Beach Relief A team of 12 building experts from Standard Pacific's Orange County division spent part of their summer vacation in Thailand, aiding in the tsunami relief efforts. Working with Habitat for Humanity International, the group participated in the First Builder Team program, an aggressive initiative to help some of the tens of thousands of residents displaced by the tsunami that ravaged Thailand's coast this past winter. For 10 days, the team members helped in the demolition of insufficient shelter and the construction of small homes with basic sanitation. To date, Habitat for Humanity's tsunami relief totals $39 million.

Toll Shoots for North Star The market might be soft in parts of the Midwest, but Toll Brothers likes what is sees in the Twin Cities, at least. The company will enter into Minnesota's Minneapolis-St. Paul market in a strategy to expand the luxury builder's presence in the region. The builder currently operates in both the metro Chicago and Detroit areas.

KB in the News KB Home recently doled out $2 million to appease the Federal Trade Commission, which charged that the builder illegally used binding arbitration clauses in its sales contracts to curb home buyers' ability to sue the company over construction defects. Although such clauses are legal, KB had previously agreed not to require its customers to use arbitration to handle disputes as part of a 1979 consent decree. The company contends that it was not enforcing binding-arbitration language and the clause was eliminated from its contracts in 2003.

Back row (left to right): Kirk Howe, Chris Jackson, Dave Sturm, Derek Barbour, Guy West, and Brian Flynn; Middle row (left to right): Zac Hess, Mike Betz, and Terry Bassett; Front row (left to right): David Kelly, Jim Gagnon, and Sunti Kumjim.

The settlement comes on the heels of a separate $3.2 million settlement with HUD. The agency's federal regulators found that the builder's mortgage financing arm, KB Mortgage Co., violated numerous underwriting practices in approving home loans for unqualified borrowers.

In other news, KB has decided to sell nearly all the assets of KB Mortgage Co. to Countrywide Home Loans. The 50-50 joint venture will offer Countrywide's array of financing products to KB customers.

California Dreaming Standard Pacific Corp. is rapidly making its dreams of becoming a home building empire in California's Central Valley a reality. Following the acquisition of Advantage Home and Probuilt Homes, the company announced the formation of a new division in the region. Bill Mayben, former division president for Meritage Homes' Northern California division, will put his expertise to work as president of the new division, located in the Modesto area. The division intends to pursue development opportunities along the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 corridors, which will allow the company to diversify into lower price points while complementing operations in Northern California.

Powell at 2006 IBS Home builders and their affiliates will be in for a special treat at the International Builders' Show in Orlando in 2006. Retired General Colin L. Powell will deliver the keynote address at the show's opening ceremonies. A respected statesman and retired four-star general, Powell most recently served as secretary of state during George W. Bush's first term as president.

The IBS will be held January 11-14, 2006, at the Orange County Convention Center. The show's roughly 200 educational session and 1,600 exhibitors are expected to draw as many as 100,000 people to the area. For more information, log on to

Gen. Lyon's Hasty Retreat In contrast to his bold strides of weeks past, these days General William Lyon is back pedaling when it comes to acquiring his company's public shares. Faced with shareholders threatening litigation, the builder announced that he was withdrawing his proposal to buy the shares. According to company information, Lyon says that although he remains interested, he was unwilling to place a new bid on the shares at the company's current trading levels.

Outbid But Not Outhoused? NVR's CEO Dwight C. Schar no longer has the corner on the market for the most expensive home. Swedish financier Robert Weil toppled Schar's record purchase of a $70 million home by a cool $20 million. But the question of who scored the better deal remains. Schar's $70 million got him beach-to-lake property in Palm Beach, a boathouse, an oversized pool, a spa, several guesthouses, and a historic, 26,000-square-foot mansion with seven bedrooms, 18 bathrooms, and a movie theater. Weil's $90 million, meanwhile, bought him 40 acres of oceanfront property on Long Island, a pool, a pond, and a three-bedroom farmhouse. You be the judge.

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