Asset management firms are in a constant race to preserve local home values through the effective upkeep of vacant properties.

At HousingWire's Real Estate Expo (REX Annual) on Monday, experts spoke on the subject of "Help Us Save Our Neighborhoods." The idea behind the discussion was to visit code compliance issues, revealing effective ways to ensure property values are not weighed down by troubled and vacant properties.

Members of the panel included: Robert Klein, chairman of Safeguard Properties; Jim Taylor, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Kelvin Beene with the City of Fort Worth; Jeannie Fantasia, vice president of SecureView; and Eric Miller, executive director with the National Association of Mortgage Field Services.

Taylor said, "If you look at the REOs we sold last year, on average the customer has not made a payment in 16 months. If that is the case, that customer is really in distress."

If we cannot help the borrower, we try to find ways to help them move on while attempting to get the house back on the market, Taylor explained. But to do so, the house has to be in the best shape possible.

"We cannot stop the situation but there are ways that we can improve the communication. One of the things that has been a constant is the stigma that is tied to a boarded property," added Jeannie Fantasia with SecureView.

To stay abreast of how property preservation firms are coming along in preserving home values, Taylor with Safeguard announced the creation of a grading system that will score houses to show how they have progressed from REO to the day the home is sold.

REO homes take longer to get back on the market, so in the process, it is imperative that communication about the home's status is clear and up-to-date, the panelists suggested.

[Update 1: Changed an earlier version of this article to reflect that Robert Klein is the chairman of Safeguard Properties. In addition, Kelvin Beene is with the City of Fort Worth, not Austin, as previously stated.