FORCE Member Carmen Quinn, Premier Properties & Associates, Inc., shares some of her memorable experiences from the REO trenches.
Panic, sweaty hands, throbbing temples, thoughts of, “Why is this happening to me?”—I know we all have a horror story or two from our careers in REO. I would like to share with you three of my own along with the hard-learned lessons from each. Horrifying at the time, they are now good for a chuckle and a reminder of how cautious we should be when working in the unpredictable world of REOs.
Predicament No. 1
On an initial visit to an REO property that was loaded with personal items, broken glass from the storm door, and the stench of rotting food or dead animals, I approached the property to complete my task. Just as I was trying to get the front door open, I saw a large pit bull charging up the driveway toward me. I quickly got the key to turn and slammed the door behind me. Safely inside, I noticed the property had a pet door entrance in the sunroom on the other side of the room. I could see the pit bull racing around to the backyard to get in. My legs got rubbery and my hands were shaking so much I could barely pull down the pet door to keep out the pit bull, which was now barking and scratching at the opening.
Trapped inside the house my options were clear. I needed to call 911 and report this dog or try to make a mad dash for my car. The stench in the house persuaded me to go with the mad dash, and once I saw the dog digging holes in the backyard, I went for it. Safe in the car, I called non-emergency 911. It took courage to go back for my next inspection.
Lesson Learned - Keep your phone on you, eyes on the surrounding area, and get the door open quickly.
Predicament No. 2
I had just completed my pictures and report at an initial visit to a rural REO property on a hot summer day and was about to drive off when I realized I had left my sunglasses inside the house. I decided to leave the car running to charge my phone and to cool off while I ran in to grab them. As I headed out the back door with my sunglasses, to my shock, the door knob came off in my hand! Because of the heat and humidity, the door was stuck and I could not get it to budge. I quickly realized that escaping through the windows was not an option, as they were all jalousie windows positioned high on the wall with corroded aluminum louvres. The front door was even less of an option as it was padlocked on the outside. I looked around at all the dead flies on the floor and thought that was not a good look for me.
Fast forward, and after three broken nails and sweating profusely, I was able to pull the stuck door open.
Lesson Learned - Keep your phone on you, never leave your car running, and get a multi-tool should you need to break out of your own property.
Predicament No. 3
A week before closing on an REO property, I went to do my final inspection only to find water running out of the front door. While trying not to slip on my way inside, I found the ceiling had fallen in the kitchen and the cabinets were ruined. I had no idea how long after my last inspection this had been going on. Since it was winter, it could have been a pipe issue. However, I was baffled since the property was winterized.
The asset manager called their own people to come and assess the damage for insurance purposes. The inspector found that a small piece in the shower faucet had been removed, causing a slow leak down onto the kitchen area below. He suspected sabotage.
I checked the entries to the electronic lock box, and no one had been there since the buyer’s home inspection. Interestingly, the buyers did not seem surprised or upset when they found out about the leak. They were willing to close immediately with a $20,000 reduction on the contract price. The buyers had extended the closing several times and were the last people to enter the property on the electronic lock box
Lesson Learned - When you suspect that someone may be playing unfair, remove your electronic lock box, change your contractor box, and frequent the property more before closing.