JAN 6, 2014 4:19pm ET

How Technology Helps REO Agents Stay On Top of Portfolios

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Selling real estate owned property has become increasingly complicated in the current working environment for agents and brokers. State and local laws may require municipal certifications, home inspections, lead paint notices and many other items, in which several of these mandates are often required to be completed by sellers.

The increasing sophistication of home buyers and investors has also forced REO practitioners to perform with a greater level of professionalism to obtain more business.

In order for an agent or broker to stay updated on all the tasks that need to be done for an REO asset to reach escrow, technology is a critical tool for these business people to utilize if he/she wants to remain competitive and get more listings.

“I don’t know how anyone can do this job without it,” says Marguerite Crespillo, a real estate broker who is the president of Sellstate Realty First based in Rocklin, Calif. “The most important aspect of technology is that it helps create consistency so the same thing happens every time and you’re able to track it and make sure those things are happening.”

To oversee her assets and assign tasks, Crespillo uses two technology platforms—REO Maestro and Dropbox. These software solutions allow the 20-year real estate veteran to have access to her listings information at all times on her iPhone and iPad.

“For us to be able to communicate with all the parties of a transaction, make sure things are being managed and handled appropriately is critical in what we do on a daily basis,” Crespillo told this publication.

Even though REO volume has been decreasing annually over the last two to three years, it is still critical for agents to apply some type of technology solution to help them do their jobs, according to Mark Shandrow, president and CEO of Shandrow Group who is also a member of USREO Partners.

For example, one of the main responsibilities an agent has to perform is broker price opinions. If this is done via paper, fax and with a Polaroid camera, it takes a couple of days to complete. Now, Shandrow’s team can pull tax data and MLS information immediately on the Internet and a BPO can be done in as little as 20 to 30 minutes.

Additionally, if someone goes to a property and there’s a break-in or some type of vandalism at the housing unit, a field agent can immediately take a photo of this, upload it through the technology software, and a company can do research to determine what needs to be done for this asset, whether it’s a board-up or contacting a servicer to find out how they want to handle this problem.

“In terms of the efficiency, I don't see anything that has impacted the REO world more than technology. It really has streamlined the process,” Shandrow says. “Technology has helped not only increase the speed at which we can react, but it's also great because then you have a constant history or archive of the transaction.”

However, many agents are skeptical to utilize a technology platform in their workplace because they are afraid of it, particularly the older agents. These people are not as familiar with computers and don’t want to learn how to use new software products.

Also, other agents know they need technology to do their job efficiently but feel it is not necessary if their inventory volume is minimal. So agents that have only one, two or five listings believe they can handle all of the tasks manually without a solution that tells people what to do and when.

“In REO, every property ends up with 100 tasks to do and an agent may miss one or two, which is critical,” says David Gadish, CEO of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based WinREO Real Estate Solutions. “Agents are not willing to accept the risk and are not willing to learn and adjust to technology given the small risk that they think exists.”

Familiarity with a product as well as cost becomes important in determining if an agent or broker decides to purchase some sort of technology software. Most software solutions range from $25 to $60 a month, with the higher priced items often providing agents with the exposure to be profiled to all the mortgage servicers who have REO and short sale properties.

“Using no technology platform at all means that you’re not really providing guidance to your customer that is customary in today’s communication environment,” says Todd Mobraten, chief operating officer and president at RES.NET in an interview. “You’re not adapting any type of tools to bring consistent communication back to your customers and third parties.”

If a Realtor or broker does not have any technological software solution in place, they are instead relying upon telephone and emails, which could create a gap in completing a mandated task in order to sell an REO listing.

“Today’s consumer wants information now. They want to be able to punch in and pull items immediately, and the only way to do that is through technology platforms,” Mobraten added.

For agents who don’t have strong technology skills and are hesitant to learn how to use new computer products, USREO Partners offers monthly online training webinars where the trade group guides members and clients on how to use certain industry solutions. If members can’t attend these events, they can browse the Internet for resources and videos that explain how these products work, such as completing a BPO or submitting an online auction bid.

“Technology helps Realtors move faster making sure that things are done quickly and efficiently, which is becoming vital in this current age,” Crespillo says. “That really helps the bottom line for both the asset management companies that we’re working for and representing as well as our teams to make us remain profitable in a difficult market.”

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