The phone call last week came as a shock. One of the last things Melissa and Maurice Dashiell wanted to hear from their homebuilder's salesman was that the company, NVR L.P., had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
But by Sunday, the young couple were feeling confident. They drove to King's Charter, the Bel Air subdivision where the foundation for their four-bedroom colonial had been poured recently. They were pleased to see that the wood for framing the home had been delivered on time. And, in a cheery mood, they stopped by the model home to measure windows for their new curtains.
"As long as the suppliers keep supplying, we won't get itchy," said Mr. Dashiell, 28, a computer systems specialist with American Trading & Production Corp. in Baltimore.
Most buyers under contract for homes to be built by Ryan Homes and NVHomes, subsidiaries of Virginia-based NVR, seem undaunted by the company's bankruptcy filing, said Robert Coursey, marketing director for Ryan Homes' Northeast division, which includes the Baltimore area.
"It's been amazing," Mr. Coursey said. Of the 410 buyers with deposits on Ryan Homes to be constructed in the Baltimore region, only three had requested that their deposits be returned in the wake of the Chapter 11 filing, he said.
The companies have received court approval to continue oper
ating under Chapter 11 protection from their creditors.
But the road ahead for NVR is unpredictable as the debt-ridden company grapples with its reorganization and with keeping the home-buying public's trust, housing industry analysts say.
NVR's period of rapid growth, which included the acquisition of Ryan Homes, ended two years ago when its profits plummeted after the real estate market turned weak.
In 1990, the company suspended payments on $220 million in junk bonds it had used to pay for the Ryan acquisition and hundreds of millions more than it had used to build up a supply of land for future development.
In its efforts to stay in the good graces of buyers, NVR's Ryan Homes -- ranked second in the Baltimore market after the Ryland Group -- has the advantage of a good long-term reputation, said Robert Lefenfeld, who tracks the regional homebuilding industry for Legg Mason Inc. in Baltimore.
"Obviously, there is going to be more publicity and more obstacles for them to overcome. But the positive side is that the Ryan Homes name has been a positive name in this market for 20 years," Mr. Lefenfeld said.
Although the Dashiells have a $2,500 deposit on their home, they didn't ask for their money back because of assurances from the subdivision's sales manager, John Connor. Mr. Connor lTC telephoned Mr. Dashiell the day NVR filed its bankruptcy petition in Richmond, Va.
"My first reaction when he called was scared," said Mrs. Dashiell, 26. But, she said, they were put at ease when Mr. Connor told them the Chapter 11 filing would not interfere with progress on their home.
NVR began a comprehensive program to alert all buyers with deposits on Ryan Homes or NVHomes before news of the bankruptcy filing was reported by the media, Mr. Coursey said.
He said the program apparently worked as Ryan Homes made 28 new home sales in the Baltimore area in the week since the bankruptcy filing. "I think the customers out there see the financial restructuring we're going through as a non-issue," he said.
"This is really business as usual. We're very pleased with the kind of support we have received from our customers, employees, subcontractors and vendors," NVR Chairman Dwight C. Schar said Tuesday.
He said he knew of no subcontractors or suppliers working with the company who had severed their relationships with NVR because of the filing.