In March 2008, about nine months after he bought a steel-processing business, Precision Steel Services in Warren, Mich., for some $750,000, Shailesh Kumar went to two banks in search of a $350,000 loan.
He wanted to expand the business and pay off a $290,000 debt he had with the seller, replacing an 8 percent, seven-year debt with a 6.5 percent, 20-year loan. “It would have made a huge difference in terms of cash flow and growth capital,” Mr. Kumar said.
But both lenders he was negotiating with demanded that Mr. Kumar put up equity in his own home as collateral. Mr. Kumar hesitated, and then as 2008 wore on, he watched the value of his home fall to $330,000 from $425,000, wiping out all of his equity. Eventually, the banks broke off negotiations. With no cash on hand and revenue down by some 60 percent during the first half of 2009, Mr. Kumar closed Precision Steel in July 2009. Today, he runs an investment advice Web site, Value Stock Guide.
The collapse of the housing market has highlighted how entrepreneurs are routinely compelled to bet the house on their businesses. For many, taking the risk is tempting because their home may be their largest asset and loans against home equity are easier to find than business loans. Also, such loans come at lower interest rates than most alternatives. They can also allow a business owner to avoid giving equity to investors.