If you’re like many investors, you may find yourself in a situation where you are going to sell properties with owner financing (and hold the note) OR you might buy an existing note with plans on collecting monthly payments. In either case, you are going to need a quality, reputable note servicing company to help you with things like accurate payment and payoff statements, 1098 reporting, and annual escrow disclosures just to name a few. It’s important to grasp a few simple, yet critical steps in your search because note servicing companies are not all the same.
One of the best ways to find a solid note servicing company is to get referrals. Talk to people with experience in holding or buying notes and just ask: “Who do you like?”; “Why do you like them?”; “What worked smoothly and what were some of the headaches?”. Listening to these answers can give you a lot of insight into what it might be like if you choose to work with that company.
Keep in mind that different states may use different forms and/or processes – or may simply call them something different – so you may want to consider a local or regional note servicer. This may benefit you in cutting out some of the confusion and simplifying the process. Another benefit is that a servicer from the state in which the lien is filed may be more familiar with regulations specific to that state. Compliance issues are a headache you don’t want to encounter and a state specialized servicer familiar with regulations specific to that state will help guide you so that you stay on the “right side of right”. There can be a benefit to the homeowner also. Some homeowners will only feel comfortable paying their note in-person, at a local note servicing office. You might find it hard to believe but even in this age of advanced technology, this often still holds true!
Now once you have a note servicer that you would like to consider further, the key again is to ask questions: “Does this company work with small and large investors?” If a company only likes to work with large investors you may not get the same level of service as their larger clients. “What does the experience with their online system look like?” Is it user-friendly? Can necessary information, documents and statements be easily accessed and retrieved? “What does the customer service experience look like?” If someone needs to speak with a “live” person, is someone readily available and accessible? Do you have to jump through hoops just to get someone on the phone? What is the typical turnaround time to handle routine requests or inquiries?
Finally, you may want to ask if the loan servicer is an investor themselves. If they are, you may find this to benefit you as well. For example, many times an investor has a better feel for the needs and preferences of a fellow investor. They may be able to identify and anticipate potential red flags that they see in your process or documentation that will prevent problems for you in the future; they might also be very knowledgeable in the right and wrong things to do along with the proper timeline on which to do them; or they may be in a better position to offer you sound advice at the time you need it most.
In closing, make sure you put some time and effort into choosing your note servicing company. Ask for referrals from experienced investors. Ask for referrals from the note servicing company. Most importantly, make sure to listen well as a potential note servicing company answers your questions. A few simple steps can help get you on the right path to building a quality and beneficial relationship that can pay off for years to come!
— Nick Disney