Pierce Ledbetter, CEO of LEDIC Management, sometimes starts scouting distressed properties to manage before their banks even really know how much trouble they’re in. LEDIC applies to a subscription service that lists loans in a given zip code. Once the property’s loan is more than 30 days past due, LEDIC starts doing a market study and taking photos to have an archive of physical appearance over time.
“The advantage of watching is twofold,” Ledbetter says. “It helps me know a submarket better, and it helps management be a better witness on behalf of the lender for whom they may be working.”
Ledbetter’s aggressiveness is needed throughout the process of managing REOs, especially with lenders making recommendations as to who the court should recruit as property manager. “They’re looking for someone who can come in and clean the property up,” says John Bartling, co-founder and managing director of Dallas-based AllBridge Investments, an investor in real estate capital markets.
Once he takes over a property, Ledbetter mobilizes his certified public accountants and certified property managers. There’s also a general ramp-up in staffing needed at the property level. “You have to work with properties that have been neglected for months at a time and have all kinds of issues when you get there,” says Dave Woodward, CEO of Laramar Communities a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based manager.
Executives need to be on call 24/7, too. Ledbetter says he’s getting calls from bank executives with questions about the assets at all times, whether it’s during the weekday or weekend. And he needs to be on the phone with vendors as well: When a property goes through foreclosure, the vendors usually haven’t been paid. What’s more, even when things are stabilized at a property, the turmoil doesn’t end. “The expectation should be that it is a very short-term hold,” Ledbetter says.
If the manager does decide to make a bid on the asset itself, Woodward insists there are some advantages. “[Managing] gives us a higher level of understanding of the real estate than anyone will have,” he says. “It’s little nuances like that where we would be at an advantage.”