Bill Walsworth – Five Brothers
As chief information officer for Five Brothers, a property preservation company headquartered north of Detroit in Warren, Michigan, Bill Walsworth needs to make sure everyone gets the picture.
Actually, it’s millions of pictures—the fronts of homes, the sides of homes, damage to homes, even grass that needs cutting as part of the property services Five Brothers provides.
For almost 30 years, Walsworth and his team have written code for Five Brothers’ proprietary programs, apps and platforms. Now they’re revising their work to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning that will automate processes and help meet regulatory requirements.
Though not approaching Great Recession levels, property defaults and foreclosures have increased over the past year. The AI, as well as new dashboards with analytics for customers, will help Five Brothers keep pace with the industry and compliance requirements, Walsworth says.
“Our biggest challenge is extending the software to handle the ever-changing regulatory requirements that govern our work,” he adds. “But since Nickie Kalas joined as company president, she’s guided us in implementing things such embedded analytics, AI and dashboards.”
Preserving the asset
Five Brothers was founded more than 50 years ago by Joseph Badalamenti, who goes by Joe Bada, to secure and protect real estate owned, or REO, properties.
Five Brothers supports lenders nationwide by conducting required inspections, by identifying vacant homes and by securing them. This is known as property preservation. The company also protects properties—such as ensuring power is connected so a basement sump pump is operating to prevent flooding.
The company informs lenders what repairs may be needed before the homes can be sold or conveyed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Five Brothers also arranges for contractors to perform repairs, as well as property management services to prevent the property from becoming blighted.
Since joining the company in 1995, Walsworth has developed the company’s platforms, which include FiveOnline, FiveLive, CLADE, MOTZ, FiveInvoice, Everest Workflow and MARS. FiveLive is a mobile app with a step-by-step format for inspection work orders. It provides GPS to geo-tag property photos and enables field inspectors to edit information before they submit it to lenders.
The CLADE platform launched in winter 2022 and is integrated into FiveOnline. It uses AI to provide inspectors weather and disaster information with layered maps showing a property’s location and the property’s history.
MARS is a document management and processing system, while MOTZ is a loss mitigation software system that calculates whether a homeowner can catch up on delinquent mortgage payments, as well as a property’s current value.
MOTZ also provides documentation templates such as cover letters, schedules for the repayment of debt, and loan modification agreements. Five Online is the customer portal enabling access to the Five Brothers software for the services it provides.
AI adds efficiency
At the height of the housing crash in 2009 and 2010, when almost 2 percent of U.S. housing units were in foreclosure, Five Brothers needed about 1,000 employees to keep up with the demands of inspecting and preserving homes—including processing more than 11 million property photos in a single month at the peak of the collapse.
As Walsworth chatted with Toggle in January, defaults on home mortgages were increasing. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, a total of 30,677 properties had foreclosure filings in November 2022. That’s one in every 4,580 properties.
To keep up, Walsworth and his team are integrating computer vision AI to classify and define inspection photos in seconds, replacing a process that had been done manually. The AI can even identify photos showing grass that needs to be mowed.
“It’s going to tell the person what needs to be done,” Walsworth says. “It has made our process much more efficient.”
Walsworth and his team are revising the code needed to embed analytics and improve customer-facing dashboards. That will allow customers to see things like which properties need to have appraisal from the U.S. Federal Housing Authority extended.
A longtime writer
Walsworth has been writing code since he was in high school in his home state of Michigan. While earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Michigan, he helped write code for the solar powered race car that competed against other schools.
After graduating in the early 1990s, Walsworth joined the Wall Street trading desk of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp Ltd. in New York. When his mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he left that position and returned to Michigan to help care for her. During this period, Walsworth met Joe Bada, who was looking to automate operations and processes for Five Brothers and invited him to join the company.
Walsworth says AI innovations from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM have made it possible to add computer vision with the confidence that photos won’t be misidentified. Likewise, he says software made by the company Everest has helped implement those solutions.
“Writing code well is very complex and it’s really hard to do right,” Walsworth says. “The pace and complexity are crazy and going through the roof. AI makes our work easier and it’s now a major focus for our automation.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2023 Edition here.
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