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Residential Department: From the Editor: May 2008


From the Editor

The 2,000-square-foot home on Briarwood Court was a good seven blocks from the nearest bus stop. That is, until the bank took the home. And the bus stopped at its door.

"My philosophy is to show investors the worst house in the best neighborhood — that's the one they should buy," says Rodney Townsend, whose company has led about eight guided tours of foreclosed-upon homes near Southfield, Mich., a Detroit suburb, since spring 2007. "We take them around, show them the ins and outs and educate them on buying a foreclosure."

Bus tours of foreclosed-upon homes have gained national attention despite its slightly morbid concept, conjuring images of Michael Brown in New Orleans, Chernobyl refugees in Pripyat and Michael Moore in Flint, Mich. But as a marketing tool, it's working — with tours sprouting up from Washington, D.C., to Duluth, Minn., to Stockton, Calif., where loan officer Cesar Dias' has offered weekly tours since September.

"We figured we needed to do something different to adjust to the market," says Dias, whose company also has 15 tour "alliance partners" in San Diego, Dallas and other cities. "Our marketing needed to catch people's eyes and be bold— not like the typical old open-house way or with fliers."

And why not, considering the state of traditional marketing venues amid the mortgage meltdown? Consider the National Association of Mortgage Brokers’ annual June trade show, which had 55 registered exhibitors at press time compared to more than 220 for June 2007's expo. Even the celebrity-spokesperson circuit has mined the dredges, with one Florida broker turning to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin — “He’s my brother-in-law!” Garlin yelps in the brokerage's commercial .

For many mortgage brokers, branching out used to mean getting a license for selling real estate. Today, they could be adding commercial driver's licenses — no matter which way the market turns.

"In the next two years, I expect us to have 50 tours in 50 cities," Townsend says. "It's a business that's really growing on its own."


Tony Stasiek was an editor at Scotsman Guide. For questions on this article, call (800) 297-6061 or e-mail

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