Until the housing crisis, field-service companies operated under a pretty low profile. They did inspections, cut lawns, winterized houses and went about their work without a lot of fanfare from those outside the industry. Many were local or regional companies, working with a manageable number of homes.
Often, the biggest issue was effectively managing reimbursements for work done versus covering the paychecks of workers. Money in. Money out. Make it work. Fairly par-for-the-course in terms of business models. Nothing, as they say, to write home about.
All that changed in 2006 with a tidal wave of 1.2 million foreclosures. By 2008 that number seemed tame, as more than 3 million houses were in foreclosure, and by the peak of the crisis in 2011 the number had climbed to 3.9 million.
The challenge for field service specialists exploded along with the numbers. Meeting the new demand for inspections, evictions, repairs and maintenance with high-quality vendors forced companies to change the way they did business. Processes had to be reworked from the ground up to handle the new volume, and companies had to develop new strategies to not only survive but thrive in the new environment.
The added volume came with a whole new level of scrutiny from federal regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB’s rules on third-party vendors went into effect in January, and transparency has become as important as efficiency with lenders and other clients requiring more documentation from field servicers to ensure compliance.
So what does all that mean for field services? It means that the companies have evolved from the sleepy backwaters of housing into some of the most efficient, transparent and dynamic companies in the industry. They have innovated technology and formed strategic partnerships. They have continued their commitment to protecting and maintaining assets, while conforming to new rules and standards.
We picked eight companies that exemplify this kind of transformation to profile in our Field Services Guide. They range from boutique companies to some of the biggest names in the space, but they have all successfully adapted to become part of the new, more agile, breed of field service companies.