Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lawler: Builder Reports Exceed Expectations

by Bill McBride on 4/26/2012 03:16:00 PM

From economist Tom Lawler:

The Ryland Group, the 8th largest US home builder in 2010, reported that net home orders (including discontinued operations) in the quarter ended March 31st totaled 1,357, up 40.5% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 18.0% last quarter, down from 18.2% year ago. Home closings totaled 848 last quarter, up 23.3% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s order backlog on 3/31/12 totaled 2,023, up 38.1% from last March. Ryland noted that sales incentives and price concessions totaled 10.9% last quarter, down from 11.7% a year ago.

PulteGroup, the 2nd largest US home builder in 2010, reported that net home orders in the quarter ended March 31st totaled 4,991, up 14.9% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The sales gain came despite a 6% decline in community count. The company’s sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 15% last quarter, down form 16% a year ago. Home closings last quarter totaled 3,117, down 0.8% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s order backlog on 3/31/12 totaled 5,798, up 11.8% from last March. Pulte noted that while “(w)e are only one quarter into the year, but the start has exceeded our internal estimates and has us cautiously optimistic that housing demand may have reached a positive inflection point."

Meritage Homes, the 10th largest US home builder in 2010, reported that net home orders in the quarter ended March 31st totaled 1,144, up 36.2% from the comparable quarter of 2011. Home closings last quarter totaled 759, up 11.9% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s order backlog as of 3/31/12 totaled 1,300, up 38.3% from last March. Meritage noted that “(o)ur spring selling season got off to a strong start, as evidenced by our 36% increase in sales in the first quarter,” and that “(a)s demand has strengthened, we've begun to raise prices in most of our communities this year.”

M/I Homes, the 15th largest US home builder in 2010, reported that net home orders in the quarter ended March 31st totaled 764, up 16.8% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 14% last quarter, down from 16% a year ago. Home closings last quarter totaled 507, up 15.5% from the comparable quarter of 2011. The company’s order backlog on 3/31/12 totaled 933, up 24.9% from last March. M/I noted that “(o)ur first quarter results reflect what we believe to be slowly improving housing condition.”

All of the publicly-traded builders who have reported results for the quarter ended 3/31/12 so have shown YOY increases in average home sales prices, though in many cases this reflected a change in the mix of homes sold as opposed to overall price increases. By the same token, however, pricing vs. a year ago appears to have been pretty stable, and there appears to have been less price discounting.

Below is a summary of selected stats for the six publicly-traded builders who have released results for the quarter ended in March.

SettlementsNet OrdersBacklog
3/20123/20113/20103/20123/20113/20103/20123/20113/2010
D.R. Horton4,2403,5164,2605,8994,9436,4386,1895,2816,314
NVR1,9241,6341,9193,1572,4032,9404,9093,6854,552
PulteGroup3,1173,1413,7954,9914,3454,3205,7985,1886,456
The Ryland Group8486889841,3579661,1672,0231,4651,915
Meritage Homes7596788081,1448401,0641,3009401,351
M/I Homes507439475764654765933747936
Total11,39510,09612,24117,31214,15116,69421,15217,30621,524
YOY % change12.9%-17.5% 22.3%-15.2% 22.2%-19.6%

On Tuesday the Commerce Department estimated that new SF home sales last quarter were up 16% (not seasonally adjusted) from the comparable quarter of last year. Recently, of course, there has been a pattern of upward revisions to preliminary, and historically during improving markets such revisions are commonplace (and in declining markets, downward revisions are common). I’d bet that when the April new home sales report is released, March’s sales estimate will be revised higher.

CR note: Net orders are above Q1 2010 too when sales average a 358,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate. There has been some consolidation, and cancellations are down, but I think Tom is correct about coming upward revisions.

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