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REO - A Story

Stressed Assets, a story on REOs.

In South Florida's Real Estate Market, over 70% of the real estate deals involve cash purchases and bank owned property (REO). This means if you area a Real Estate agent and are not dealing with bank owned property or buyers of bank owned property, you probably are not very productive. Recent records show a four week period in which there were more properties bought and sold than IN ANY OTHER FOUR WEEK PERIOD since we have been keeping records here in Lee County Florida. Prices, of course, are also at record lows.

Back to the expression "stressed real estate." As I was leaving my last meeting around 4pm one Friday, I received four emails that needed immediate attention. Two more bank owned homes in Cape Coral to handle with a formal price approval, and another two in Lehigh Aces and Fort Myers. Since that meeting left me closer to home than to the downtown Fort Myers office, I headed there to get the paperwork printed. I had time to go to one of the homes that evening while there was still daylight. 

I loaded my paperwork, my toolbox, camera and a new lock set into the car and plugged the address into the GPS. The home I was headed to was not too far away, and it was located near a KB homes project that I was familiar with off Bayshore Road.

My mission was to determine if the house was vacant. If it was, I had to "gain access", take a bunch of pictures, begin the BPO process and change the locks. I would also need to post no trespassing notices, my contact information and a "For Sale" sign. 

As I got close to the house, there was no need to heed the sexy satellite-directed tour guide. I could see the overgrown yard up ahead. 

The term "stressed asset" normally refers to financial stress - the kind that comes from upside down mortgages, foreclosures, low vacancies in commercial property or economic extinction of a property. This home on Coon Road had another kind of stress: the stress of neglect and life after humans. 

There is a new TV show on Discovery channel called Life After People. An abandoned house does not take long to start getting this look of "life after people." I took one look at the front door and pretty much decided that it was not going to be easy to get in - a dead bolt and a key set greeted me, tight fit too. I took out my camera and started taking out side pictures. I wasn't going to tackle "gaining access" just yet. I remembered one of the terminator movies where the cyborg, Arnold, is taught to look for keys above the visor before he rips wires from under the dash to start the car. I figured I would walk around first, maybe meet a neighbor with a key or spy a hidden one. One look in the front window confirmed what I already knew. No one lived there any more.  

Along the side, I saw that the air compressors were still there. (A common problem in our area is thieves steal the compressors from vacant homes). The shed behind the front fence had remnants from a former handyman - some left over tools and yard junk. No neighbors with keys, just a family of German Shepherds next door. There was more long grass, a few empty beer bottles, an old wheel barrow and a large, screened porch with double doors and some painting tools waiting for someone that would never show up again. I saw grass growing in concrete cracks and a tree frog still inexplicably alive between two layers of glass in the back window. 

Ahhh, I could see double doors with a little give into the house from the porch. I went back for my tools and, in a few minutes, was in stale air, cobwebs, a few bugs and no electric. There was evidence of a displaced family long gone; photos were left on the floor, an orphaned stereo speaker remained and a paint scraper laid lifelessly in place. 

I went through and took a few dozen pictures. Honest pictures. Not just the ones for show. I snapped the bathroom with the dusty toilet and the kitchen with it's only adornment - a lonely garbage can in the middle of the floor. I took a picture of the room that was obviously decorated with love and care since it had animal characters painted along the wallpaper border. Unlike some houses I visit, this home had been cleaned up - or at least picked up. 

But there were signs of stress. The cobwebs across the hallway told me that no one had walked in there for quite some time. The spider that engineered the web was not even there anymore. His source of food had long ago locked out. There was a layer of undisturbed dust that laid on the floor, dead bugs that adorned the crooked Venetian blinds and an inspection sign-in sheet that was never filled out that sat open on the counter. 

This home did not have the sterile feel of never having been lived in. I could imagine this house becoming a home again. This home had what I call "cat pee on the carpet." That is, things wrong with it that are easy to fix. 

After I changed the lock, I walked the neighborhood to see what I could learn. I let a few people know that the house was being reclaimed and that the yard would soon be presentable again. The last thing I did was put my sign in the overgrown yard.

 

For some reason, I wasn't stressed anymore.

Market America now has over a hundred similar foreclosed homes or REO properties under management, generally one third in our pre-list, one third pending, and one third on the market. 


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