Cooperation was the common theme among field service providers attending the MBA National Mortgage Servicing Conference and a necessity that will drive business strategies in this segment of the marketplace this year and beyond, says Caroline Reaves, who was one of the panelists at the show.
“The mood has improved, a lot,” says Reaves, an industry veteran and chief executive officer of Mortgage Contracting Services LLC, Plano, Texas, a national provider of property preservation, inspections and management, and that helps. “The attitude is much more positive.”
The focus, she told this publication, is on neighborhoods and locations where there still are large inventories of real estate owned properties that need repairs which ultimately improve both properties and neighborhoods, or require regulatory compliance attention of the kind that makes sure mortgage lenders and servicers comply with federal regulators and municipality codes.
Regulatory compliance, especially state and municipality specific regulation, appears to have had a positive effect nobody saw coming before the foreclosure crisis erupted in full force: collaboration.
In the past few years, it has been a challenge for most servicers, field servicers and the vendors they work with in the mortgage space to keep up with the new reality. Year-over-year in the recent past the market has continued to evolve through partnerships and inclusion.
Collaboration will continue to be the theme in field services, says Reaves. Lenders and servicers also are part of this expanded collaboration between parties. These days knowing who to call at a municipality office or at another field servicer shop makes all the difference for the bottom line of any party involved in distressed property management.
According to MCS senior vice president of business development, Chad Mosley, everyone in the industry is busy that way as they create new technology solutions or develop compliance outreach campaigns with local officials.
MCS is no exception. Recently the company expanded its menu of mobile devices with tools that equip vendors with wireless options they can use to submit information from the field in real time.
Examples include MCS Mobility, a proprietary mobile photo management tool integrated solely with MCS360 Web-based technology platform that helps users manage property inspections and preservation services.The new mobile application was introduced at the servicing conference in Dallas.
Also at the conference MCS announced a new collaboration with Mobile Business Concepts, a Georgia-based company that specializes in mobile business applications that now is a preferred MCS vendor, MCS will offer a REO photo app.
Last year, Reaves recalls, everyone in field services was saying: “Let’s make the property neighborhood-like. This year it sounds more like, ‘We want our properties to be the best looking in the neighborhood.’”
And that is necessary not only because a well maintained home “helps sell any kind of property faster,” she says, but because at the same time it avoids blight in the neighborhood and allows for foreclosures and REOs to not stand out, at least not for the wrong reasons.
Physical maintenance and repairs are only part of the problem. Compliance is an even bigger deal for field servicers, says Reaves, and there is so much going on when it comes to managing a property these days that without nimble technology nobody can really function.
Right now most in the industry are paying close attention to mobile technology options. “In fact it has been used for years already,” but having vendors to have that option in the field is a much greater benefit, adds Mosley. Until recently mobile technology had to be used through a mobile device, now it is incorporated into different vendor systems and usable any time from everywhere, he says.
The two new tools, MCS Mobility and the MCS REO photo app, were designed with that thought in mind, to give users access to mobile tools they can easily use in the field. “As mobile devices become more prevalent in society, the same is happening in the business world,” he says. “We have widespread access to wireless systems, smartphone prices are significantly lower. It has helped the industry evolve.”
Technology has also created opportunity for other unprecedented forms of collaboration within the industry.
Since 1988 The National Association of Mortgage Field Services whose members include servicers, national field service providers, real estate inspectors, contractors and other entities that provide other real estate specific services has helped foster industry wide debates over current issues of concern.
Recent NAMFS initiatives include online educational opportunities through the NAMFS Academy, webinars, networking events, conferences and a membership directory search tool.
Single handedly NAMFS has helped improve member communication and information exchanges through updates about anything from work opportunities, practical work solutions and helped renew member collaboration.
The association offers member support through initiatives and programs that are very helpful to users on a daily basis, says Mosley. Solutions such as an industry wide alliance that speeds up property information searches into a national database system that enables users to track local property data and review listings of properties nationwide, he says, make it easier for servicers and field servicers not only to communicate with each other and exchange precious data in a timely manner, but ultimately help preserve neighborhood values and improve communities.
The ability to freely communicate has added the benefit of developing work partnerships that are based on the trust that can only be fueled by continuous communication and working together. “We talk to local officials in many cities and on a regular basis. We get to know who we need to talk to in different locations or are referred to the person in charge locally if we do not know them directly.”
The chain reaction to this relatively new tradition among field servicers has been overwhelmingly positive. “If our contact does not know, he or she will call someone who does,” he says. “If title information or some other property data is missing we all call each other until we find who owns the properties for example, or to find out who to talk to about a property.”
City officials do the same, they reach out to the field servicer they know to get information about the mortgage loan if they need to figure out who is the mortgagor, the lender or the servicer responsible for properties that may be in disrepair, abandoned or just noncompliant with municipality code requirements.
Both executives welcome these industry changes. “It’s all for the better!”