Since 2008, Brenda Houghton and Diana Squires, licensed Realtors, have specialized in helping owners of distressed properties in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex – properties ranging in price from modest to multimillion-dollar properties. Their primary services fall into two general categories. “We specialize in distressed properties, typically short sales when clients are underwater. There are also times when we work with clients who have equity in their homes, they’ve missed a few payments and the bank has already filed for foreclosure. In those cases we get the home to market quickly to allow them to access that equity from the home without losing it on the courthouse steps to foreclosure,” Squires says. Their strategy involves partnering with attorneys to handle bankruptcy filings to prevent the home from going into foreclosure.
Although the financial and legal aspects of handling a distressed property are paramount, Houghton and Squires were drawn to this area of the real estate industry by a drive to help people overcome what is often the biggest financial crisis a family can face.
Squires says, “We are genuinely concerned, we listen to our clients, getting to the heart of the matter very quickly. Often people with distressed properties will encounter real estate practitioners who lack a sense of urgency. We’re not like that. It is not uncommon for Brenda and I to put in 12 to 14 hour days to get something accomplished and put our clients’ mind at ease.”
Houghton says, “We believe people need a fair shot at selling their home in a dignified manner and moving on to the next stage of their lives. When people are in financial straits, they often feel so bad about themselves and their situation they don’t see any way out. They just assume foreclosure is the only answer. Our philosophy is to go in there, explain their options and offer some control to help them take that first step toward a new phase in their lives. Statistically, foreclosure has proven to net the lending institution significantly less than a short sale, cause more harm to the neighborhood and result in a greater end liability to the homeowner. Many times, homeowners are just not given accurate and complete information from the mortgage servicer about their rights, options and consequences. We try to correct that.”
Bringing Clarity to Chaos Houghton and Squires are often challenged by the financial, legal and emotional chaos resulting from someone in the process of losing a home. Very often homes will be burdened by second liens from HOAs, second mortgages, equity loans and IRS liens. They have developed processes to handle each type of situation, deftly dealing with the IRS to secure lien releases, negotiating reduced payoff amounts with HOA boards and secondary lenders. “In the end everyone benefits because the IRS cannot collect a tax debt from a home with no equity and a secondary lender will not realize a payout from a foreclosed loan,” Houghton says.
Having dealt with many different situations, the two bring a level of experience that is an undeniable asset to their clients. They know the processes, they know the institutions and the people involved. Houghton, in particular, has amassed extensive insider experience by consulting with the larger institutions and auditing their foreclosure processes. “Brenda has enormous experience in negotiations because she has been doing short sales since they first began. You could almost say she wrote the book on short sales and helped make them more mainstream,” Squires says.
The Ultimate Tag Team The team’s knowledge and experience combined with their shared drive to help people facing serious financial and emotional challenges created a natural bond that developed into a business relationship. The division of labor fell just as naturally into place.
Houghton deals primarily with the banks and explains the short sale process to the homeowner and whoever else needs to know. Squires strategizes and executes the marketing plans for their clients. “Our goal is to market the property to highlight the best attributes, price it attractively to garner a quick offer, but never embarrass the homeowner by revealing the distress behind the sale to the general public.” First class signage, professional photographs and custom brochures are a hallmark of their listings.
In addition, they have developed relationships with investors over the years who have the ability to provide quick cash offers when pressed for time. “With these contacts we can often get a buyer for a property almost immediately which will get the attention of the mortgage servicer and stall the foreclosure. And of course, we also rely on our strategic partnerships with attorneys for the real muscle when required. Not all Realtors are going to have those kinds of connections.”
Houghton says, “When I began I focused on distressed homes and I started getting a lot of response especially in 2008 when things really started to crumble in real estate. I needed some help. I could negotiate and market, but I didn’t have time to do both at this level. I met Diana and she had the same passion for helping people. Combining our resources and talents was just a natural solution for us.”
Squires says, “It hasn’t always been easy, but the rewards are certainly there. We’ve received heartfelt letters from grateful clients who have said ‘You’re our angels…. We wouldn’t have gotten through this without you.’ So many times that’s worth more than a paycheck.”