Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. In addition to writing print and online articles, Erica oversees the magazine's Broker to Broker content, co-manages the 30 Under 30 program, and manages the YPN Lounge. Connect with her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a Difference, One Short Sale at a Time
With a passion for working with underwater home owners, Marge Peck has developed an ironclad, paperless transaction system that's helped her reach a 90-95 percent short sale success rate.
October 1, 2012
Marge Peck’s clients call her “the Erin Brockovich of short sales.” It’s no wonder — she knows how to talk to banks and protect her clients’ best interests. She also knows that training other real estate professionals to do what she does is the best way to help the home owners of her Arizona market. Of her 198 current listings, 187 (or 95 percent) are short sales, and 166 of those are pending approval. And she does it all while rockin’ her signature brightly colored outfits adorned with Swarovski crystals.
“I’m working with home owners who put 20 percent down and now they’re upside down. No one in the media talks about the down payments these people have lost. It’s heart wrenching,” she said. “At our office we cry. When we lose lender approval, we cry. It’s personal. We feel we’re the lifeboat and we don’t pass anybody by.”
Peck, 63, a self-proclaimed sun lover, people lover, and real estate lover, moved to Arizona from Chicago in 1978. She started working at a bank, but quickly earned her real estate license. Her 30-plus years in real estate have been not only her profession but also her passion in life, she said.
When short sales first appeared on her radar in 2006, she started with 10 to 15 listings and one receptionist. Today, she is an associate broker and leads a nine-member short sale team at Discover Arizona Real Estate in Mesa, Ariz. She and her husband Mike, who works as the designated broker, started the company six years ago.
“We didn’t start our short sale team because there was great money in it. … We did it because it’s the best way to help a home owner avoid foreclosure,” said Peck, e-PRO®, SFR.
The key to her success is careful documentation of every piece of paper, every record, and every lender interaction. Peck credits her experience in banking, along with an extremely well-organized, paperless transaction management system based heavily in the cloud, for helping her stay ahead of the curve.
Peck, keenly aware of the dangers of identity theft, pays special attention to the security and privacy of her clients’ documents. She and her husband have taken numerous precautions to safeguard their clients’ data, including investment in portable scanners (without internal memory), iron key password-protected flash drives, and a secured digital signature application on tablets. They scan and secure clients’ financial documents directly from the clients’ home. They’ve dubbed their method “a real estate agent’s office on wheels,” and every member of their team brings everything needed to make the collection of documents secure on-the-go.
“A home owner has enough stress over the short sale that they certainly don’t need to worry about identity theft,” said Peck, who has a strict “no client documents in the office” policy. “I couldn’t imagine leaving their tax records in a car somewhere.”
The Peck team speaks to every lender with respect and the goal of educating them on their market. They use a template for typing up all their clients’ documents so anyone at the bank can read them. Her team also records every conversation they have with lenders and types notes into the system, which the home owner can access. And every phone interaction is backed up with a .wav file and kept in an encrypted, secure location.
“We’ve done our homework to find out what you need in terms of security and what you need to be doing when you’re talking with lenders,” Peck said. “But above all, we have passion. We have a purpose and it’s to help the home owners who are so misunderstood.”
Hoping to reach even more troubled home owners, Peck and her husband started another company, M&M Seminars, and created the Certified Short Sale Property Expert Course. Now the Pecks are teaching hundreds of other real estate professionals how to handle short sale transactions in the paperless, secure process they use themselves.
The one-day, nine-hour, $180 course covers the listing presentation, home owner options, creditable verbiage for contracts, legal liability, and technology – including what equipment and software to buy to be paperless and how technology can fall into wrong hands. They also have an attorney to discuss Arizona real estate and privacy laws.
“I have so much passion for teaching this class,” said Peck. “We want to help as many home owners as we can, even if it means training an army.”
Most recently, Peck has partnered with the state of Arizona’s Housing Department and Foreclosure Prevention Task Force to appear in a series of workshops — called CHOICES for Homeowners — to help home owners learn about their options.
“It’s painful to see what home owners are going through, but I believe in the American dream. I love what I’m doing. There’s more gratitude from my clients than I’ve seen in my entire career,” she said. “My dream to see home owners who lost everything get equity in their homes again before I retire.”