Boom times for ‘trash-outs,’ in Oregon and elsewhere Portland Oregonian

Safeguard Properties was mentioned in an article in the Portland Oregonian about the expanding sales of “trash-outs” and property preservation services.

Boom times for ‘trash-outs,’ in Oregon and elsewhere

by Richard Read, The Oregonian

Friday February 27, 2009, 10:40 PM

Federico “Fred” Caprotta breaks into houses for a living, removes the contents and fixes up the homes for sale.

He marvels that neighbors hardly ever call the cops. In fact, what Caprotta does — on behalf of big-name banks — is quite legal.

Caprotta is a former real estate broker who bailed out of property sales when the market and profits collapsed. For nine months, seven days a week, he has supervised “trash-outs” in a trade more delicately known as property preservation.

Business is booming in the low-profile industry as millions of U.S. homeowners enter foreclosure. One of the biggest players, Safeguard Properties, services 1 million properties a month, checking on them, repairing them, mowing lawns and cleaning them for Realtors to show. The Cleveland company’s sales, which it won’t disclose, have jumped more than 30 percent in a year.

Caprotta, 50, invested $70,000 with a partner in his Portland venture, Global Property Preservation. He thought it could be lucrative. But trucks break down. Pay comes late or not at all. Expenses rise. For all his effort, he’s not making money.

Still, Caprotta prides himself on compassion for people losing their homes. After all, he’s losing his own.

“My property that I bought and remodeled is going up in auction … due to foreclosure,” Caprotta says. “I could get all bummed out and cry.

“But whether I have property or no property, or money or no money, I’m still me.”

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Foreclosures have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. They accounted for 45 percent of all residential real estate transactions during the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Florida and Southern California were the hot spots. But in January, Oregon had the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the country.

When lenders seize houses, people suffer, whether they were living beyond their means, lost their jobs or suffered some other calamity.

Trash-out contractors defend their work. They say that rather than profiting off misfortune, they fix up properties and preserve values of neighboring homes.

Banks — or, more likely, middlemen — pay anywhere from $1,200 to $1,600 for a trash-out, yet amounts vary widely depending on conditions of a house.

Windol Cador, of Duke Development in Portland, once did new construction but got into property preservation seven years ago. He has 10 guys in two crews.

Sometimes they spend five days working on one house. “We want the neighbors to be happy,” Cador says.

Cador’s crews put aside items of value for previous owners. “You find cool things,” he says. “We recently found a whole printing press in a garage. One guy had a comic-book collection that he probably spent years collecting.”

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Some trash-out guys say they make real money.

Frank Patrick is a broker who began offering services for real estate-owned, or REO, properties five years ago. Patrick, a Kansas City, Mo., native, founded REO ResQ, specializing in bank-owned foreclosed properties. He built the company into a franchise now moving into 36 states.

Patrick, 41, moved to Phoenix when he saw Arizona foreclosures explode, leaving his brother, Scott, to run things in Missouri. “If I’d had another brother,” Patrick says, “I would have sent him to California and Florida.”

REO ResQ has trained more than 100 contractors nationwide. “The average preservation job is around $1,350, and there’s going to be a couple million of ’em this year,” Patrick says.

He expects a backlog of foreclosures left from moratoriums and slow-moving bank mergers to hit the market this summer.

“All at once the yards won’t be mowed and the pools will be green,” Patrick says. “In Kansas City in the summer, we mow 370 yards. This year we’ll probably go to 700.”

Everything is documented. “An average job would take us about four hours and result in about 250 photographs,” he says, “so we have proof.”

As unemployment climbs, Patrick gets more applications. In Phoenix last September he ran a Craigslist ad for a $10-an-hour job outside in the heat and got 1,170 applicants. “I had people offering to work for free for a week, just to prove themselves,” Patrick says.

Patrick heads the American Society of REO Specialists, which has grown to about 700 members since starting last June. He says the industry is too fractured to estimate total revenues. He expects business to continue apace for five or six years as subprime loans, adjustable-rate mortgages and rising unemployment unleash successive waves of foreclosures.

“We wish we were all back in the heyday of the new-construction boom,” Patrick says, “but that’s not the reality.”

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Those who walk into foreclosed homes describe entering a “Twilight Zone.”

Portland-area appraiser Sara Goodwin recalls walking through an abandoned house. “It was as if the occupants were abducted rather than left of their own volition.

“I walked into a fully furnished house … dishes in the sink, pictures on the walls, everything. The only thing that would make me suspect abandonment was the foul smell of stale water in the plumbing.”

Sometimes it’s just the opposite. A house is missing fixtures and appliances. Walls, banisters, counters and cabinets are bashed and scarred.

The culprit could be an angry former owner or an unpaid subcontractor who backed a truck into the garage and took the appliances, says Don McCredie, a Portland-area Realtor specializing in foreclosed properties.

“The subs say, ‘I’m going to go get my stuff,'” McCredie says. “They’re mad at the builder and they take it out on the property.”

Jeff Andrade, owner of Beaverton’s Frontline Resources, will never forget a trash-out job where he walked into an upstairs bedroom and found a vagrant sleeping. “I don’t know who was more scared,” Andrade says, “him or me.”

Airika Waible, a West One Properties broker, hates stepping into short-sale houses — those where a house is sold for less than the bank is owed.

“They have, like, little kids’ rooms, and the kids’ rooms are decorated,” Waible says. “They have a real life there, living there until it sells. Their little shoes are there, and their backpacks and their clothes.”

Waible, who lives in a Wilsonville neighborhood, knows how it feels. She and her husband and two children lived in a Street of Dreams house with acreage.

“It got foreclosed on,” she says. “And, by the way, we left everything in it.”

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Fred Caprotta, the trash-out entrepreneur facing his own foreclosure, sees the smashed-up houses, too, along with some in showroom condition. He finds fleas, garbage and mummified pets, abandoned by owners to die.

“It’s really sick how some people live,” Caprotta says.

Departing owners don’t realize, he says, that when they shatter marble counters and break every oak spindle on a staircase, the carnage comes back to haunt them. When a bank writes off a loss on a loan, part of the loss may count as income for the borrower. The greater the loss, the more taxes the borrower must pay on that income.

Caprotta, an Argentine who moved to California as a youngster, has worked on Canadian oil rigs and pipelines, hitchhiked twice to Alaska and ridden his motorcycle there in the dead of winter.

He served in the Argentine military during the Falklands war. He addresses his crews in Spanish and his clients in English.

Caprotta says his business partner has quit. The father of three plugs away at a computer in a tired-looking office dotted with space heaters and overflowing trash containers.

Crew members botch jobs. Bank agents find ways not to pay. House occupants yell at him. “I feel for them,” he says.

Caprotta sees the foreclosure crisis as a giant game of musical chairs in which some people got caught without chairs. No one cried when the housing market soared, he says. Yet when excesses bring tragedy, he says, everyone blames someone else.

Caprotta says neither the government nor trillions of dollars will fix the situation. Instead, he says, it will take a “shift in consciousness … where we put the hopes and safety of all of us ahead of the individual.”

“Sometimes,” he says, “that involves some personal sacrifice for the greater good of all.”

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for oversight of the Control, Quality Assurance, Accounting and Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.