It’s no secret that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic almost three years ago, the property preservation industry has been forced to adapt and adjust to continue to preserve and protect property assets across the country.
Throughout forbearance and the foreclosure moratorium, volume has declined to unprecedented levels not seen in the past decades.
“During the moratoriums, all of our post-foreclosure sales work, the REO, the post-sale, FHA work really almost went to zero,” said Michael Greenbaum, COO of Safeguard Properties. “And then as the moratoriums started to relax, we started to see the foreclosure activity pick up. It hasn’t returned to normal levels, but it’s picked up a little bit, and that’s reintroduced volume back into it.”
Growth despite difficulties
Safeguard has seen concerns and reports throughout 2022 related to the challenge in finding vendors or inspectors to complete field services work. Despite these headwinds, Safeguard has had consistent success in finding, vetting and onboarding vendors and inspectors throughout the country.
In October, the company added more than 275 subcontractors that complete inspections, preservation and yard/snow services to its network. In terms of 2022 as a whole, Safeguard has added more than 4200 people working at the numerous preservation, lawn service, inspection and various trades that are part of the company’s network. All of those people have been vetted under the Safeguard standard of excellence.
“What was interesting or challenging about that was that when you have an independent contractor base, they’re only going to be around to the extent that you have work for them to do,” Greenbaum said. “What we’ve been spending a lot of time on is making sure that we’re doing constant check-ins, trying to get everybody diversified so they could do a lot of different service offerings that we have, just to make sure that when things bounce back, we still have the right quantity of contractors, the right capacity.”
Vendors are ready and prepared for volume, Greenbaum said.
“We have the network available to support double the volume we currently have,” he said. “Whether additional volume comes from an uptick in foreclosure activity or onboarding new clients, we have vendors that are hungry for it.”
One of the benefits Safeguard offers its vendor base is a mobile experience that helps them get through the required property preservation scripts faster, accumulate the right number of photographs and get them in and off of a property as quickly as they can with all the required information to satisfy the investor or Safeguard’s clients.
“If we have better technology, better mobile applications, people can actually end up doing more work and generate more revenue,” Greenbaum said.
When a contractor visits a property, they have to go through a specific process to assess the current condition of the property, whether anything needs to be taken care of and whether they can take care of those things while there or if those actions need to be bid on because they’re not authorized to complete the work while they’re on site. The primary job is to make sure a property is secure, safe and weather-tight, so Safeguard trains its contractor base on those scripts and works to ensure those questions are included in its mobile app.
“What we try to do with our mobile applications is just make that data, bid and photo collection process as simple as possible,” Greenbaum said. “Once they visit the property the first time, we don’t want them to have to go back out and do it again, so we just make sure that all the end requirements are actually inside of our mobile application.”
2023 outlook on property preservation
As for next year, Greenbaum is optimistic that the property preservation industry will get closer to normalcy.
“There’s a lot of commentary about possible or probable recessions. I’m not sure if that will actually come all the way through. Equity in homes has nowhere to go but down because those are at all-time highs. And serious delinquencies are at multi-decade lows at this point in time,” he said.
“I’m optimistic that all of that’s going to start to turn around and revert back to more normal levels, so I think we’re going to continue to see incremental increases in our organic base of client volume,” Greenbaum continued.
As Safeguard continues to service its clients well, he hopes that the company will pick up a larger part of the market share.
For more information on Property Preservation services provided by Safeguard Properties, please visit www.safeguardproperties.com.