There's a certain irony to the reason that Catie Hughes, a housing expert, is out of a job. For much of her career, she has managed properties that have been foreclosed, and that's what she did at Keystone Asset Management in Colmar until she was laid off in January.
You'd think there would be a lot of work for someone like Hughes, given the economic times, but you have to factor in the politics. And right now, banks are holding back on foreclosures, even though many, many mortgages are in arrears. Maybe they don't want the bad publicity. Maybe they've been stopped from acting, as they were for awhile in Philadelphia. Maybe they don't want to show the bad results on their books. Whatever the reason, they are slowing up on the foreclosures.
"The flow of foreclosures is not big enough" Hughes said, unwilling to speculate on why. "If I wanted to move to Dallas, or to San Diego, I could get a job easily in this business. There are a lot of REO shops there."
REO stands for "real-estate owned." When a house goes into foreclosure, it becomes the property of the bank and the bank needs to manage it. "If it is empty, you need to make sure it is secure," Hughes said. "If the property is vacant, it can be an eyesore in the community. You want to get in there and protect it."
Sometimes the banks manage the property themselves. Other times they hire companies to do it. Hughes has worked in both scenarios. In her last two jobs, she managed the liquidation of $8 million to $10 million in foreclosed real estate annually.
"You are looking to sell the property for the highest value and as quickly as possible," she said. "Banks don't want to own homes."
"It's very unfortunate and sad when people have to leave their home," she said.
Hughes' real estate background is coming in handy in her personal life. She is president of her condominium association. "I'm learning so much," she said. "I'm learning landscaping." For example, she now knows it's not a good idea to plant sycamore trees near buildings. Their huge leaves block the gutters and contribute to roof leaks.
Even though most of Hughes' career has been based on real estate, she also loves to cook. When Hurricane Irene raged through the area, she used the time to make a perfect, perfect veal demi-glace, calling up her two adult chef sons to brag. "When you get it right, it's a jewel," she said. She's proud of her coffee, which is a mixture of Louisiana chicory with another regular blend.
One year, she took a break from REO and other real estate work to work as a cooking coach at Wegman's supermarket in Warrington. She coached customers on cooking techniques including braising and poaching. Her job was to help sell whatever were the featured foods for the week. "I sold so much jasmine rice," she joked. "I created a little following of people who wanted to learn to cook."
Sometimes she thinks about being a personal chef, but in the meantime, she'd like to be in sales, selling a product she could support wholeheartedly. She also knows she'd be an asset to any real estate organization. "I'd be a really good person to work with people who want to save their homes. I know the business."
Update: As of December, 2011, Hughes has a fulltime contract job.
- Catie Hughes
- Hometown: Holland
- Profession: Asset manager, REO specialist, cooking coach
- Experience: Managed the liquidation of $8 million to $10 million in foreclosed real estate annually. Administered contracts. Sold real estate and educational software. Managed sales and marketing for a 150-unit development. Served as a supermarket cooking coach.
- Education: Bucks County Community College, Newtown, associate's degree in arts, majoring in business administration.
- E-mail address: email@example.com
- Catie Hughes' resume
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Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.