Wannabe reality TV stars Jason and David Benham have kissed and made up with SunTrust Banks (STI) after a misunderstanding about the twin brothers' political and religious activities.
Now the brothers have moved on to their next test figuring out how to replace the nearly-vanished business of maintaining foreclosed homes for banks. Fortunately for the Benhams, they've got many business opportunities to choose from.
The mix-up happened on May 15 when SunTrust pulled the Benham brothers from its listing of approved vendors. The brothers, through about 100 franchises in 35 states, offer the service of managing "other real estate owned" to more than 200 banks, they say.
The Benhams thought SunTrust's decision stemmed from HGTV's cancellation of their home-flipping show that was to debut this fall. HGTV pulled the plug after a media report said the Benhams led a prayer rally outside the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., during which David Benham told a radio talk-show host that someone needed to stop "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation."
The Benhams criticized SunTrust's decision, saying it was an unconstitutional restriction of their religious freedoms. The Benhams' acknowledge that their views are rooted in their evangelical Christian beliefs.
The real reason for the mishap was much less interesting. SunTrust blamed the removal of the Benhams from its vendor list on a third-party company that had recently taken over management of SunTrust residential assets.
SunTrust "supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion," the Atlanta company said. The Benhams were reinstated.
The problem is that the nation's supply of foreclosed homes has declined dramatically, and with it, demand for the service the Benhams offered.
"We've definitely taken a hit in managing foreclosed properties," Jason Benham said in an interview.
The Benhams have already moved on. Their Charlotte-based company offers all kinds of services from the marketing and selling of automobiles, to tax consulting, to Internet technologies. Then there is the Benhams' increasing popularity among Christian groups, via speaking engagements and other potential TV shows. Their Hollywood good looks don't hurt either.
But what do the Benhams see as their most-promising venture when it comes to working with banks? Residential real estate.
The residential real estate brokerage market is coming back and the Benhams already have established relationships with lots of banks, they say.
"If you want to find a house, we've got agents to help you find one," Jason Benham said.