The country’s largest public luxury home builder continues to face the same stiff economic winds as the rest of the housing world, with Toll Brothers today reporting a loss of $96.7 million (59 cents per diluted share) in the second quarter of 2008. Last year, the Horsham, Pa.-builder recorded $36.7 million in net income for the same period.
Revenues fell as well at Toll, which generated $818.8 million for the quarter, 30 percent below its 2007 figures for the same period. Deliveries slipped by 28 percent to 1,212 homes. Meanwhile, the average contract price for a Toll home slid to $534,000. It also recorded $288 million in writeoffs.
But there were some brighter spots in today’s call. With $1.23 billion in cash, Toll has the money to withstand the downturn. It also has the capital to buy land at bargain prices, if it chooses. However, CEO Robert Toll said during today’s call that it will probably take time for such dirt to come to market. “With respect to what will become available, I recall that you really didn’t start to see a lot of stuff in ’80 or ’81. It took ’82 or ’83, oddly enough, which is when the market was starting to get healthy for the stuff to be disgorged by the banks,” he told analysts. “The same phenomenon took place when the market went bad in ’87 … we didn’t see product coming to us until ’90, ‘91, ’92.”
In the meantime, Toll is doing what it can to drive sales with incentives and manage the financial challenges of cancelled orders. The company is increasing the size of deposits on new-home orders, requiring buyers to put down 7 percent to 8 percent of the purchase price plus 50 percent of additional option costs. “It would be foolish not to,” said Toll, who acknowledged that times have certainly changed. During the boom, the builder had to reduce its deposit requirements to stay competitive—and it paid off. “You didn’t really feel the risk [of cancelled sales],” Toll said. “All you did was slobber over the reward. As things go the other way, you say, ‘let’s right that.’”
In terms of specs, Toll said the company had almost eliminated its unsold townhouse and single-family inventory homes. This reduces the builder’s spec levels to one to two per community, “which is what we would have in good times,” the CEO said. Overall, Toll executives expect to deliver between 4,200 and 4,800 homes this year, with an average delivery price of $ 630,000 to $650,000 per home.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, for BUILDER magazine.