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FirstService throws support behind bulk REO-to-rental program

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Property management and leasing provider FirstService Corp. (FSRV) said it supports a plan to allow bulk disposition of distressed housing assets from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. FirstService, parent to Colliers International, First Service Residential Rental Management, Field Asset Services and TenantAccess, said bulk sales to institutional investors that would convert REOs to rentals makes sense, but urged the Obama administration to pursue a diverse approach that can support investors across a wide spectrum of size and geography, including nonprofit investors. FirstService is one of nearly 4,000 companies and individuals who responded to the FHFA's REO asset disposition "request for information," or RFI, earlier this month. The FHFA solicited ideas on how to best dispose of more than 200,000 REOs held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. That number is expected to grow as more foreclosures work their way through the system. "FirstService’s intent is to provide alternatives that are practical, scalable and attractive to all parties in the pursuit of maximizing property value and stabilizing neighborhoods,” said Paul Hayman, an executive with FirstService and CEO of TenantAccess. "When considering potential investor partners and strategy, scale and speed-to-market should be critical requirements," he said. "There are many institutional and private investors with access to capital but initializing the management of a local market housing strategy that includes a diverse and scattered property portfolio can present significant logistical challenges.” FirstService recommends the development of a national set of standards for valuations, assessments and improvements and a national set of standards for renter service, property habitability and neighborhood stabilization. The company also proposes performance management and national third-party auditing at both the property and investor level to provide a uniform "checks and balances” system. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.

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