To Our Readers:

What's happening in the home equity market is exemplified by two businesses: United Companies Financial and Platinum Capital.

Platinum is a midsize company that is prospering in the booming mortgage market through very aggressive and even flamboyant sales practices (page 4A).

United is an old-line finance company (page 6A) that is spending large amounts to bring itself into the modern world with technology.

Both are survivors of the shakeout in the market (page 3A) that has weeded out the weaker participants and perhaps laid the groundwork for renewed growth for the industry as a whole.

Not that the survivors have clear sailing ahead of them. For one thing, Congress and various agencies are continuing to scrutinize the industry, and the possibility of restrictive legislation looms (page 8A).

But the demographics of home equity borrowers are looking very attractive. They are a surprisingly affluent and sophisticated bunch who appear to be using their credit prudently and paying back promptly (page 9A), Subprime home equity buyers, however, are a much more downscale group, as might be expected.

As one analyst put it, the industry appears to have been chastened by the year's setbacks, and anybody who knows that they are doing "can make a lot of money."

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