helped a lot when I moved on to loss mitigation. In a finance company you can be a collector and take a payment, you can process loans, you are a little bit of everything, so it's very good business to start out in."

Technically her working day has not changed much over the years. If anything, what is different now because of the mortgage crisis is the additional effort to help. "There is helping the borrower to stay in their home, evaluating their situation, digging a little deeper into their situation. Also there are more options to help them stay in their home."

She does not have a full queue of loans yet, so she would rather not provide an average number of people she talks to every day for Wingspan. Yet her day is quite busy. Borrowers seem to slowly catch up with the assistance options available to them.

Before this crisis started happening there were more avenues available for people to refinance their current mortgage to save themselves if they were getting into trouble. "They had more possibilities and prospects to do that. Now they don't have that if they're in trouble with their payment, or not able to afford their home any longer, they can't just go out and refinance with a subprime lender as they could do before. Something some borrowers don't realize so it's our job to be present with them, listen to what they have to say, gather the facts, explain the situation and help them stay in the home if it's at all possible."

Davina tries to do that in a gentle, agreeable way so the borrowers she speaks to do not panic. She knows they may be thinking, "If I can't refinance, if I can't sell my home for what I owe on it, than I have no other options available to me."

"And that's how it has changed. Borrowers feel limited while in reality there are more options for them than they realize until you talk to them."

She finds it has been a challenge especially for those who were used to aggressively take advantage of house price appreciation by buying a new home every couple of years so they could sell it for a profit. Curiously, such clients often do not understand the market and how their options have changed because of depreciation. Even those who appeared more knowledgeable in the past are now in the dark.

It is surprising. Also, it shows the importance of borrower education as much as is telling of the need for more effective reach out tools. Her explanation is simple. If one looks at the situation from their side, that person in trouble hearing about foreclosures on the news, or sitting at home watching TV, thinks it is for somebody else. "If you're that person you do not think it's for you until you talk to your actual servicer or someone who has the knowledge and gives it to you personally, until then you don't really put yourself into that situation."

Is it a challenge? "Yes and no," she says. "Yes, sometimes it's a challenge to contact the borrower. It's high content, high touch. But once I get them on phone, I try to get across. 'I want to help you.'"

Davina sees that initial connection and establishment of trust as the most important aspect of the whole loss mitigation process. Data gathering, processing and analytics comes second. "I make sure they understand I'm on the phone because I'm trying to help them. Then, it may be a reduced payment for a specific amount of time that I can help them with, or another solution. I gather all the facts, do all the research that I need to do, and than it's a case-by-case situation in terms of what I can do for them. I get great response from that."

She says that casually, but anyone who actually had a phone conversation with Davina would describe her friendly communication manner, even the sound of her voice, trustworthy. Many tell her she is cut out for the job.

"That's what I try to project. I'm happy when people tell me, 'When I heard your message I wanted to call back and thank you for your help, for telling me what to do.' It gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps me go through the process and do the same on the next call, even improve it."