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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lawler on Lennar: Net Home Orders Jump, Pricing Improves in “Most” Markets

by Calculated Risk on 6/27/2012 04:29:00 PM

From economist Tom Lawler:

Lennar Corporation, the 3rd largest US home builder in 2011, reported that net home orders in the quarter ended May 31, 2012 totaled 4,481, up 39.9% from the comparable quarter of last year. The company’s sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 16% last quarter, down from 17% a year ago. Home deliveries last quarter totaled 3,222, up 20.1% from the comparable quarter last year. Lennar’s order backlog at the end of May was 3,970, up 60.7% from last May.

As with most other builders, Lennar reported that “pricing trends” were positive in “most” markets last quarter. Here are some comments by CEO Stuart Miller in the press release.

"Evidence from the field suggests that the 'for sale' housing market has, in fact, bottomed and that we have commenced a slow and steady recovery process. And while the housing downturn was broad-based and national, the recovery process continues to be very localized. Although highly conservative mortgage lending practices and challenging appraisals remain a constant headwind, we are experiencing net positive price and volume trends in most of our markets."

Mr. Miller continued, "As the overall housing market has continued to improve over the last several quarters, our well located communities and product execution has allowed us to outperform the market. During the quarter, deliveries increased 20%, new orders increased 40%, backlog increased 61% and our operating margin increased over 100% to 9.2%, our highest margin percentage since Q2 2006. This operating leverage was driven by our ability to increase sales per community, raise prices and lower incentives, and control our overhead costs."

Lennar’s results easily beat “consensus.”
CR Note: It helps to watch the builders. In early May, Tom Lawler sent me a chart on homebuilder sales, and Tom argued we'd see upward revisions to new home sales:
"[R]ight now I estimate that revisions will lift Census’s estimates of new SF home sales last quarter from an average seasonally adjusted annual rate of 337,000 to a SAAR of 350,000."
Sure enough, the Commerce Department has revised up Q1 new home sales to an average of just over 350,000.

Tom adds another key point today:
While the new home sales report exceeded “consensus,” recent numbers might even have been stronger if builders on average had higher inventories for sale. After being burned several times with some “false” signs of recovery, most builders have been pretty conservative in both “spec” building and community-count growth.