19 May, 2009 – “Looking for the Bottom”

May 19, 2009

Multifamily Executive, Les Shaver

The falloffs came fast and hard across the board last year.In 2007, Hunt Building Co. built 9,366 units of rental housing, landing the El Paso, Texas-based firm squarely in the No. 2 spot on Multifamily Executive’s Top 50 Builders list that year. This year, it will take the No. 3 spot, with its 2008 starts plummeting 63 percent to 3,476. Lane Co. in Atlanta, which was No. 7 on the list in 2007 with 4,367 units started, saw a whopping 88 percent drop in its 2008 unit count to 522. It is now coming in at No. 47. Even the No. 1 multifamily builder in the country—Dallas-based Trammell Crow Residential—saw its starts fall 25 percent from 10,936 units in 2007 to 8,194 last year.Yes, 2008 was a bad year. All in all, only 15 companies on this year’s list saw their starts go up in 2008. The core of the problem: After the Wall Street meltdown and subsequent stiffening of credit requirements, new lending came to a halt by the early fall of 2008. Now, the problem is that lenders effectively left developers stranded at the altar at the close of 2008, says John A. Schaffer, CFO of Contravest, a Lake Mary, Fla.-based firm that started 866 units in 2008, landing it the No. 38 spot this year.

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