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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Homebuilder D.R. Horton: Good News, Bad News

by Calculated Risk on 8/04/2009 03:15:00 PM

From D.R. Horton:

D.R. Horton ... today reported a net loss for its third fiscal quarter ended June 30, 2009 of $142.3 million ... The quarterly results included $110.8 million in pre-tax charges to cost of sales for inventory impairments and write-offs of deposits and pre-acquisition costs related to land option contracts that the Company does not intend to pursue. The net loss for the same quarter of fiscal 2008 was $399.3 million ... Homebuilding revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2009 totaled $914.1 million, compared to $1.4 billion in the same quarter of fiscal 2008. Homes closed totaled 4,240 homes, compared to 6,167 homes in the year ago quarter.
Donald R. Horton, Chairman of the Board, said, “Our net sales orders in the June quarter reflected a 22% sequential increase from our March quarter which was stronger than our usual seasonal trend. However, market conditions in the homebuilding industry are still challenging, characterized by rising foreclosures, high inventory levels of available homes, increasing unemployment, tight credit for homebuyers and weak consumer confidence."
The Company’s cancellation rate (cancelled sales orders divided by gross sales orders) for the third quarter of fiscal 2009 was 26%.
emphasis added
Horton is the largest homebuilder in the U.S.

The bad news is they are still losing money and sales are way off from last year.

The good news is sales in calendar Q2 (fiscal Q3) were "stronger than [the] usual seasonal trend", and also cancellations are back to early 2006 levels.

The surge in cancellation rates was an important story after the bubble burst because the Census Bureau doesn't correct inventory levels if contracts are cancelled. Now it appears cancellation rates might be returning to more normal levels.

Note: What matters for inventory is the change in cancellation rate from a couple of quarters earlier, not the absolute level. For those interested in how the Census Bureau handles cancellations, see here.

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

This graph shows the cancellation rate for Horton since the top of the housing bubble.

There appears to be a seasonal pattern (fewer cancellations in Q1), so this decline in calendar Q2 is definitely significant.

The cancellation rate could rise again if mortgage rates move higher, but this is a little bit of good news for the builders. These cancellation rates are still above normal (Note: "Normal" for Horton is in the 16% to 20% range, so 26% is still high.), but most of the home builders are reporting the lowest cancellation rates since late 2005 or early 2006.

The really bad news for Horton - and all homebuilders - is that sales will not rebound for the reasons outlined by Mr. Horton above, especially because of the huge overhang of excess inventory. In the low priced areas where inventory is currently low and activity high, most of the homes are selling below replacement cost and the builders can't compete. The big question for the builders is: Can they make money at these sales levels? I think the answer for many of them is no.