Sean and Jude Rasmus have carved out a slice of REO business that puts them at the top of this year’s sales team transaction-sides list. The husband-and-wife team provides a full range of REO services from valuation to property maintenance and sales. The team is affiliated with RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, and their core business is in the metro Atlanta area, where they have about 240 properties on the market. But client demand has pushed the team into the national REO arena, managing the portfolios of such clients as Bank of America and CitiFinancial.
The secret of their success: Sean and Jude serve as the perfect complements to one another. Sean is the man in the field, valuing and overseeing properties. Jude takes charge in the office, overseeing the sales, administrative, and finance staff. Sean is a master at his task list. Jude’s good at keeping a lot of balls in the air and putting out fires. Ironically, neither is enamored of selling, which helps explain the evolution of their business into sales team-hood.
Biggest challenges of running an REO business: Keeping pace with changes in the banking industry. “Our clients are constantly being bought out,” says Jude. “If the new client’s management style is different—say the new owner decides to build an in-house real estate department rather than outsource—we may lose that client.”
About a year ago, the Rasmuses brought on a business development specialist, who tracks movement in the REO business. “He also networks to keep our name out in the corporate market,” says Jude, “so if a change of command happens, we’re prepared to compete for or keep the business.”
Where to next: Ties with high-level investors have enabled the Rasmuses to begin putting together package deals. For example, they may approach a bank client that has 50 or 60 REO properties and offer to put the client together with an investor who’ll take the entire portfolio off the bank’s hands.
Marketing tool they can’t live without: The Internet. The team has built a proprietary REO system using Microsoft’s SQL Server. Clients have access to the system via an extranet, enabling them to log on to submit orders for broker price opinions or check the status of a file, for example. “That way, we maximize what we can accomplish with every interaction,” says Jude.
Advice on starting or organizing a team: The Rasmuses have relied on personal experience and word-of-mouth in their hiring decisions. For example, they’ve recruited great management staff from their clients. They also recommend tapping industry colleagues, such as attorneys, accountants, and other real estate practitioners.
How they motivate assistants: “We pay at a higher rate than industry standard. That creates loyalty,” Jude says. “Our staff’s bonuses are determined by their file load. They know they’ll benefit from hard work.”
Their sales style: Anti-sales. “Our clients know our reputation in the REO business, so we don’t have to sell them on our company,” says Jude. “Our job is to tell the bank what we feel a property’s worth. Then it’s up to the bank to decide list price.”
The team has to adapt to different clients’ pricing philosophies. “With most clients, the goal is to have the property gone in 90 to 120 days,” says Jude, “but if the client wants a price that will take 300 market days, then we’ll market it for 300 days.”
How they achieve life balance: The couple have two children, 3 and 6, so they’ve put 80-hour work weeks behind them. “We have loyal, solid management people behind us,” Jude says. “If we didn’t have managers we could trust with the business when we’re not there, we wouldn’t have balance.”
Their career advice to you: Find a mentor. “Our mentor, a RE/MAX salesperson, didn’t specialize in REO,” says Jude, “but he taught us to set ourselves apart, to develop a niche.” That’s advice the Rasmuses have taken to heart.
Package deal: Sean and Jude Rasmus, with staff, topped our team list even though selling is their least favorite part of the business.