Our old friend Fred Zohouri made Page One of the Wall Street Journal!!--congrats Fred!!!
Full Force of Glut Is Felt
As Buyers Back Out;
'More of the Iceberg'
By ALEX FRANGOS
August 25, 2007
For the nation's real-estate lenders, the other shoe may be about to drop: condominiums.
Already plagued by rising home-loan defaults and foreclosures among overstretched consumers, major markets across the country -- including parts of Florida, California and Washington, D.C. -- are seeing rising foreclosures and bankruptcies of entire condo projects.
The problems are emerging as some buyers who signed contracts to buy new condos two to three years ago, when construction was just starting, seek ways to back out as they encounter trouble getting financing in the suddenly dicey mortgage market. Falling prices are forcing appraisals down, so banks aren't willing to lend the full amounts that people committed to in the sales contract.
"Left holding the bag amid the defaults and foreclosures are the banks and real-estate investment funds that lent money to people such as Farbod Zohouri, an Atlanta developer who took out $300 million in loans for more than a dozen projects in 2005 and 2006. Within a year, all were foreclosed or had filed for bankruptcy protection.
In a sign of how widespread the condo frenzy was among lenders, Mr. Zohouri's financing sources ranged from tiny local banks to Lehman Brothers, which lent him $180 million for two Orlando condo-conversion projects that flopped. Several commercial banks lent him money for five projects, despite his relatively small operation and spotty track record, which included a settlement with the federal government on mortgage-kickback allegations.
Mr. Zohouri, who goes by "Fred," says he is "an honest person" who is working hard to get his investors' money back. He says because of possible legal actions, he can't explain exactly what went wrong."
I know "exactly went wrong"....Fred's reality check bounced.