Home-buyers' remorse is running deep as millions of people who experienced the Great American Dream just a few years ago — when home values were soaring and real estate seemed a fail-proof investment — are waking up to financial ruin. The culprit is risky lending practices, most notably the “teaser rate” adjustable mortgages that are resetting at rates that many homeowners simply can't afford.

David Howard thinks he has spotted a silver lining in these economic clouds — and a feel-good marketing opportunity as well. “I'm offering customers the opportunity to refinance their homes at low fixed rates,” says Howard, owner of Lasting Exteriors, a window and siding replacement contractor in Jacksonville, Fla. Subprime lending has hit his state particularly hard, so he partnered with a mortgage broker to offer fairly priced, fixed-rate financing “now, while the interest rates are low,” he says.

Howard acknowledges that the new venture may not generate great profits, but he'll be pleased “even if I get a community ‘attaboy.' I want them to say, ‘Not only did they make our home beautiful, but they brought our mortgage rate down,'” he says.