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What's in a name? If it's HomeBanc, confusion

At a time of turmoil in the home mortgage industry, what more could add to the morass of bankruptcy, merger and confusion?

Try a popular name.

Within the glass and concrete valleys of the Rocky Point office complexes in Tampa, there are the ashes of two different HomeBanc mortgage lenders, and a third living on with resurrected branding.

The story begins with the original HomeBanc, an Atlanta company that, at its peak, did $5-billion per year in mortgages, primarily in Florida and Georgia.

But then, like a lot of companies caught when the housing market tumbled, HomeBanc filed for bankruptcy protection last August. Countrywide Financial Corp., which has offices in the Rocky Point area just off the Courtney Campbell Parkway, bought some of HomeBanc's pieces.

Then along came Community National Bank of the South, a Tampa company intent on trading its mouthful of a name for something simpler. CNBS bought the rights to HomeBanc from a Delaware bankruptcy trustee and has been operating under the moniker since April.

The sprouting of HomeBancs at Rocky Point wasn't finished. A Fort Lauderdale company called Advantage Home Loan applied for a mortgage license registered to a Rocky Point address in August 2007. The state gave the company rights to use the name "HomeBanc America Mortgage" for multiple counties in February — including the Rocky Point branch office.

Hope Jones, an employee at that office, said when she showed up to her $300-per-week telemarketing job Tuesday, the doors were locked and much of the office suite furniture had been moved out.

Jones said the company's departure came without notice.

"I don't know where they went. I haven't heard from anybody," Jones said. "Honestly, I don't know what I'm going to do."

Advantage Home Loan has offices in Orlando and Austin, Texas, but it's unclear whether they are still open. Calls to those locations this week were met with an "all circuits are busy now" message.

Representatives from Advantage Home Loan declined comment this week, but executives with CNBS Financial Group expressed concern over the HomeBanc name game.

Debra Hanses, executive vice president of CNBS, said her company only recently heard about HomeBanc America. "We are concerned that any current or prospective customer of our bank will confuse us with any other company with a similar name," she said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

Original HomeBanc

Who they are: Atlanta company that issued $5-billion in mortgages at its peak.

What happened: Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Aug. 10, 2007.


CNBS' HomeBanc

Who they are: Tampa holding company CNBS Financial Group bought the HomeBanc name out of bankruptcy court in April.

What happened: Plans to expand its mortgage business in central and southwest Florida.


HomeBanc America

Who they are: Fort Lauderdale Advantage Home Loan registered to use the HomeBanc America name earlier this year.

What happened: Employees found the lender's Tampa office shuttered this week.

What's in a name? If it's HomeBanc, confusion 05/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2008 3:39pm]
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