THE AWARD FOR “MOST CHUTZPAH DURING the housing downturn” could go to The Cypress Co., a St. Petersburg, Fla.–based real estate company that is offering to purchase land lots and unsold homes for 50 cents on the dollar.

Armed with a $2-billion acquisitions kitty (including $226 million of its own money, $520 million in outside equity, and a $1.5 billion credit line), this spring, Cypress sent 250 letters to potentially interested parties, including 60 of the largest shareholders of the 25 largest builders, as well as those builders themselves. It has been offering to purchase inventoried lots and homes for half of their appraised value, less interest carrying costs, plus a $5,000 fee. “Our protocol would give these companies an opportunity for an immediate cash infusion,” explains Blake Whitney Thompson, Cypress' general counsel. Sellers would also have the opportunity to get distressed assets off their books while the market sorts itself out. A builder or developer could repurchase its homes or lots from Cypress at any time over a three-year period for the sold price plus 10 percent.

Most big builders gave Cypress' offer the cold shoulder initially, but a small story in the The Wall Street Journal seems to have stimulated interest.

By mid June, Cypress was weighing several deals: one for 7,700 lots from a joint venture that involves a public and private builder; the second for 23 spec homes; and a third for 75 completed homes in two subdivisions, as well as a $390,000,000 deal in the Southwest for 9,000 lots and a $280,000,000 deal in the Midwest for 1,150 lots and houses. Thompson wouldn't identify the names of those prospective sellers, but he claims that Cypress has also been approached by consultants about whether it would be interested in operating large-scale home building companies “that are upside down.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.