DS News sat down with Robert Klein, Chairman and Co-Founder of SecureView to discuss his views on what the biggest issues are facing property preservation and what solutions could change the game for community blight.
With over 20 years of experience, Klein is a national expert in the property preservation industry. As the founder of Safeguard Properties he began his business in 1990 with just a handful of employees and a commitment to customer service. Under Klein’s leadership Safeguard Properties has grown to over 1,000 employees with an extensive network of subcontractors throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. His vision and ingenuity have earned Robert a reputation as an innovator and he is widely recognized as an industry pioneer.
Klein’s deep concern for communities suffering from the devastating effects of economic downturn and an ongoing foreclosure crisis, has led him to seek out ways to ease the burden on America’s most vulnerable populations. Klein believes the SecureView product provides an answer by securely boarding homes, improving property appearance, supporting home values, and increasing neighborhood safety.
What are the biggest issues you see facing property preservation and community blight currently?
I was always involved with community blight, and community blight has always been a big topic of discussion between the industry and communities who ask 'how do we deal with these issues.' It has impacted everybody such as the preservation world, the GSEs, the communities. About three years ago I discovered this product called polycarbonate clear boarding and that really triggered something in me because seeing communities for the past 25-26 years, I always had issues with plywood boarding. To me plywood boarding was a disease that we did not have a cure for. We had no other method for securing properties. When this product came to my attention, though, I said 'this is the product we have been waiting for.' This product could secure the properties as well as address the community blight. I said 'this is something that needs to be done in the industry as a whole.'
Polycarbonate is the answer, there is no question about it in my mind. It is a win/win. Beside it costing a little bit more, there are no negatives. I think, though, looking at the big picture it costs less than plywood because plywood has to be redone three or four times, but polycarbonate clear boarding only has to be done once and then you're done with it. So this product has all the benefits of what we need in the industry to secure vacant properties. This is what I have been focusing on in the past two years, and I'm not trying to brag, but I am right.
What type of response is this solution eliciting?
The industry right now is talking about, looking at, and reviewing this product. In my opinion this is the way to go. I just want to do it sooner than later. I think the sooner we get it done, the faster we are going to be addressing community blight. I can tell you, I have been dealing with the industry, and they are all on board. Now it is just a question of how we get this done. I have also been dealing with the communities and they absolutely love it. The biggest supporters of this polycarbonate clear boarding, though, are probably the first responders. One of them actually told me it is a lifesaver because it allows them to see what is going on in the property before they go inside. The only ones that lose with this method are the vandals because they cannot vandalize the property. This is not only because they can't get into the property, but because they can't even tell the property is vacant. It looks like any other property on the block.
Where have you seen this solution impact the property preservation sector of the industry?
We have seen a lot of improvements in Cleveland and I can tell you it has changed the community and the community welcomed us. But even across the country, there are communities passing ordinances that will not allow plywood on the properties. This method is reaching that point, and I think it is going to expand on a daily basis. But I will repeat that the sooner we get it done, the sooner we will see less vandalism and an increase on the value of homes.
Do you believe that this solution is the future of property preservation?
This is one aspect to the future of property preservation, as property preservation has a lot of pieces to it. It's a big puzzle that needs to be solved and the industry is addressing it. But I do think that this issue is one of the biggest puzzles and now we have an answer to it. But it's not going to solve all the problems in property preservation or foreclosures. There are two large issues to resolve in property preservation, the first being fast tracking the vacant properties, and like I have always said, vacant properties are not like a bottle of wine. They don't get better with age. I think that fast tracking the properties after verifying that they are vacant and abandoned and eliminating plywood on the property are the some of the biggest answers to community blight. Not the only answers, but if we don't follow these guidelines it won't work.
In searching deeper into the topic of polycarbonate clear boarding, DS News found that indeed, first responders found this solution to be particularly helpful for responding to calls at vacant properties. Specifically, we found that in a news conference to unveil the new technology at a vacant property in Tehachapi, Ohio, Chief of Police Kent Kroeger said, "Using this new type of material that allows us to see inside adds to the public and officer safety when we have to deal with problem abandoned homes.”
"It changes the look of the neighborhood for people living here and allows us (police) to see inside if there are trespassers."