Friday, October 05, 2007

Homebuilders Struggle to Survive

by Bill McBride on 10/05/2007 12:37:00 PM

From Bloomberg: Homebuilders Liquidate Assets as Threat to Survival Spurs Sales (hat tip Jim)

``It's desperation time and some companies may not make it,'' said Alex Barron, an industry analyst at Agency Trading Group Inc. in Wayzata, Minnesota. ``At this point in the housing cycle, if you have too much debt, it's hard to get out from under it.''
...
``They are all losing money,'' [John Burns, president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting] said.
...
The 15 largest homebuilders are saddled with $7.75 billion in debt due to be repaid through 2009 and the companies' bonds trade as if they were junk ...

The five biggest homebuilders by revenue -- Lennar, D.R. Horton, Pulte, Centex and KB Home -- wrote off a combined $3.3 billion in the third quarter on land they own and will not build on or options to buy land they are choosing not to exercise.
We could make fun of the analysts that claimed the homebuilders would have strong cash flow during a downturn (due to less investment in land and improvements) and that the homebuilders were "land banks". Those investment ideas were Dumb and Dumber!

But the more important point is that the homebuilders struggle to survive shows why the builders are still overbuilding. Building homes, and selling at a deep discount, is the only way they can liquidate land to raise cash and pay down their debts in the current environment. This is why housing starts are still too high and will likely fall further over the next few quarters.