Sean O’Toole, the founder and chief executive officer of ForeclosureRadar.com, will speak at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs Aug. 5-7.
ForeclosureRadar.com helps real estate professionals and investors find and evaluate distressed and real estate owned (REO) properties in California, tracking homes through all stages of the foreclosure process, including preforeclosure, auction and REO.
The company’s FLX service allows real estate brokers and agents to add search capability for properties ForeclosureRadar.com is tracking to their own Web sites.
ForeclosureRadar also offers an online community, ForeclosureTruth.com, where consumers can find Realtors specializing in foreclosures, investors can source service providers, and lenders can connect with brokers.
ForeclosureRadar.com was a finalist for the 2008 Inman Innovator Awards in the "Web Service" category.
In responding to questions posed by Inman News, O’Toole talks about nearly losing his first home to foreclosure, and reveals plans to expand ForeclosureRadar.com’s coverage area into markets outside of California.
What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2009?
I see the return of affordability completing its course in 2009. The hardest-hit markets have likely already corrected with perhaps a few now over-correcting. The markets that have remained strong will likely now crack under rising unemployment. These corrections, while certainly painful, will bring affordability back to sustainable levels. Though it will likely still take a couple of years to deal with the trillions in negative equity created during the bubble, the return of affordability will ultimately create a stable, sustainable housing market — an outcome that is in everyone’s best interest.
What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?
The agents and brokers that I see succeeding in this market make their own luck. A successful broker was having difficulty finding a property for a client. Her offers were being rejected in favor of cash offers from investors. So instead, she used our software to find a preforeclosure with only one loan that met her client’s requirements, listed it, and sold it to her client. A little extra work, but she received both sides of the commission and got the deal done.
What sparked the idea to start your company?
After starting software companies for more than 15 years, I took a break and started buying foreclosures. I bought more than 150 properties at foreclosure auctions and along the way I developed my own foreclosure software and data. In 2006 it became clear that professional Realtors and investors would need better tools and data than those provided by foreclosure list and media companies.
What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?
Finding great help — people who are talented, enjoyable to spend time with, and who still have the will to do what it takes to get a start up off the ground. …CONTINUED
What new features are in the pipeline? Can you share any future plans, goals?
With the great success we’ve had in California, it’s now clearly time for us to begin expanding into additional markets.
What lesson did you learn in the last year?
The last year reminded me more than ever that crisis creates opportunity. Too many people get lost in the crisis rather than recognizing and seizing the opportunities it creates.
What would your second career choice be and why?
No second choices — having one requires the assumption you’ll fail to achieve your first choice.
What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?
Negative equity is the No. 1 problem in real estate today. Looking at the (Federal Reserve) flow of funds data, it is clear that we need to effectively wipe out $3 trillion to 4 trillion in mortgage debt to return to a healthy housing market. Fixing that is not a simple prescription, but generally I believe that the burden for this correction should be shared such that no one either has to bear the full brunt or gets a free pass.
What do you most enjoy about working in the real estate industry?
I like the variety and depth of opportunity it offers. There are so many unfulfilled or half-met needs in this industry, in everything from little tiny niches, to overall vision.
Tell us something we don’t already know about you…
I purchased my first home when I was just 18, and nearly lost it to foreclosure when the market tanked, and my income dropped after being swindled by a partner in my first software company. Fortunately I was referred to a great local Realtor who helped me get a short sale done.
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