Friday, May 30, 2014

Lawler on Toll Brothers: Net Signed Contracts “Flat” vs. Year Ago; Prices Up But Gains Slow; Demand over Past Year “Relatively Flat”

by Calculated Risk on 5/30/2014 02:37:00 PM

From economist Tom Lawler:

Toll Brothers, the self-described “nation’s leading builder of luxury homes” which was recently honored as BUILDER Magazine’s “builder of the year,” reported that net signed contracts on homes in the quarter ended April 30, 2014 totaled 1,749, down 0.2% from the comparable quarter of 2013. Net signed contracts per community last quarter were down 8.3% from the comparable quarter of 2013. The average price on net signed contracts last quarter was $729,000, up 7.5% from a year ago. Home deliveries totaled 1,218 last quarter, up 36.2% from the comparable quarter of 2013, at an average sales price of $706,000, up 22.4% from the comparable quarter of 2013. The outsized gain in the average sales price for closed homes partly reflected big increases in contract prices last year, but also reflected product “mix” changes, including a sharp increase in the share of homes closed in the expensive West region. The company’s order backlog as of the end of April was 4,324, up 18.3% from last April, at an average order price of $742,000, up 7.1% from a year ago.

The company said that it owned or controlled 50,358 lots at the end of April, up 11.5% from last April, and up 40.1% from April 2011.

In Toll’s press release, the company’s CEO said that “(d)emand over the past year has been solid, although relatively flat, compared to the strong growth we initially experienced beginning in 2011, coming off the bottom of this housing cycle.” He also expressed optimism going forward. Here is another quote from the press release.

“We note that last cycle's recovery, in the early 1990's, began with a period of rapid acceleration, followed by leveling, before further upward momentum. We believe that we are in a similar leveling period in the early stages of the housing recovery with significant pent-up demand building."

Toll does give limited (and not very useful) guidance in its press release, and Toll said that it expects to deliver between 5,100 and 5,850 in the fiscal year ending 10/31/2014. Given deliveries in the first half of the fiscal year, that guidance implies a range of deliveries from May 1 through October 31 of between 2,954 and 3,704. Toll’s guidance on the average sales price on deliveries for the year was between $690,000 and $720,000. Using the midpoint of these ranges as the “best guidance,” that would imply deliveries from May 1, 2014 through October 2014 of 3,329, up 30.8% from the comparable period of 2013, at an average sales price of 705,000, up 3.5% from the comparable period of 2013, and little changed from the average sales price in the first half of FY 2014.

Toll’s earnings beat consensus, but net orders per community were disappointing.