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NC homebuilders that make mortgages can expect scrutiny

In the last 18 months, the State of North Carolina has negotiated settlements with two large home builders for allegedly overcharging customers on mortgages. Beazer Homes said yesterday it will refund 2-and-a-half million dollars to North Carolina homeowners. WFAE's Julie Rose reports more investigations of builder-affiliated mortgage lenders are on the way: Large, national home builders like Beazer often have their own mortgage lending divisions. They basically tell customers they'll get a better deal on their new home if they get a Beazer mortgage too. But the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks is concerned that some of those offers may not be fair -- or even legal. And Deputy Commissioner Mark Pearce says more builders like Beazer will now be on the hook: "Some of the activities we've seen so far have raised a lot of concern in our office," says Pearce. "You could look to see what homebuilders had affiliated mortgage lenders in North Carolina and those are all going to be on our list to do an examination of now." Pearce won't say exactly which builder-affiliated mortgage lenders are currently under investigation, but he's clear they'll all get their turn. In March 2008, the mortgage arm of Ryland Homes also settled over fees and incentives the state says were illegal. Several of the top national homebuilders doing business in North Carolina declined to comment on the possibility of investigation by the State Commissioner of Banks. However, they all belong to the Homebuilders Association of Charlotte. "The builders that are doing everything above-board -- which is the largest majority of them I'm sure -- while they don't welcome it, they don't fear it," says Homebuilders Association Executive Vice President Mark Baldwin. "It will cost them a little bit of time and manpower to go through the investigation and those that have skimmed, if there are any that have done anything wrong, will have to pay the penalty." In the case of Beazer Homes, the price has already been steep with yesterday's $2.5million settlement and an ongoing FBI investigation the company warns could top out at $50 million in liability before it's through.