Skyline Financial Services Corp., the Falls Church company formed to clean up the real estate mess left by the failed EPIC tax-shelter partnership and now facing a potential boom in the savings and loan debacle, agreed yesterday to be acquired by a General Electric Co. subsidiary.

Terms of the acquisition by General Electric Mortgage Capital Corp. were not disclosed. Skyline had been owned by its management, the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund and the dozens of financial institutions that were left holding mortgages on $1.5 billion in property of Equity Programs Investment Corp. (EPIC) when the partnership went bankrupt in 1985.

Skyline, named after the Baileys Crossroads office complex where it is based, manages and disposes of troubled single-family residential properties that financial institutions and government agencies acquire through foreclosure or other means. It has developed a reputation for efficiently handling the properties through a highly automated management system that keeps track of hundreds of thousands of transactions a month.

Skyline last month disposed of the last assets of EPIC, one of the largest single real estate failures in history. Now Skyline is expected to take advantage of the much larger market presented by the federal cleanup of the savings and loan industry.

The Resolution Trust Corp., the entity set up by Congress to handle the disposition of failed savings and loan institutions, is expected to have to deal with more than $50 billion of property owned by defunct thrifts, some of which it will manage and dispose of itself, some of which it will farm out to firms such as Skyline.

"You're talking about a ... multibillion-dollar business that isn't being done by anybody yet, which is just starting," Skyline President Stuart A. McFarland said.

"They're very well poised to take advantage of the opportunity this crisis will present for the next five to 10 years," said Joseph Robert Jr., chairman of J.E. Robert Cos., an Alexandria-based asset management firm that occasionally competes with Skyline.

While winding up the EPIC affair, Skyline has picked up property management contracts from other financial institutions in the past couple of years and is dealing with about 2,800 properties, McFarland said. Employment has dropped from a peak of about 700 to about 150 workers, mostly because of the automation of the company's property management system.

But while McFarland said Skyline had half expected to go out of business after finishing its EPIC work, the ever-worsening S&L situation has presented new opportunities.

By throwing in its lot with GE Capital, McFarland said, Skyline will be able to move into the more lucrative -- albeit risky -- field of acquiring property rather than simply managing it for a fee.

"We did not necessarily have the balance sheet to go out and secure new property," McFarland said. "We were looking for money, and we had none and {GE} had a lot, so it looked like a good marriage."

McFarland, who along with the rest of management will stay with the firm under its new ownership, said GE Capital was chosen over several other bidders for Skyline.

Mark Goldhaber, first vice president of GE Capital, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., said his company had been looking to expand into Skyline's field of asset management to expand the services offered by GE Capital, a leading insurer of home mortgages.

"I just believe that it's a very good and very compatible match for what we try to do," Goldhaber said.

"Certainly this is an organization that has state-of-the-art technology, strong management systems and certainly Stuart McFarland is someone who is very knowledgeable and experienced in a number of mortgage finance systems," Goldhaber said. "He's a proven winner."

Robert said GE Capital's planned purchase of Skyline was "a reflection of the financial community's perception of where the opportunities lie in the years ahead with respect to the real estate business. It's not in development, but it's in providing services to those entities or government agencies that hold troubled real estate."