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Mortgage company founder buys former ITT school bldg in bankruptcy bid

Robert W. Palmer, founder and president of RP Funding mortgage and title companies, has purchased the former ITT Education Services building in Lake Mary and plans to make it a headquarters for his new technology marketing products.

The building, located between I-4 and International Parkway in Lake Mary, was one of 136 technical schools around the country that ITT was forced to close last September after a crackdown by the federal government.

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Palmer Holdings LLC, one of Palmer's affiliate companies, purchased the building for $3.9 million through a competitive bidding process held by the bankruptcy court, according to a bankruptcy trustee's deed signed March 21, and recorded March 31.

Palmer Holdings secured a mortgage for $3.12 million on the property from Florida Community Bank N.A. of Winter Park.

Matthew Levy, chief marketing officer for the Palmer family of companies, told GrowthSpotter the 32,637-square-foot building will be enlarged and renovated to serve as the company's headquarters for new internet products Listing Power Tools and HomeValue.com.

"Robert decided to settle here in Lake Mary," Levy said. "He wanted a headquarters for his new company on the tech side, so he purchased that building."

The building dates to 2003, and sits on 4.8 acres at 1400 International Parkway.

Levy said some preliminary renovations will start right away to get the building ready for the 60 employees that work in the marketing and technology departments. In a year or more, the company wants to add more floors to the building.

"It's set up really well for us, how it's laid out as a school," Levy said. "We've just got to get into it and figure it out. There will be some changes immediately. We're planning to go up, but that's probably a year out. It will be a tower that overlooks I-4."

Employees who work in the building will include computer network specialists and two data scientists, who will comb through behavioral and demographic data that can be used to help people buy and sell homes. The company has also hired graphic artists, publishing experts and a videographer.

Listing Power Tools, a product Palmer created a year ago to help real estate agents get listings and market houses, has already signed up 7,000 real estate agents.

Subscribers get a package of marketing tools, such as signs, Thank You cards, door hangers and a unique text code. When potential buyers see a house they like, either in person or on the internet, they text in the number that contacts the agent-member working that area.

"If our product helps them sell the home that's great, but what we really want is for the seller of the home to be wowed," Levy said. "It will win the listing. The seller will give that listing to our member."

Another product near rollout and to be managed out of the new headquarters is HomeValue.com, an internet tool that will let sellers know the true value of their home.

"We're making the argument that the Realtor is the only person that can truly assess the value of a property," Levy said. "If you want to find out what your largest asset is worth, that's how you do it."

ITT Educational Services was one of the nation's largest for-profit educational companies before it got in trouble with the federal government. The company had been accused of widespread fraud and abuse.

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After an investigation, the U.S. Department of Education demanded a steep increase in the amount of security the company would have to post to guarantee federal aid to enroll new students. The requirement caused the company to close all its schools except one.

On Sept. 16, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee petitioned the court last month to sell the Lake Mary property. Other bidders were Space Port USA at $3.4 million, and Club Forest Lake Mary LLC with $3.275 million.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at msalinero@outlook.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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