On the heels of a “record-setting” year, PulteGroup says the steady improvement in demand conditions in the final months of 2023 and continued execution of its business strategy position the builder for volume growth in 2024.

“After multiple years of variable macroeconomic activity, expectations are that 2024 can be a year of increased home buying demand given a strong job market, lower interest rates, and a limited inventory of existing homes,” president and CEO Ryan Marshall said. “With a ready supply of homes and lots, I believe PulteGroup is extremely well positioned to capitalize on such market conditions as we seek to grow our business.”

Home buyer demand had an inverse relationship with interest rates in the builder’s fourth quarter, declining as rates neared 8% but strengthening as rates dipped in November and December.

“As the fourth quarter progressed, we experienced a significant increase in buyer activity as interest rates moved lower, resulting in December being the highest sales month of the quarter,” said Marshall. “With expectations for interest rates to remain lower in 2024, we are optimistic that improved affordability dynamics will continue attracting buyers into the market.”

During the builder’s earnings call, Marshall stated PulteGroup has a positive demand outlook and is investing with the goal of growing unit volumes by 5% to 10% annually.

“Our decision to walk away from optioned lots as interest rates increased in 2022 will impact our community openings in 2024, leading to our growth this year being in the lower end of this range,” Marshall told investors.

As part of the company’s strategy, executive vice president and chief financial officer Bob O’Shaughnessy said the builder plans to spend approximately $5 billion in 2024 on land, with a 60-40 split between land development and land acquisition. He said PulteGroup lowered its owned lots and increased the share of optioned lots in 2023, and, while there is a “lot of runway” to achieve the company’s goal of 70% optioned lots, the builder is “moving in the right direction.” At the end of the year, 53% of PulteGroup’s lots were held via option.

Strategic Execution

Marshall said by strategically increasing spec production in 2023, PulteGroup had more inventory available to meet demand for first-time buyers and interest-rate sensitive buyers.

“Increased house inventory was a critical part of PulteGroup delivering 28,600 homes in 2023 and record home sales revenues of $15.6 billion,” Marshall said.

In the fourth quarter, PulteGroup generated net income of $711 million, or $3.28 per share, compared with revenue of $882 million, or $3.85 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2022. While a contraction on a year-over-year basis, the results topped Wall Street expectations of profits per share of $3.20.

Marshall said the decline in rates helped improve demand trajectory in December. Net new orders and absorption pace in December were the highest in the quarter for PulteGroup. O’Shaughnessy said while PulteGroup could have captured higher volume in the quarter by offering more significant incentives, the builder didn’t see the trade-off impact on margins as a favorable one.

“The increased home buying activity in December was an important driver in the 57% increase in fourth quarter net new orders and demonstrates the desire for homeownership remains high across all buyer groups,” Marshall said.

For the fourth quarter, home sales revenue totaled $4.2 billion, compared with $5 billion in the prior year reflecting a 14% year-over-year decrease in closings and a 2% decrease in average sales price. First-time buyers represented 40% of closings, move-up buyers represented 36% of closings, and active-adult buyers represented 24% of closings in the quarter.

Net new orders in the fourth quarter increased 57% to 6,214 homes, reflecting both an improved selling environment and an improved cancellation rate of 9%.

“Fourth quarter net new orders increased 70% for first-time buyers, 78% for move-up buyers, and 15% for active-adult [buyers],” O’Shaughnessy said. “Demand improved across all buyer groups, [which is] a positive dynamic for evaluating housing demand for 2024.”

By the end of the fourth quarter, PulteGroup had a construction cycle time of 130 days, a sequential improvement of two weeks from the third quarter. O’Shaughnessy said PulteGroup remains committed to getting cycle times to 100 days or below by the end of 2024.