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What is the history of Jim Walter Homes?

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Jim Walters Homes was a company started by James Walters Sr., a Florida native who started his company with $1,000 borrowed from his parents. Jim Walters Homes were shells or exteriors with unfinished interiors that customers purchased at low prices and reduced lending rates.

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The customer purchased the exterior shell and was free to complete the interior finishing as he desired. The customer could purchase materials, fixtures and labor from Jim Walters Homes. This led to housing that was extremely affordable, especially during the post-World War II boom years of the housing industry. During the 1970s and 1980s, Jim Walters Homes offered 10 percent interest rates when most mortgage lenders were charging 15 percent or more.

The success of Jim Walters Homes led to its inclusion on the Fortune 500 list and to acquisitions and creation of various subsidiaries, including housing-related manufacturers and coal-mining operations. The parent company, Walters Industries, continues to be a leading supplier of coal to the steel industry, as of 2015.

In 1986, Jim Walters Homes was sold to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $3.3 billion but immediately faced enormous liabilities for judgments related to asbestos claims. Walters, who continued as chairman of the board after selling the company, died in 2000, and the company was unable to withstand the economic downturn of 2008, closing in 2009 after selling over 350,000 homes.

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