Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Homebuilder Cancellation Rate

by Bill McBride on 6/02/2009 06:26:00 PM

"Our contract cancellation rate of 24% for the second quarter is at a more normalized level, the likes of which we have not reported since the third quarter of 2005,"
Ara K. Hovnanian, President and CEO Hovnanian Enterprises, June 2, 2000
The surge in cancellation rates was an important story after the bubble burst. Now it appears cancellation rates might be returning to more normal levels.

The following graph shows the average cancellation rates for some selected homebuilders that I've been tracking.

Cancellation Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

There appears to be a seasonal pattern (fewer cancellations in Q1), but most of the builders are reporting the lowest cancellation rates since the bubble burst.

The cancellation rate could rise again if mortgage rates move higher, but this is a little bit of good news for the builders. Here are a couple of comments I posted last month:

Pulte: The cancellation rate improved to 21% for the first quarter of 2009 compared with 47% for the fourth quarter of 2008 and 28% for the first quarter of 2008.

D.R. Horton: The Company’s cancellation rate (cancelled sales orders divided by gross sales orders) for the second quarter of fiscal 2009 was 30%.

These cancellation rates are still above normal (Note: "Normal" for Horton is in the 16% to 20% range, so 30% is still high.), but these are the lowest cancellation rates for most builders since late 2005 or early 2006.