North Texas Homebuilder Files For Bankruptcy

September 19, 2008

Plano-based Sheridan Homes of Texas is the latest North Texas home builder to file for bankruptcy protection this year.

The nationwide credit crunch and high foreclosure rates have stymied the housing industry across the country. Analysts have said that North Texas has been largely immune from the effects of the housing bubble because there wasn’t a large increase in housing prices.

According to court records, Sheridan reported 100 vacant lots and 80 finished but unoccupied homes when it filed its Chapter 11 case in early August. The firm was also building five homes in Grand Prairie and Waxahachie that has already been sold.

Court records indicated that the homes were not completed and delivered to the buyers due to the companies “precarious financial position.”

The company also has model homes in Arlington and Mansfield.

Three other North Texas builders have filed for bankruptcy this year. Buescher Homes, Goff Homes and Steelman Homes also filed for protection from their creditors in 2008, according to court documents.

Even large national home builders are feeling the pinch of the credit crunch. Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton reported a loss of $1.8 billion between September 2007 and June 2008, and its home sales are down over 30 percent from last year.

With the cost of building materials rising and home foreclosures driving down prices, builders have seen their profit margins evaporate.

The Commerce Department reported recently that new home construction fell to levels last seen in 1991, when the nation’s economy was in a recession. Housing starts plunging below the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 900,000 for only the sixth time since record keeping began in 1959.

A leading indicator for future building activity, permits for new construction, dropped to an annual rate of 854,000 units in August, down 8.9 percent from 937,000 in July. The report indicates that permits have now fallen 36.4 percent from year-ago levels.

Bankruptcy Can Save Your Home From Foreclosure

September 12, 2008

Fort Worth, TX – Imagine being a mother of two barely getting by on your paycheck when a slight setback puts you behind on your mortgage payments. That is what happened to Yvonne, who asked that we not use her last name.

After having already been through a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy when she was separated from her husband, Yvonne went looking for help to save her home for her children. She found Robert A Higgins, a bankruptcy attorney and founder of Robert A. Higgins & Associates.

Higgins helped Yvonne file Chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to reorganize her debt and keep her family in the house that they have called home for the past 13 years.

“I only fell behind by a couple of months. I was trying to work with them. Then in June I just couldn’t keep up, and they told me that they were ready to start foreclosure proceedings at the beginning of August,” she said. “I had to do something to protect my home.”

Yvonne and her family are not alone. In North Texas, over 2,500 homes a month are scheduled for foreclosure.

It may not seem like the best option to file bankruptcy, but Chapter 13 protections in Texas can save a home from foreclosure and allow homeowners who may have fallen behind some time to catch up with their obligations.

State bankruptcy exemptions in Texas include the person’s homestead, up to 10 acres, in a city or town and up to 100 acres in rural areas (200 acres for a family farm).

“The law was created to protect home and hearth,” said Higgins. “As a bankruptcy attorney the most satisfying part of my job is helping hard working people keep their homes.”

Higgins and his firm represent hundreds of bankruptcy clients each year.

“Even in good economic times, a family illness or dispute can force people into a financial crisis,” Higgins explained. “Bankruptcy law is there to help someone who is at risk of further victimization from their situation.”

And Yvonne appreciates the help.

“I had tried to file with another attorney before I contacted Higgins & Associates,” she said. “The case was dismissed and I never heard from them again. Higgins & Associates has been a lifesaver for me.”

In the 12-month period ending in June, 934,009 personal bankruptcies were filed in the United States. Of those, 8,585 were filed in the Northern District of Texas, which includes Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

The number of bankruptcy filings in Texas’ Northern District was up 6.1 percent in that 12-month period, according to information released by the courts.

“It seems like more and more people are getting in over their heads,” Higgins said. “I see several things that are to blame, divorce, loss of job, medical bills, loose lending standards, predatory lenders or the borrower that didn’t really know how far in debt that they were getting are some of the more common situations. What matters is that there is a way to get out of this mess.”

Robert A. Higgins is a leading bankruptcy attorney in Fort Worth and founding partner of Higgins & Associates, a firm that has helped thousands of clients protect their assets through personal bankruptcy filings.

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