The Dirt on Cleaning House
From walls to floors and cabinets to countertops, asset managers have to cover a lot of ground in order to make sure an REO property is clean and ready to sell.
It is a wise move for asset managers to give their real estate agents, brokers and service providers a guide to use when getting real estate-owned assets spic-and-span, according to CJ Gehlke, president and founder of REO Nationwide in Newport Beach, Calif.
For drawers in the kitchen, empty and clean all stains and food particles by washing them with mild soap and warm water. Remove any worn paper lining. Wipe out drawers. It is important to clean the interior of the dishwasher and remove any food particles. Clean the soap holder, racks and trays. Clean the exterior by wiping with mild soap and warm water.
Next, move down the hallway of home to the washer and dryer. REO Nationwide says it’s important to clean the interior thoroughly and include any filters. Remove all mineral and dried soap deposits from the top of the washer.
“For the furnace, remove and thoroughly clean or replace filter in the bottom of furnace. Clean all windows inside and out. Don’t forget the screens. Vacuum Venetian blinds to remove dust and spots,” says Ms. Gehlke. “Wipe the window sills to remove dust, spots or stains. The walls and ceilings take up a great deal of time. Brush out all corners to remove any dust. Clean the ceiling surrounding all vents."
There's more work to be done. Inside the bathroom, make sure to sanitize all tile and shower doors to remove lime deposits and mildew. Scrub the tub as well as the shower and sinks. “It is important to clean thoroughly any woodwork, including doors, door frames and baseboards.”
Also, sweep and mop hardwood floors, title and linoleum. Don’t forget to take care of the carpet. Remove stains and shampoo when this is requested. Empty and tidy up shelves, drawers and closets thoroughly. Remove, dust and replace the light fixtures. All fixtures should have an operable 60-watt bulb in each socket, says Ms. Gehlke. “If the house has a fireplace, go over it thoroughly to include the ash compartment. Sweep, clean and remove all trash and debris from the back porch.”
Don’t forget the garages and carports. Get rid of all trash and debris, and sweep clean these areas of the property. Remove the oil and grease from floor of carport/garage and driveways. Vacuum any vents in the property and haul off items from the storage sheds and make sure to sweep this area clean. And of course, remove all items of personal property.
If the amount of personal property exceeds a certain threshold (industry standards are $500), the personal property goes through an eviction process in accordance to state and local requirements. When it comes with dealing with the outside of the home, Cheryl Lang, president of the Houston-based Integrated Mortgage Solutions, says in the summer, contractors mow the lawn every two weeks and trim the bushes during April to October.
She says part of property preservation means ensuring that all hazardous materials have been removed from the property. This may include removing swing sets, tires, paint, boarding up in-ground pools or removing aboveground pools and draining ponds.
“The process of preserving property has been greatly improved by the use of digital imaging,” describes Ms. Lang. “Because contractors may miss something or deem a property vacant when it is occupied, most vendors today require pictures to verify contractor’s work. It is estimated that roughly 20% of contractor mistakes are caught using digital photos.”
Some vendors today even provide phones with camera capabilities to contractors, so they may collect and share real-time photos in order to expedite the property preservation process. As more and more REO homes need to be monitored and preserved, technology ultimately allows more details to be presented on every property.
Photoinspection.com, a Buffalo, New York based company, provides property inspection services for the insurance and mortgage industries. The company, which was established in 1999, has focused on developing a robust and functional technology platform from the very beginning. The company has built a national network of inspectors, which was not an easy thing to do for a small company that was surviving on a bootstrap financing, says Ted Onyeji, president.
A network that includes several thousand appraisers located across the country has become the backbone of the company, he describes. Inspectors are monitored on their first 10 jobs to make sure they comply with industry standards. “We’ve noticed a lot of inspection companies are beginning to add inspectors across the country, especially in the areas of Florida and Michigan because of the glut of houses out there.”
The biggest goal is to make sure the vacant property is not an eyesore.