Golden Feather Realty Services Inc. was hired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reduce the agency's inventory of homes, save taxpayer money and reap higher sales prices.
After more than a year in Baltimore, it apparently has done the job, according to its annual report.
The company reported that in the federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30 it sold 1,443 homes, beating its contractual HUD goal by 10 sales.
In contrast, the housing agency sold 993 homes in fiscal 1996 and 895 in fiscal 1995, according to HUD records.
Golden Feather also estimated that it saved the government $3.1 million. That savings was based on cutting the average days a home is on the market before being sold, from 281 in 1996 to 205 in 1997. HUD estimates it costs $28.74 a day to hold a property.
James Kelly, consumer public affairs officer in HUD's Baltimore office, said the agency has been "satisfied" with Golden Feather's initial results.
A statistical comparison between HUD's sales and Golden Feather's is still being compiled, Kelly said.
"They're doing a good job, and the truth is that their results are probably better than ours were -- and I hate to have to admit that," Kelly said. "The sales prices have gone up and they have been selling properties faster than we were."
The nationwide firm, based in San Antonio, obtained similar results in pilot programs in New Orleans and Sacramento, Calif.
The Baltimore office handles all of HUD's home sales in Maryland except for those in Prince George's County.
Yet, the year wasn't without some problems.
An auction of 144 homes in July had to be rescheduled when Golden Feather -- after getting permission from the Baltimore HUD office -- informed bidders that it would not accept FHA financing.
Those bidders were told they would have to obtain conventional or private financing for a mortgage. That decision later was reversed by officials in Washington.
But Golden Feather managed to sell 209 of 231 homes in separate auctions at an average price of $59,901, according to its annual report.
In 1996, HUD tried to sell 210 homes at two well-publicized auctions. Those auctions resulted in 155 sales at an average price of $51,2499.
Golden Feather also reported that it reduced from 120 to 54 the number of "aged homes" in the local HUD inventory. An aged home is one that has been vacant and abandoned for more than a year.
Educating real estate agents about how to bid successfully for HUD homes was the key to Golden Feather's success, said Shelagh N. Davidson, manager of Golden Feather's Baltimore office and a vice president.
"We've worked hard in our first year to make sure that more Realtors are aware of what we do and how we operate," Davidson said.
"We've explained to them the procedures, which have to be followed exactly and precisely, and how to do that."
Unlike traditional home sales, HUD homes are sold by competitive bidding, with each participant limited to a single bid.
The highest qualifying bid wins, but often bids are disqualified because the applicant fails to correctly do the paperwork or follow procedures, Davidson said.
During its first year, Golden Feather trained more than 1,000 real estate agents in the bidding process. Weekly sessions were held at its North Calvert Street office as well at its offices throughout the state.
The training paid off with better-educated bidders, more sales and higher net sales prices, Davidson said.
"Getting more bids makes it more competitive and that means a better market," she added.
Because Golden Feather is a real estate firm, "They understand the culture of real estate and they are around them [real estate agents] more than we were," said Kelly, the HUD spokesman.
Before Golden Feather, most of the contact with the HUD office was initiated by the real estate agent, according to Kelly. Golden Feather has been "much more proactive in getting out there," Kelly said.
Pub Date: 2/08/98