American Home woes send small ripple through Indy area

August 1, 2007

So many mortgage opportunities are available over the Internet that the unfolding woes of a single lender, American Home Mortgage Investment Corp., have caused relatively few problems in the Indianapolis area, real estate professionals say.

Some buyers have been unable to close home purchases through the Melville, N.Y., giant, but the numbers appear to be small.

Mark Linder, a top-selling agent at the Re/Max Preferred office in Greenwood, saw only one client, a young couple, sink into deep disappointment when American Home Mortgage informed them yesterday that they couldn't close their $75,000 purchase.

"It's in limbo," Linder said. "We're going to give it a couple more days to see what they come up with."

But the numbers have been small for Re/Max Preferred, said broker Bill Henderson. Of the 798 closings in the first half of the year that were financed by mortgages, only 13 were through American Home Mortgage.

The office handled mortgages through 55 other mortgage companies in the period, largely due to the rise of the Internet, Henderson said.

American Home stock collapsed early this week after the company announced it couldn't meet margin calls from its lenders. The stock slid to $1.11 a share from $10.47.

It's the latest in a string of subprime lenders to suffer from the stressed housing market. American Home is among the most conservative subprime lenders, which typically make loans to purchasers who don't easily qualify for mortgages.

The company operates offices in Carmel, Greenwood and Plainfield.

Carpenter Realtors Senior Vice President David Caveness said his company has about three dozen loans through American Home Mortgage in the pipeline.

Some of the home buyers are "nervous and don't know what's going on," Caveness said, but, "We're not panicking."

Caveness is optimistic American Home Mortgage will follow through on a commitment voiced yesterday to start funding loans again today after a temporary freeze.

In January 2006, American Home Mortgage bought Waterfield Financial Corp., a mortgage originator in Fort Wayne, and promptly eliminated hundreds of jobs.

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