A significant subset of building material dealers report conditions with their banks has gotten tougher in the past year, and some are looking to change lenders, but for the most part they regard their condition as better than what their customers are going through, returns to a new ProSales survey indicate.

The online poll conducted earlier this month found that 18.7% of the dealers responding said their bank had required additional collateral from them this year, 30.9% were asked to provide additional information to the bank, 11.1% saw their credit line reduced, and 18.7% had to find other means of financing aside from a bank credit line. A total of 194 people responded to the survey, of which 148 worked at building material dealers.

"We have a very good relationship with our primary banks, but there is a much greater sense of caution than in the past," a dealer in Arkansas said. "People are nervous about the solvency of lumberyards, and probably for good reason."

Tough as it may be for some dealers, they believe builders and remodelers have it worse. Just under 60% of the dealers surveyed said they believe it's harder for their customers to get bank loans this year compared with 2010, and 30.1% said they had spoken this year to a bank on behalf of a builder or remodeler customer that was seeking a loan.

Banks are delaying the recovery process," a dealer in Massachusetts declared. "They have no sense of urgency to close a loan, whether it is a development loan with a builder or a mortgage with a homeowner. They are too conservative to help get us out of this mess."

Forty-six percent of dealers have accounts with just one bank, while 31.5% work with two banks, 8.9% with three, and the other 13.8% with four or more banks. The primary banking relationship is split among big national banks (34.7%), regional institutions (25.8%), local banks (37.9%) and credit unions (1.6%). But written comments indicate that dealers tend to be happier when they deal with more local institutions, and some are actively seeking to move in that direction.

"It appears that the national bank would rather not have our interest," one dealer said. Declared another: "The big banks are making it much harder to do business with (fees, fees, fees). The smaller local bank wants our business and are waiving fees and making the banking experience easier."

"Stressful and unpleasant!" was the headline a Maryland-based specialty dealer gave to his comments. "It's no longer 'What can we do for you?' but rather 'What can you do for us?' [I] actually was told to pursue another financial institution so that I could see what was out there. I in turn pointed out that I had ignored those other financial institutions while remaining loyal to them for all these past 15 years."