This week Bruce is joined by Sean O’Toole. Sean is president and founder of ForeclosureRadar. He has successfully purchased and flipped over 150 commercial and residential properties in foreclosure. He has leveraged the software industry for 15 years to make a trustee sale business.
The Mission of ForeclosureRadar is “to bring transparency, efficiency and honesty to the foreclosure market place.” Trustee sales have a notorious reputation. Sean believes they are generally honest, but there are always a few bad apples. The Norris Group bids on trustee sales every day, and there are some people accused of bid rigging. However, it would be difficult to rig a bid in Riverside because there are often 50 people bidding at a time.
The foreclosure process has not changed since the Great Depression. Most market places for goods and services have gone online. Online bidding is much more efficient than requiring investors to stand outside the court steps for property sales.
Sean is uncertain of whether or not a national foreclosure law may be implemented in the future. Because we are a republic, each state has its own rights, and many of those rights involved property. Sean believes a national foreclosure law may not be helpful.
Sean was recently elected one of the top 100 most influential real estate leaders, and Bruce feels his election was well deserved.
Sean bought most of his trustee properties from 2002 to 2005. He bought a few properties in 2006, but he eventually sold everything that same year because he thought the bubble was about to burst. When Sean sold his properties, he noticed the affordability levels were unsustainable, many buyers were unfit for purchasing property, and builders were discounting. People would pay $370,000 for a house, with no money down, and poor credit. Later that house would be selling for $350,000 with a swimming pool. Its not likely that the buyer, who thought property values would continue to increase, is going to keep making his payments.
Sean has met multiple investors who have told him that Bruce Norris’ predictions helped them leave the market before the bubble burst. Sean wishes he had known Bruce Norris during the bubble, because it was tough for him to leave the market while his partners were disagreeing with him.
Sean bought his first house when he was 18. Later, Sean’s father persuaded Sean to run a business for him in Hawaii. The business was a homes and land magazine. Later, Hawaii’s real estate market fell severely, and it became hard to sell real estate magazines during that time. Also, Sean’s house in his home town lost a lot of value, and he had to perform a short sale.
An event in another country can have an impact on our shores. The debt bubble in Japan had a strong impact on Hawaii’s market.
Sean once found a house that looked really nice on the outside and it had been boarded up. This lead Sean to believe that the inside was probably also well kept, so he bought the house. Unfortunately, Sean discovered the neighbors had been keeping the house clean, but they had also been using the inside of the house as a trash dump to avoid paying their trash bills. The house had 8 feet of trash and 30 dead animals. When Sean attempted to hire people to take the trash out, they came out of the house throwing up and quit.
Bruce does not believe you can have the kind of website that helps people in the business unless you have experienced the business for yourself. Sean has experienced the problems that come with being in this business, which is why he has been able to build such a helpful website. Sean believes that if half the people in Silicon Valley were willing to experience the problems they are trying to fix, then we would be building much better solutions for many problems.
When Sean first began investing in trustee sales, he had to watch the notice of trustee sales coming through the county records and the newspaper. The records would only tell you what is scheduled for the first time. You would go to the trustee sales and hear the auctioneer mentioning many other properties that were not in the records, because they were being postponed. It took months to compile a complete database of when certain sales were scheduled. This gave Sean a significant disadvantage over other buyers who had been in the business longer. There were some properties that you could get information on through calling, but for most of the properties you had to stand at the court steps.
Sean’s website has leveled the playing field, and it has hastened the time it takes to go from being a novice to being fully functional. Sean believes ForeclosureRadar has significantly helped the data aspect of foreclosure sales. However, there are still other inefficiencies, such as being required to show up with cash, and not having title insurance. As the market becomes more efficient, the discounts will become smaller, and that will decrease profitability.
“Get Rich Quick” gurus and disreputable list peddlers have thrived on the industry’s darkness, and Bruce believes ForeclosureRadar has brought transparency and understandability to the business. If you are looking to get rich quick, you should probably seek another venue, but you can still make a great living in the foreclosure business. Sean does not believe in “get rich quick” ideas.
2007 was an awful year to be in the foreclosure business, because the banks were not discounting anything. During that time, he started focusing more on his software business.
Sean is always anxious after wining a foreclosure bid, because he worries that his competitors may know something he doesn’t. Bruce feels most anxious when he is the only bidder on a property. In Southern California, no one will come to your rescue if you are making a mistake. Sean once stopped a man from purchasing a second which would have resulted in a minimum $150,000 loss. After stopping the man, the other investors were furious with Sean, because they were hoping the man would destroy his ability to compete against them. Bruce understands the desire to beat out the competition, but he is glad that he was able to help someone else in a similar situation. Bruce once attempted to test the kindness of his competition by purposely qualifying for a bad sale. Once he had qualified, 4 other investors decided to qualify with him, but no one made a bid. After the foreclosure sales ended, one of the competing investors asked Bruce, “Why did you do that?” Bruce responded, “I wanted to see if you would tell me it was a second.” What the 4 investors did was worse than just letting Bruce bid on the property. The reason why they qualified for the property along side him was because they wanted to make him feel comfortable about making a bad choice. Sean has even seen an investor bid an inexperienced investor up on a bad deal in an attempt to increase the inexperienced investor’s losses.
In Sean’s hometown, he has 4 times as many properties in foreclosure as he has listed for sale. If you want to claim to be a market expert, you have to be able to understand the foreclosures in your area.
Sean’s website is www.foreclosureradar.com
We will be doing a second interview with Sean next week.
For more information about The Norris Group’s California hard money loans or our California Trust Deed investments, visit the website or call our office at 951-780-5856 for more information. For upcoming California real estate investor training and events, visit The Norris Group website and our California investor calendar. You’ll also find our award-winning real estate radio show on KTIE 590am at 6pm on Saturdays or you can listen to over 170 podcasts in our free investor radio archive.
Tags: affordability, bidding, bruce norris, bubble, commercial, credit, foreclosure, Foreclosure Radar, ForeclosureRadar, investor, properties, property, residential, SEAN OTOOLE, transperancy, trustee