Things keep getting worse for Beazer Homes
The alleged investigation was likely triggered by a story in the Charlotte Observer last week. The newspaper took a look at 2,900 homes that were built by Beazer in Mecklenburg over the past decade. 388 of those -- or 13% -- have resulted in owner foreclosures. The national average is closer to 3%. The most troublesome developments clocked in with foreclosure rates in excess of 20%.
An anomaly? Just plain bad luck that comes with the territory of building entry-level starter homes? It's not as simple as that. A day later, the newspaper dug a little deeper and unearthed a few possible improprieties. Between Beazer-prepared appraisals that appear inflated in order to close on sales to claims of inflated fees, it's a bit of a mess. The BusinessWeek story cites an FBI source confirming that Beazer is being investigated for corporate, mortgage, and investments fraud.
It's not a pretty picture, though we will have to let the system decide whether Beazer's hands are dirty here. The company notes that an internal investigation shows no wrongdoing on Beazer's behalf. I know, that's what they all say, but don't join this morning's desperate sellers in pronouncing a guilty verdict. Picket signs can always double as "For Sale" signs if the shares have been unfairly pummeled.
We all know that these are difficult times for the homebuilders. We've had grim reports over the past few days out of Lennar
Developers have had to respond to the waning demand and thickening supply of homes on the market. Lowering prices on existing developments is a bit taboo, so many are padding on the incentives for prospective homebuyers. Here is where we begin to fall into the trap of offering exotic home loans to unqualified borrowers. The subprime lending debacle may be the poster child here, but do poster children double as mug shots?
The weight of a criminal investigation can be heavy on any company. It's especially difficult for a company that already had its back to the drywall in this pitiful homebuilder sector.
"By the time the dust clears, you are going to find some pretty amazing investment opportunities, yet that may come at even lower price points than today," I wrote just two days ago.
The lower price points are here, yet grip that duster tightly -- because the dust still hasn't cleared.
If you are set on making that spring move -- duster in hand -- check out our Home Center for a collection of homebuying and refinancing resources.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz feels that owning a home is better than renting, but can admire folks that are renting now until housing prices dip to realistic levels. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.