Here's an offbeat idea for bankers looking to protect repossessed properties: Instead of paying a caretaker a monthly fee to watch over the vacated houses, shrink-wrap them.
Fast Wrap USA LLC, a Reno company that shrink-wraps everything from boats to backhoes, has not handled any foreclosed houses yet. But Mike Enos, its chief executive, says that is only a matter of time. His company has wrapped half-built houses, churches and small office buildings.
"We're in the asset protection business," he said. Shrink wrap can extend the life of what it surrounds "by two or three times."
Enos said he got into the business after he tried to get a company that wrapped new boats to wrap his air boat, which was too big to fit into his garage. When his request was rejected, he contacted the maker of the wrapping material. He bought the material and used the maker's heat gun to wrap the boat himself.
Enos, whose previous endeavors were in taxidermy and portable toilets, started Fast Wrap in late 2007. Today it wraps things in 12 markets, including several where foreclosures are overwhelming mortgage servicers — places like Las Vegas, Sacramento and Dania Beach, Fla. Its goal is eventually to have 500 franchises nationwide.
Fast Wrap started out wrapping mainly dry-docked boats, but now roughly half its clients are recession-wracked businesses. Rather than store 11 pickup trucks that were sitting idle after a wave of layoffs, one company parked them side by side outdoors and hired Fast Wrap to ensconce them in plastic.
The company also has wrapped a Virginia City, Nev., church that was still under construction when the funding ran out. "The only other option they had was to let it sit exposed to the elements," Enos said.
It also has covered an airport tower in Reno, a 300-foot walkway at Sacramento International Airport, a partially built strip mall that had lost its financing and the North Star Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe, to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer while it is under construction.
The only single-family house wrapped by the company was a 2,000-square-foot structure in San Francisco that was in the framing stage when the builder ran out of money. "Pigeons were getting in, and so were people after the copper piping," Enos said. "I put in a zipper door, so it could be accessed for showing, and we devised a large 'No Trespassing' decal for the sides."
The wrap costs about $1 per square foot. It comes in widths of 10 to 40 feet and is welded together and shrunk tight by a gun that generates 340,000 British thermal units of heat. The covering is resistant to catching fire.
Though the material can be cut with a knife if someone wants to get through bad enough, Enos said it is extremely strong. "You cannot just run and jump through it."