If you are like almost every Real Estate Agent I know, you are looking for all the additional income you can get. If that's the case, take it from me, it can happen with BPOs.
What's a BPO and why are they important to know about? BPO stands for Broker Price Opinion and that is exactly what they are; an opinion about the actual market value of a property. A financial institution may require a BPO for one of several reasons ranging from verifying info for homeowner's insurance to foreclosure.
The process of completing a BPO is very similar to a competitive market analysis of a home you are listing or buying. Most BPO Companies will require you to submit at least two and sometimes three similar comps. Therefore, you must have access to a local MLS in order to get that information. You will provide square footage, age, condition, neighborhood information, etc.
There are two types of BPOs; one is a drive by the other a full interior evaluation and comp.
The drive by is much quicker, requiring clear pictures of usually the front, side and street view of the home. The interior evaluation also requires these photos and more. You will take pictures of each room of the house, including the garage. You will take pictures of any damaged areas or areas needing repair. Walk around the home and get photos of the back yard, foundation, etc. You can always eliminate pictures when you get back home, but it will be very expensive to go back and take a picture you wished you had taken.
Your camera equipment must be capable of taking clear pictures in low light; often the power will be off at the property location. Your best bet is to use an auxiliary flash attachment. If you camera does not have a hot shoe flash attachment, perhaps a slave flash will work as well. Also shoot at least 5 mega pixel or more, you will likely need to crop your image to show repair or damaged areas and you can retain detail better with a high-resolution picture.
An important tip to remember when taking photos is to make sure no people are in the picture, especially a picture of someone that can be recognized. Another tip, NEVER take pictures of children. Not only will the BPO Company likely refuse them, you may cause concern within the neighborhood.
When you receive a BPO and * before * you accept it, check the property location on a map. If you can not find the address on a map, in my opinion, forget about it. You will spend much more time locating the property and you only are paid for producing BPOs and not for locating property.
Always be aware for your personal safety. Often you will be in parts of town that may not be a safe as others. If in doubt, call the Police to check vacant property before you go inside if you feel at all uneasy.
Also recommended is a data phone with email and internet access, I use a BlackBerry and highly recommend that you consider one. Many BPO Companies will broadcast a request to several agents in your area; the first one to respond gets it. If you only have email access at your office, you will often be too late in responding.
If you have at least two years Real Estate experience, willing to drive a little, and do some research you will likely find BPOs a good source of additional income. Your BPO income will not match a home sale, but if you build up a client list, it just may very well keep the bills paid until a sale comes in.
Important: Dealing in BPOs usually requires a Real Estate License in your state along with at least two years experience.