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How to Do a Good BPO – with the emphasis on GOOD!

BPO or “Broker Price Opinion” is the back bone of the REO (Real Estate Owned) industry. This is the tool that banks, lenders, investors and perhaps most importantly the asset managers use to determine the value of a property once they have taken it back at auction and again after it has been on the market for 90 or more days. For this article I will refer to all of these individuals / entities as “Asset Managers”, if that is OK.

A BPO is typically tasked to two or more agents to submit their opinions. Having multiple reports, it is now possible for the asset managers to determine a realistic price to list a home for, when it is assigned to an REO Agent.

If the values are out of skew, the asset managers will ask for clarifications and may order an additional BPO – just to get a good feel for the property. As a BPO agent, you are the eyes and ears of the lender. This is why this is such an important task in the REO process.

TYPES OF BPO’S

There are three different types of reports that a BPO agent may be asked to perform. The first is a drive-by or exterior BPO. This requires a physical trip to the subject and an assessment of the property as well as the neighborhood. The second is an interior or full BPO. An Interior BPO requires that the BPO agent gain access to the interior of the property and make a full assessment based on the condition and amenities of the property. Finally there is a Valuation or desk-top BPO report. A Valuation is simply looking at the property on paper and determining what it should sell for, with all things being equal.

Perhaps the most common BPO is the drive by, or Exterior BPO. The entire process should take about 2 hours. I know there are people out there telling you they knock them out in 30 minutes – well, unless you live in a city like New York and every one of your BPO’s is in the same building, then trust me, you will easily have a couple of hours invested – even after you have completed hundreds of them, as I have.

The purpose of the BPO is to provide the Asset Manager with a fairly accurate estimate of the property’s value in the current market – which means today. The opinion is made from looking at comparable properties that have recently sold and are currently on the market. Adjustments are made for all the different reasons that separate one property from another. For example, an adjustment would be made for properties that are larger or smaller than the subject. Is the lot size bigger or smaller then the subject?

Yes, there are many difference that are almost a ‘give me’ that shouldn’t need to be discussed, if you are an experienced REALTOR®. What makes you a trusted expert is when you can document, adjust and report for the more subtle differences between the subject and the comps. Is one of the properties on an exterior lot (meaning does it back to an exterior street – away from the tract)? Are there improvements that may go over looked, like RV access or perhaps a custom iron gate replacing wood fencing? If the subject and comp are from different tracts – do you document the differences, regardless of how similar they are?

On an Interior BPO, you have to be aware of upgrades – are kitchen cabinets, Granite, Corian, White Tile or Formica? Are the cabinets upgraded? What type of tile is on the floor – 12” tile? 16” tile, 18” tile? 20 tile”? Is it Travertine? How many rooms is it in? Does the fireplace have a matching tile surround? Is the carpet an upgrade?

What about damage? It is obvious if there are holes in the wall or malicious damage. Are there missing electrical switch plates of outlet covers? Are the ceiling fans or lights missing? Has the closet organizer been stripped, leaving an empty closet? Are all of the drawers in place, or were they used as moving boxes? Are all of the appliances there? Are the appliances’ an upgrade?

These questions a local expert could answer. Can You? Do you include this level of detail in your BPO?

PICTURES

Every BPO requires that you take digital pictures that can be uploaded – either through a website or perhaps an email. Today, I do not know of any companies that still require that pictures be sent through the snail mail – but it has not been so long ago when that was the norm.

For a Drive-By BPO, you will generally be required to take 3 pictures as a minimum – the front of the subject, address verification and a street scene. However, many clients will want more and there is nothing more frustrating to miss a picture that a new client wants, because you were doing what you considered to be the ‘norm’.

Every home that I take exterior pictures of I always start with the exterior of the home followed by two address verification shots and two street scenes. The minimum any BPO will require is one of each of these.

I take the 2 address verifications, if possible from two different sources – just in case one picture does not turn out right. I’ll take the curb painted with the number or the mailbox, if it is at the street. Then I look for the number on the structure itself. Sometimes this can be a challenge – for example the numbers can be painted the same color as the house.

When I take the exterior, I always use my zoom to have the house fill my view finder. My clients are not interested in looking at a band of black asphalt in front of the home that looks far away – they want to see the house and what condition it is in. They also use this picture to verify that you are taking pictures of the right house. (OK, I admit I have taken the wrong pictures more than once – but I’m not going into that here.)

I’ll take a picture of the street, going in each direction. If the subject is on a corner, I’ll also get pictures of the side street as well as a corner shot of the subject.

What you will learn is you can never take too many pictures – remember, they are digital; it’s not like you have to pay for developing. I will never submit all of the pictures I take – but I do use them. When I am taking pictures, I average 3 homes per trip. By the time I get back to loading then and completing my BPO, it is more than possible I can get homes confused with one another (heck, I can take pictures of the wrong house, so cut me some slack – I’m getting old).

I do provide as many pictures as possible, giving the Asset Manager as clear an understanding of what the property looks like and it’s current condition.

The other pictures that I will always take include at least one each of each side of the property. If I can gain access to the back yard, I’ll also get one of the back of the property as well as the back yard. Remember, these pictures will help me when I am writing my report and help me offer as accurate an opinion of the value as possible – and that is what I am getting paid for.

As I assess the property, I will take a photo of every nuance that I want / need to remember. This will include any apparent damage, needed repairs or deferred maintenance. I will also take pictures of any positive features that I can use to help separate this home from the others.

Interior Pictures

When taking pictures for an Interior BPO, I always start with the front door open and then go in and take at least 3 pictures of every room – each from a different corner. As mentioned earlier, I will document any damage or deferred maintenance.. I will also take pictures of all upgrades.

I walk the house, room by room so I can keep everything straight. Lets say it is a 5 bedroom home, I definitely want to make sure that I document each room with the right pictures. That may be easy when every room is painted a different color, but when they are all white, be careful. The way I do this is I always start with a picture from the bedroom door, then one from across the room looking towards the entrance followed by a 3rd with a picture of the closet (half open so I can see the inside). Any damage would be taken between the first pictured and the closet picture. Then I am ready for the next room.

COMPS

More often than not, I like to do my research prior to going out and taking a look at the subject. First, I check my local Title website and pull all of the property characteristics and enter them into the BPO form. Once I know what the subject looks like on paper, I will search the MLS for comps as close as possible to the subject.

There are times when I can find all of my cops in the same tract – but most of the time I have to expand my search. It is very important that you fully understand the criteria each company will tolerate. I have clients that will allow me 25% variance in the square footage and others that insist I remain within 10%.

Suburban BPO’s generally allow for a one mile radius of where the comps can come from. 90% of my market is suburban – the remaining is rural where I can go 10 miles out. I have not lived in an urban area since 1992 – so check with your client if this is your market.

Bedroom and bath room count is usually within tolerance of plus or minus one – but there are times when you just need to expand outside this and other criteria. Consult with your Asset Manager and seek their guidance on how they would like you to proceed. The important thing is that you completely document any variance you make. Let me take this back, the CRITICAL thing that you do is document any variance and the reason why you selected this comp.

Remember, for every BPO you do, one of your peers is doing the exact same report and chances are you will never learn who it is – but the lender knows who to give the work to in the future if you mess this up.

NEIGHBORHOOD

All BPO’s require you to document the positive and negative aspects of the neighborhood the subject is in. Not only the neighborhood, but how about the next door neighbor. I just did a BPO where there was a RV parked right next to the property line and the subject driveway, making it impossible for a car to back out of the garage and driveway and see if anyone is coming from that direction. Well, that’s just one of the subtle little details that can make a difference and account for an adjustment in value.

Is the neighborhood close to schools? Shopping? Entertainment? Commuter routes? Restaurants? Parks? Places of worship?...or is it in a secluded upscale neighborhood that residents don’t mind driving an extra couple of mile to get where they want to be?

Are there negative or obsolete features? Are there overhead electrical lines? Is there a flood channel? A large vacant field that may attract rodents? How close is it to a landfill? Is there a prison at the end of the street?

You get the idea – tell it like it is – Good, Bad or just downright Ugly!

MARKET CONDITIONS

When it is all said and done, you must analyze your data as you client will and offer your opinion of the value. Different clients will want different values. I created an excel spreadsheet where I can plug in the variables in a grid format and make adjustments with a variable number that I can change from report to report.

When I’m finished with the BPO, I have just recently started saving a copy of the worksheet. I save it to the folder I created in ‘My Pictures’ for the BPO. This allows me to keep all of my info for each BPO in one location, even though this is not a picture.

I do save all of my pictures – not sure why, other than I have a massive hard drive and I might as well use it for something. Truth is I have done a BPO for the same property – a year and a half later. This allowed me to go back and see the transition of the property – not that this is relevant for my BPO at hand, but for my market knowledge, which is why I am an expert in my local real estate market.

The basic value the Asset Manager is typically looking for in a BPO is the current AS-IS Value and a REPAIRED VALUE. They many want to know what these values would be with a 30 day window to sell as well as a 30 to 90 day window and perhaps even a 90+ window.

There are times when I am not comfortable with he results, based on the overall market. Here in my market, we have 2 cities, an area of unincorporated county - all in 5 zip codes with about 100,000 residents. We are isolated, so yes there are nuances between each zip code and area of the valley, it is still one market.

I will use this opportunity to offer market data outside of the 1 mile radius the report is based on. For example, I may have a 4 bedroom 2500 sq ft home built in 2003. The comps may have come from across the mile radius and not the same tract. The data may tell me this home should sell for $180,000…but I am just not comfortable with that number so I’ll run the numbers valley wide and let the asset manager know that there are 45 (or however many) homes that are both newer and larger than the subject and priced between $150K and $180K – letting them know that the competition is not from the 1 mile radius, but from across the valley..

FINAL DETAILS

In parting, I would need to offer this last little bit of advise if you are going to be successful with your BPO’s and ultimately your REO’s.

TIME is of the ESSENCE!

As REALTORS® we have been taught that time is always of the essence and believe me when I tell you, it is no more so than when working with Asset Managers who are often from different states and time zones. They are under a lot of pressure to get their job done and their performance is based on your performance.

So, never ever run late – get the job done and get it done early. Most BPO’s are due in 72 hours – my goal is always 48. This is true when you are listing REO properties as well – everything is task oriented and time lines are critical – this is how you will build your business and your reputation in the REO world.

John Occhi, REO REALTOR®
Century 21 Crest – CrestREO

John Occhi is a REO REALTOR® that
specializes in the sale of bank
owned homes in the Inland Empire
region of Southern California. He
has helped many buyers acquire
great deals on these REO homes.
His company, CrestREO, the REO
Division of Century 21 Crest – the
77th largest C21 in the Nation, has
Sold Over $1Billion in REO Sales.

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Comment by Jan Baron, RDCPro, CSP, BPOR on September 21, 2009 at 1:04pm
John, thanks for the great post. How do you find out what seller concessions were included in your comps?
Comment by Raynette V. Mar on May 29, 2009 at 8:11pm
received requests in two days of registering with an AM, five reports in one week (excited and motivated)...how can we identify if these requests will lead to an REO listing or just a BPO for a refi/modification?
Comment by Angel Williams on March 28, 2009 at 11:27pm
Thanks for this valuable info. I'm new to this site and to the REO world. This is helpful and I will keep this tips in mnd wind completing my bpo's.
Comment by Netta Blackwood on March 18, 2009 at 8:13am
John,
I appreciate your posting this information. All too often some agents ruch thru BPOs and provide inaccurate information. Whenever I complete an interior BPO as you stated it is very good to take as many picture as possible. Especially of the bedrooms, the kitchen, etc. Another point that I like about your blog is that we need to find some good aspects of the communtiy too as well, not just the bad, what is the school rating, etc. Again, Good Post John, we can all learn from each other.
Comment by Addie D Scharff on February 19, 2009 at 9:52pm
John, thank you for sharing such a great, well written, and informative post! I thought I was going above and beyond what AMs wanted to see with things like photos on BPOs, but I can see from your expert opion (I mean that), that I have a ways to go, and much to learn and incorporate into my work. It is truly awesome to be able to sit here at my desk, at night, and learn from someone like you. Going to check out NFSTI also. Thanks again!!
Comment by Mercedes Avionn, Broker, RDCPro on December 13, 2008 at 8:48pm
Thank you for taking the time to share.
Comment by Steve Mun on October 9, 2008 at 12:38am
Wow John,

Thanks for putting all of your experience to writing so we can share in your knowledge.
Comment by Christina Jimenez on June 24, 2008 at 10:23pm
I am a newbie to this site and just want to tell you that I just read your post and that was so informative...thank you for posting that! I am so looking to get myself started with some REO listings. I have been dealing with so many short sales its time for REO's
Thanks again.
Comment by Stacie Cunningham on June 1, 2008 at 12:31pm
Great post! Gonna have to look into NFSTI.....~Stac
Comment by John Occhi on May 31, 2008 at 9:02pm
Michael,

There are a lot of lists out there available to purchase - which I strongly suggest you do, and apply everywhere.

You see, what worked for me when I was getting started in my areas may not work for you today in your area. It is all about the need of the asset managers - what they need where and when.

The other factor is how much competition is there in your market? Santa Clarita I would guess is pretty saturated by now, but who knows.

You can also look for some online classes - where you can get some sort of certification. Just today, I found the NFSTI, which offers a certification course and a list of 100 places to apply for REO work online - all for only $37.

They provide an eBook, which is well written, not sure if it is detailed enough though. They do offer 8 videos - I watched on on BPO's (the inspiration for this article) - it was well presented and lasted over 20 minutes. All in all, I would say it is a great place to get started.

Good luck and let me kow how it goes.

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