Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Look At 'Mortgage Field Services'

The Wall Street Journal has this report on a 'little known profession.' "For the past few years, business generally has been slow for the 10,000-odd members of Mr. Seabrease's profession, known among people in the industry as mortgage field services. Until recently, home prices were rising so fast in much of the U.S. that most people who fell behind on their payments could easily sell their homes for more than they owed the lender and thus avoid foreclosure."

"Now the people in this little-known trade hope that a cooler housing market will create more work. House prices have fallen modestly in some places, and inventories of unsold homes are rising. Kevin McFalls says he already has noticed an uptick in business in the Washington and Baltimore areas. Mr. McFalls expects a surge in assignments from lenders over the next few years. Rick Taggard, the owner of a field-services company in Porterville, Calif., agrees: 'All of us are just waiting, and when it turns around, it's rags to riches again.'"

"Field-services companies provide several types of service for lenders. One is the kind of 'preservation' work. Another is inspection. When borrowers fall more than a month or two behind on payments, lenders hire field-services companies to check whether the home is still occupied and to note any major damage. Field-service businesses also provide labor to clear out debris after evictions by sheriffs or other law-enforcement people. Usually the people who lived in the house are long gone by the time the foreclosure occurs."

"His mission is to preserve the value of the house while the lender prepares to sell it. In the basement, Mr. Seabrease twisted a valve to turn off the water supply. He then used an air compressor to blast the remaining water out of the pipes so they wouldn't freeze. Mr. Seabrease took digital pictures of each room, fixed the door frame and installed a new lock. The total charge for about an hour's work, excluding travel time, was around $125. Mr. Taggard says that in a good year someone running a field-services business can earn a six-figure income."

"Still, field-services work can be dangerous. While one of Mr. McFalls's crew was dragging junk from a house in Baltimore several months ago, three men emerged from the basement, and one brandished a gun. After a scuffle during which one of the workers was cut just above the eye, the gunman and his companions fled."

"In some homes, says Robert Preston, who runs a field-services business in Grand Rapids, Mich., his crews have found decomposed bodies. About a decade ago, while Mr. Preston was helping with an eviction in Indiana, a man being forced from his home shot himself to death, Mr. Preston says. 'After a time, you just become desensitized,' says D. Scott Smith, who ran a field-services business in Baltimore for about eight years before changing careers. He now invests in real estate."

"Mr. McFalls says he feels sorry for some of the people whose belongings his crews cart away. But he thinks many people get into trouble simply because they have made bad choices, buying expensive cars and other luxuries instead of paying off their mortgages. 'The majority of them are just living far beyond their means and putting themselves in that position,' he says."

4 Comments:

At 6:55 AM, Blogger arizonadude said...

Sounds like they are doing people a great service. Sell them homes they can't afford and then take them back from them later. Sounds like scum of the earth to me.

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger FauxCaster said...

Don't miss this from the story: D. Scott Smith, who ran a field-services business in Baltimore for about eight years before changing careers. He now invests in real estate.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger wmbz said...

"The majority of them are just living far beyond their means and putting themselves in that position,' he says."

BINGO!

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Auctionbuddy said...

Interesting business with good growth potential. I wonder what it takes to break in?

 

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