Doling Out Dividends

Shareholders are reaping dividends for owning big builder stocks. In December, The Ryland Group raised its annual dividend from $.40 per share from $.08 per share, a 400-percent increase. KB Home approved an increase in its annual cash dividend from $.30 to $1.00 per share. Pulte Homes announced a two-for-one stock split, effective Jan. 2, 2004, along with a $.06 (150 percent) increase in its quarterly dividend to $.10 per share before adjusting for the split. And Hovnanian Enterprises approved a two-for-one stock split slated to take effect in March.

The announcements followed Centex's November authorization of a two-for-one stock split, effectively doubling its $.16 per share annual dividend, subject to shareholder approval. In September, Lennar Corp. declared its first $.25 quarterly cash dividend. Lennar had been paying a $.05 quarterly dividend.

Roll Call

The newly formed Public Home Builder Council of America plans to make its debut at the International Home Builder Show, mounting a multi-year effort to reshape Main Street's perception of big builders. The current roster includes:

* Beazer Homes USA
* Centex Corp.
* Hovnanian Enterprises
* KB Home
* Lennar Corp.
* MDC Holdings
* Meritage Corp.
* Pulte Homes
* Ryland Group
* Standard Pacific Homes
* Toll Brothers
* WCI Communities

KB Expands in Florida

Los Angeles-based KB Home expanded its Florida presence by launching two start-up divisions in the Treasure Coast, which includes Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers. The builder operates in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa. Local experts will head the new divisions. Both Brad Jones, appointed president for the company's Treasure Coast division, and Charles Cook, who will become division president for Fort Myers, each have 20 years of building experience.

Pulte Expands Del Webb

Pulte Homes, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., announced that it was opening four new active-adult communities under its Del Webb brand. The communities are: Carroll Vista, in Taneytown, Md.; Sonora, in Sahuarita, Ariz.; Sun City Shadow Hills, in Indio, Calif.; and, Wanaque Reserve, in Wanaque, N.J.

According to research, approximately 70 percent of active-adult buyers plan to move within 100 miles of their current residence when they retire. Del Webb's four new communities have been developed to serve these "in-place" buyers who prefer to stay closer to existing family and friends rather than moving across the country. Pulte Homes already has opened six Del Webb-branded communities in 2003.

Ethnic Enrichment

Home is where the heart--and increasingly the wealth--is for all Americans, including blacks. The net wealth of the average black household skyrocketed 221 percent from $5,919 in 1989 to $19,010 in 2001, according to a recently released Federal Reserve survey; and home equity is seen as a big contributor. Homeownership rates among black Americans climbed from 42 percent in 1990 to 48 percent in 2003, but still lag behind the overall homeownership rate of 68 percent and the white homeownership rate of 76 percent. Consumer Federation of America Executive Director Stephen Brobeck said he believes that blacks cannot narrow the wealth gap unless more become homeowners.

Raising Roof Standards

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy said he supports changing city regulations to require that only the most fire-resistant materials be used for new roofs. Calls for a ban on highly combustible wooden shingles resonated throughout the state. Low-interest loans would be offered to encourage retrofitting of existing fire-prone roofs and the municipal government would charge a minimal fee, or no fee, for roof-replacement building permits. Tile, slate, metal, concrete, or other noncombustible roofing was recommended.

Settlement Confusion

A recent survey of 2,700 home buyers by the National Association of Realtors found that 52 percent of first-time buyers and 38 percent of repeat buyers did not know if they purchased an owner's title insurance policy. Moreover, about 6 percent of the buyers in both groups had no idea if their property was appraised; and 20 percent of those who did have appraisals did not know who hired the appraiser. As for home inspections, 6 percent of first-timers and 4 percent of repeat buyers questioned the report's accuracy.

Industry Movers and Shakers

Standard Pacific Corp. has announced the promotion of three of its key executives in the Northern California division. Douglas Krah has been promoted from president of the East Bay division to the newly established position of regional president of Northern California. Glen Martin, former vice president of project management for the East Bay division, will assume the title of president of the division. Jon Nicholson has been named division manager of the company's new Sacramento operating division. In other news, Standard Pacific has named Frank O'Bryan to its Board of Directors. O'Bryan is a director of WMC Mortgage Corp., in Newport Beach, Calif., and of The First American Corp., of Santa Ana, Calif. "Mr. O'Bryan's experience and knowledge will be a significant asset to our Board of Directors and our company," said Stephen Scarborough, chairman and CEO.

It was announced that Jeanne Stott has been promoted to director of sales and marketing for MBK Homes. Prior to joining MBK, Stott served as sales manager for Shea Homes Southern California. She has also held a position at Brock Homes.

D.R. Horton has made changes to its board of directors. The board will now include a majority of independent directors. The four independent directors will be Bradley Anderson, Michael Buchanan, Richard Galland, and Francine Neff. In order to achieve independent director majority, the following members resigned: Richard Beckwitt, Samuel Fuller, Richard Horton, Terrill Horton, James Schuler, and Scott Stone. Fuller will remain the company's senior executive vice president.

Centex Homes announced that Carola Cherief has joined the company as director of sales for the South Coast division. Cherief comes to Centex from KB Home, where she served as director of multifamily sales and marketing. She will be responsible for Centex Homes' sales throughout Orange County.

Personnel changes? E-mail Wendy Leibowitz at:

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA, Orlando, FL.