NY Times “Vacant, With Much to Maintain”

A recent article in the New York Times talks about maintaining vacant properties in Long Island.

Vacant, With Much to Maintain

Bay Shore

PAUL CARLOZZI, a quality control inspector for Safeguard Properties, a national property preservation company, walked the perimeter of a one-story brick and frame house, valued at $300,000 but now in default and vacant.

Mr. Carlozzi noted that a contractor had been hired to clear 48 cubic yards of debris from the yard and mow the three-foot-high grass. He said the door locks had already been changed.

But then he noticed that two windows were open. That was “not a good sign.”

“Contractor!” he yelled, opening the front door with a master key, warning any trespassers of his presence. “Anybody in here?”

The house had no running water or electricity, and it reeked of mildew. But that hadn’t deterred a “squatter” from using “a makeshift bed set up in one of the rooms,” said Mr. Carlozzi, a 30-year-old former marine.

Vandals had already taken copper piping and the furnace, “so there is minimal left to steal,” he added.

But he was having another contractor dispatched anyway, to “secure the property” by boarding up windows and installing security doors.

Hired by banks and other lending institutions on the Island, home preservation companies are racing to keep increasing numbers of foreclosed properties from sharing the fate of the Bay Shore house.

Robert Klein, chief executive of Safeguard, said that in September his 25 local inspectors and contractors did 8,500 default inspections in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and filled 330 maintenance orders for cutting grass and making repairs. The numbers represent a sliver of the company’s nationwide business during that time: 250,000 maintenance orders and 750,000 inspections to verify occupancy.

“We are seeing an increase in damages to properties,” Mr. Klein said. “We try to do everything we can to lessen the impact” to the neighborhood.

According to the research firm PropertyShark.com, foreclosures on the Island reached a two-year high in the third quarter of this year. There were 716 new auctions scheduled – 37 percent more than the number recorded over the same period last year.

One in every 1,398 homes in Long Island is scheduled for auction. Nassau County has one in every 932 homes, while in Suffolk the number is 2,422. The glut is most visible in the boarded-up homes in areas like Brookhaven, which has had 113 foreclosures, and in Hempstead village, where there have been 60.

During a recent week Mr. Carlozzi, who is based in Cleveland, inspected 52 area homes in various stages of the foreclosure process.

Such inspections include everything from driving past dwellings whose owners are 45 days late on payments to verify occupancy, to winterizing pipes and making monthly stops at homes that are vacant but haven’t yet gone reached the stage of a foreclosure auction.

Mr. Carlozzi says he also meets with contractors to repair homes repossessed by banks, so they can be put back on the market.

Mr. Carlozzi said that some distressed homeowners “sweep the floors” when they leave, while others harbor resentment at the downturn in their lives and “may take out their aggression on the property.” Thus cabinetry, appliances and plumbing may have been ripped out before he arrives, he said – though it is sometimes hard to determine whether the damage was done by homeowners or vandals.

Sometimes, the abandoned homes are used for parties or prostitution, he added.

Just down the block from the house with the squatter, Mr. Carlozzi inspected a boarded-up new home with nearly 4,000 square feet of space and balconies on three levels. An outside spigot had been ripped out and baseboard heaters were missing.

Mark Palladini, an associate broker who specializes in foreclosed properties with Re/Max Best in West Babylon, is trying to sell that bank-owned property for $475,000. Its builder, caught between the crumbling real estate market and the mortgage crisis, lost the house and a similar one next door to the bank, he said.

According to Mr. Palladini, “Copper around here is the new gold.” Vandals chopping out copper pipes and wiring “leave $75,000 worth of damage at times.”

Once eager for a bargain, speculators have been reluctant to buy foreclosed houses at auction, said Bill Staniford, chief executive of PropertyShark. Nearly 90 percent of the 336 foreclosed Nassau County properties that went to auction went back to the bank that made the original loan, leaving a growing pool of vacant and unsold properties that the banks must try to resell and, in the meantime, pay preservation companies to maintain.

Safeguard contractors fix broken stairs and leaky roofs, replace stolen fixtures and do “maid service,” dusting out cobwebs, scrubbing toilets and countertops to get the homes “into marketable condition.” They also remove belongings that occupants have left behind.

“We want to put families back in these properties,” Mr. Carlozzi said. “We aren’t looking for investors; we want homeowners.”

Todd Yovino, the owner-broker of Island Advantage, takes care of hundreds of foreclosed properties that his Huntington-based realty company handles in the metropolitan area. His firm does weekly status reports on delinquencies and helps evicted occupants with relocation.

“We are picking up the Pennysavers” off the driveway, “so the neighbor next door who is paying his mortgage and has a vested interest doesn’t need to look at an eyesore,” he said.

Boarded-up homes are a “calling card for the vandals,” Mr. Yovino said, adding that instead, he tries to keep lawns neat, put blinds in the windows and leave lights on timers.

“As soon as you board them,” he said, “you are taking off 10 to 15 percent of the value.”

Mr. Carlozzi likened his job to that of “a mortician, waiting on the tragedy of another to make a living.”

At an abandoned high ranch in Bay Shore, a pool table had been left in the living room, a pile of clothes in the laundry room, a box of crayons and a computer on a desk. There were glasses on the kitchen counter and rolls of Christmas wrapping paper in the closet.

It seemed as if “it’s all been left in a hurry,” Mr. Carlozzi said.



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.


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.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers 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.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.