Fed-fueled uncertainty over interest rate trajectories has chewed away about 20% of public home builders' share prices in short order. Now queasy investor sentiment has taken a toll on at least one private home builder's plan to go public this month.
The New Home Co., the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based firm run by Larry Webb and three other former John Laing Homes c-level execs, has decided to take a time-out on plans to raise $150 million via an initial public offering originally scheduled to price last week.
Executive management remains in a "quiet period" and is not talking; but observers familiar with The New Home Company suggest that post-Labor Day, if Wall Street investor sentiment has cooled down a bit and continued to see positive housing trends in spite of rising interest rates, TNHC will be back in the queue for an IPO.
Observers suggest that the past two home builder IPOs, that of San Jose, Calif.-based UCP Inc. and WCI Communities, in some ways helped douse investors' formerly-rabid interest in private home builders offering public equity.
Both of these IPOs met with curbed investor enthusiasm, and WCI actually had to lower its asking price range and capital raise amount to get across the finish line. Questions among knowledgeable home builder executives center on how well both UCP, whose PICO Holdings parent had picked up several thousand distressed lots in Northern California, and WCI, which had written down the face value of much of its land holding after it went bankrupt in 2008, will be able to replicate their land model once they move through their current pipeline.
"Are they going to be able to keep buying lots at those distressed or written-down prices?" was the question one high-level executive asked about the two fledgling public home builders. It's not to say that they won't be able to build a land strategy, but there's greater risk when assumptions start with land positions that were below market value.
At any rate, The New Home Company has both patient investors and a heady cash-flow. A source familiar with the company notes that its touted Lambert Ranch community just sold the last of its 169 homes, all between May 2012 and now, for an average selling price of $1.4 million. That's sales of $237 million, for anybody who's counting.
It makes sense for companies with deep talent, a replicable land program, a trusted operational team, and money to enter the big leagues with the dozen or so big publics that have expanded in number to about 20 now. TNHC will very likely be among them, but not when investor sentiment has been compromised by both macro- and microeconomic forces.
Next question is what happens to the IPO plans of Southern California, based City Ventures, and Houston-based LGI Homes. Our understanding is that LGI has been planning all along to step up to prime time in the Fall. We'll be staying tuned.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Jose, CA.