REOMAC Expert Reveals Common Dangers Lurking in Foreclosed Properties and Provides Tips for Staying Safe
Today’s tumultuous housing market can be a dangerous place for the brokers, agents and field inspectors who must walk into foreclosed and REO properties on a daily basis. Occupied or vacant, these properties represent unfamiliar territory often rife with unknown peril. Whether it is a dangerous occupant, happening upon weapons and/or drugs – the foreclosure market carries with it innumerable hazards to the health and well-being of industry professionals.
Top Five Tips for “Playing it Safe” in Today’s Risky Foreclosure Market
1. Plan Ahead
Plan for property checks before 2 p.m., after which time gang activity begins to increase. Before approaching a potentially dangerous property, provide an assistant or colleague with information about the location of the property and planned time of entry. Prepare for threatening situations by developing a distress code phrase to use with family and colleagues. Also, consider leaving the phone on while entering the property keeping the person on the line on standby to call 9-1-1 should an encounter occur.
2. Be Aware
Prior to entering a property of concern, walk the perimeter to ensure there has not been a break-in. Another red flag to be aware of is excessive foot traffic or bicycle traffic on a residential street during working hours, which is a good indicator of lookouts for drug and/or gang activity. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the property back off and call local law enforcement for an escort.
3. Be Prepared
Agents should be prepared for possible threats to their physical safety. Pepper spray is an easy-to-use defensive tool and is legal in most areas. Another strong defensive tool is a Mag-Light, which both serves as a defensive weapon and lights up dark areas. Agents should also be prepared to deal with potentially emotional people. In these cases the objective is to slowly and carefully get out – often by talking and distracting the subject.
4. Look Official
Approach foreclosure properties with confidence and don’t look down. Also, be aware of the property’s surroundings and do not exhibit signs of nervousness. If confronted, stand tall and confident. Remember: criminals are often like animals – show fear and flight and the likelihood of an attack increases. Prior to entering the property, knock very hard. Announce entry with a stern voice and delay entry to give a possible trespasser the opportunity to leave the subject property. Also, wear professional clothing with comfortable shoes that can be used for running, if necessary.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Call the Police
Too many agents will put themselves in a potentially life-threatening situation before “bothering” the police. When entering properties in very high risk areas, do not be afraid to contact the police for an escort. If there is evidence of a break-in, this is another prime example of when one should leave the immediate area and call the police from a safe location. Remember: bad things can happen even in the best of neighborhoods. Good safety procedures should be applied on every property visited.
About REOMAC: Founded in 1985, REOMAC® is the premier not-for-profit trade association serving the mortgage default servicing industry nationwide. Dedicated to providing members with unparalleled education and networking opportunities, REOMAC is committed to delivering timely information that members can put to practical use to mitigate losses on defaulted mortgage loans; provide ancillary services to lenders and servicers; or help manage, market, maintain, sell and ultimately dispose of non-performing real estate assets. REOMAC is currently the only not-for-profit association that permits membership from all professions within the default industry, and it’s nearly 1,400 members hail from diverse professions including mortgage lenders, servicers, attorneys, title representatives, asset management outsourcers, real estate brokers, and a wide variety of associated vendors. By building bridges across these professions, REOMAC provides its members with a unique multi-faceted perspective of the default industry, and lends a comprehensive perspective on developing trends, and an advanced understanding of how they will affect the industry as a whole. To learn more about REOMAC, please visit www.REOMAC.com.