Larry Mizel, chairman and CEO of M.D.C. Holdings, closed his presentation Thursday at the Wachovia 2008 Home Building and Building Products Conference in Las Vegas by offering the federal government some advice.
"I think the government could do well by leaving things alone for a bit and let the market sort itself out," Mizel said.
Instead, Mizel suggested that the government offer tax breaks to homeowners who have lost money on their houses, and to home builders who are stuck with unsold inventory and the carrying costs associated with it.
Mizel also suggested a deal could be worked out where homeowners took a loss on their homes, but got an investment tax credit to be used in making a down payment on their next home.
Mizel, in responding to a question about the lack of availability of mortgages, disputed the questioners' point.
"There's no mortgage shortage," Mizel said from the podium in Las Vegas. "We have some really crazy requirements now," he continued, sardonically. "You've got to have a job. You have to give an honest financial statement. You have to have credit, and you might even have to have a down payment."
Mizel said his building company, Richmond American Homes, has done more Federal Housing Authority loans in 2007 than it has in years.
"It's expanding, and it's a good program," he said.
But the housing industry situation will take time to work out, Mizel said.
"It's really a slow motion train," he said. "We all know the banks have not started disclosing their real estate losses yet. There's been a problem, they've been too busy with their CDO losses and other losses."
M.D.C.'s plan for 2008 is to look inward and strategize for the future.
"We are in a cyclical industry, and everybody wants to know, 'When's it going to turn?'" Mizel said. "Even if we might not know when it is going to turn, what I can tell you is that when it does turn, we will be very proactive."
A big reason for Mizel's positive outlook, and his willingness to talk about acquiring other builders, is his company's financial stability. M.D.C. has over $1 billion in cash reserves, and over $2.2 billion in available borrowing capacity.
"I have a high degree of confidence that the geographic areas we're located in, as the economy changes, will also be reinvigorated," he said.