When the market went bust beginning in 2007, many people lost it all — including their homes. The number of home foreclosures now owned by banks following the recession has been staggering (around 4.4 million completed foreclosures by 2013). One largely unforeseen consequence is that these homes require ongoing maintenance to keep sidewalks cleared, lawns mowed and roofs shingled — jobs performed by field service technicians.
According to real estate information company RealtyTrac, more than 1 million U.S. homes are currently in the process of foreclosure. It takes an army to maintain and inspect these properties, says National Mortgage Field Services CEO Michael Evangelo. Evangelo spoke with SmartVan about the technologies his technicians use in the field, and how technicians keep properties compliant with local laws.
What are the basic functions of techs in the field when it comes to mortgage services?
Mortgage field services is comprised of two basic industry divisions. The first, and most prominent part, is the property inspection. This is where an inspector will go to a property and determine if the property is occupied or vacant, as well as the condition of the property. Typically, the reason for the visit is because the homeowner is two or more months behind in their mortgage payments. There are monthly interior inspections of vacant foreclosed homes to check for any issues that the bank may need to address like mold, broken windows, unsecured pools or missing roof shingles, for example.
The second part of our industry is the property preservation (P&P) crews who go out and re-secure those foreclosed homes and make the repairs needed to the issues discovered and reported on by the property inspectors. P&P crews will do initial lock changes, remove debris from the home, maintain the lawn and winterize the property to preserve it for the mortgage company or bank.
How does this differ from other types of field service from a process and compliance standpoint?
Usually a work order is issued from the bank or mortgage company to what we refer to as the “National” (a large field service company that has regional and local inspectors nationwide). My company (NMFS) is a regional company that covers 11 states with more than 900 independent contractors. When the National sends the work order to the local inspector or the regional company, we then assign the inspection to the appropriate inspector in that area. The process of receiving and completing inspections is accomplished through data processing apps through which the inspector can download work orders, take photos and label them, and fill out a short form about the property. The form answers questions like occupancy, construction type, condition, color, and neighborhood stability for example.
Compliance for these processes is established through a third-party company called Aspen Grove Solutions. Aspen Grove verifies at the point of inspection service that the person doing the inspection is qualified to conduct it and has passed a criminal background check. In 2015, most banks will require compliance with Aspen Grove Solutions, which will eliminate any property inspector or property preservation contractor from continuing in our industry without having passed a criminal background check.
What technologies do your techs use? How are they valuable?
The greatest technology we use is InspectorADE, which allows the work order to be accepted, completed, and uploaded within minutes of the assigned inspection. The ability to upload completed work orders from the field allows the banks to take necessary action as soon as possible to prevent any property deterioration or loss of value.