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Foreclosure expert Mike Weaster knows it’s lonely at the top. He has been the number one real estate-owned broker in Houston, Tex. for a number of years. “I’ve been consistent in my job, my values,” he said, “being as honest to my clients as possible.” That consistency has kept him busy since he got involved in the real estate default market in 1980. Though Weaster had his hands full servicing the Houston housing market, he still wanted to hook up with other REO professionals nationwide. So he and 10 professional friends founded a trade organization called US REO Partners.

US REO Partners serves default professionals around the country. One of its most unique aspects is its member vetting process, which keeps the organization lean and ensures that no region is saturated with members. As a result, members rarely compete with each other for clients. Other benefits include free educational webinars, networking events and news from around the industry to mention just a few.

Real estate started out as a side job for Weaster—a fallback incase his Plan A didn’t work. He got his real estate license while attending acting school. He participated in, by his own admission, “some of the worst films ever made” in the 1980s and worked in real estate part-time. A friend got Weaster some clients in the foreclosure business, and his talents soon became clear. He’s been in the business ever since. “That’s what I’ve done for 31 years: foreclosures for most of the lending institutions in the United States,” he said.

Some of Weaster’s clients include the government-owned mortgage juggernaut Fannie Mae, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, large banks like Chase and HSBC, small banks, hedge funds and insurance companies. “For any place that could make a potentially risky loan, there are people like me who assist those institutions in liquidating assets.”

The last two years have not been kind to Weaster’s industry. He went from 17 employees in 2008 to six in 2011. There are between 1.4 and 1.8 million homes already in default that need to be dealt with, according to Weaster; that’s triple the normal number. He points to government interference as a detriment to his industry, noting that he feels bound by red tape. “This administration has taken my industry and turned it into something that’s impossible to deal with,” he said.

Despite this, Weaster believes the foreclosure market will eventually adjust itself to a new norm and begin putting houses on the market with greater efficiency. His immediate goal is to hire more employees to bring him back to his pre-2008 number, and despite today’s tough market, he’s confident that there will always be a need for people to do the work that he does. US REO Partners has put him at the forefront of his industry, uniting real estate professionals from across the country to help break through the bureaucracy and reclaim the market.

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