In mortgage field services, faster equals better. An empty house bleeds money. That’s why getting through the process of clean-up, inspections, and repairs quickly — allowing the house to get put up on the market — is so vitally important.
“Time equals money in this business,” says Derrick Logan, a senior vice president for property service firm REO Allegiance of Bayonne, N.J.
Logan’s company is one of several mortgage field service and property preservation companies saving both time and money through mobile web applications. By giving field contractors the ability to receive messages, upload forms and pictures, and even get driving routes piped right through their smartphone, REO Allegiance is cutting hours, if not days, out of each step in the process. And that means more volume, more jobs, and greater profit.
“Our clients are asking for more and more, and their clients are asking for more, so to handle that volume, we have to be able to communicate in a fast manner,” he says.
REO Allegiance specializes in property preservation and inspections. When a house goes into foreclosure, the owner — often a bank or government entity like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — becomes responsible for removing blight and ensuring it’s up to code so it can be sold. That job is then contracted out to a firm like Allegiance, which taps into its network of 5,000 local contractors nationwide to perform the work and sign off on all the inspection forms.
“In order to perform at peak levels, you have to get all this information to your client as quickly as possible,” Logan says. By saving contractors the trouble of hand-writing multiple forms and multiple jobs daily, and then uploading all that information in one big dump either at night or the next afternoon, the app “just saves a lot of time — maybe 24 or 48 hours. It’s immediate.”
REO Allegiance unveiled the custom-built app last July, and Logan says about 30 percent of the 1,500 active freelance contractors his firm deals with are using it, although that number is climbing. Inspectors, in general, have taken it up more than contract workers (who cut overgrown lawns, haul away garbage and debris, etc.). Because they’re using their own phones, REO Allegiance’s app was built “device-agnostic,” so it works on the iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry, as well as tablets like the iPad.
The app also sheds time by pre-filling much of the customized forms that each property owner — typically the banks — require. So instead of taking lengthy notes and answering the same questions over and over, inspectors in many cases can simply answer pre-filled questions with a simple “yes/no” response. They can also upload photo images taken with their phones, and even put in a bid for a renovation or restoration project right from the field.
The app also gives contractors driving routes to the next job, prioritizes jobs based on location, and can alert contractors with any urgent messages.
Logan called the move toward smartphone apps in the field “the best possible solution” for his firm. Although he stressed that the app is just one piece of their technological puzzle. “We used to get our orders over a fax machine,” he says. “That’d never get it done in today’s environment.”