Editor's note: This story originally ran in the November edition of DS News, out now.
Our editors caught up with Auction.com EVP of Client Management Ali Haralson to learn what real estate trends she feels will make the largest impact as we close out 2018. Haralson is responsible for growing market share for Auction.com while helping its clients find optimal solutions associated with distressed assets, leading to improved financial outcomes and a reduction in neighborhood blight. With more than 20 years’ proven experience in the mortgage servicing industry, Haralson answered our questions about the changes we’re seeing in third-party sales of distressed real estate.
What changes are real estate marketplaces currently witnessing in relation to third-party foreclosure sales?
Over the past year, we’ve witnessed the majority of distressed markets become more stabilized, as we approach what many feel like is the tail end of the mortgage crisis. With this, the market has begun to normalize relative to the number of assets undergoing the foreclosure process. This stabilization of the market has shifted the focus from liquidating assets to ensuring that they are being sold in an optimal way. Both sellers and buyers are keen to know more about the process itself.
For much of the country, this normalization represents the new—or returning—normal, but we also see areas where volumes remain high. To balance this dichotomy, we employ a foreclosure sale strategy that creates more transparency into the foreclosure process, while also enabling a swift and compliant sale execution, with Auction.com marketing the asset, conducting the sale, or educating buyers on what to expect in the auction environment.
What role does Auction.com play related to the foreclosure sale and how is it expanding its presence?
Auction.com gives foreclosure sale buyers and sellers much more clarity around the process so they are better equipped to succeed in these environments. The traditional foreclosure sale process is fraught with shortcomings that often leave buyers in the dark on the status of properties for auction, or the relevant information needed to properly bid on these assets. We address this through a combination of strategies: First, we invest heavily into integrating resources such as photos, home disclosure reports, tax lien information, and more into our platform, enabling buyers to bid in confidence with a greater level of transparency into the asset. Second, we leverage display advertising, search engine marketing, and optimization to focus marketing geographically within the buyer’s preferred region. Third, based on the buyer’s prior activity on our site, we can recommend appropriate properties of interest based on specific buyers’ established purchase history; and finally, based on the buyer’s Google and/or social media searches and through our live learning events, we provide educational information along with property and market information to help further educate the buyer.
Additionally, in each of the 3,100 counties we operate in, we have partnerships with local resources such as law firms, sheriff’s offices, and contractors that provide perspective into the local market and what works (and doesn’t) within these areas. We currently conduct or market properties in all 50 states, which enables us to provide an optimal auction experience when paired with our web platform which serves as an information hub to help drive the process. So, we not only provide the data intelligence that established buyers and sellers need to gain confidence to bid and sell, but we also create a welcoming environment for newcomers through our education programs. This, in turn, fosters healthy levels of competition in the marketplace, which keeps pricing at or above market levels.
How do you manage the relationships with local stakeholders, such as county sheriff’s, law firms, to benefit sellers?
Auction.com’s relationship with these local partners is invaluable and perhaps the biggest single motivating factor for them to work with us is the impact of our marketplace on stabilizing neighborhoods. No one wants to see neighborhoods filled with empty or boarded-up houses. Our marketplace is a proven way to combat this and help their communities grow and succeed and local intelligence is the key. The law firms, sheriffs, and contractors we work with provide firsthand insight into the state of the local market and what buyers and sellers in the areas are looking for. Since we started this initiative, we have witnessed a significant increase in bidders, which has resulted in better sales processes and prices. This model is proven to help local real estate markets across the nation stabilize sooner.
What should sellers do if they want to take advantage of your Foreclosure Sale Program?
Sellers should seek out a competitive and thriving marketplace, one that is able to sustain their needs and provide a marketing reach that creates the maximum amount of views possible, in order for it to be sold at a true market price. Just as with Amazon or eBay, sellers benefit when the marketplace provides data intelligence that allows them to better understand what buyers are looking for and what they need to do to reach them. As the largest real estate marketplace with more than 3 million registered users, 40,000 active assets, and over $33 billion in sales, we work to ensure that each of our sellers is well-equipped to engage in the process.
What do you find to be some of the most rewarding aspects of your role?
It’s wonderful being part of an organization that is absolutely dedicated to making things transparent for buyers, sellers, and everyone involved in the complicated world of foreclosure sales. We all wake up every day and all we think about is auction and how to sell more properties with maximum execution. I am honored every day to be working with what I believe is the industry’s most dynamic team of well-educated, experienced real estate professionals and the reward comes when we see the positive impact our work is having on communities nationwide.