Safety thru Common Sense

by admin on February 27, 2012

You’re a fledgling rookie who’s just received your first interior broker price opinion. The bank spit out the address before you had a chance to write it down and said it would give you five days to complete the assignment. With the lockbox combination in hand, you know you were ready for this before landing the account.  After using trusted location finder Map Quest, you’re taken aback. The property you hoped would be a breeze is actually located in an area deemed unsafe. But you’ve been trying to get this bank’s business for months, and you decide to throw all qualms aside. Plus, if it’s not you, it’s the competition, and like any other agent in the industry you’re on call 24/7. Instead of letting two days go to waste – and knowing you would rather not sit in Monday morning rush hour – you dress down and head out to complete your BPO on this warm Saturday afternoon.

While pulling into the property’s driveway, you grab your clipboard and camera. Lucky you – there’s no need for the lockbox combination as the door is ajar. Maybe the previous owners forgot to lock it, you say to yourself.

An unpleasant odor coming from who knows where prompts you to leave the door open. Quietly you walk through the home, taking notes and pictures. Before going down the steps of the basement, you realize you left your flashlight on the counter at home. No worries. Your digital camera can illuminate your path. On the bottom step you decide this is a perfect spot to get a shot of the entire basement.  The only task left is the exterior images of the house, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. After you have taken your last shot, you realize you’re finished quicker than planned. Tickled pink, you leave thinking you have successfully completed your first BPO.
Does this seem typical to you? Let’s examine this scenario and see where our agent could have gotten injured or, worse even put his life in jeopardy.


Warm weekends are never the best time to visit a home. There’s a higher chance of activity on a warm Saturday afternoon compared with a weekday when most people will be at work or school.


Men should wear a sport coat and tie, and women should don appropriate professional attire. By doing so, you will gain more respect from those you unexpectedly encounter. I have been called “sir” or shown respect from neighbors I have encountered just because I looked sharp.


Drive by and see where the best exits are. Is there a one-way street at the next crossroads? Is the home on a dead-end street? These are valuable questions to consider for future parking of your vehicle, and they also help you in your BPO for location information.


Pulling into the driveway alerts everyone that this vacant house has a visitor and you can be blocked in by any other vehicles that pull up behind you. This caution accords with my previous statement about reviewing the neighborhood so that your car should be parked facing a major thoroughfare exit, even if it means parking across the street.


Before going inside, walk around the house and use this time to take your pictures. See if any windows are ajar or if the back door is open. Find the front door not secured should also be a major indication that this is not a good time to enter. I know we are on a timeframe from the banks, but what is more important: putting your safety first or getting your BPO in on time? Every bank and mortgage company I have dealt with has understood that a project may be late due to a possible break-in. Call the bank and tell them you’re getting the home re-secured and that it will be a day or two late. They will appreciate your diligence, and you will subtract another hazardous safety issue from your assignment.


When entering, stomp and make as much noise as possible. It minimizes the chance of our surprising unwanted guests-whether animal or human-and gives them a chance to possibly leave the way they came in. Most altercations come from one party surprising another, where rash action is taken without thinking.


I’ve heard stories from agents who’ve said that coming up from the basement or coming down from upstairs inspections, they’ve found nosy neighbors wandering around. “Hey, it’s a vacant house and we live in the area” is their usual rationalization. It’s often just curiosity to see how their ex-neighbors lived and how this home compares to theirs. It’s a good idea to eliminate this possibility by securing the door behind you.


Broken or missing steps can cause a serious accident, including your toppling down the stairs into the bedroom of an unlit basement in a vacant home. Always keep two flashlights in your car and back-up batteries for both. If, by chance, you forget the flashlights or have a different car, either go back and get them or head to the nearest hardware or department store and buy replacements. Also, most banks I deal with want pictures of the furnace and water heater to verify existence and age. You cannot do a complete and thorough BPO by taking pictures from the bottom of the steps.


This way, when you leave you are leaving directly, not walking around the home or neighborhood getting pictures after you have been there for half an hour and have already been noticed. I usually take my street shots from the car. This is a lot safer than standing on the street getting pictures of other people’s homes.
You may already take the common-sense steps that I have laid out, but whether you’re an old pro or you’re just now realizing how important it is to watch your back during BPOs, it’s still vital to keep them in mind. Be aware of your surroundings and remember the safety tips so future BPOs can still be rewarding and something to look forward to. REO agents are a special and hardy breed. Let’s keep them safe from harm.

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