BPO Broker Professional OpinionWhat is a BPO? To start, it stands for Broker Professional Opinion of Value. Who prepares them? To date, I have completed 134 BPOs … and counting. In my opinion, these “broker professional opinions” are a waste of time and money and I will tell you why. The real estate agents associated with them  (excluding me of course) are typically newbie agents who the bank has hired to perform the job. There are not many professionals that will work for the child labor wage pay they are offering. I do it because even though I have been in the Real Estate business for 11 years, I am only 30 years old, and therefore have a very long career ahead of me. I see the potential of long term relationships with these banks and what it can do for my overall business. However, most “agents” are among those who choose real estate as a second career or assume they can get rich quick selling real estate. They get into the real estate business and maybe they last a year. Maybe a few will last if they are only doing it on the “side.” Their reality of their real estate career is typically much different than what they imagined. There are some agents who do BPO’s trying to get the banks’ business, but don’t really know what they are doing as far as real estate market experience and real world knowledge.

QuotesHaving a home in Lake Mary and having a home in “Heathrow” are two very different things.

Recently, we  were working on a short sale and the bank called an agent to complete a BPO on this property. When the mortgage meltdown started and valuations were requested by the banks, their BPO agents were paid anywhere from $75-$125 to complete a report. The agents who did them were sharp and knowledgeable about the local real estate market. Having a home in Lake Mary and having a home in “Heathrow” are two very different things. Therefore, pulling a comparable from about one mile away and calling it a Heathrow comparable will not make for an accurate valuation. For those of you who might not understand the correlation, Heathrow is such a large “PUD,” or planned urban development, that there is not another neighborhood in all of Lake Mary that compares to Heathrow.  There are approximately 2,000 homes inside of the guard gated community.  Heathrow is its own small city with condos starting from $150,000 going up to homes that are worth several millions. Therefore, someone really needs to know the community and the difference of the neighborhoods inside of it to create a proper evaluation. I know they are doing a poor job because we have a department at our company whose only job is to help us with getting short sales to closing for our sellers. I have seen every problem in the book in regards to short sales. However, I do have a favorite recurring problem …BPO’s.

Here is my favorite story:

We have a short sale in a smaller PUD (not the same one as mentioned above) and it is a condo. The offer we received was low, but the buyer was aware and was willing to come up about 3-5 % more than her original offer. After evaluating her willingness to counter if and when the bank countered the price we decided to move forward with her offer.

The short sale bank performed a valuation on our listing and the property value came in 40% higher than our anticipated market value! Why did the bank come back with such an outrageous offer on a property that we all knew was worth no where near what they were asking? The answer: a BPO, a supposed “Broker Professional Opinion” of value. What?! How could a “professional broker” come up with such a poor valuation of a property? The short answer is they don’t know what the heck they are doing!

QuotesIn this particular scenario the BPO agent pulled one comparable not only from a different neighborhood, not only a different city but 17 miles away in ANOTHER COUNTY!

In this particular scenario the BPO agent pulled one comparable not only from a different neighborhood, not only a different city but 17 miles away in ANOTHER COUNTY! No matter how you feel about Orange, Seminole, Southwest Volusia, Lake, Osecola or Polk counties one thing we can all agree on is that living in Windermere is very different that living in Chuluota or even Deltona. For that matter, the vibe of Downtown Sanford is very different than that of Downtown Mount Dora which is a bigger version of Downtown Eustis.  Don’t even get me started on Park Ave. vs. the Winter Springs Town Center. Cities differ and those differences make them more desirable to different people; therefore, comparing a townhome in Winter Springs to one in the Lake Nona area of Orlando is a poor comparison. The BPO agent used a comparable from 17 miles away. The asset manager at the bank thought that comparable was acceptable and that is just plain CRAZY! Then again I have been full time in Real Estate in Central Florida for a while and understand the sales process better than the average bear. I can’t pretend to say I could do the asset managers job so I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on their dependency on a $32-$50 dollar report (yes that is how much they are paying for these reports).

NoLongerComparable

So here’s the rub:  there are a lot of Real Estate agents. I’m sure you have a co-worker who has a real estate license. As a matter of fact, they may be more common than drivers licenses!  A real estate license is like the new ‘ID’ card. However, not all licensed agents are created equal and not all experienced agents are considered knowledgeable. There are a lot of part time agents who sell one or two homes a year and have been doing it for years but it literally takes hundreds of transactions to learn the guts of real estate in and out like the back of your hand.

Why would you even bother with a broker’s professional opinion of value from an agent who doesn’t know what they are doing? You might as well use the number from Zillow (not knocking Zillow; it’s a good starting point. 😉 ) and just give it a additional 20% for good measure. They pay a grand $32-$50 dollars (some are less) to drive to the property take multiple pictures and sometimes the agent has to set an appointment to get into the property and take another 30-50 pictures. The pictures do not sound that bad, but it’s the travel time, gas, and the time spent at the property that is the real cost involved in this part of the task. From there you have to go back to the computer, pull comparables (which if done right can take up to another hour) and then you play data entry clerk while you enter the fields of data from the comparables into their specific spreadsheet (which is another hour). They want specifics on listings and sales and sales ratios and specifics about the subject property, all of which have to be researched before answering. All in all each BPO takes about 4-6 hours and you are getting paid an average of $8.83-$9.00 an hour but that is before the actual cost of gas or any taxes. So literally you are worth less than minimum wage.

Quotes…unless you have the few agents who know their market well and know real estate you will end up with poor valuations.

As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for,” and unless you have the few agents who know their market well and know real estate you will end up with poor valuations. I do not know Atlanta and therefore would be a poor choice to complete a BPO there. However, put me in Atlanta for 90 days as a real estate agent with the knowledge I have about the monster known as the real estate business and I could crank out some accurate BPO’s.

Why should they care?  They should care because in most cases a short sale owner is behind on their mortgage payment and every day they are not being paid on this mortgage is another day they lose money. They are losing interest, paying more property taxes, paying more in HOA fees (another nightmare for another blog), typically the house is falling deeper and deeper into a pit of disrepair, not to mention the hours and hours of labor paid to employees when a value has to be disputed (which happens often). Even though they should care it appears that, at least for now, nothing will change and these “BPO’s” will continue to cost asset managers more in the long term and less now.

Once again, “you get what you pay for.”  Now you know a BPO is a report prepared by a Real Estate Agent for the benefit of a bank or investor who owns or services a loan. If you are looking to purchase a short sale even though you have offered and the seller has accepted a particular price be prepared for the banks to order a “BPO”. That BPO is a toss up as to whether or not you will have a problem with the value and thus spend an extra month disputing a bad valuation. Buyers beware: if a short sale sounds too good to be true as far as the sales price, it probably is. Short sales eight times out of ten will value the property at market value or way above. So, if you go under contract on a short sale make sure your offer is either 1. a fair market value offer or 2. you are prepared to come up to a price that is equal to fair market value. I have seen banks agree with us once we perform a value dispute on a BPO, but beware as it can be a time consuming process to go through and it doesn’t always go our way.