CoreLogic reported in August that home prices increased by 10.2% in the first quarter of 2013 — the largest gain since 2006. Unfortunately, the modest respite cannot undo six years of failing markets and record rates of foreclosure.
The remaining blight has left cities from coast to coast scratching their heads, looking for ways to stabilize communities and prevent further decline. Everyone’s favorite underdog, Detroit — Motor City itself — has formed a blight task force to address the thousands of vacant homes and properties that need to be demolished. Many local governments have turned to land banks and vacant property registries to inventory properties in hopes that the homes will be repurposed or sold.
Despite the best efforts, nothing seems to slow the crippling blight. One company, however, believes they have the answer communities have been searching for.
The solution? SecureView, an alternative board-up system that is designed to look like traditional windows and provide clear views inside a home. The virtually unbreakable plywood alternative is taking the property preservation industry by storm and raising the bar for security standards for vacant commercial and residential properties.
Finding a better way
Howard Wedren, a Midwestern real estate developer, was working on a commercial property on Chicago’s South Side when he watched the value of his asset plummet in almost an instant at the peak of the nation’s financial crisis.
“It was as if the entire landscape of the community changed overnight,” said Wedren, now president and co-founder of SecureView. “One day it was a vibrant neighborhood, the next it was covered in plywood boards.”
Oh, those plywood boards. Beyond being an eyesore, they tell everyone — including criminals and others— that a house is abandoned and vacant. Wedren believed that there had to be a better way. He came up with a durable, nearly unbreakable and transparent window covering that remains SecureView’s core product today.
A novice to the property preservation world, Wedren sought the guidance of an industry pioneer, Robert Klein, to figure out how to take such a product to market. With more than 20 years of experience in his field as CEO of Safeguard Properties, Klein had seen everything from artistic plywood boarding to steel doors and windows.
“I knew right away that this was the answer suffering communities had been waiting for,” said Klein, chairman and co-founder of SecureView. “But I l also knew that no matter how innovative the product may be, it was just too costly.”
Klein and Wedren travel from state to state educating lenders, local land banks and first responders on the product. They even allow firefighters to test their claim that SecureView is unbreakable with unlimited swings using their favorite pickaxe. To date, no one has succeeded.
So far, lenders are embracing the system — so much so, in fact, that one of the nation’s largest lenders asked for a better method to protect property entrances. And as a result, the SecureView door system is currently being perfected in testing and development.
Local governments are taking notice, too, and re-writing city laws to include the product in their building codes and vacant property ordinances. This year, Detroit made the decision to use SecureView on the city’s vacant fire houses that had previously been targets for thieves and looters.
So what is next for this emerging powerhouse in the property preservation industry?
“That’s an easy one,” Klein tells HousingWire. “Breaking into the presale market. Engaging lenders and GSEs in presale is the most effective way to combat blight because it is preventative.”
Nodding in agreement, Wedren says, “We also want to increase our presence in the commercial asset market. Commercial property owners are gradually seeing the value of using SecureView to protect their assets and increase marketability.”
Editor's note: The companies participating in this Special Section sponsor their content. Each company tells a unique story, one they wished to share with HW Magazine readers and the industry at-large.