Jacksonville Business Journal’s staff writer, Christian Conte, reports that a local business owner has an invention for our times: a monitor for foreclosed homes and other vacant properties that will do the job for a fraction of the cost of personal monitoring.
Rich Rollins’ worldwide patent-protected REO Sentinel is a battery-powered device about the size of a smoke detector that can detect water leaks, gas leaks, power outages and takes motion-triggered photographs when a property is entered. The idea is to stop property damage by accident, neglect or by vandals, homeless squatters, gang activity and illicit drug labs. It will be marketed and sold nationwide by a subsidiary of Rollins’ Infusion Technologies, he said.
The REO Sentinel has the potential to save property holders thousands of dollars in damages as well as time and money from having someone monitor the property in person, Rollins said. The device can be monitored on the Internet.
“It’s big for us and it’s big for Jacksonville,” Rollins said.
Designed specifically for residential properties, Rollins said he got the idea for the device when he was approached two years ago by a property inspection and preservation company to develop the device.
Watson Realty Corp. Vice President and Broker Manager Paula Silberberg said that while she would still monitor real-estate-owned, or lender-owned, properties in person, a device such as the REO Sentinel has the potential to help slow a growing problem in the industry.
“I think it’s a very interesting product,” Silberberg said.
Rollins, a resident of Jacksonville since 1996, has invented several products and services for the real estate and mortgage industries, including a bill presentation and payment solution that eventually sold to Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF). Rollins also owns National Quick Sale, a Web-based company that offers resources to reduce short-sale processing time from 60 days to within a week to 10 days.
When the pilot program for the REO Sentinel is complete, Rollins said he’ll start selling the service, and already has a list of consumers waiting to buy it. He expects to earn $100 million or more in the next 12 months and to add 20 employees to his 90-person staff in Jacksonville and other cities around the nation.
Consumers will be able to lease the REO Sentinel for a $125 installation fee and a monitoring fee of $25 to $39 per month. Rollins expects to sell the service for use in about one-quarter of the estimated 1 million real-estate-owned properties on the market in the United States. The device is removable and can be relocated to different homes.
Another version of the product, OnGuard Sentinel, will be sold to homeowners for use at vacation or second homes. A third version will be sold to construction companies for use at construction sites. Those two products will likely be released later this year or early next year.
In the meantime, Rollins said he is also negotiating with Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) for a second pilot program for the REO Sentinel and is still refining the device itself so that services like mold detection can be added to what is monitored.
Real estate analyst Ray Rodriguez said there is a growing interest in monitoring real-estate-owned properties, but noted that for many companies, investing in new technologies is not a top priority right now.
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