Toll Brothers, fat with $2 billion worth of cash, appears to be crouching to pounce on some land deals.
"We have begun to see more offerings in the land market as sellers--individuals, companies, and financial institutions--appear to be motivated," CEO Bob Toll said during a conference call with investors June 3.
The builder announced during the call that it has moved into Houston, choosing the lauded Woodlands master-planned community for its first offering in that market. The Woodlands community, called Creekside Park, is scheduled to open in August with homes in the $400,000 price range, according to the Web site.
Toll called The Woodlands "the most successful master-planned community in the Houston market."
But Toll's appetite for land goes beyond finished lots, Toll said. The company is looking at two purchases of undeveloped land. "We are in pretty decent shape with respect to improved lots," he said.
Still, the company is vetting its land purchases carefully. "We continue to proceed cautiously," he said.
The company posted an $83.2 million loss in its second quarter, which ended April 30. Much of that was related to land impairments, particularly in its Phoenix market.
But Toll continues to see signs that business in its higher-end market is picking up. "We have now experienced positive same-week, year-over-year refundable-deposits-per-community comparisons in nine of the past 11 weeks," he said.
Still, there are worries about job security and the economy that continue to mute the pace of improvement.
The average selling price of its homes has been decreasing, but more due to a change in the type of product away from single-family homes than because of price reductions, Toll said.
But those who are choosing to buy Toll's homes are not skimping much on the luxuries. When offered the choice between reduced mortgage rates or other savings, many still elect to convert the savings into upgrades. On average, they are spending more than 18% of the home's base price in options. That compares to a little more than 20% in the builder's heydays.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.