Possible loan crunch raises worry


Friday, October 3rd 2008, 7:05 pm
By: News 9


By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

We constantly hear that the underlying cause of this financial mess is the sub-prime loan debacle and the collapse of the housing market and that, as a result, credit has all but frozen up.

Some wonder if the housing market in Oklahoma has collapsed and if banks are no longer making loans.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Oklahoma homes sales are down from last year, foreclosures are up and many home buyers and sellers are just plain scared right now.

"The last five or six days have been a little dicey for a lot of our customers," Edmond realtor Brad Reeser said.

Reeser said Wall Street's meltdown threw a wrench into what had otherwise been a very strong third quarter still, he said they have not seen construction come to a stop, and aren't seeing people with good credit have trouble getting loans.

"What we do see here is the overall sales value, home value, as far as the state of Oklahoma, have increased three percent last quarter, so that is a positive thing and I think it is still kind of bucking the trend," Reeser said.

Oklahoma Bankers Association Chairman Brad Krieger said Oklahoma banks aren't laden with toxic debt like others right now, in part, because of lessons learned from the Savings and Loan collapse of the '80s he said their investment portfolios are very diverse.

"We're in agriculture, we're in aerospace, we're in commercial industrial, certainly oil and gas, and the peripheral industries, but that diversification certainly helps the whole banking industry here," Kreiger said.

The result, Krieger said, is that local banks have generally not changed their underwriting standards and are still lending money.

"We're making loans, we're taking deposits, those deposits are-there's nothing safer than money in the bank right now," Krieger said.

Banks need those deposits to keep coming in. That gives them the liquidity they need to be able to make loans and most experts agree the package approved by Congress will boost consumers' confidence that their money really is safe in the bank.