BLOOMINGTON -- Three contractors have claimed Brady Homes and a related company owe more than $400,000 in unpaid bills -- a cash-flow problem the family-owned firm says reveals the depth of the homebuilding industry's struggles.
The contractors filed at least 19 mechanic's liens, totaling $402,107, on 10 Twin City residential properties owned by Brady firms in the past month, according to documents in the McLean County Recorder's office. The liens allege unpaid bills for concrete and electrical work completed this year and other homebuilding materials.
Bob Brady, who owns Bloomington-based Brady Homes with his brothers, Ed and Bill, said Friday the liens were "just a cash flow issue" that would be resolved as each property is sold. Brady said their relationships with contractors and vendors remains good and they are "working civilly with everyone" involved.
Bob and Ed run the day-to-day operations at Brady Homes. Bill Brady, who also is a Republican state senator from Bloomington, is part-owner and runs Re/Max Choice, another family real-estate company. Through a spokesman, the state senator said Friday that Bob Brady would speak for the family.
"We're fighting through it, like all the other builders in the area and throughout the country," Bob Brady said. "Last year was a remarkably bad year for the industry, and this year is as well."
Sales of new homes in the Twin Cities fell 11 percent last year and are down another 44 percent so far in 2011. During the building boom five years ago, Brady Homes closed sales on 156 new homes in a year, Brady said.
"This year, we'll be lucky to hit 40 homes," he said.
The 19 mechanic's liens appear to be a first for Brady Homes -- also known as WEB Construction -- in McLean County in recent history, records show. They were filed by Isaacson Concrete and Excavating in Normal (12 liens), JS Precision Wiring Inc. in Ellsworth (2), and Hundman Lumber Mart in Bloomington (5).
Attorneys for Isaacson and JS Precision Wiring did not respond to requests for comment. An attorney for Hundman Lumber declined comment.
When a mechanic's lien is in effect, a property owner theoretically cannot sell the property without settling the unpaid bill, said McLean County Recorder Lee Newcom. Last year, 72 mechanic's liens were filed in McLean County, down from 133 in 2009. To date in 2011, 59 have been filed.
Chuck Lansing, president of the Bloomington-Normal Area Homebuilders Association, said Friday that the filing of mechanic's liens is "happening very, very little" in the Twin Cities, despite the construction slowdown.
The 19 liens were filed against Brady Homes and/or Vineyards of Normal LLC, another Brady firm. The properties involved are in Normal's Vineyards (and the adjacent Silver Oak development) and Bloomington's Fox Hollow subdivisions. Bob Brady said they are a mix of presold and speculatively built (or "spec") homes.
"Every house we sell we plan to deliver a clean title," he said.
Bob Brady said the brothers are not considering bankruptcy for Brady Homes, which he noted has five closings scheduled in just the next three weeks. He also stressed that the family's other companies are financially "solid," such as Re/Max Choice.
"These are just some bumps in the road," Brady said.
Reporter Ryan Denham can be reached at twitter.com/ryanpantagraph