Is your 'foreclosure and short sale expert' a former cheerleader?

Most people in the real estate industry are in the midst of a tough run, but there's one segment of the market that's booming: foreclosure specialists.

The New York Timesreports that the 2009 Reomac conference in Palm Desert, CA attracted 3,000 real estate agents and property managers specializing in distressed properties. With foreclosures and short sales at record heights with many more in the pipeline, it's a great time to be working in distressed housing.

With the real estate market at large performing poorly -- 45% of February home sales were foreclosures or short sales -- many down on their luck real estate agents are looking to re-brand themselves as distressed property specialists. In his book Shift: How Top Agents Tackle Tough Times, Keller Williams Realty impresario Gary Keller to "master the market of the moment" and develop expertise and a market position in distressed properties.
The outcome of this can be somewhat comical: Real estate agents who specialized in helping consumers buy heinously overvalued luxury condominiums they couldn't afford with no-money down adjustable rate mortgages are now specializing in helping those same clients unload their properties at huge losses for themselves and the bank. And of course, these fine people collect a commission both times. Similarly, study at home courses designed to help struggling mortgage brokers capitalize on the foreclosure market are popping up. offers Realtors a course that will teach them how "list 10 foreclosures in 10 days."

For consumers, all of this can be confusing. The last thing you want is a real estate charlatan who rode the bubble for all it was worth and is now hoping to make a quick buck as a "foreclosure and short sale specialist" with a few online training classes. Whether you're looking for help getting out of your own real estate hell or you're looking to capitalize on someone else's by buying property in a distressed market, you want to find a professional who was specializing in distressed sales before it was popular. Look for a long track record and credentials earned years ago: You don't want someone getting on the job training with your life.
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