Autumn Poulin had expected to spend the next few weeks making sure her land in Wells was ready for a new modular home that was due to be delivered and assembled in June.

Instead, she is trying to get a $20,000 deposit back from Keiser Homes in Oxford for the three-bedroom, 2½-bath house that is now caught up in the bankruptcy filing of Innovative Building Systems, the Pennsylvania-based parent company of Keiser.

Poulin owns 2.5 acres in Wells in a wooded section off Wire Road. She said the plan was to build one house and sell it and then build another modular home for her family. She said she hadn’t yet put down a deposit with Keiser on her own home because she wanted to get a sense of the expenses involved with the construction of the first house, the one she intended to sell.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” she said. “We’ve done some flips in the past and we thought it would be easier with new construction. We never thought in a thousand years that this would happen.”

Keiser, a 29-year-old manufacturer of modular homes, closed last week, putting 123 people out of work.

Its corporate parent, Innovative Building Systems, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Wednesday, meaning that it is seeking to liquidate and use whatever money it has to satisfy secured creditors, rather than reorganize and reopen. The company listed assets of $5.2 million and liabilities of $16.9 million, according to its bankruptcy filing.


It also listed nearly $791,000 in deposits and prepayments in its filing in Delaware Bankruptcy Court, but it didn’t specify where those deposits came from or which subsidiary was involved. Besides Poulin, a Vermont lawyer says he’s also owed money, having put down $50,000 as a deposit on eight small homes he intended to convert into affordable housing for hurricane victims.

Bruce Baker, a lawyer in Burlington, said he and his law partner planned to build the houses on the site of a former trailer park that was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

The partner had come into some money and wanted to do something good with it, Baker said.

Company officials probably knew the whole time he was dealing with them that a bankruptcy filing was coming, said Baker, who put in his $50,000 deposit on April 28.

“You don’t shut down a plant like that (immediately),” he said. “It takes weeks of planning.”

Poulin said she paid her deposit in March and it went through her account so quickly, “they must have run to the bank.”


As a lawyer, Baker said he knows that the chances of recovering any money is slim. He said he plans to make sure his local builder isn’t facing a loss and then will probably shelve the plans for the affordable housing.


Poulin has also been told she’s not likely to recover much from the bankruptcy. She contacted a lawyer, who told her to wait and see what money, if any, will be left for unsecured creditors like her after the liquidation. It wouldn’t make sense to spend $15,000 in legal fees, Poulin said she was told, to recover a few thousand dollars in a bankruptcy settlement.

Poulin sent the company emails and a certified letter asking for her deposit to be returned, but hasn’t gotten any replies, she said. She’s had no contact with the company since learning it had folded.

Keiser contacted her builder, who was about to pour the footings for the house in an area excavated for the foundation, to tell him that the company had folded, Poulin said. Now she and her builder are trying to find another modular home company to step in, but many are booked months ahead.

Poulin, who is a Realtor, said she hoped to sell the house over the summer because most people want to move into a new place before school starts in the fall. If construction is pushed back too far, that won’t happen, she said, and could potentially hurt the price she hopes to get for the house.


The lawyer representing Innovating Building referred a press inquiry to the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, who didn’t return a call.

Attempts to reach someone from Keiser also were not successful.

Innovative Building Systems was the largest custom modular home builder in the U.S. It purchased Keiser Homes in 2013 under the name of Excel Homes of Maine LLC. Its network of 11 subsidiaries allowed it to deliver modular homes to customers in 30 states and 60 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Innovative Building Systems website.

A news release from the company on May 6 said the landlord of several of its manufacturing facilities terminated leases. Although Innovative Building Systems disputed the termination, the action “has impaired its ability to continue the negotiations it has been engaged in for the last several months with its senior secured creditor, alternative lenders, as well as potential buyers, regarding the company’s existing credit facilities, additional credit facilities and possible sale of the Company. … as a result of the lease termination, IBS may be forced to discontinue operations unless an immediate buyer of the Company assets is obtained.”

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