A Los Angeles thrift has been taking title to a motley assortment of multifamily properties damaged by last year's Northridge earthquake as it tries to stem further losses on nonperforming loans.
As a result, while nonperforming assets at Quaker City Bancorp have declined to $20.6 million at Dec. 31, from $22.2 million last June, the company saw its foreclosed real estate nearly double from June to $4.1 million at the yearend.
And officials estimate that they still have about a dozen properties that they will probably take over, said president and chief executive J. L. Thomas.
The $591.3 million-asset company already anticipated losses on these properties and set up a $2 million reserve in the beginning of 1994 to cover them. Mr. Thomas said that reserves should still be adequate.
In a survey of 43 savings and loan associations in California last January, 32 reported damage to properties securing 41,000 loans, with a balance of $8.1 billion.
The damage itself amounted to $700 million in destroyed property and $900 million in major damage.
"Earthquake damage was quite extensive and what they're going through is typical of a number of institutions," said Barry M. Rubens, president of California Research Corp. in Santa Monica. "It proves that healthy institutions should be lending in a geographically diverse area so as not to be hit by calamities of this sort."
Now, Quaker City is faced with the daunting task of preparing these properties for a quick sale. While in many cases that just requires assessing what repairs are needed and telling the new owner, the thrift has also had to make some repairs itself prior to sale.
That has meant either basic work to make it presentable or securing the property by putting up fencing or boarding the windows to prevent trespassing. Quaker has even had to hire security guards.
"When a property is damaged and vacated, it becomes subject to vandalism and deterioration very quickly," Mr. Thomas said. "People go in and steal bathroom fixtures and take what's left. It becomes a home for pimps, and prostitutes, and drug dealers."
But Mr. Thomas said the institution doesn't try to make the properties habitable.
"The repairs are really what is required on a minimal basis to be able to market them," Mr. Thomas said. "We don't physically take the property from a red-tag property to having someone living in the property at the time that we sell it. That goes beyond what we consider getting it into salable condition."
Now, after reporting two consecutive quarters of reductions in nonperforming assets following 14 quarters of increases, the thrift is "cautious but still optimistic that that can and will continue," Mr. Thomas said.
In fact, the thrift is also increasing its real estate loan pool again. About 54% of the company's $79.2 million in asset growth since June 30 was in real estate loans secured by property in Southern California.
And the thrift is earning money, too, bringing in $1 million for the six months ended Dec. 31, compared with $416,000 for the same period last year.
But Quaker officials are realistic about the future, too.
"Yes, we're probably going to have another earthquake, but that is the only certainty," Mr. Thomas said. "We joke about it, but not in our heart or wallet."