The single-family rental (SFR) market is having “a moment” - and Lorraine Perez, the new Senior Director of ServiceLink’s specialized SFR division - sees the trend continuing to grow. As young people and families increasingly opt for renting instead of owning, capital and interest from buyers, home builders, and large institutional investors are on the rise. Perez, an attorney with expertise in title insurance in the investment space, came to ServiceLink to bring greater focus to the interest in SFR real estate and build a team to provide faster transactions.
We sat down to learn more about Lorraine and ServiceLink’s approach to the SFR segment.
Q: Single-family rental …why is this so hot right now?
A: Think of it as a long-term investment strategy that works for both the large and small investor. Investors, rather than buying multi-family homes or commercial property, are acquiring one or more homes at a time for the sole purpose of renting it out. It’s also a great way for the average person to get involved in the housing market, collecting rent over an extended period of time rather than buying and flipping.
Although it’s possible to start small, many SFR investors have become so savvy with the process and have done very well with it, so they’ve expanded their portfolio. Most of them are able to obtain the financing required or have the funds available to acquire a few homes and are acquiring multiple homes at once. With the financing that's out there, many are purchasing 40-50 homes at a time.
Q: What are the benefits of SFR?
A: SFR offers a lot of different opportunities for an investor to make money. You have the rental income, which is great on a monthly basis. At the same time, many houses appreciate in value, so if you do choose to step away and sell those assets, you still walk away making money. It's kind of a win-win for a lot of investors.
Q: You have a law degree and a strong background in the legal profession. How did you land in real estate?
A: I was immediately drawn to property law when I was in law school. Thankfully, my first job out of the gate was with a financial real estate attorney. From there, I started working with a foreclosure firm that represented all the big lenders at the time. That's really where I gained the knowledge of default, REOs, dealing with foreclosures - all kinds of property law that I wouldn't have received just staying in commercial.
Q: How has that experience led you to where you are today?
A: It's been a gradual progression. The law firm I initially worked for was in New York, which is a judicial foreclosure state. To do a foreclosure, it was necessary to do a title search in order to name all owners with an interest in an action. I discovered that I really loved not only property law, but diving into records, trusts, estates, divorce decrees and wills. I was instantly fascinated.
With that fascination, I made a shift to a title company. Clearing titles there, my law background truly came into play. I was able to easily analyze, ask the right questions of an underwriter and clear to close. Because I was good at it, they started throwing bigger deals my way. I remember my first big project being a company refinancing 100 properties with a closing in 30 to 45 days. I loved the pace and the challenge.
Q: What makes this SFR space so ideal for you personally?
A: I definitely am a “think big, move fast” kind of person. I like the fact that I have clients that are ready to go now. They don't need to sit and think about it. They're not dilly dallying or indecisive- they want these houses. They want what they want now, and they want to close in 30 to 45 days. It’s exhilarating to me.
Q: Why is this SFR position at ServiceLink such a good fit?
A: My goal was always to get in with one of the main underwriters whether it was as legal counsel, as an underwriter, something. As the largest mortgage transactional services provider in the country and backed by the largest title insurance company in the country, Fidelity National Financial, I knew I’d found my place at ServiceLink.
I’m helping to build a team - everybody has many years of experience. Everybody has something to bring to the table, but this table is new and we're all sitting here together for the first time, building something new and exciting.
Q: How does ServiceLink’s technology expertise play into the SFR market?
A: Technology is critical to SFR investors. Transparency throughout the transaction process is so important - Seeing the status of the transaction in real-time is a great time-saver and convenient for investors.
The closings themselves are so much easier with virtual closing. We can get it done no matter where the investor is. I always say, “Title cannot be the reason a closing doesn’t happen.” ServiceLink shares that same philosophy - we come with solutions to make closings happen. Technology is a big part of that solution.
Q: So, what’s on the horizon for SFR?
A: I think the newest piece of the SFR puzzle is “build to rent,” or “build for rent /BFRs”, where builders are creating rental communities. Year over year, home ownership and the desire for people to own a home has gone down. A lot of people don't necessarily want to tie themselves down buying a house - especially younger people. They want the ability to move around and live in different places and have different experiences. Renting is what allows individuals to do that. If they have a job that's remote, like so many of us have now, it doesn't matter where they live. I think these rental communities are going to allow that mobility and give people that freedom. At the same time, investors and builders will flourish.
Lorraine Perez, senior director, Single Family Rental at ServiceLink lives in Cummings, Georgia with her husband, three sons, two dogs - and two turtles to keep her company in her work-from-home space. When she’s not closing, she plays tennis and runs 5K races across the country.