The Wall Street Journal's Kris Hudson takes a deep dive into the debt load of the nation's eighth-largest builder, as Hovnanian Enterprises tangles with $467 million in loans coming due through 2017.

What's worse, the firm--whose share price has dropped 44% in the last year--isn't sure how it's going to repay it. It's a lingering hangover from the Great Recession, one that helped the firm avoid bankruptcy, which is now looking like a Pyrrhic victory:

Analysts and investors are eyeing Hovnanian’s next big debt payment—$173 million of bonds coming due Jan. 15—to see whether the builder can refinance or face the less-palatable options of dipping into its cash or selling land to partners to retire the bonds.

On a Sept. 9 conference call with investors to discuss Hovnanian’s quarterly results, the builder’s executives took the unusual step of outlining how the builder can sell or mortgage land or sell and lease back its model homes to raise additional cash.

Hovnanian was aggressive during the last upturn, buying 19 smaller builders from 1999 to 2006, which added to its $2.1 billion debt load:

Making those deals at peak prices haunted Hovnanian as property values rapidly fell. Since 2006, the builder has written off more than $2.7 billion, much of it from those peak-market deals.

Meanwhile, Hovnanian’s crushing debt and scant equity kept it from buying cheap land in the early years of the housing market’s recovery of 2011 through 2013, which has since hindered its profit margins.

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