The Sacramento-area building industry has been abuzz for days over what seems a serious time of trial for Irvine-based John Laing Homes. The builder has 10 projects in the Sacramento area - mostly Natomas, Folsom and Roseville - and is considered a high-quality builder that does very well in a niche: putting a lot of residential development onto an acre of land.
Indeed, many consider Laing the best locally at that type of "smart growth."
What gives? It's a little hard to tell because the company - one of the largest privately-owned residential builders in the U.S. - is not saying much.
Laing's corporate people issued this statement, saying there have been staff reductions, but that operations continue while the firm reviews its options regarding "capital requirements."
The Sacramento division, too, which runs operations in the capital region, the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley - is not responding to press inquiries.
Global press reports indicate that a much-heralded 2006 deal, in which one of the world's largest developers, Dubai-based Emaar Properties, bought John Laing Homes for $1.05 billion, has turned bad. Plans were to use Emaar's deep pockets to expand the builder beyond its traditional markets in California and Colorado. That would also give the Middle East giant a footing in the lucrative U.S. real estate market.
Problem was the deal, done as the boom was already over in places like Sacramento, turned ever more sour as the housing market crashed nationally.
Laing has consistently ranked in or near the top 10 builders regionally for home sales. The builder arrived in the capital region in 1999, according to old Bee stories, and invested $35 million in land from Miami's Lennar Corp. Things went great, by all accounts, until, well...it wasn't great any more.
Here's a look at one of its Natomas developments Thursday, where the sales office was closed.
Here is what was on the sales office door at Mystique in Natomas: