Of course, First Florida has a major advantage, being a subsidiary of Synovus Financial ( SNV), a multibank holding company with $33.6 billion in assets spread over 29 subsidiary banks, at last count. The holding company would be expected to recapitalize First Florida if necessary.

Federal Trust Bank of Sanford is held by the thinly traded Federal Trust Corp ( FDT), and it has followed the Florida trend, with a twist. The thrift charged off a total of $5.7 million in problem loans during the third quarter, and it claims that $2.4 million of the losses were caused when a mortgage company and loan servicer, TransLand Financial of Maitland, Fla., failed to remit loan payoffs it had received from borrowers. Federal Trust is seeking to recover its loss as part of a federal lawsuit, but recovery seems unlikely, as the bankrupt TransLand is facing more than 20 other lawsuits.

The thrift's nonperforming assets now comprise 5.82% of total assets, and the key ratio of nonperformers to core capital and reserves is 75.63%.

Coastal Bank of Merritt Island has $150 million in total assets. Nonperforming assets increased over the past two quarters and now total $4.7 million, or 3.79% of total assets. These are mainly single-family mortgages and construction loans. Unlike many other institutions on the list, Coastal Bank has not made significant additions to its loan-loss reserves this year. While this has kept earnings steady, its loan-loss reserves are low. Once again, the ratio of nonperforming assets to core capital and reserves tells the story, with 77.52% exposure to problem assets.

Century Bank FSB of Sarasota is one of the largest institutions on the list, with $903 million in total assets. Over the past few years, Century has been a strong earnings performer, with a return on equity usually exceeding 20%. Over the past three quarters, however, the decline in the thrift's asset quality has accelerated; nonperforming assets now total $28.4 million, nearly double the level last quarter. The bulk of the problem loans are residential mortgages and home-equity loans, with some commercial real estate and land loans.

With loan-loss reserves covering less than 16% of nonperforming loans, the thrift will likely make a large provision for credit losses soon, wiping out earnings for one or more quarters. Overall, Century's ratio of nonperforming assets to core capital and reserves is 73%.

(BankAtlantic does not appear on the table, because its ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets was just 2.49% at Sept. 30, and we limited our search those a ratio of 3% or higher.)

In a weak real estate market, smaller institutions in many key areas of the country face elevated risk of capital to problem loans. The seven banks and thrifts we have focused on are all facing capital shortages unless the real estate market quickly turns around. Depositors need to take note and monitor the health of their institutions, especially if managing accounts for businesses, municipalities such as school districts or other entities.

TheStreet.com's Bank and Thrift Ratings are updated on a quarterly basis and offer a very conservative take on an institution's financial strength.

Ratings lookup tip: With 8,700 banks and thrifts, it can be a bit tricky to find your institution on the Ratings Screener . The easiest way to find an institution is to first click on the Banks and Thrifts in the Screener. Then select the state where your institution is headquartered, enter just the first word of the name, and scroll through the list to find your institution.

As originally published, this story contained two separate errors. Please see Corrections and Clarifications for December, and Corrections and Clarifications for November.

Philip W. van Doorn joined TheStreet.com Ratings., Inc., in February 2007. He is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. He also comments on industry and regulatory trends. Mr. van Doorn has fifteen years experience, having served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida, and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Long Island University.

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