Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Lawler on Toll Brothers: Net Home Orders Down, Price Gains Slow; Some “Lessening” in Pricing Power

by Calculated Risk on 9/03/2014 06:01:00 PM

From housing economist Tom Lawler: Toll Brothers: Net Home Orders Down, Price Gains on Orders Slows; Some “Lessening” in Pricing Power but No “Need” to Increase Incentives Much -- Yet

Toll Brothers, the self-described “nation’s leading builder of luxury homes,” reported that net home orders in the quarter ended July 31, 2014 totaled 1,324, down 5.8% from the comparable quarter of 2013. Net orders per community last quarter were down 15.9% from the comparable quarter of 2013. The company average net order price last quarter was $717,000, up 1.4% from a year ago. Toll’s sales cancellation rate, expressed as a % of gross orders, was 6.6% last quarter, up from 4.6% in the comparable quarter of 2013. Home deliveries last quarter totaled 1,364, up 36.8% from the comparable quarter of 2013, at an average sales price of $732,000, up 12.4% from a year ago. The company’s order backlog at the end of July was 4,204, up 5.1% from last July, at an average order price of $737,300, up 4.1% from a year ago. The company controlled 49,037 home sites at the end of July, up 3.9% from last July and up 25.1% from two years ago.

For its “traditional” home building business (i.e., ex city living), net home orders totaled 1,281 last quarter, down 5.0% from the comparable quarter of 2014, at an average net order price of $700,500, up 3.4% from a year ago.

Here are a few excerpts from the company’s press release.

Douglas C. Yearley, Toll Brothers' chief executive officer:

"Although we have seen some lessening of pricing power in the past year, we have not felt the need to incentivize to spur home sales. Because we generally do not build 'spec' homes, we are not under pressure to move standing inventory. We are driven by bottom-line growth and are pleased with our continued margin expansion through what we still believe is a recovering, albeit bumpy, housing cycle. We have been particularly pleased with our performance in a number of the markets we have targeted for growth, especially Coastal California, Texas, and the urban New York City area.

"With pent-up demand still yet to be unleashed, we are growing community count in attractive locations.”
Robert I. Toll, executive chairman
"The national housing data has been somewhat volatile in recent months. Without real urgency pushing buyers to make a decision, general industry demand continues to be impacted by uncertainty about the economy and world events, improving but fragile consumer confidence and reduced affordability due to rising prices and limited personal income growth. One data point we do have confidence in is the low level of production compared to historic norms. Population grew during the recession and has continued to increase since then. Based on trends over more than forty years, the industry should be building 50% more homes this year than its current pace to meet the increased population demographics.”
As with many other builders, last year Toll raised prices aggressively based on stronger-than-expected demand as well as longer-than-expected development timelines that limited supply. Toll and many other builders are now increasing active communities at a double-digit pace, but are having trouble generating double-digit sales growth because prices were increased at too rapid a pace last year.

Toll’s net orders were significantly below consensus.