The headlines change almost every day. But this much seems clear: Millions of homeowners, landlords, and renters will face a distressed property situation as eviction and foreclosure moratoriums end. They’ll need a professional’s help. They’ll need solutions to a difficult situation.
In this week’s Walkthrough, Christina Griffin shares her outlook for the months ahead and delivers the systems and scripts that she’s used to sell more than 2,000 distressed properties in her 20-year career. You’ll learn how to prospect for distressed properties, how to approach homeowners, how to work with banks, and much more that will position you as the local expert with solutions to help those in need.
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Links and Show Notes
- Christina’s course: Working with Foreclosures and Short Sales
- Christina Griffin – HomeLight agent profile
- The Griffin Group – Christina’s team’s website
- HUD Homes for Sale
- Circuit Route Planner
- Join our Facebook mastermind for The Walkthrough listeners
- HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)
There are people in your town that need your help, right now. The Federal Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium ended just a couple of weeks ago. And yes, then it was extended again in some areas. So if not right now, they’ll need help soon. They’ll need to know their options. They’ll need help making the best of a difficult situation. As a real estate agent, you might look at this as a great business opportunity and it is in many ways. But maybe it’s more than that too. Maybe it can be personally rewarding.
Christina: It is when you’re working with a property and the occupant is in the property and you’re able to help them with cash for keys or solutions to go to that next step of their life. That’s the personal reward for me. I also love to help people create wealth. Those that learn how to find these opportunities work on the investment side of things. You can buy properties for yourself, you can help your investors create wealth, or you can just help a regular owner occupant that’s looking for a really great deal find a property that they can make their own.
Matt: That’s the voice of Christina Griffin, one of the country’s leading real estate agents when it comes to working with distressed properties. Since this segment of the market is moving really quickly right now, Christina is here to share the systems and scripts that she’s used to help sell more than 2000 distressed properties in her 20-year career. So let’s find out what it takes to succeed in this evolving aspect of the market.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Well, hello there. How are you? My name’s Matt McGee. I’m the editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to “The Walkthrough.” This is a weekly podcast, we have new episodes that come out every Monday. This is the show where you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country.
At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We are on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable. If you wanna connect with me or with my guest today, if you wanna talk more about this topic, get some of your questions answered, join us in our Facebook mastermind group. Just go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, the group will come right up. We’ll also have some downloads in there to supplement what you’re hearing today.
I just used the word “evolving” to describe this part of the real estate market. Consider this: When I did today’s interview with Christina Griffin, the July 31st Eviction Moratorium deadline was days away. And then just days after it expired, the federal government changed its mind and extended the moratorium until October 3rd. But that’s only in specific parts of the country where COVID cases are rising. As I’m speaking to you right now, there are questions whether that will survive legal challenges.
Now, the timing that’s required to record, edit, and publish a podcast episode like this means that things could change again between the moment that I’m speaking right now and when you actually hear this. So, if something you hear sounds a little bit outdated, I’ll ask upfront for your forgiveness. But I think you’re going to find even if the moratoriums timing continues to change, what Christina and I share today will still be helpful and still be super relevant. Foreclosures and evictions have been happening already, and even if the COVID hotspots have a two-month reprieve, it won’t last forever.
So with that said, let’s get on with today’s episode.
Christina Griffin, as I mentioned, is my guest today. She is a 20-year real estate veteran. She’s the leader of The Griffin Group powered by Place. They’re based in Tampa, Florida. She has 32 agents on her team, 15 more in operations. Christina began working with distressed properties very early in her career. Today, she has sold more than 4,000 homes total and around 2,500 of those have been foreclosures or short sales. So she knows this stuff inside and out. In fact, she teaches a national Keller Williams class on working with distressed properties, and we’re going to pull some of the material from that class and talk about it today.
So, listen as Christina and I talk about where this segment of the market is headed, how to prospect for distressed properties, how to approach owners and mortgage holders. We have a great listener question about how to become a bank’s go-to agent and much, much more.
We have a lot to talk about. So let’s dive right in. Here’s my conversation with Christina Griffin about working with distressed properties.
Matt: Give me your thoughts on what is happening and what’s going to happen over the next several months. As you know, now that this moratorium has come to an end.
Christina: So in my opinion, you know, what that means is we have millions of renters that are gonna need a solution. We have millions of landlords and absentee owners that also need a solution. They’re either gonna have to decide if they wanna keep their home, or if they’re gonna work out something with that particular tenant, or if they’re gonna move forward with the eviction process. We also have millions of homeowners that are delinquent on their mortgage. One of the systems that I use in May, they came out with a statistic that 46 million plus homeowners nationwide are in notice of default. So us as agents, our job should be to educate the homeowners and let everyone know what their options are. I believe it’s gonna be a short sale market personally, until next year. And then the uptick of foreclosures and bank-owned properties are going to occur. So I believe there’s gonna be an increase in inventory.
Matt: If the market gets inundated with, you know, new homes for sale, with more inventory, is that the kind of thing that’s gonna happen over time? Or is it going to be a flood, you know, a one-month period? Like what can we expect?
Christina: I believe there’s a lot of unpredictable things that are going to occur. I know inventory is gonna go up because people are gonna have no other choice but to sell their home. If you haven’t paid a mortgage payment over 12 months, regardless if this is not like 2008, the payments are gonna be added onto what they owe on the home. So when someone hasn’t paid 12 to 18 months of payments, that’s gonna eat up a very large portion of equities. So I believe there’s a lot of unpredictable things that are gonna happen, but us as agents and homeowners in general, we need to become experts and we need to be able to educate the people in our community, what their options are.
Matt: Let’s help our listeners become experts. Because what I’m hearing you’re saying is that we know this is going to come, but there’s a lot of unpredictability in terms of when and how much, but certainly, it’s going to happen to some degree. So let me ask you this, just as we start to dive into distressed real estate, how would you describe the difference between distressed sales versus traditional sales?
Christina: Sure. A distressed sale is just an indicator that attaches to the property that is gonna require them to sell. It could be an IRS lien, an HOA lien, taxes, probate, divorce, bankruptcy, pre-foreclosure. A traditional sale is, they’re selling because they want to, not because they have to. So many of us immediately think when you hear distressed, it’s pre-foreclosure, that is not the case. A distressed sale could be that there’s an HOA lien and the HOA is gonna foreclose on the property. And the owner either has to come up with the funds or they have to sell the property to be able to pay off the HOA lien. So there’s a lot of different indicators that we don’t realize are out there. So it’s not just necessarily a pre-foreclosure.
Matt: Some of these homes are already owned by the banks, right?
Christina: Yeah. So that is a bank-owned foreclosure, and it’s called bank-owned. But what I want you guys to understand is there are many different types. There’s subprime, there’s also a lot of large investment firms that are buying non-performing notes, or non-performing mortgages.
Matt: In that situation, when it is a bank-owned property, how does that make the transaction different?
Christina: The only thing that really makes the transaction different than a traditional owner-occupant sale is there’s no disclosures. They don’t know any other repair issues on the property. So you have to do your due diligence and make sure that you are inspecting the property, that you really know what the history looks like. But really truly that’s the only difference. In most cases, you’re gonna have title insurance. If there’s no title insurance involved, they’re gonna disclose that. And you’re gonna have to agree to an exception on the title policy or a quit claim deed. However, it’s an as-is contract with right to inspect usually, unless you waive that. But the owner has no clue about the history of the property, is really truly the only difference.
Matt: So that’s a quick, high-level look at what Christina expects to happen in the coming weeks and months, as well as some key differences between distressed and traditional sales. Now, let’s dive into what this means for you. How do you approach homeowners in distressed situations? How do you work with banks? All of that is still to come. First, I asked Christina, where do you find out about distressed homes in your area?
Christina: So keep in mind there’s properties that prior to foreclosure or prior to the lien becoming due, and then being forced to sell the property, and then there’s after the foreclosure. The great thing is almost all of the servicing companies, they list the property on your multiple listings. So you’re gonna have national websites like Auction.com, HomePath, HUD, FreddieMac, like all of the — HubZu — the large national websites that are going to list the properties after the foreclosure.
Now, prior to the foreclosure or prior to them being required to sell the property due to a lien, that’s where you’re gonna have to learn how to utilize the data, and the data is going to be able to give you those key indicators to be able to reach out and prospects. So if you get a phone number, you’re gonna need to make sure that you scrub it against the Do Not Call, you can go door to door, you can send a letter, and you can also run attractive or different types of marketing that will attract people that are in that particular situation. So I would say data and knowing the resources after the property has been foreclosed on are really where an agent would go.
Matt: Are there sites out there that will tell me what houses are likely to be in a distressed situation?
Christina: Sure. One of my favorites is PropStream, it’s gonna give you probably about 40 or 50 key indicators and that will give you from probate to bankruptcy, to properties with liens, HOA liens. I also, when it comes to notice of default, I personally am using RedX and LandVoice, and that’s just for the notice of default. You can also go to a system if your multiple listing has it, and it’s in a large amount of the multiple listings in the country called Remine, which is R-E-M-I-N-E.
So there are a lot of different sites, I personally, because we do on such a high level, I love the easy button. I love to be able to have it at my fingertips. Now you can also get really great at combing official records. Most of this is in public records, and you know, that’s part of what I teach is once you understand when there’s liens, how to access them and then you pull those lists, it definitely will identify that particular data. But one thing that we forget about as agents is what our dollar per hour is. So, if you have a choice on spending the money for the easy button or researching it on official records, you really need to look at what your dollar per hour is.
Matt: If I’m a listener, I think I’m probably gonna be, should I be checking these sites every day, once a week? How do you do it?
Christina: It really depends on what your prospecting goals are. So I have a very large team, we’re in eight different market centers, and I’m part of one of the largest teams in the world. And what I would tell you is how I personally do it is on Sunday, I pull the data for our inside sales team to work on. I also have a full-time runner, I pull that particular data. I kinda geek out on the data. I love it. And it’s a lot of fun to cross-reference the different data points. But we’re doing each and every day notice of default, expireds, for sale by owners, properties with liens. Like we have certain data that we pull up each and every day that we’re also reaching out to.
So what I would tell you is to look at what your prospecting looks like for the week. You should truly know who you’re gonna call or door knock, or send a letter to and what that looks like and put a plan together for the week. So it’s gonna look different I think for everyone, depending on the size of their organization and what type of leverage they have in place.
Matt: You’ve kinda touched on this a little bit. Let’s dive deeper into how you approach the owners of these homes. Are there, you know, some best practices you can share? Are there some scripts you can share?
Christina: Sure. What I’d really recommend is a soft touch first and foremost. So many of us have people in our sphere. We have people that we know that we haven’t advised them that we’re community experts. So I use a lot of different sources as well as our team, but first, I’d highly recommend you to reach everyone in your world. And it could be just a simple, “Hey, I need your address. I’d love to send you a card.” And then the very next week or a few days later, send them a video. And just say, “If you know anyone in forbearance, foreclosure, or anyone that needs anything regarding real estate, let me know.” Now when it comes to cold prospecting and the message that is happening in the initial start of the conversation, many of you may have heard the buzz around the internet called the golden letter or the golden texts or the golden message, that honestly is doing really great right now.
So, all that looks like, and there’s a few different types of messages, but what that boils down to is, “I have a buyer interested in buying a home in your neighborhood. Would you be willing to sell?” So it’s the just soft touch with them. Many of them are gonna come back and say, “Oh, I’m in bankruptcy. Oh, I’m in divorce. I have a pre-foreclosure,” things to that nature, but touch them softly. And then your next follow up would be, I see that the foreclosure it’s happening on X date. The only time I recommend going in, I call it hard and heavy to be able to truly say, “Hey, I know you’re losing your property” is a few weeks or a month out from when the foreclosure sale date happens.
When you make contact with them, it’s much better to be a community expert, have a softer touch with them. And then you can go in with the supporting data. But I love to ask the question, how many of you actually know in your direct neighborhood who’s in foreclosure, who’s in divorce, who’s a tenant, who’s expired, who’s in notice of default. And the data will allow you to really look at your neighborhood and have the right tailored message, to be able to touch your neighbors and become that expert each and every week.
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Matt: There is so much I wanna unpack from what you just said. Let me start here, you said, “Take a soft-touch approach at first.” Why is that important?
Christina: Because people get offended easily. So a soft touch is gonna show that you care, that you’re not just asking. So I’ll give you an example, for sale by owners. How many of you actually just call for sale by owner and instead of bringing a buyer and going and previewing the home, you ask for the listing. How many of you go and say, “Legitimately, I have a buyer and I’d love to be able to show your property to them.” What do you think the approach is gonna be with that seller? They’re gonna want, “Sure, I have a buyer. Let’s go look at the property” versus “give me the listing.” That’s why the soft touch is important.
You are going in with, “I’m gonna add value. I have a buyer” and I teach how to find a buyer. Believe it or not, there’s data that will actually show you who owns multiple properties in that direct neighborhood. You can pull who owns 5, 10, a hundred properties and reach out to them and ask, “Would you be willing to buy a home in this neighborhood again?” There are so many cash buyers across the country. So, when you come in and add some value versus asking for something, or just saying, “Hey, I know you just went through a divorce or you were just filed divorce or bankruptcy, can I help you?” It really truly doesn’t set right and people become very defensive.
Matt: You also mentioned being the community expert a couple of times. What does that look like? Is that just knowing, you know, the data in the neighborhood? Is it more than that?
Christina: Great question. So that’s why I always recommend approaching the people in your world, letting them know that you actually have some experience around this because how many people that are in your sphere, do you think may not wanna talk to you about the pending bankruptcy or eviction or forbearance that you’re in and they may potentially think you don’t specialize in that, maybe you just do traditional real estate. The people in our world do not know until we tell them that we can help them.
So that’s part of becoming a community expert. Many of you are gonna have websites that have blogs, and being able to put articles like the moratorium ending, how to work within a short sale, the CFPB, the new regulations, and letting people you know, know that you can help. So they just don’t go to a random search engine and put Forbearance Realtor, Bankruptcy Realtor. So that’s part of becoming that community expert is telling our story, but we can tell it softly. You can send a simple card and that card, and that message could be whatever holiday is currently here. And on the back, you can do a small little business card and underneath it, all the expertise or the different things that you can help them with. So there’s a lot of really soft approaches.
Matt: So you just mentioned sending a card. You also mentioned the golden letter earlier, another soft approach. Would you not recommend things like phone calls and door knocking?
Christina: So I’m a really big fan right now, even though COVID and the restrictions are lifting in certain areas, I call it ding-dong ditch. And what I mean by that is just putting something nice on their door. It could be a door hanger, it could be a coupon bag, it could be a simple card that is slightly underneath their mattress. Make sure to not put anything in the mailbox because that’s not allowed unless you put a stamp on it and you mail it traditionally. However, you have to go with whatever you feel comfortable with, but respect people’s boundaries. Here’s the thing, you have to pick a delivery on your marketing message. It’s gonna have to be door to door, you send a letter, or you pick up the phone. So you do need to have the indicators on if it’s owner occupied or absentee.
Now there’s a terminology a lot of investors use called “driving for dollars.” And what I mean by that is when you are walking or you’re in a certain neighborhood, look at your surroundings. If there’s a house that’s overgrown, if there is a house that maybe the paint is needing to be painted, and it doesn’t conform with the rest of the neighborhood, start paying attention to your surroundings and then go back and look up that data. And there could be indicators that they’re going through something. So just make sure to pick a vehicle and each and every week be consistent. Most of us give up if we send one mailer campaign and no one calls, but you have to be consistent and you need to do it repetitively to see those results.
Matt: Are you talking like maybe an outreach every week or so? Every couple of weeks, how do you do that?
Christina: Well, so it all depends on your vehicle. So many coaches will teach you that you need to prospect two hours a day. So there are…I’ll give you an example. How many of you call and prospect for expireds? Probably a good portion of you do. How many of you have issues where you’re not getting a lot of people answering because they’re back to work? How many of you actually go door to door and you put a simple door hanger on their door. When someone’s working all day and they may be working and they had a 10-hour day and they come home and they have 20 voicemails, how do you set yourself apart?
So I am a very big component of inspect what you expect. If you’re calling on the phone for two hours and you get two contacts, you can take those expireds that are owner-occupied, or those notice of defaults, or those properties with liens, put them into an app. I personally use Circuit Route Planner, which will put them all in an order, and put them where you can get the best order with the least amount of time. And how many doors do you think you can put in two hours? That they’re going to come home, they’re gonna get something on their door and your contact rate is gonna be a lot higher.
Matt: Let me jump in for a second. I should have asked Christina to expand on that tool she just mentioned, Circuit Route Planner. A few moments ago, she mentioned delivering door hangers, cards, coupon bags, and so forth, to homeowners who may need a professional’s help. This app helps you do that more efficiently. It works on both Android and iOS. I’ll link to it, plus all the other websites and everything Christina has shared in today’s show notes. So, now let’s get back to the conversation.
Christina, we have a listener community on Facebook and I posted in there that we were gonna be having this conversation about distressed sales, foreclosures, short sales, the whole nine yards. James Bowerman is one of our listeners, he said he had two questions for you. So let me ask the first one. He said he would love to know, is there a process for getting these foreclosures from banks as the go-to agent to list them?
Christina: There is. And I teach that. But what I would tell you is you have to be able to do BPOs, evaluate repairs, know official records, be able to evaluate liens and judgements on the property. You also have to have money in the bank to be able to turn on utilities and take care of the responsibilities and have a billing department that you can submit for reimbursements. A lot of it is reaching out to them and having that value proposition and knowing who to reach out to and what to say. So I would say for those that want to get into this avenue, look at what I just said and see if that scares you, because I will tell you many of you, and many agents, it’s a misperception that they believe that we’re just handed these listings and they go on the market.
There are a lot of steps that have to be done, and you have to really learn a lot of facets of real estate you may not know. And then it’s gonna come into figuring out who owns the mortgages in your area, who services them because sometimes different regions of the U.S., it’s different on who the predominant owner is. And then knowing what to reach out to them and provide that you would love to work with them. I would highly recommend any agent that wants to be a bank-owned agent to do BPOs, and those are called broker price opinions. I probably did 500 plus before I got my first big break. So, you know, being able to do those and understand how to evaluate a property is important. And I do teach agents how to do that.
Matt: Second question, he said, also, I work with investors who would love a first crack at these distressed properties. How might that be possible? Is there a way to help your investors get that first crack?
Christina: Absolutely. So there’s no first cracks anymore when it comes to foreclosures. And I’m gonna tell you why. When a property goes into foreclosure, the servicing company wants to give everyone the opportunity to put an offer on the property. There’s also something called deed restrictions. And what I mean by that it’s owner-occupant and non-profit restrictions. And those are for organizations like FannieMae, FreddieMac, HUD, they’re gonna require the property on the market for a certain amount of time. What I would tell you as an agent, in order for your clients to get a first crack, you need to learn how to identify the property before it goes into foreclosure, before the lien becomes due in that proverbial off-market that everyone talks about.
So what I teach, Matt, is as agents, how to identify those opportunities like every wholesaler investor is doing on a big scale, and being able to look at those different data buckets and really learn how to become a hunter before it goes into the REO status. So that’s how you can give your investors that first crack, is learning how to become a hunter and identify those opportunities.
Matt: Christina, this has been super terrific. I so appreciate you educating me and our listeners more about this. What final words of advice, what are your big takeaways that you would want my listeners to know about doing distressed sales?
Christina: What I would say final words of advice is, become a hunter, become proactive. If you have clients looking for property, learn how to hunt and find those opportunities for them, learn how to create wealth for yourself and your clients, which those are things that I teach you. But what I would tell you is, everyone wants to be a bank-owned agent and sell hundreds and hundreds of properties and grow their business. You need to earn the right to be able to do that. And through the pre-foreclosure side of the business, you’re gonna be able to do that with the next wave.
And what I mean by that is with the millions of people in forbearance and default, they may qualify, or they may not be a short sale, but keep in mind when you help them to complete a satisfactory short sale on a property and you are on top of it, or your short sale negotiator is on top of it, those loss mitigators, the people that work for the servicing companies that help you negotiate, and they really work with you throughout the process. They are your easy button and to becoming a bank-own agent, the conversation is simple. And what that looks like is, “I had a great experience with you, can you advise how I can grow my relationship with your servicing company?”
The other facet is do some BPOs, or leverage people in your world to do those BPOs, because that is also another foot in the door. You need to learn how to properly evaluate properties. Many of you are not gonna wanna list bank-owned properties. Many of you are not going to want to do short sales, but many of you work with investors that wanna find great deals. Your buyers wanna find great deals, and you want to create wealth in your investment portfolio. And that’s what I teach. So learn how to think outside of the box. And if things aren’t working currently in your business, learn how to pivot, get back to basics and learn that there’s a lot of people in our world that need your help right now.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)
The course Christina teaches is running right now. It’s open to anyone in real estate, not just KW agents. It covers some of what we talked about plus things like how to complete a short sale within two weeks, how to improve your offer acceptance rate, working with investors, banks, and institutional owners. It’s a 12-week class, and they’re about halfway through right now. You can still sign up and catch up on what you’ve missed so far because everything is recorded and you also have access to the material for two extra months after the class ends. Or Christina says, you can just wait for the next course launch. It’ll probably happen in late September or October. I’ll put a link to the course info in today’s show notes.
We also have some downloads related to today’s episode that will be available today in our Facebook mastermind community. I’ll have more info on that in just a moment.
Let’s do our takeaways segment. Here’s what stood out to me from today’s conversation. Takeaway number one, there’s a lot of unpredictability right now. Christina said she does expect inventory to go up. She thinks it will be a short sale market first followed by foreclosures, but how much and when, well, that’s very much up in the air.
Takeaway number two, Christina said, you have to know how and where to find the data. There are different sources for distressed homes in pre-foreclosure situation versus homes that have already foreclosed. Christina listed a bunch of tools and websites. Again, I’ll link to all of that in the show notes.
Takeaway number three, when you’re prospecting, take a soft touch approach. The golden letter has been working for a ton of agents lately. It basically says, “I have a buyer interested in buying a home in your neighborhood, would you be willing to sell?” Now, the letter can go a little longer than that, but that’s the main point.
Takeaway number four, pick a delivery method and be consistent. Whether it’s making calls, door knocking or sending mailers. Christina says you need to make it part of your daily prospecting.
And then takeaway number five, there’s a misconception that banks just hand these properties out to agents. If you want to be their go-to agent, the way Christina described it kinda sounds like a grind. You really have to earn your way into that status. Christina said she did about 500 BPOs before she got her big break into foreclosures and short sales.
Okay, if you have questions or feedback about today’s episode, you can leave a voicemail or send me a text, the number is 415-322-3328. You can send an email to walkthrough[at]homelight.com or find me and Christina in our Facebook mastermind group. Just go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, the group will come right up. As I mentioned, we’re gonna have several downloads in there available later today, different versions of that golden letter. So you can check them out, download, tweak them as needed, and use them in your business.
All right, that is all for this week. Thank you so much to Christina Griffin for joining me and thank you for listening. My name’s Matt McGee, and you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents, we’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd and become irreplaceable.
Go out and safely sell some homes. I’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
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