A Day in the Life of a Fannie Mae HomePath Listing Agent
By Laura Haverty | March 22, 2016
Did you know?
Several thousand real estate pros nationwide monitor, market and sell real estate owned (REO) properties (or “assets”) for Fannie Mae’s credit portfolio management division.
Cosmopolitan Properties (Cosmo REO), in Northwest Washington, D.C., currently manages Fannie Mae assets. The properties are mainly in Maryland’s Prince Georges and Montgomery counties, with “a smattering” in D.C. The average sales price is $180,000.
Selling foreclosed properties involves unique challenges and legal processes.
For example, following a break-in, vandalism or theft of fixtures, the listing agent needs to give immediate attention to preserving a vacant asset.
Agents visit assets weekly. And they keep close track of their status.
Assets can be under repair, listed for sale or under contract.
Sometimes agents will have assets they are “unable to market.” In Maryland, that could be a home that is in the “redemption” period. That’s the time the state gives former owners to pay their debt and reclaim their home. It doesn’t happen often, but did happen to Cosmo REO broker Sonya Abney twice last year.
Twenty of her assets are currently under contract.
One chilly Friday in early February, we shadowed Abney to better understand her typical day. And, as it turned out, her day wasn’t typical at all.
It’s 19 degrees in D.C. this morning. There are snow flurries and traffic is heavy. Abney parks around the corner from her lower-level office. It warms up quickly. In the quiet time before her staff arrives to work, she tracks her daily and weekly tasks in Equator. Eighty-four entries compete for her attention, some green, some yellow. “Once we make updates today, more will be green,” she says.
Abney and one of her assistants share a room. “We have to be close to each other. This works for us.” The phones ring nonstop. “It’s ongoing crisis management every day,” says Abney. This morning’s priority is stopping a demolition. “This is the first we’ve heard about it,” explains Abney. “We need to act quickly.”
An asset under contract falls out. “It happens.” Several calls ring through in rapid succession: An HVAC unit is missing. A gas leak is preventing a utility hookup. Keys are missing. The field services vendors have questions. She resolves each issue or puts it on someone’s list.
We plan to visit two assets. One is under contract and one is new and needs a legal notice posting. We’re almost out the door when an occupant calls and wants to understand his options after receiving eviction notification.
“Foreclosures can happen to anyone,” she says. “We treat everyone with respect.” Abney checks the computer and brightens up: an offer was accepted. “I wish I had a cowbell to ring.” She shoots off two emails and we’re out the door. The cold air is refreshing.
The first home, in Northeast D.C., is just a 10-minute drive away. Abney takes some photos and we go upstairs. We find it clean and ready to transfer to the new owner. Abney has to remove some mysterious blue tape from the bathroom counter. “One of the biggest challenges we face in this business is keeping an eye on our assets,” she explains.
We cross town to Southwest D.C. The 45-minute drive takes us past Nationals Park and Bolling Air Force Base to a home that’s been vacant for six months. We park and notice the lockbox is gone. A sheet covers the window. We knock loudly. No answer. We circle to the back. The heat is running and a second story window is cracked open. Someone is definitely living there. A neighbor confirms a woman moved in yesterday. Abney gives him her card and says she’ll follow up.
It takes nearly an hour to drive back to the office. On the way, Abney instructs her team to follow up on the occupancy. And she answers a call from an agent reporting a lockbox that won’t open.
By the drive’s end, we are laughing at our “typical” day idea. Between the missing HVAC unit, lockbox issues, a gas leak, a pending demolition and the squatter, things have been anything but ordinary.
“This was not staged,” she assures me. “You were just very lucky.”
Laura Haverty is the editor in chief of Housing Industry Forum. She can be reached at Editor_HIF@fanniemae.com.