Avatar Properties sold off land to two newly formed joint ventures on Dec. 30, with the hope of generating tax refunds while still having access to the lots in the future.

In the deal, the Coral Gables, Fla.-based builder sold developed and partially developed land within one of its Central Florida communities to two separate, unaffiliated joint ventures. Then Avatar Properties acquired minority interest in the ventures, as well as shares in the JVs' management, it announced in a SEC filing.

In addition, on Dec. 31, Avatar and M/I Homes sold a development they owned together in a joint venture company called Majestic Oaks Developers. The development, entitled for 910 homes, is in Brooksville, Fla., a sleepy community an hour's drive north of Tampa.

Avatar reported that the sales generated $11.4 million in assets on the property with a book value of $39.4 million. Proceeds included about $7 million in cash, of which it invested $1.6 million in the joint venture partnerships. The tax loss of about $28 million is expected to net the company a tax carry back refund of $9.8 million against profits in 2006. The company did not breakdown the $4.4 million it received in addition to the $7 million in cash to add up to the $11.4 in assets it got out of the deals.

Avatar would not provide further comment about the sales beyond the SEC filing. Mark Spade of M/I Homes in Tampa said the Brooksville land in that deal was sold back to the original owner and that, while the land would make a good development, it is too far from the core population to be a viable development in the near future under current conditions.

"There's a significant number of developed lots in Pasco [County, just north of Tampa and south of Brooksville]," he said.

In its November 10-Q SEC filing, Avatar said its strategy includes selling residential, commercial, and industrial land in its portfolio to generate cash from assets that, with the market slowdown, would take much longer to monetize otherwise.

At the same time, the company said it plans to take advantage of the depressed prices of land by buying now for the future.

"With the continuing deterioration in residential land and housing values, we are focusing our strategy on opportunities to acquire such assets, interest in such assets, and the debt associated with such assets at very significant discounts to intrinsic values," the company said in its 10-Q filing. "We anticipate that we will acquire such assets directly or through joint venture, partnership, or management arrangements."