D.R. Horton's executive vice president and treasurer Stacey Dwyer said consumer confidence has taken a turn, but not necessarily in a positive direction.
During the Credit Suisse Homebuilder Conference Jan. 14, Dwyer said buyers coming to the table are more informed about the current economic situation and show confidence that home prices have somewhat stabilized--but that confidence is flagging in regards to employment.
Dwyer also said that of all the proposals to stimulate the housing market, Horton is throwing its support behind that of the Fix Housing First coalition. However, she added, any proposal focused on getting housing back on track is a positive.
The uptick in consumer confidence is a potential boon for the home building industry, but Dwyer said there is still a long way to go. While D.R. Horton is in a good liquidity position, with a cash balance of $1.4 billion and a $622 million tax credit received in December, it is looking to sell off more inventory with no plans to reinvest in any of its markets for the time being.
"Our current footprint won't change in the near future," Dwyer said. "We are continuing to cut costs and reduce inventory."
At its fiscal year-end Sept. 30, Horton held 99,000 owned lots--and had 12,400 homes in inventory--across 27 states and 77 markets. The company reported FY2008 home sales revenue of $6.2 billion on 26,396 homes closed, compared to $10.7 billion on 41,370 homes closed in FY2007. Land and lot sales revenue for FY2009 totaled $354.3 million, compared to $367.6 million the previous year.
Horton has repaid $90 million of $550 million in debt with a maturity date of 2009. All told, the company retained $3.5 billion in debt.
When questioned about HUD's new Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) regulation--which is scheduled to take effect April 16 and will no longer allow builders to market their affiliate mortgage arms as an incentives to buyers--Dwyer said she did not yet know the potential impact. If the new regulation goes into effect, she said it will be a level playing field as all builders will be affected equally. Horton and its affiliates, DHI Mortgage and DHI Title of Texas, were three of more than 30 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed late December against HUD. Regardless of the new regulation, Dwyer said, Horton will market its mortgage arm as a way for buyers to get a timely closing.