I am an experienced REO agent, and I am on Res and Equator; but long before joining either of those, I got my very first REO listing as a result of being on REO Network and doing Clear Capital BPOs. I also did a ton of BPOs for RRR. While I don't think doing BPOs is currently a reliable entry point into REO, it was where I got my start. It certainly taught me lots about value. I no longer do paid BPOs, as the price is too low--especially for the market expertise I now have. BPOs were a revenue stream for me, as well as an education and "paying my dues" when I first started focusing on REO.
< steps onto soapbox> At the risk of starting a "virtual" fist fight, let me say that handling REO assignments is a highly specialized field--not for the newbie, inexperienced agent looking to grub up some business or someone who just wants a couple of listings to supplement their business. That is why asset managers look for experienced agents. No asset manager really has any time to train a new agent or to spoon feed an unsure agent who only does a few REOs per year. Asset managers handle hundreds of files at once, and some of them are very impatient with inexperience.
While you may think that the local REO king or queen is an idiot, they are obviously serving the needs of their asset managers. If not, the AM could certainly find another agent--which, by the way, is how I got my first REO assignment. The AM got mad at her local agent, and she called the next name she found on REO Network. I believe she also verified that I was experienced with BPOs. In my profile, I had also mentioned that I had contacts with a locksmith and a crew for trashouts and property preservation (I really had established those relationships before I received my first assignment).
REO listing agents often have to front a great deal of money to manage a property. That, alone, is reason enough NOT to choose an agent who has no or little listing inventory. What are the odds that a struggling agent is going to be able to front money for delinquent HOA fees, for utility activation and deposits, for a locksmith, and then sometimes for cash for keys payment and trashout? What are the odds that an inexperienced agent is going to be able to coordinate an eviction? Know when to rekey and trashout vs. when to order a personal property eviction? Work with the sherrif? Hire a set-out crew? Know the law as it pertains to eviction and foreclosure? Be able to estimate repair costs.... Do you get the drift here?
Listing REOs is not as easy as it sounds, and dealing with local agents is just a very small part of a much bigger job. What you see as a buyer's agent is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As an REO listing agent, I rarely get an offer from another agent that doesn't need a great deal of guidance from me to get it through the process. While I find that most agents really appreciate my help, I also have to deal with agents who do not follow the PRINTED instructions, send me incomplete packages, and then want to complain about how difficult the process is.
That leaves me little energy to answer the never-ending questions agents expect an REO agent to answer (how many offers have you had; will it pass FHA; will they respond in 24 hours; what's wrong with the house; can't you just take a verbal offer...). That doesn't even take into consideration the questions from would-be lookers: Will they rent to own; is it a repo; how much will they really take... <steps back down from the soapbox>
If you really want to break into REO, you do have to get yourself at least listed on the various platforms, with Equator and Resnet being the biggest. Don't pay extra, though.
Attending REO conferences is expensive, but they are probably the best way to actually meet someone who will list with you.