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Green Building News

Green Builder Does a New Dance with Lenders

Seattle builder Martha Rose reconfigured her approach to banks by taking on a little more risk upfront and marketing her eco-construction prominently

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Site plan in Seattle. Fish Singer Place, a four-house project being built by Martha Rose Construction.
Image Credit: Martha Rose Construction / Fisher Singer Place
Site plan in Seattle. Fish Singer Place, a four-house project being built by Martha Rose Construction.
Image Credit: Martha Rose Construction / Fisher Singer Place
The house plan for Lot 1 at Fish Singer Place.

Frustration and despair have been loyal companions to many builders trying to negotiate the tight credit market. That likely is why we may be hearing more and more about builders’ unorthodox approaches to working with banks.

One loan-success story catching attention this week is that of Martha Rose, whose Martha Rose Construction, based in Seattle, had struggled to secure financing for a four-home project called Fish Singer Place. Rose finally landed a loan by sinking enough of her own money into the project to get foundations for the homes in the ground, and by developing a marketing plan that touts Fish Singer’s green construction and energy efficiency performance.

As Rose told the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, it wasn’t an easy sell, in any case. Of concern to some of the 10 lenders she visited was the fact that there were no presales for the project, and prospective prices for the homes are in the Seattle area’s upper-middle range: $638,000 to $658,000 for homes of 2,000 to 2,400 sq. ft., with the fourth unit, which includes a 525-square-foot carriage house, priced at $788,000.

Rose hired Adrian Willanger, whose firm Eco-Redux focuses on helping green builders and developers market their projects in ways that highlight their expertise in sustainable and energy efficient construction. For Rose, the Daily Journal notes, the process included creating a business plan for Fish Singer Place – whose homes are being built to five-star Built Green standards, with an aim to achieve net-zero-energy performance – that she could present to lenders.

Sound Community Bank liked Rose’s thoroughgoing green approach and gave her a loan. She says her financing odyssey taught her that, in the current lending climate, getting money takes far more time, effort, and improvisation that it did two years ago. But key to it all is playing to one’s strength, especially if it’s green construction. “When I went to close my loan with the bank, I asked if my being a green builder had anything to do with the final agreement,” said Rose. “He said it had everything to do with it — that had I not been a green builder, they would not have given me the money.”

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