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Mortgage Provider Increases Home Sales

Freddie Mac, one of the largest residential mortgage providers in the U.S., hopes to become one of the largest home sellers in the nation with the help of HomeSteps, its outsourced teleservices program created to service the burgeoning interest in foreclosed homes.

Also known as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., Freddie Mac is a government-mandated public company in Washington, DC, designed to increase the supply of money that lenders, including banks, savings institutions and credit unions, make available to home buyers. Freddie Mac, which helps to finance one in six homes, buys mortgages from lenders and sells them to investors in the security market.

A percentage of the mortgages are foreclosed when homeowners can’t fulfill their financial obligations, leaving Freddie Mac’s Real Estate Services Division (RES) with the task of marketing and selling about 20,000 homes annually.

Before teaming with TeleService Resources (TSR), Fort Worth, TX, RES received 5,000 to 6,000 inbound calls each month from customers requesting lists of its foreclosed properties. The calls were fielded by Freddie Mac’s internal call center, which was designed to service calls from investors and mortgage sellers, not eager would-be home buyers.

“[The calls] would pretty much scatter throughout the company,” said John Czerw, vice president of RES. “While the internal call centers did manage them and sent out lists of properties, we weren’t set up to really ascertain the consumers’ specific needs or to capture information about them.”

RES realized that another teleservices unit focused solely on consumers would bolster sales of foreclosed properties. RES became convince after a related news article that ran nationwide generated 30,000 calls in a three-week period from individuals eager to receive a list of foreclosed properties in their area.

“That was the first real home run that we hit with getting the message out to the public. From that experience, we graduated to believing that we needed to come up with a brand for consumers that was more consumer friendly than the Freddie Mac name,” Czerw said. “And if we were going to be serious about this and really push it, then we had to have the support and the infrastructure that could handle a couple of hundred thousand phone calls a year.”

Last fall, RES created a customer friendly, home sales division, dubbed HomeSteps, and assigned TSR the task of fielding the calls and mailing fulfillment materials.

The HomeSteps agents attend a five-day training session and work with seasoned representatives before fielding customer inquiries. Each week, HomeSteps handles more than 3,000 calls–a figure that is growing more than 10 percent weekly due to media coverage and word of mouth. Although the number of phone calls is increasing overall, some days are busier than others.

“Mondays we are swamped,” said Susan Worofka, a client service manager at TSR. “People see houses and home listings [on the weekend] and call us come Monday,” not realizing that HomeSteps is open on Saturday and Sunday.

The agents provide callers with listings of foreclosed home in their area and also collect caller information that will prove vital for future marketing efforts.

“We are capturing data and seeing what consumers we are tapping into, what they are interested in and, over time, will craft programs based on our product and consumer interest,” Czerw said. He added that HomeSteps will eventually compare the names of buyers of foreclosed homes against the names of the callers in its database.

Czerw has yet to do a detailed analysis of revenue generated by the new program, but he said sales of foreclosed homes are topping last year’s numbers and have been rising since the program’s conception.

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