Express Financial's Shutdown Wallops Real Estate Contractors
Ron DaParma; Sam Spatter, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
AnnMarie Lincoln received a jolt Monday when she called Express Financial Services in Green Tree with the results of 10 appraisals she had performed for Express at a cost of about $1,100.
No one answered.
"I was shocked," said Lincoln, a Philadelphia-area appraiser, who couldn't get past a voice mail message, and was unaware that Express Financial suddenly had closed its offices at the Parkway Center the previous Friday.
"I had talked with them on Friday, asking if I could submit the appraisals on Monday, and they had said that was fine," said Lincoln, who has worked under contract with Express Financial "for five or six years."
Now she fears she may never be paid a total of more than $5,600 the company owes her for recent and previous work.
An unknown number of other contractors and people in the real estate business -- possibly hundreds -- who dealt with Express Financial, may have a similar story, said Brenda Schroeder, a St. Louis-area appraiser. She said her small firm is owed more than $15,000 for three months work.
Express Financial was a national company that provided appraisals, title insurance, closing and deed preparation services for major real estate lenders. It apparently lost business as numerous lenders closed or cut back operations as nation's ongoing credit crisis worsened.
Express Financial President Richard Fuchs and other top company officials have not been available for comment. Fuchs, of Upper St. Clair, founded the company in 1985, and saw its workforce grow to more than 400 before its recent troubles.
Employees interviewed by the Tribune-Review on Monday said only about 100 workers remained when the company closed. They learned of its plans to close at a morning meeting Sept. 14.
The company had been laying off workers in spurts since last year, employees said. Not only was the Green Tree office closed, but so were branch offices in Camp Hill and Malvern in Pennsylvania, Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio, Cherry Hill, N.J., Columbia Md. and Tampa, Fla.
The Title Report, an industry publication, speculated the death blow for Express Financial may have come about six months ago when the firm lost giant Countrywide Financial Corp. as one of its clients. The lender chose to work with four vendors on a national level, it said. …