We are a geographically diversified homebuilder with active operations in 16 states. Our homes are designed to appeal to homeowners at various price points across various demographic segments and are generally offered for sale in advance of their construction. Our objective is to provide our customers with homes that incorporate exceptional value and quality while seeking to maximize our return on invested capital over time.
Our principal executive offices are located at 1000 Abernathy Road, Suite 1200, Atlanta, Georgia 30328, telephone (770) 829-3700. We also provide information about our active communities through our Internet website located at http://www.beazer.com. Information on our website is not a part of and shall not be deemed incorporated by reference in this report.
Industry Overview and Current Market Conditions
The sale of new homes has been and will likely remain a large industry in the United States for four primary reasons: historical growth in both population and households, demographic patterns that indicate an increased likelihood of home ownership as age and income increase, job creation within geographic markets that necessitate new home construction and consumer demand for home features that can be more easily provided in a new home than an existing home.
In any year, the demand for new homes is closely tied to job growth, the availability and cost of mortgage financing, the supply of new and existing homes for sale and, importantly, consumer confidence. Consumer confidence is perhaps the most important of these demand variables and is the hardest one to predict accurately because it is a function of, among other things, consumers’ views of their employment and income prospects, recent and likely future home price trends, localized new and existing home inventory, the level of current and near-term interest and mortgage rates, the availability of consumer credit, valuations in stock and bond markets, and other geopolitical factors. Moreover, because the purchase of a home represents many buyers’ largest single financial commitment, it is often also associated with significant emotional considerations.
The supply of new homes within specific geographic markets consists of both new homes built pursuant to pre-sale arrangements and speculative homes (frequently referred to as “spec homes”) built by home builders prior to their sale. The ratio of pre-sold to spec homes differs both by geographic market and over time within individual markets based on a wide variety of factors, including the availability of land and lots, access to construction financing, the availability and cost of construction labor and materials, the inventory or existing homes for sale and job growth characteristics. Consumer preferences also play a role. In rapidly growing markets characterized by relatively few available new homes, presale homes are very common. In markets characterized by a significant supply of newly built and existing homes, spec homes tend to represent a larger portion of new home sales as builders attempt to reduce their inventories of completed homes.
In general, high levels of employment, low mortgage interest rates and low new home and resale inventories contribute to a strong and growing homebuilding market environment. Conversely, rising or continued high levels of unemployment, higher interest rates and larger new and existing home inventories generally lead to weak industry conditions.
While we believe that long-term fundamentals for new home construction remain intact, beginning in mid-fiscal 2006, accelerating through fiscal 2008 and continuing through fiscal 2009, the homebuilding environment deteriorated against a backdrop of macroeconomic recession, declining consumer confidence and significant tightening in the availability of home mortgage credit. Throughout this period, most housing markets across the United States suffered from an oversupply of new and resale home inventory, reduced levels of consumer demand for new homes, high cancellation rates, aggressive home sale price and buyer incentive competition among homebuilders, and a growing supply of foreclosed homes typically offered at substantially reduced prices. In 2008 and continuing through fiscal 2009, due initially to market disruptions resulting from the deterioration in the credit quality of loans originated to non-prime and subprime borrowers and also due to steadily increasing unemployment, the credit markets and the mortgage industry experienced a period of disruption characterized by bankruptcy, financial institution failure, consolidation and an unprecedented level of intervention by the United States federal
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government. This mortgage crisis led to reduced availability for mortgage products and reduced investor demand for mortgage loans and mortgage-backed securities. These developments severely impacted consumer confidence and demand for our homes. Although we have recently begun to see signs that certain of these negative market trends may be moderating at both local and national levels, key macroeconomic indicators remain soft or mixed. The supply of new and resale homes in the marketplace has decreased recently, but it is still excessive for the current level of consumer demand and is challenged by an increased number of foreclosed homes offered at substantially reduced prices. These pressures in the marketplace have resulted in the use of increased sales incentives and price reductions in an effort to generate sales and reduce inventory levels by us and many of our competitors throughout our fiscal 2009.
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) was enacted into law on July 30, 2008. Among other things, HERA provided for a temporary first-time home buyer tax credit for purchases made through July 1, 2009; reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including adjustments to the conforming loan limits; modernization and expansion of the FHA, including an increase to 3.5% in the minimum down payment required for FHA loans; and the elimination of seller-funded down payment assistance programs for FHA loans approved after September 30, 2008. Overall, HERA was intended to help stabilize and add consumer confidence to the housing industry. However, certain of the changes, such as the elimination of the down payment assistance programs and the increase in minimum down payments, have adversely impacted the ability of potential homebuyers to afford to purchase a new home or obtain financing. The down payment assistance programs were utilized for a number of our home closings prior to fiscal 2009.
The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) was enacted into law on October 3, 2008. EESA authorized up to $700 billion in new spending authority for the United States Secretary of the Treasury (the Secretary) to purchase, manage and ultimately dispose of troubled assets. The provisions of this law include an expansion of the Hope for Homeowners Program. This program allows the Secretary to use loan guarantees and credit enhancements so that loans can be modified to prevent foreclosures. Also, the Secretary can consent to term extensions, rate-reductions and principal write-downs. Federal agencies that own mortgage loans are directed to seek modifications prior to foreclosures.
In February 2009, the $8,000 First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit was enacted into law. This law enables homebuyers who have not owned a home in the past three years, subject to certain income limits, to receive a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of a home up to a maximum of $8,000. In November 2009, this tax credit was extended by Congress to June 2010 and the new law increased the annual income limits for qualification. In addition, the new law also added a $6,500 tax credit for qualified existing homeowners who elect to purchase a new home. Certain states also enacted laws which enabled certain homebuyers to receive additional state tax credits. Availability of these tax credits appears to have incentivized certain homebuyers to purchase homes during the second half of fiscal 2009 although it is not possible to quantify the precise impact.
As a result of these factors, we, like many other homebuilders, have experienced a material reduction in revenues and margins and have incurred significant net losses in fiscal 2007 through 2009. These net losses were driven primarily by asset impairment and lot option abandonment charges incurred in fiscal 2007, 2008 and 2009. Please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition” for additional information.
We have responded to this challenging environment with a disciplined approach to the business with continued reductions in direct construction costs, overhead expenses and land spending. We limited our supply of unsold homes under construction and focused on the generation of cash from our existing inventory supply and preservation of cash on hand as we attempted to align our land supply and inventory levels to current expectations for home closings.
During fiscal 2009, we continued to focus on cash generation from the sale of existing inventory supply and introduced additional sales incentives and reduced sales prices in certain situations in order to move this inventory. We also reevaluated pricing and incentives offered in select communities in response to local market conditions to generate sales on to-be-built inventory. Certain of these changes resulted in adjustments to our inventory valuations.
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In fiscal 2008, we completed a comprehensive review of each of our markets in order to refine our overall investment strategy and to optimize capital and resource allocations in an effort to enhance our financial position and to increase shareholder value. This review entailed an evaluation of both external market factors and our position in each market and resulted in the decision formalized and announced on February 1, 2008, to discontinue homebuilding operations in Charlotte, NC, Cincinnati/Dayton, OH, Columbia, SC, Columbus, OH and Lexington, KY. During the third quarter of fiscal 2008, we announced our decision to discontinue homebuilding operations in Colorado and Fresno, CA. As of September 30, 2009, the homebuilding operations of these markets have ceased, but we remain committed to our remaining customer care responsibilities (primarily warranty-related) and will continue to market a limited number of our remaining land positions for sale. While the underlying basis for exiting each market was different, in each instance we concluded we could better serve shareholder interests by re-allocating the capital employed in these markets. The results of operations of the homebuilding markets we exited are reported as discontinued operations in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.
On February 1, 2008, we exited the mortgage origination business and entered into an exclusive preferred lender relationship with a national mortgage provider. This exclusive relationship offers our homebuyers the option of a simplified financing process while enabling us to focus on our core competency of homebuilding. Our decision to exit the mortgage origination business was related to the problems identified by the Audit Committee’s investigation of our mortgage origination practices (see Item 3 – Legal Proceedings), the growing complexity and cost of compliance with national, state and local lending rules, and the retrenchment among mortgage capital sources which has had the effect of reducing the profitability of many mortgage brokerage activities. Our mortgage origination business is reported as a discontinued operation in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Long-Term Business Strategy
We have developed a long-term business strategy which focuses on the following elements in order to provide a wide range of homebuyers with quality homes while maximizing returns on our invested capital over the course of a housing cycle:
Geographic Diversification in Growth Markets. We compete in a large number of geographically diverse markets in an attempt to reduce our exposure to any particular regional economy. Within these markets, we build homes in a variety of new home communities. We continually review our selection of markets based on both aggregate demographic information and our own operating results. We use the results of these reviews to re-allocate our investments to those markets where we believe we can maximize our profitability and return on capital over the next several years.
Differentiated Product. Our product strategy is to design and build high performance homes that are more enjoyable, more desirable and more affordable. Our eSMART homes are engineered for energy-efficiency, cost savings and comfort. Our eSMART initiative represents a comprehensive program focused on environmental stewardship which seeks to make energy saving, water conservation and improved air quality components standard in all of our homes. These energy efficient homes minimize the impact on the environment while reducing our homebuyers’ annual operating costs. Through our SMARTDESIGNtm concept, we have adapted our floor plans to make them more livable by arranging spaces to progress logically from public to private areas. We also offer upgrade packages that give our homebuyers the option to personalize their home with built-in closet systems, laundry centers, multi-purpose kitchen islands and more.
Diversity of Product Offerings. Our product strategy further entails addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse profile of home buyers. Within each of our markets we determine the profile of buyers we hope to address and design neighborhoods and homes with the specific needs of those buyers in mind. Depending on the market, we attempt to address one or more of the following types of home buyers: entry-level, move-up or retirement-oriented. The targeted buyer profiles are further refined by information about their marital and family status, employment, age, affluence and special interests. Recognizing that our customers want to choose certain components of their new home, we offer limited customization through the use of design studios in most of our markets. These design studios allow the
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customer to select certain non-structural options for their homes such as cabinetry, flooring, fixtures, appliances and wall coverings.
Consistent Use of National Brand. Our homebuilding and marketing activities are conducted under the name of Beazer Homes in each of our markets. We utilize a single brand name across our markets in order to better leverage our national and local marketing activities. Using a single brand has allowed us to execute successful national marketing campaigns and online marketing practices.
Operational Scale Efficiencies. Beyond marketing advantages, we attempt to create both national and local scale efficiencies as a result of the scope of our operations. On a national basis we are able to achieve volume purchasing advantages in certain product categories, share best practices in construction, planning and design among our markets, respond to telephonic and electronic customer inquiries and leverage our fixed costs in ways that improve profitability. On a local level, while we are not generally the largest builder within our markets, we do attempt to be a major participant within our selected submarkets and targeted buyer profiles. There are further design, construction and cost advantages associated with having strong market positions within particular markets.
Balanced Land Policies. We seek to maximize our return on capital by carefully managing our investment in land. To reduce the risks associated with investments in land, we often use options to control land. We generally do not speculate in land which does not have the benefit of entitlements providing basic development rights to the owner.
Reportable Business Segments
We design, sell and build single-family and multi-family homes in the following geographic regions which are presented as reportable segments. As of September 30, 2009, the homebuilding operations of our markets which were historically included in our “Other Homebuilding” segment have ceased and these markets are now reported as discontinued operations in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Seasonal and Quarterly Variability
Our homebuilding operating cycle generally reflects higher levels of new home order activity in the second and third fiscal quarters and increased closings in the third and fourth fiscal quarters. However, during periods of an economic downturn in the industry such as we have experienced in recent years, decreased revenues and closings as compared to prior periods including prior quarters, will typically reduce seasonal patterns.
Markets and Product Description
We evaluate a number of factors in determining which geographic markets to enter as well as which consumer segments to target with our homebuilding activities. We attempt to anticipate changes in economic and real estate conditions by evaluating such statistical information as the historical and projected growth of the population; the number of new jobs created or projected to be created; the number of housing starts in previous periods; building lot availability and price; housing inventory; level of competition; and home sale absorption rates.
We generally seek to differentiate ourselves from our competition in a particular market with respect to customer service, product type, and design and construction quality. We maintain the flexibility to alter our product mix within a given market, depending on market conditions. In determining our product mix, we consider demographic trends, demand for a particular type of product, consumer preferences, margins, timing and the economic strength of the market. Although some of our homes are priced at the upper end of the market, and we offer a selection of amenities and home customization options, we generally do not build “custom homes.” We attempt to maximize efficiency by using standardized design plans whenever possible. In all of our home offerings, we attempt to maximize customer satisfaction by incorporating quality and energy-efficient materials, distinctive design features, convenient locations and competitive prices. Specifically, our eSMART homes represent a comprehensive program focused on environmental stewardship which seeks to make energy saving, water conservation and improved air quality components standard in all of our homes. These energy efficient homes minimize the impact on the environment while reducing our homebuyers’ annual operating costs.
During fiscal year 2009, the average sales price of our homes closed related to continuing operations was approximately $230,900. The following table summarizes certain operating information of our reportable homebuilding segments and our discontinued homebuilding operations as of and for the years ended September 30, 2009, 2008 and 2007 (dollars in thousands). Please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition” for additional information.
We perform all or most of the following functions at our corporate office:
evaluate and select geographic markets;
allocate capital resources to particular markets for land acquisitions;
maintain and develop relationships with lenders and capital markets to create access to
plan and design homes and community projects;
operate and manage information systems and technology support operations; and monitor the operations of our subsidiaries and divisions.
We allocate capital resources necessary for new investments in a manner consistent with our overall business strategy. We will vary the capital allocation based on market conditions, results of operations and other factors. Capital commitments are determined through consultation among selected executive and operational personnel, who play an important role in ensuring that new investments are consistent with our strategy. Centralized financial controls are also maintained through the standardization of accounting and financial policies and procedures.
The development and construction of each new home community is managed by our operating divisions, each of which is generally led by a market leader who, in turn, reports directly to our Chief Executive Officer. At the development stage, a manager (who may be assigned to several communities and reports to the market leader of the division) supervises development of buildable lots. Together with our operating divisions, our field teams are equipped with the skills to complete the functions of identification of land acquisition opportunities, land entitlement, land development, construction, marketing, sales and warranty service. Beginning in fiscal 2008, the accounting, accounts payable, billing and purchasing functions of our field operations are concentrated in three regional accounting centers.
Land Acquisition and Development
Generally, the land we acquire is purchased only after necessary entitlements have been obtained so that we have the right to begin development or construction as market conditions dictate. During the downturn in the homebuilding industry, we have made very few significant land acquisitions but we have continued to consider attractive opportunities as they arise. We expect to continue to consider land acquisition opportunities as the market improves and particularly in markets where our land bank has been depleted. In a very small number of situations, we will purchase property without all necessary entitlements where we perceive an opportunity to build on such property in a manner consistent with our strategy. The term “entitlements” refers to subdivision approvals, development agreements, tentative maps or recorded plats, depending on the jurisdiction within which the land is located. Entitlements generally give a developer the right to obtain building permits upon compliance with conditions that are usually within the developer’s control. Although entitlements are ordinarily obtained prior to the purchase of land, we are still required to obtain a variety of other governmental approvals and permits during the development process.
We select our land for development based upon a variety of factors, including:
internal and external demographic and marketing studies; suitability for development during the time period of one to five years from the beginning of the development process to the last closing; financial review as to the feasibility of the proposed project, including profit margins and returns on capital employed; the ability to secure governmental approvals and entitlements; environmental and legal due diligence; competition in the area;
proximity to local traffic corridors and amenities; and management’s judgment as to the real estate market and economic trends and our experience in a particular market.
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We generally purchase land or obtain an option to purchase land, which, in either case, requires certain site improvements prior to construction. Where required, we then undertake or, in the case of land under option, the grantor of the option then undertakes, the development activities (through contractual arrangements with local developers), which include site planning and engineering, as well as constructing road, sewer, water, utilities, drainage and recreational facilities and other amenities. When available in certain markets, we also buy finished lots that are ready for construction.
We strive to develop a design and marketing concept for each of our communities, which include determination of size, style and price range of the homes, layout of streets, layout of individual lots and overall community design. The product line offered in a particular new home community depends upon many factors, including the housing generally available in the area, the needs of a particular market and our cost of lots in the new home community. We are, however, often able to use standardized home design plans.
Option Contracts. We acquire certain lots by means of option contracts. Option contracts generally require the payment of a cash deposit or issuance of a letter of credit for the right to acquire lots during a specified period of time at a fixed or variable price.
Under option contracts, purchase of the properties is contingent upon satisfaction of certain requirements by us and the sellers. Our liability under option contracts is generally limited to forfeiture of the non-refundable deposits, letters of credit and other non-refundable amounts incurred, which aggregated approximately $41.9 million at September 30, 2009. At September 30, 2009, future amounts under option contracts aggregated approximately $306.2 million, net of cash deposits.
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The category “Homes Under Construction” represents lots upon which construction of a home has commenced.
Subsequent to September 30, 2009, we entered into an agreement with a residential development investor to build and market 462 homes in five existing communities in the Metro Atlanta area and 329 homes in one existing community in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Joint Ventures. We participate in land development joint ventures in which Beazer Homes has less than a controlling interest. We enter into joint ventures in order to acquire attractive land positions, to manage our risk profile and to leverage our capital base. Our joint ventures are typically entered into with developers, other homebuilders and financial partners to develop finished lots for sale to the joint venture’s members and other third parties. During fiscal 2009, 2008 and 2007 respectively, we wrote down our investment in certain of our joint ventures by $14.8 million, $68.8 million and $28.6 million as a result of impairments of inventory held within those ventures. In fiscal 2007, we also recorded $3.4 million in contractual obligation abandonments related to those ventures.
Our joint ventures typically obtain secured acquisition, development and construction financing. At September 30, 2009, our unconsolidated joint ventures had borrowings outstanding totaling $422.7 million of which $327.9 million related to one joint venture in which we are a 2.58% partner. In some instances, Beazer Homes and our joint venture partners have provided varying levels of guarantees of debt of our unconsolidated joint ventures. At September 30, 2009, these guarantees included, for certain joint ventures, construction completion guarantees, loan to value maintenance agreements, repayment guarantees and environmental indemnities (see Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information).
We typically act as the general contractor for the construction of our new home communities. Our project development operations are controlled by our operating divisions, whose employees supervise the construction of each new home community, coordinate the activities of subcontractors and suppliers, subject their work to quality and cost controls and assure compliance with zoning and building codes. We specify that quality, durable materials be used in the construction of our homes. Our subcontractors follow design plans prepared by architects and engineers who are retained or directly employed by us and whose designs are geared to the local market. A majority of our home plans are prepared in our corporate office, allowing us to ensure the quality of the plans we build as well as to enable us to reduce direct costs through our value engineering efforts.
Subcontractors typically are retained on a project-by-project basis to complete construction at a fixed price. Agreements with our subcontractors and materials suppliers are generally entered into after competitive bidding. In connection with this competitive bid process, we obtain information from prospective subcontractors and vendors with respect to their financial condition and ability to perform their agreements with us. We do not maintain significant inventories of construction materials, except for materials being utilized for homes under construction. We have numerous suppliers of raw materials and services used in our business, and such materials and services have been, and continue to be, available. Material prices may fluctuate, however, due to various factors, including
demand or supply shortages, which may be beyond the control of our vendors. Whenever possible, we enter into regional and national supply contracts with certain of our vendors. We believe that our relationships with our suppliers and subcontractors are good.
Construction time for our homes depends on the availability of labor, materials and supplies, product type and location. Homes are designed to promote efficient use of space and materials, and to minimize construction costs and time. In all of our markets, construction of a home is typically completed within three to six months following commencement of construction. At September 30, 2009, excluding models, we had 1,646 homes at various stages of completion of which 959 were under contract and included in backlog at such date and 687 homes (270 were completed and 417 under construction) were not under a sales contract, either because the construction of the home was begun without a sales contract or because the original sales contract had been cancelled.
For certain homes sold through March 31, 2004 (and in certain markets through July 31, 2004), we self-insured our structural warranty obligations through our wholly owned risk retention group. We continue to maintain reserves to cover potential claims on home covered under this warranty program. Beginning with homes sold April 1, 2004 (August 1, 2004 in certain markets), our warranties are issued, administered, and insured, subject to applicable self-insured retentions, by independent third parties. We currently provide a limited warranty (ranging from one to two years) covering workmanship and materials per our defined performance quality standards. In addition, we provide a limited warranty (generally ranging from a minimum of five years up to the period covered by the applicable statute of repose) covering only certain defined construction defects. We also provide a defined structural element warranty with single-family homes and townhomes in certain states.
Since we subcontract our homebuilding work to subcontractors who generally provide us with an indemnity and a certificate of insurance prior to receiving payments for their work, many claims relating to workmanship and materials are the primary responsibility of our subcontractors.
In addition, we maintain third-party insurance, subject to applicable self-insured retentions, for most construction defects that we encounter in the normal course of business. We believe that our warranty and litigation accruals and third-party insurance are adequate to cover the ultimate resolution of our potential liabilities associated with known and anticipated warranty and construction defect related claims and litigation. Please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition” and Note 12, “Contingencies” to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
There can be no assurance, however, that the terms and limitations of the limited warranty will be effective against claims made by the homebuyers, that we will be able to renew our insurance coverage or renew it at reasonable rates, that we will not be liable for damages, the cost of repairs, and/or the expense of litigation surrounding possible construction defects, soil subsidence or building related claims or that claims will not arise out of events or circumstances not covered by insurance and/or not subject to effective indemnification agreements with our subcontractors.
Marketing and Sales
We make extensive use of advertising and other promotional activities, including our Internet website (http://www.beazer.com), mass-media advertisements, brochures, direct mail, billboards and the placement of strategically located signboards in the immediate areas of our developments.
We normally build, decorate, furnish and landscape model homes for each community and maintain on-site sales offices. At September 30, 2009, we maintained 341 model homes, of which 241 were owned, 80 were financed and 20 were leased from third parties pursuant to sale and leaseback agreements. We believe that model homes play a particularly important role in our marketing efforts.
We generally sell our homes through commissioned new home sales counselors (who typically work from the sales offices located in the model homes used in the subdivision) as well as through independent brokers. Our personnel are available to assist prospective homebuyers by providing them with floor plans, price information and tours of model homes, and in connection with the selection of options. The selection of interior features is a principal component of our marketing and sales efforts. Sales personnel are trained by us and attend periodic meetings to be updated on sales techniques, competitive products in the area, the availability of financing, construction schedules, marketing and advertising plans and Company policies including compliance, which management believes results in a sales force with extensive knowledge of our operating policies and housing products. Our policy also provides that sales personnel be licensed real estate agents where required by law. Depending on market conditions, we also at times begin construction on a number of homes for which no signed sales contract exists. The use of an inventory of such homes satisfies the requirements of relocated personnel and of independent brokers, who often represent customers who require a completed home within 60 days. We sometimes use various sales incentives in order to attract homebuyers. The use of incentives depends largely on local economic and competitive market conditions.
During fiscal 2009, we established a national new home contact center within our existing leased premises in Phoenix, Arizona. This contact center responds to telephonic and electronic (email) inquiries from prospective home buyers by providing any required information and then scheduling an appointment with a new home sales counselor in one of our new home communities.
Through January 31, 2008, Beazer Mortgage Corporation (Beazer Mortgage) financed certain of our mortgage lending activities with borrowings under its warehouse line of credit or from general corporate funds prior to selling the loans and their servicing rights shortly after origination to third-party investors. Beazer Mortgage provided qualified homebuyers numerous financing options, including conventional, FHA and Veterans’ Administration (VA) financing programs. Effective February 1, 2008, we exited the mortgage origination business and entered into an exclusive preferred lender arrangement with a national, third-party mortgage provider. The operating results of Beazer Mortgage are included in loss from discontinued operations, net of tax in the Consolidated Statements of Operations for all periods presented. See Item 3 – Legal Proceedings for discussion of the investigations and litigation related to our mortgage origination business. We continue to offer title insurance services to our homebuyers in several of our markets.