Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.
Thank you very much;
you're only a step away from
downloading your reports.

Builders Dislike Taste Of Own Medicine


Banks pull construction loans, developers cry foul.


Turnabout, apparently, isn't fair play.

After years of graft, deceptive lending and millions in profits on shoddily built houses, homebuilders are getting their just desserts.

The Wall Street Journal reports that banks, under pressure from regulators and shareholders to reduce their exposure to the housing market, are backing out of construction loans en masse. Builders, for their part, are crying foul.

Construction loans are like credit cards for big development projects: As the building goes up, developers draw on the loan to buy materials, pay employees and settle up with contractors. Banks like KeyCorp (KEY), Bank of America (BAC) and now-defunct IndyMac were active in the space, particularly in boom areas like southern California.

Recently, however, plummeting home prices have called the value of such projects into question. Banks are now refusing to honor their end of the bargain. If ground hasn't been broken or the project is only partially complete, developers are left in the lurch: They're forced to repay the loan, post cash or sell the property. If they refuse, banks can push the project into foreclosure - and developers into bankruptcy.

Construction loans often carry personal guarantees, obligating builders to pony up their own assets if a deal goes sideways. In turn, builders are taking lenders to court, arguing that they have no cause to renege on their commitments. Banks, on the other hand, argue that property values have fallen to such an extent as to make many projects uneconomical.

As long as it can find an appraiser willing to value the property at a level that supports this claim, the bank has the upper hand. Finding an appraiser to do their bidding isn't hard, since appraisers value properties based on what their clients (i.e. banks) want.

The fact that builders are being forced into financial shackles by questionable appraisals does have a touch of morbid irony. During the boom, big developers like Centex (CTX), KB Home (KBH) and Lennar (LEN) built homes, then lent borrowers money to buy them. Since they controlled the loan origination process, they ordered appraisals from cronies who inflated the prices. Builders reaped the benefits, while homeowners got stuck with a home they paid far too much for.

Now that they're on the other side of the fence, developers don't find the game quite as fun. "If banks want to get out of residential lending, that's fine; let's sit down and figure it out," said one builder. "But that isn't being done. The rug is literally being pulled from under us and games are being played."

While banks may be acting in bad faith, minimizing their exposure to risky loans by any means necessary, it's doubtful that courts will find against them. Judges are already buried under foreclosure filings stemming from the irresponsible actions of builders gone wild.

So builders shouldn't expect much by way of sympathy.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opin= =3D =3D3D ion about the performance of securities and financial markets by = the wr=3D iter=3D3D s whose articles appear on the site. The views expresse= d by the wri=3D ters are=3D3D not necessarily the views of Minyanville Medi= a, Inc. or members=3D of its man=3D3D agement. Nothing contained on the web= site is intended to con=3D stitute a recom=3D3D mendation or advice address= ed to an individual investor =3D or category of inve=3D3D stors to purchase= , sell or hold any security, or to =3D take any action with re=3D3D spect t= o the prospective movement of the securit=3D ies markets or to solicit t=3D= 3D he purchase or sale of any security. Any inv=3D estment decisions must b= e made =3D3D by the reader either individually or in =3D consultation with = his or her invest=3D3D ment professional. Minyanville write=3D rs and staff= may trade or hold position=3D3D s in securities that are discuss=3D ed in = articles appearing on the website. Wr=3D3D iters of articles are requir=3D = ed to disclose whether they have a position in =3D3D any stock or fund disc= us=3D sed in an article, but are not permitted to disclos=3D3D e the size o= r direct=3D ion of the position. Nothing on this website is intende=3D3D d = to solicit bus=3D iness of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Mi= ny=3D3D anville mana=3D gement and staff as well as contributing writers wi= ll not respo=3D3D nd to em=3D ails or other communications requesting inves= tment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Featured Videos