Talk to a bank lending officer, as the Federal Reserve does, and you might conclude from its quarterly surveys that the tightening of loan terms has ebbed to the point where there's a balance between banks that have tightened and those that are easing. But builders disagree. According to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Acquisition, Development, and Construction survey, builders are roughly 30 percentage points more likely to say the availability of new loans continues to be getting worse than those who say it's improving.

The results for both surveys are net percentages. The NAHB's results are the percentage of respondents who say availability of new loans has gotten worse minus the percentage who say it has gotten better. For the Fed it's the percentage of senior loan officers who say they have tightened terms on commercial real estate loans minus those who say they have eased terms.