Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buena Vista Custom Homes - Another Imploding Oregon Builder

Buena Vista Homes hasn’t gone bankrupt like some other custom home builders in the housing slump, but according to The Oregonian, the company faces a growing list of unpaid bills.
The newspaper reports that Sterling Savings Bank sued Buena Vista because the company allegedly stopped paying its loans.

Sterling seeks to recover $11 million in loans and foreclose on some 50 lots Buena Vista owns in a Happy Valley subdivision, according to the newspaper.
Happy Valley is among the areas hardest hit by the metro area’s housing downturn.
Buena Vista owner Roger Pollock says he will attempt to renegotiate his loans with the bank but that can’t happen until he’s defaulted.

Pollock joins a growing list of area homebuilders who have gone under since the housing bubble burst, which economists say occurred in late 2006.
Pacific Lifestyle Homes Inc. announced last month it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In September, Renaissance Homes, a Portland-area luxury home builder, announced it was entering bankruptcy as well.

Legend Homes, one of Oregon’s largest home builders, filed for bankruptcy in June after its parent company made some bad land investments.

Homebuilder Roger Pollock can claim some success simply because his company, Buena Vista Custom Homes, hasn't been forced into bankruptcy like three of his competitors in the housing downturn.
But public records show that Pollock, 47, and his affiliated companies face a growing list of mortgage defaults, past-due construction bills and unpaid homeowners dues.

Buena Vista's new stone-fronted headquarters in downtown Lake Oswego sits unfinished with plywood covering parts of the building. Banner Bank of Walla Walla says Pollock's company, Pollock Commercial Holdings LLC, has defaulted on its $5 million construction loan, and his general contractor has gone to court to collect $1.3 million in unpaid bills.

But Pollock's bigger problems are with his housing projects.
Sterling Savings Bank sued Buena Vista because it said the company stopped paying its loans. The bank is seeking to recover about $11 million in loans and foreclose on about 50 lots Buena Vista owns in a Happy Valley subdivision, areas hardest hit by the Portland area's housing slowdown.

Pollock blamed the commercial project problems on the lender that he said backed out of commitments to provide more funding.

On his housing work, Pollock said he stopped paying loans on his rentals because the rents didn't cover his mortgage. He hopes to renegotiate those loans and possibly resell his subdivision lots. But that plan, he said, was stalled when Sterling Savings Bank stopped the talks after months of negotiations.

"The only way to start negotiations with the bank is if you're in default," Pollock said. "I don't think they know what to do. Do you take the home? Do you wait to see if you get any of the (federal) bailout?"

Lawyers representing Pollock's lenders either didn't return calls seeking comment or declined to comment.
Like most homebuilders, Pollock and Buena Vista made a fortune during the 2004 to 2006 housing boom.

Trade journal Builder Magazine in 2005 named Buena Vista the nation's fastest-growing homebuilding business. Pollock made plans during the heat of the boom to build a more visible headquarters on Lake Oswego's main downtown street.

As the housing market slowed, Pollock later decided not to move into the building if he could find other tenants. He'd hardly need the space now, since he's now one of just three employees of a company that employed 50 at its peak.
"Buena Vista, we're just on hold until the market comes back," Pollock said.
Before he could finish the 20,000-square-foot building and find a tenant, the project ran into financial trouble.

In August, Carlson Testing Inc. of Tigard filed a small-claims case against Pollock Commercial Holdings LLC. Subcontractors Dallas Glass, Cascade Fire Protection Co., Sowles Co., Portland Electrical Construction Inc. and Western Partitions Inc. all filed liens for unpaid bills.
In September, the general contractor, Precision Construction Co. of Portland, filed a $1.3 million lawsuit for unpaid bills.

Last week, lender Banner Bank filed a lawsuit asking the Clackamas County Circuit Court to appoint a receiver to manage the project. The bank said Pollock had defaulted on a $5 million construction loan when he failed to pay his construction bills. It also said Pollock didn't make his monthly $31,600 payment starting in September.
Banner Bank's most dangerous allegation was that Pollock used some of the loan funds for "purposes unrelated to the construction."
Banner Bank's suit provided no further detail, and its lawyer, Kimberley Hanks McGair, declined to comment. In some cases, such charges can lead to a criminal investigation. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating possible bank fraud charges against at least two other Oregon developers, both in Deschutes County, who allegedly misappropriated construction loan proceeds.

Pollock denied the allegation. "That's completely false," he said. "We've provided them with complete documentation since August, and they haven't even looked at it."
He said Banner Bank agreed upfront to provide another $2 million loan to finish the building but later changed its mind. "The bank is stalling in funding the rest of their loan," Pollock said. "The truth about Banner Bank will come out in due time.

"We fully intend to countersue them if they won't honor their commitment."
Houses go to auction
Last year, Buena Vista became the first major local builder to auction off its excess inventory in the housing slowdown. It sold 177 homes and 11 lots for about $75 million in two auctions.
Even so, Pollock and his companies held onto dozens of rental homes and lots as Portland-area home prices declined for the first time in a generation.

Sterling Savings Bank filed two lawsuits against Pollock and his companies. The first seeks to foreclose on homes and lots, many of them in Happy Valley's Lincoln Heights subdivision.
The second says Pollock or his company had defaulted on loans for 20 rental properties, all but two in Happy Valley. A Clackamas County judge appointed Ted Durant & Associates Inc. as receiver and directed it to collect rents from Pollock's rental homes.

But in court filings, the receiver accused Pollock and his company of demanding that the tenants continue to pay rent to Pollock's company. One tenant said Pollock contacted him and was "very pushy, articulated very strongly that he was still the person in charge and had ownership/control of all the properties," according to an e-mail the receiver sent to Pollock's lawyer.

Pollock denied pressing the renter for the payment and said he has collected no rent from the properties since the receiver took over.

The homeowners' associations in Pollock's neighborhoods are also seeking money for unpaid bills.
Northwest Community Management Co., which manages the homeowners' association, filed six liens against Buena Vista seeking $4,900 in unpaid dues. Pollock said all the homes were rentals but he stopped making the payments while he negotiates with his lenders.
Despite his troubles, Pollock insists that he and Buena Vista will make it through. While his commercial project has unpaid bills, Pollock stresses that Buena Vista has paid all of its subcontractors.

"We're not going out of business," he said. "We're not going bankrupt. We're just watching the market."

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