Editor's Note: This feature first appeared in the September issue of DS News, available now.
The reality is that REO inventories are down and it is more and more difficult for brokers to get business that used to come readily. What can you do to get more business when there is less inventory? How can you get more business when there is actually less business out there?
As an REO broker, you need to stand out. You need to be proactive. You need to wow your clients, and make them want to choose you. The question is: How do you make yourself stand out and be the broker who gets the business? How can lenders and servicers nationwide find you? Learn what you can do with these marketing insights, and elevate your REO broker business.
The first step in ramping up your business is to establish a proven track record. Excel with the clients that you have right now by establishing your reliability and integrity with a work ethic that includes great communications and always follows through. This will undoubtedly get you high ratings from your current clients. Providing your clients with excellent customer service will naturally translate into other clients.
One of the best ways to do this is to obtain testimonials from asset managers and service managers from banks. It may feel like a challenging task to ask for accolades, but if you are doing a great job, it is not a far stretch to obtain positive confirmation from those who also benefit from your professionalism.
A somewhat easy and quick way to obtain and document testimonials is to leverage your professional contacts on LinkedIn. Search your connections for the bank contacts you interact with by leaving a positive and sincere recommendation, and request one from them on your behalf. If your contacts are sharing content, comment or interact with what they have written, or be a part of the discussion. If they see that you are engaged with the content that they are sharing, it will help to keep you top of mind.
However, this tactic only works if you are already connected with the people you are doing business with currently. If you are not, then go back a step and quickly connect with them and after a week or so, start the process of giving them recommendations.
Broaden Your Base
LinkedIn also provides a golden opportunity for identifying assets managers at banks that you aspire to work with.
Search for new servicers and banks on LinkedIn that you aspire to do business with and identify the asset manager or service manager. Once you identify an appropriate person, send them an invitation to connect and tell them that you are currently servicing other REO clients. Let them know that you have a few openings for additional properties and ask if they would be interested in using your services.
When searching for servicers at banks, don’t limit yourself to the large, well-known national banks—that may have worked when REO inventories were high and there was a surplus of properties. But when REO inventories are low, it is important to broaden your customer base by making connections with multiple banks, rather than just working with one bank. Don’t limit yourself; make connections at local, community, and regional banks. Sometimes, smaller community banks are not even aware that there are specialized REO agents that handle distressed properties.
Market Your Specialty
Often the servicers at banks don’t realize that certain brokers are REO agents. Communicate the fact that you are an REO specialist. Rather than trying to be a broker who does it all and is everything to everybody, develop your niche in what you excel at, and market yourself as the expert in REO.
There are many brokers out there and when banks are looking for REO services, they need to know that the broker they are contacting has the expertise necessary to handle their properties. If you’ve marketed yourself as the REO expert, there is a better chance that they will choose you to work with them.
REO should be in your title on your LinkedIn profile, along with any other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter that you are using. Make sure these profiles are current and updated with key words relating to the REO industry, and then participate in REO industry forums and LinkedIn groups to establish your expertise.
Review your website and make sure that an REO services description is included on your home page. While your website might be targeted to your buyers, at the minimum it should include a reference to your REO capabilities. Even better, develop a special page on your website specifically for bank clients, and include your REO services and certifications.
Be involved in the REO industry by participating in industry events and conferences like the Five Star Conference where you benefit from both gaining industry kowledge about trends and developing relationships.
Membership in industry associations like Five Star Federation of REO Certified Experts (FORCE) is vital to your credibility. List your memberships and affiliations on your social platforms and your website.
Brokers can also leverage technology certifications by getting certified on popular platforms such as Equator and RES.NET that asset managers use to manage properties and agents. Being certified clearly shows that you are a true player in the REO industry and can provide an opening for additional business.
Another industry source that you can leverage is the “REO Red Book,” which is a national directory for the default servicing industry and leading source for REO agent referrals. The online directory allows brokers to create a profile with vital information so that asset managers can easily find an agent to manage their properties.
The “Red Book” charges a fee for the listing and should be considered an investment that is well worth it. According to Lisa Capecci, a Five Star-certified Maryland broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who joined the Red Book directory three years ago, “Red Book” is very beneficial to me to connect with asset managers and investors looking for REOs.”
Eileen Bumba, another Maryland broker with Long and Foster, who has been using “Red Book” for more than 15 years, added, “If I go to a new bank, it is good to say that I am listed on “Red Book” and use it as a reference.”
Advance Your Communication
Excel at your current work. Communicate the status of the project before the due dates. Don’t wait for the bank to request updates. If your client requests trash-out confirmation by July 8, provide confirmation on July 6 that the trash out was completed. Stay one step ahead of your clients to make their jobs easier. In this day and age of texting, it is quick and effective to send an “update text” either on Monday mornings or at the end of the workweek to let your client know how the projects are progressing. Have you ever met a client who said, “My REO agent overly communicates?” Probably not. And you will be surprised how well you will be received for participating in update texting.
Also, regularly communicate by email and by the platform tools that they are using, like RES.NET and Equator. Make sure that you are using the tools and methods that they prefer. Avoid phone calls, which can be disruptive.
Use an App For That
To help manage your properties, enlist the use of a mobile app—one popular one is Pruvan, a photo app designed for the service industry that connects you to the field and your clients with certified photos, videos, and mobile forms. You can eliminate hours of work and better manage your quality of service, and stand out from the rest of the competition at the same time.
If you are managing multiple properties, it’s impractical to run around taking photos and uploading them. Let an app do everything for you to take care of your weekly inspection photos required by the banks.
Apply the Three Ps: Patience, Persistence, and Professionalism
In times of low inventory, when your business and livelihood are on the line, it’s easy to get a little discouraged. Don’t! Instead, keep your mental attitude up. Be persistent, not desperate. Weekly follow-up to asset managers is acceptable. Daily follow-up is desperate.
It’s a good idea to make sure you’re talking to the right person. It doesn’t hurt to call that out in an email and ask to be connected to the correct person, if by chance they are not the person responsible for assigning REO properties to brokers. Plus, it could be that there is a new person you should connect with and perhaps do it in person for the first meeting. If you connect with an asset manager who is receptive to your services, suggest meeting in person or over coffee, and provide them with an informal presentation of your expertise and your track record.
Be patient, persistent, and professional. Don’t nag. Understand that some brokers may receive hundreds or even thousands of emails every day.
Align yourself with a reputable and experienced REO service and preservation contractor. While many banks have a contractor as part of their team, many do not. Be prepared to offer preservation or REO contractor services, should the asset manager need work done on the properties. Once you have developed a relationship with a preservation and REO services contractor, it can’t hurt to query about banks that seem to be most active with their inventories in your area.
People tend to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Ultimately, developing and cultivating relationships is the key to building your business.
Follow these tips and you are certain to get more properties—even when inventory is low.