Even as the number of distressed properties continues to drop across the nation, the time to foreclose has risen dramatically in some states. HousingWire recently sat down with Alan Jaffa, CEO of Safeguard Properties, to talk about how field servicers are adapting to the current environment.
HousingWire: What is the biggest challenge in field servicing right now?
Alan Jaffa: The biggest challenge in field services is the ever-changing regulatory environment and scrutiny the mortgage servicing industry is under. This scrutiny not only affects mortgage companies, but cascades down to field services companies and our vendors and employees.
Although these new regulations and laws create a challenge for us, they also provide opportunities to partner with clients and continuously improve processes and procedures. We must take additional measures to ensure our mortgage servicing clients remain in compliance.
We are committed to investing in new technologies, and new regulations encourage further innovation in that regard. It also includes additional controls for our vendors in the field by using geo location technology and smart scripts in Safeguard’s proprietary mobile applications. Soon this may include video, as we begin testing its use in the field. The results are improved quality and efficiencies for us, our vendors and clients.
Additionally, Safeguard is increasingly participating in both annual and periodic audits with clients, largely as a result of regulations now requiring increased monitoring of service providers. These audits are beneficial, and Safeguard uses them as a way to partner with our clients to identify areas for improvement. We also conduct our own internal audits to ensure we are meeting our clients’ expectations prior to their requests for information, in addition to conducting audits on our vendors to ensure quality and efficiency.
HW: Safeguard just celebrated 25 years in business. What has been key to thriving for so long?
AJ: Our success and reputation in the mortgage field services industry are built on a fundamental commitment to customer service, a sense of responsibility for the work performed, and a clear and comprehensive understanding of the investor and insurer compliance issues that affect the mortgage industry.
Founder Robert Klein’s vision was to create a company focused on client satisfaction through business partnership. He created “Customer Service = Resolution,” which is more than a motto. It is a promise to our clients that we will deliver services at the highest levels of quality in the industry.
We are committed to building and sharing industry best practices to protect the integrity and value of our nation’s housing stock, to deliver the most efficient and cost-effective services in the industry, and to work on behalf of our clients to comply with all regulatory requirements.
Safeguard also is committed to providing innovative solutions through our investment in new technology. Through mobile adoption by our vendors, investing in data centers and piloting new technology like video in the field, we continue to ensure quality and innovation for the mortgage servicing industry.
HW: What are the consequences of fast-track legislation for our industry and why was it important to create a Fast-Tracking Legislation Resource Center?
AJ: Robert Klein has been a leading proponent of the concept of fast-tracking vacant and abandoned properties, bringing the topic to the forefront by fostering meaningful industry dialogue. The Safeguard Fast-Track Legislation Resource Center is a tool to further assist servicers and communities in finding a solution to the vacant and abandoned property issue.
The interactive map features states that have enacted, are contemplating enacting, or have expired/inactive fast-track legislation for vacant and abandoned properties. Information includes a link to the final bill’s text, legislation history, and links to any media coverage of the legislation (if applicable).
An important component to fast-tracking vacant and abandoned properties is the ability to determine if a property is a candidate for the expedited process. To help with this determination, the center also highlights definitions of “vacancy” or “abandoned” within each piece of legislation.
Most importantly, the fast track legislation initiatives around the country are designed to ensure that vacant and abandoned housing stock can be brought back to useful life, thereby minimizing blight in the communities where they exist. Obviously the ability to make that asset available to a family that will care and love that home is so important to eliminating blight, assuming that all steps have been properly taken to ensure that the foreclosure was handled properly within the legislation.
We felt it was important for Safeguard to take the lead and invest the time and resources in researching and consolidating fast-track legislation so that it can be easily shared. Lawmakers and business leaders are searching for ways to rebuild communities and our hope is that this tool will be a useful resource to help stabilize at-risk neighborhoods and stem blight.
HW: One of Safeguard’s community initiatives is to educate municipal leaders about property preservation best practices. What kind of results have you seen with this outreach?
AJ: Our intent is to provide an overview of the servicing industry’s best practices in preserving vacant properties.
Creating channels of open communication continues to be the biggest challenge for code officers, yet it is attainable. We created Compliance Connection, an innovative technology solution that connects code officials to the servicing industry. By becoming familiar with banking and servicing procedures, local code enforcement and building officials have been able to identify and communicate directly with the proper loan servicer through this technology. This eases the frustration of not receiving a response to their warnings and violation notices that may have been unintentionally sent to the wrong parties.