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Environmental homes hitting mortgage wall
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS, Colo. (3/19/10)--A credit union in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colo., is finding that members who build unique environmental homes have trouble getting loans because they can't get appraisals. Earth-friendly homes made of earth, tires, concrete and recycled trash "have been no match for the new resolve of the banking industry after the housing bust," according to The Wall Street Journal (March 18). Banks are picky about examining sales of comparable homes before deciding whether and how much to lend. This leaves the odd-duck homes, no matter how well built, in a lurch. Case in point: Credit union members Jon and Laura Hagar are trying to refinance the line of credit into a long-term fixed-rate mortgage for their rural Colorado house made of 17,000 old tires, said the Journal. They stacked tire bales and plugged the gaps with cans, bottles, plastic plates and other junk, which was then covered with concrete, clay and stucco. In 2007, to pay for the construction, the Hagars took out a $240,000 line of credit from Red Rocks CU, Highlands Ranch, Colo., said the Journal. The appraiser at the time couldn't find a comparable home that had been recently sold but said the house would be valued at $500,000, based on a recently sold straw-bale home and other houses in their area. They moved in during 2008. When interest rates dived last year, the Hagars tried to refinance. However, last February, the credit union's loan officer, Bill Schimel, said they had hit a wall. No home built from tire bales had been sold recently in the state. Lenders said they can't value the property, which meant a regular mortgage was out of the question. Red Rocks CU Vice President Don Arkell is still looking for a way to refinance the Hagars' loan by testing the secondary market, but he told the Journal the house is so unusual he may not be able to sell the loan to investors. In that case, the credit union would have to keep the loan on its own books. That situation doesn't set well with regulators concerned about the health of small financial institutions. Red Rocks is focusing on making loans that would see easily if it needed to raise cash. Arkell told the Journal the situation is bleak for people in properties that are hard to value.
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