National Property Preservation Conference Returned to Washington, D.C.

<em> The Preservation Puzzles Approaching Challenges With Innovative Solutions panel<em>

Growing up, it seemed like every neighborhood had that one “creepy” house. Maybe it was abandoned, maybe it was home to a quiet introvert who occasionally peeks out through the curtains.

Regardless, these are places that collect mythology like fishing nets collect ocean-borne garbage, gathering stories and rumors that are pretty much always more interesting than reality. But out here in actual reality—those homes are probably just in need of a good property preservation vendor.

The property preservation sector serves a crucial function within the market: helping maintain vacant properties, ensuring the lawns are cut, the windows and doors are secure, and no one is breaking in to squat, strip out copper, or worse. They help prevent urban blight, maintain neighborhood property values, and eventually, help ensure those homes are in good shape when they return to the market.

But the difficulties facing the prop pres sector have rarely been more daunting, ranging from struggles to maintain a sufficient workforce, to the headwinds of inflationary costs, to the simple fact that much of the diminished REO stock is more spread out and requiring more “windshield time” just to get people out to them in the first place.

All these issues and more were up for discussion at November’s National Property Preservation Conference (NPPC) in Washington, D.C. Hosted by Safeguard Properties since 2004, the NPPC was the brainchild of Safeguard’s late founder, Robert Klein, who created the event to fill a perceived gap for an industry event that was solely focused on trends and challenges within the property preservation space, as opposed to just being included as a single panel or two within a more generalized event such as the Five Star Conference. As the official NPPC homepage puts it, Klein’s vision was to “bring together all facets of the mortgage field services industry to discuss pressing issues and develop solutions.”

This year’s NPPC lineup honored that legacy well, bringing together a top-tier lineup of industry speakers from prop pres, mortgage servicing, government agencies, and the GSEs. They all gathered for three beautiful November days at the InterContinental Washington D.C.-The Wharf, filing into a sun-filled ballroom overlooking the Potomac for a packed lineup of panels and speakers.

<em>The Fielding the Future Tech Trends in Prop Pres panel <em>

Following a welcome reception on Monday night, the curriculum kicked off early Tuesday with a fireside chat featuring insights from Sandra L. Thompson, Director, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), moderated by Joe Iafigliola, CFO of Safeguard Properties. Director Thompson discussed her priorities and perspectives in leading FHFA and where she is focusing the Agency in 2024.

The event then transitioned to one of its annual staples: the “Leadership Insights: Navigating the Industry Landscape” panel moderated by Ed Delgado; AMP, Managing Director, Mortgage Policy Advisors; and Chairman Emeritus of Five Star Global (MortgagePoint’s parent company). As he does every year at NPPC, Delgado assembled a cross-section of industry experts that not even a brief fire alarm could derail. This year’s panel included Alan Jaffa, CEO, Safeguard Properties; Marcel Bryar, Founder and Managing Director, Mortgage Policy Advisors, LLC; Timika Scott, SVP, US Bank; Dror Oppenheimer, CFO, Gate House Strategies, LLC; John Thibaudeau, VP, Single-Family Real Estate Asset Management, Fannie Mae; and Eric Will, Senior Director, REO/Single-Family Portfolio & Servicing Division, Freddie Mac.

<em> Five Star Global Chairman Ed Delgado moderates the Leadership Insights panel<em>

Delgado led the panel through topics ranging from federal efforts to address housing affordability and supply shortages to discussions of inflation, asset disposition timelines, how tech advances such as AI are impacting the mortgage industry, homeowners’ ongoing exits from COVID-19-era forbearance plans, the state of REO, whether the Fed will manage its “soft landing,” and updates on property preservation allowable fees (check out November 2023’s MortgagePoint cover story for more on all of this, including details on HUD’s allowable fee changes that were announced during the conference).

Next up was a “Legislative Update: Legal Developments and Regulatory Shifts,” moderated by Linda Erkkila, General Counsel and EVP, Safeguard Properties, with insights from panelists Will Jarrell, Supervising Attorney, Aldridge Pite, LLP; Chip Nolan, AVP, Client Experience, Bron; and Sean P. Edwards, Partner, Sanders, Warren & Russell LLP.

This panel dove primarily into important regulatory changes impacting property preservation, as well as providing a look at various relevant case law unfolding around the nation.

The first full day’s panel lineups continued to explore a diverse range of topics, including:

Data and Process Gaps That Need to be Addressed

  • Moderator: Mike Greenbaum, COO, Safeguard Properties
  • Jami Sherr, President & CEO, Sterling Claims Management
  • Sarah Dallas, VP of Programs, ISN Corporation
  • Justin Tucker, VP, MSR Servicing Oversight & Asset Management, Lakeview Loan Servicing
  • Matt Pratt, AVP, US Bank.

Fielding the Future: Tech Trends in Prop Pres

  • Moderator: Scott Heller, VP, Information Technology, Safeguard Properties
  • Robyn Bui, SVP of Sales & Business Development, Quality Claims Management Corp.
  • Chad Soppe, VP, Property Preservation, National Field Resources (NFR)
  • Clint Lien, VP Cost Research and Product Development, The Bluebook International
  • Arvin Malkani, CEO, ISN Corporation

Be Prepared: Preventative Actions to Weather Disasters

  • Moderator: Jennifer Hopkins, Manager, Client Accounts, Safeguard Properties
  • Johanna Granados, Account Executive, Verisk
  • Carla Johnson, CEO, Earthvisionz
  • Scott Arnold, VP, National Field Representatives
  • Priscilla Rivera, VP Client & Operational Development, Sterling Claims Management

Preservation Puzzles: Approaching Challenges With Innovative Solutions

  • Moderator: Elizabeth Squires, AVP Client Accounts, Safeguard Properties
  • Tiffany Fletcher, SVP of Compliance, VRM Mortgage Services
  • Talia Ramirez, VP, Claims, Preservation & Government Servicing Oversight, Specialized Loan Servicing
  • Micole Booker, AVP, Senior Preservation & Post-Sale Disposition Manager, Flagstar Bank
  • Thomas Foster, VP, Altisource

HUD/ISN Panel

  • Moderator: Lisa Solis, Director Investor Compliance, Safeguard Properties
  • William Collins, Director, National Servicing Center at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Ryan McDoulett, Program Director, ISN Corporation
  • Tim Brandt, Deputy Programs Director, ISN Corporation
<em> The HUDISN panel <em>

The day’s lunch break also included a special update, exclusive to sponsors, from Julienne Joseph, Chief of Staff for HUD. Returning to the event for a second year, Joseph walked the more intimate sponsor lunch crowd through some of HUD’s 2023 initiatives, including their February 2023 reduction of mortgage insurance premiums, which HUD had estimated could “save new homebuyers with FHA-insured mortgages an average of $800 per year” and help “lower housing costs for an estimated 850,000 borrowers in 2023” (per HUD’s announcement at the time).

<em>Julienne Joseph Chief of Staff for HUD speaks at the sponsor luncheon<em>

Joseph also touched on HUD’s 2022 decision to begin considering first-time homebuyers’ rental history as a factor in credit decisioning. She expanded upon how that system has been working behind the scenes and provided some brief updates and estimates on what the impact of that change may be and how many homebuyers they hope to impact.

The second full day of NPPC opened with another keynote, this time from Sarah Edelman, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Single-Family Housing at FHA, and moderated by Jennifer Hopkins, Manager of Client Accounts for Safeguard Properties. Hopkins guided Edelman and the audience through a high-level discussion of FHA’s role in mortgage servicing and how that mission is evolving, how FHA assists homeowners facing financial hardships, and how the increased prevalence and severity of natural disasters are impacting the industry, including the consequences of inadequate insurance coverage and of insurers beginning to retreat from highly impacted states such as Florida.

In the first panel of the day, “Blight Busters: A Conversation With Code Compliance,” moderator Steve Meyer, AVP High Risk & Investor Compliance, Safeguard Properties, headed up a panel that included Bryan Wagner, Neighborhood Service Division Manager, Westerville, Ohio and President of AACE (American Association of Code Enforcement); April O’Brien, Development Services Supervisor, City of Aurora, Illinois; Joseph Brewer, Manager, Office of Code Enforcement, City of Hyattsville, Maryland; and Victor Martinez, Conde Compliance Manager, Apache Junction, Arizona and First VP of AACE.

<em> The Blight Busters A Conversation With Code Compliance panel<em>

Meyer led a discussion that touched on the purpose and strategies behind Code Compliance in each speaker’s municipality, how their day-to-day tasks and workflows break down, how complaints are noted and responded to, what areas are typically considered “high risk,” how mortgage servicers can best work with Code Compliance departments, how enforcement is implemented, and what some of the most common compliance issues are (“high grass/weeds” topped the list, with issues such as “paint/exterior surfaces,” “securing,” “accessory structures,” and “debris/sanitation” rounding out the rest).

<em>The Fannie MaeFreddie Mac panel<em>

Moderator Kara Soppelsa, Manager of Client Accounts, Safeguard Properties, next moderated a panel discussion featuring nearly a half-dozen Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac representatives. The lineup included:

  • Shubha Shivapurkar, Senior Director Non-Performing Loans Management, Freddie Mac
  • Geoff Williams, Loss Mitigation Manager, Freddie Mac
  • Kimberly Dawson, SF Collateral Risk-Real Estate Asset Management Director, Fannie Mae
  • Jeff Mager, Field Services Manager, Fannie Mae
  • Kimberly Shurtleff, Hazard Claims and Code Compliance Manager, Fannie Mae

Soppelsa and the panelists engaged in a wide-ranging conversation, starting with broad discussions of where the economy may be headed in 2024 and the top challenges facing the property preservation sector currently. The various GSE representatives discussed changes in pricing and allowable fees, pre-foreclosure repair processes and procedures, managing code and hazard claims, and how emergent technologies may impact the prop pres space.

The 2023 National Property Preservation Conference sponsors included Brookstone Management (Platinum), MFS Supply (Gold), the American Association of Code Enforcement (Gold), Sterling Claims Management (Silver), Altisource (Bronze), National Field Representatives (Bronze), Auction.com (Partner), Automated Print & Promo (Partner), DhanInfo (Partner), First Allegiance (Partner), IMS Datawise (Partner), Occutrack (Partner), RepairBase (Partner), Verisk (Partner), VRM Mortgage Services (Partner), and the Five Star Institute and MortgagePoint Magazine (Speaker Sponsors). Next year’s NPPC will be held at MGM National Harbor on November 11-13, 2024, celebrating the event’s 20th anniversary. Tai Christensen, President of Arrive Home and Chair of Five Star’s American Mortgage Diversity Council, will be delivering a Keynote Speech at the event. For more information, please visit nppconf.com.

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Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 25-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, most recently serving as Editor-in-Chief for National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books, and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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