Pulte Homes, Inc. (“Pulte” or the “Company”) is a publicly-held holding company whose subsidiaries engage in the homebuilding and financial services businesses. Pulte Homes, Inc. is a Michigan corporation organized in 1956. Our assets consist principally of the capital stock of our subsidiaries and our income primarily consists of dividends from our subsidiaries. Our direct subsidiaries include Pulte Diversified Companies, Inc., Del Webb Corporation (“Del Webb”), Centex Corporation (“Centex”), and other subsidiaries engaged in the homebuilding business. Pulte Diversified Companies, Inc.’s operating subsidiaries include Pulte Home Corporation, Pulte International Corporation (“International”), and other subsidiaries engaged in the homebuilding business. We also have mortgage banking operations, conducted principally through Pulte Mortgage LLC (“Pulte Mortgage”), and title operations.
On August 18, 2009, the Company completed the acquisition of Centex through the merger of Pulte’s merger subsidiary with and into Centex pursuant to the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated as of April 7, 2009 among Pulte, Pi Nevada Building Company, and Centex. As a result of the merger, Centex became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pulte. Accordingly, the results of Centex are included in the Company’s consolidated financial statements from the date of the merger.
Since early 2006, the U.S. housing market has been unfavorably impacted by a lack of consumer confidence, tightened mortgage standards, and large supplies of resale and new home inventories and related pricing pressures. These factors have contributed to weakened demand for new homes, slower sales, and increased price discounts and sales incentives to attract homebuyers. During 2009, these conditions were accompanied by significant foreclosure activity, a more challenging appraisal environment, increasing unemployment, and significant uncertainty in the U.S. economy. As a result of the combination of these homebuilding industry, mortgage financing, and broader economic factors, we have experienced a net loss in each quarter since the fourth quarter of 2006. Such losses resulted from a combination of reduced operational profitability and significant asset impairments.
Homebuilding, our core business, is engaged in the acquisition and development of land primarily for residential purposes within the continental United States and the construction of housing on such land targeted for first-time, first and second move-up, and active adult home buyers. In the third quarter of 2009, in connection with the Centex merger, we realigned the organizational structure for certain of our markets.
Through our brands, which include Pulte Homes, Del Webb, Centex, Fox & Jacobs, and DiVosta, we offer a wide variety of home designs including single-family detached, townhouses, condominiums, and duplexes at different prices and with varying levels of options and amenities to all of our major customer segments: first-time, first and second move-up, and active adult. Over our 60-year history, we have delivered over 550,000 homes.
As of December 31, 2009, our Homebuilding operations offered homes for sale in 882 communities. Sales prices of homes currently offered for sale in 88% of our communities fall within the range of $100,000 to $400,000 with a 2009 average unit selling price of $258,000, compared with $284,000 in 2008, $322,000 in 2007, $337,000 in 2006, and $315,000 in 2005. Sales of single-family detached homes, as a percentage of total unit sales, were 77% in 2009, compared with 75% in 2008, 74% in both 2007 and 2006, and 72% in 2005. The increase in the percentage of single-family detached homes can be attributed to a weakened demand for townhouses, condominiums, and duplexes, as prices for detached new homes have become more affordable for first-time and active adult homebuyers. Our Homebuilding operations are geographically diverse and, as a result, help to insulate us from demand changes in individual markets. Since 2006, however, such diversification has not insulated us from demand changes due to the nationwide downturn in the homebuilding industry that has had a significant adverse impact on our operations in each of our markets. As of December 31, 2009, our Homebuilding business operated in 69 markets spanning 29 states.
Ending backlog, which represents orders for homes that have not yet closed, was $1.6 billion (5,931 units) at December 31, 2009 and $631.0 million (2,174 units) at December 31, 2008. For each order in backlog, we have received a signed customer contract and the required customer deposit, which is refundable in certain instances. Of the orders in backlog at December 31, 2009, substantially all are scheduled to be closed during 2010, though all orders are subject to potential cancellation by or final negotiations with the customer. In the event of cancellation, the majority of our sales contracts stipulate that we have the right to retain the customer’s deposit, though we may choose not to retain the deposit in certain instances.
Land acquisition and development
We acquire land primarily for the construction of our homes for sale to homebuyers, though we periodically sell select parcels of land to third parties for commercial or other development. Additionally, we may determine that certain of our land assets no longer fit into our strategic operating plans. We select locations for development of homebuilding communities after completing extensive market research, enabling us to match the location and product offering with our targeted consumer group. We consider factors such as proximity to developed areas, population and job growth patterns and, if applicable, estimated development costs. We historically have managed the risk of controlling our land positions through the use of option contracts. We typically control land with the intent to complete sales of housing units within 24 to 36 months from the date of opening a community, except in the case of certain Del Webb active adult developments and other large projects for which the completion of community build-out requires a longer time period. As a result, land is generally purchased after it is properly zoned and developed or is ready for development. In addition, we dispose of owned land not required in the business through sales to appropriate end users. Where we develop land, we engage directly in many phases of the development process, including land and site planning, and obtaining environmental and other regulatory approvals, as well as constructing roads, sewers, water and drainage facilities, and other amenities. We use our staff and the services of independent engineers and consultants for land development activities. Land development work is performed primarily by independent contractors and local government authorities who construct sewer and water systems in some areas. At December 31, 2009, we controlled 154,694 lots, of which 138,273 were owned and 16,421 were under option agreements.
Sales and marketing
We are dedicated to improving the quality and value of our homes through innovative proprietary architectural and community designs and state-of-the-art customer marketing techniques. Analyzing various qualitative and quantitative data obtained through extensive market research, we segment our potential customers into well-defined buyer groups. Segmentation analysis provides a method for understanding the business opportunities and risks across the full spectrum of consumer groups in each market. Once the demands of potential buyers are understood, we link our home design and community development efforts to the specific lifestyle of each targeted consumer group.
To meet the demands of our various customers, we have established a solid design expertise for a wide array of product lines. We believe that we are an innovator in the design of our homes and we view design capacity as an integral aspect of our marketing strategy. Our in-house architectural services teams and management, supplemented by outside consultants, are successful in creating distinctive design features, both in exterior facades and interior options and features. In certain markets our strategy is to offer “the complete house” in which most features shown in the home are included in the sales price.
Typically, our sales teams, together with outside sales brokers, are responsible for guiding the customer through the sales process. We are committed to industry-leading customer service through a variety of quality initiatives, including our customer care program, which ensures that homeowners are comfortable at every stage of the building process. Using a seven-step, interactive process, homeowners are kept informed during their homebuilding and home owning experience. The steps include (1) a pre-construction meeting with the construction field manager; (2) pre-dry wall frame walk; (3) quality assurance inspection; (4) first homeowner orientation; (5) 30-day follow-up after the close of the home; (6) three-month follow-up; and (7) an 11-month quality list after the close of the home. Fully furnished and landscaped model homes are used to showcase our homes and their distinctive design features. In the case of first-time buyers in the low to moderate price range, financing under United States government-insured and guaranteed programs is often used and is facilitated through our financial services operations. We also enjoy sales to the move-up buyer in higher price ranges.
Through our Del Webb brand, we are better able to address the needs of active adults, among the fastest growing homebuying segments. We offer both destination communities and “in place” communities, for those buyers who prefer to remain in their current geographic area. These communities, with highly amenitized products such as golf courses, recreational centers, and educational classes, offer the active adult buyer many options to maintain an active lifestyle.
Sales and marketing
We have received recognition and awards as a result of our achievements as a homebuilder. Our brands received more top rankings than any other homebuilder in the J.D. Power and Associates® 2009 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study, and our Atlanta, Austin (tie), Charleston, S.C. (Centex), Chicago, Inland Empire, Calif. (Del Webb), LA/Ventura County/Bakersfield, Calif., Orlando, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Antonio, Tampa, Tucson, and Washington, D.C. operations were recognized for ranking the highest in their markets. Three of our operations ranked second in their respective markets, while five operations ranked third. Pulte brands, which include Pulte Homes, Del Webb, Centex, Fox & Jacobs, and DiVosta, were surveyed in 22 of the 24 total markets analyzed. The survey assesses nine factors that influence overall customer satisfaction with workmanship and materials increasing in importance to customers in 2009.
Through our portfolio of brands, each serving unique customer segments, we are able to provide a distinct experience to potential customers. We introduce our homes to prospective buyers through a variety of media advertising, illustrated brochures, Internet listings and link placements, and other advertising displays. In addition, our websites, www.pulte.com, www.delwebb.com, www.centex.com, www.divosta.com, and www.foxandjacobs.com provide tools to help users find a home that meets their needs, investigate financing alternatives, communicate moving plans, maintain a home, learn more about us, and communicate directly with us. Approximately 6.8 million potential customers visited our websites during 2009.
The construction process for our homes begins with the in-house design of the homes we sell. The building phase is conducted under the supervision of our on-site construction field managers. The construction work is usually performed by independent contractors under contracts that, in many instances, cover both labor and materials on a fixed-price basis. We continue to shift toward component off-site manufacturing methods to provide high efficiency, high quality, and lower cost products to our customers. We believe that our trades are an extension of our production system and jointly focus on lean construction techniques to bring the highest value possible to our customers while setting the standard in trade relations. Using a selective process, we have teamed up with what we believe are premier contractors and suppliers to improve all aspects of the house construction process.
We maintain efficient construction operations by using standard materials and components from a variety of sources and utilizing standard construction practices. To minimize the effects of changes in construction costs, the contracting and purchasing of building supplies and materials generally is negotiated at or near the time when related sales contracts are signed. In addition, we leverage our size by actively negotiating certain of our materials needs on a national or regional basis to minimize production component cost. We are also working to establish a more integrated system that can effectively link suppliers, contractors, and the production schedule through various strategic business partnerships and e-business initiatives.
We cannot determine the extent to which necessary building materials will be available at reasonable prices in the future. While the availability of materials and labor is not a significant concern under current market conditions, we have, on occasion, experienced shortages of skilled labor in certain trades and of building materials in some markets in previous years.
Competition, regulation, and other factors
Our dedication to customer satisfaction is evidenced by our consumer and value-based brand approach to product development and is something that we believe distinguishes us in the homebuilding industry and contributes to our long-term competitive advantage. The housing industry in the United States, however, is fragmented and highly competitive. In each of our local markets, there are numerous homebuilders with which we compete. We also compete with the resales of existing house inventory. Any provider of housing units, for sale or to rent, including apartment operators, may be considered a competitor. Conversion of apartments to condominiums further provides certain segments of the population an alternative to traditional housing, as does manufactured housing. We compete primarily on the basis of price, reputation, design, location, and quality of our homes. The housing industry is affected by a number of economic and other factors including: (1) significant national and world events, which impact consumer confidence; (2) changes in the costs of building materials and labor; (3) changes in interest rates; (4) changes in other costs associated with home ownership, such as property taxes and energy costs; (5) various demographic factors; (6) changes in federal income tax laws; (7) changes in government mortgage financing programs; and (8) availability of sufficient mortgage capacity. In addition to these factors, our business and operations could be affected by shifts in the overall demand for new homes.
Our homebuilding operating cycle historically reflected escalating new order activity in the second and third fiscal quarters and increased closings in the third and fourth quarters. However, the challenging market conditions experienced in recent years have lessened the seasonal variations of our results.
Our operations are subject to building, environmental, and other regulations of various federal, state, and local governing authorities. For our homes to qualify for Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) or Veterans Administration (“VA”) mortgages, we must satisfy valuation standards and site, material, and construction requirements of those agencies. Our compliance with federal, state, and local laws relating to protection of the environment has had, to date, no material effect upon capital expenditures, earnings, or competitive position. More stringent requirements could be imposed in the future on homebuilders and developers, thereby increasing the cost of compliance.
On December 1, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) promulgated new regulations regarding effluent limitation guidelines (“ELG”) for discharges from construction and development sites. The new rule requires all construction sites subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System construction storm water permits issued by EPA or an authorized state to implement certain sediment and erosion controls and pollution prevention measures. These rules also require sampling of storm water discharges and compliance with a numeric effluent limitation of 280 nephelometric turbidity units beginning August 1, 2011 for sites disturbing 20 or more acres at once and beginning February 2, 2014 for sites disturbing 10 or more acres at once.
In addition to the new ELG rules, EPA also announced that it is committed to and has begun a rulemaking to address post-construction storm water discharges from newly developed and redeveloped sites. This rulemaking is expected to be completed by November 2012. There can be no assurance whether EPA will adopt final rules regarding post-construction storm water discharges, or, if it does, the form the final rule will take.
The Company is currently assessing the impact that the new ELG rules and potential post-construction rules will have on its business and results of operations.
Financial Services Operations
We conduct our financial services business, which includes mortgage and title operations, through Pulte Mortgage and other subsidiaries. Pulte Mortgage arranges financing through the origination of mortgage loans primarily for the benefit of our homebuyers. We also engage in the sale of such loans and the related servicing rights. We are a lender approved by the FHA and VA and are a seller/servicer approved by Government National Mortgage Association (“GNMA”), Federal National Mortgage Association (“FNMA”), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“FHLMC”), and other investors. In our conventional mortgage lending activities, we follow underwriting guidelines established by FNMA, FHLMC, and private investors.
We utilize a centralized fulfillment center to perform our mortgage underwriting, processing and closing functions and also use centralized loan consultants. We believe centralizing both the fulfillment and origination of our loans improves the speed, efficiency, consistency, and quality of our mortgage operations, improving our profitability and allowing us to focus on creating attractive mortgage financing opportunities for our customers. In 2009, we had a high level of utilization of our online customer questionnaire. The majority of our customers now send us their data online to start the mortgage process. Once the questionnaire is received, an interview is scheduled and the combination of the interview with the data sent online represents our mortgage application.
In originating mortgage loans, we initially use our own funds and borrowings made available to us through various credit arrangements. We subsequently sell such mortgage loans to outside investors. Substantially all of the loans originated by the Company are sold in the secondary market within a short period of time after origination.
During 2009, 2008, and 2007, we originated mortgage loans for 70%, 72%, and 76%, respectively, of the homes we sold. Such originations represented substantially all of our total originations in each of those years. Our capture rate, which we define as loan originations from our homebuilding business as a percentage of total loan opportunities from our homebuilding business excluding cash settlements, was 85% in 2009, while the capture rates for both 2008 and 2007 were 92%.
We sell our servicing rights monthly on a flow basis through fixed price servicing sales contracts to reduce the risks inherent in servicing loans. This strategy results in owning the servicing rights for only a short period of time, which substantially reduces the risk of impairment with respect to the fair value of these reported assets. The servicing sales contracts provide for the reimbursement of payments made when loans prepay within specified periods of time, usually 90 to 120 days after sale.
The mortgage industry in the United States is highly competitive. We compete with other mortgage companies and financial institutions to provide attractive mortgage financing to our homebuyers. The Internet is also an important resource for homebuyers in obtaining financing as a number of companies provide online approval for their customers. These Internet-based mortgage companies may also be considered competitors.
In originating and servicing mortgage loans, we are subject to rules and regulations of the FHA, VA, GNMA, FNMA, and FHLMC. In addition to being affected by changes in these programs, our mortgage banking business is also affected by several of the same factors that impact our homebuilding business.
Our mortgage operations are also subject to potential losses associated with mortgage loans originated and sold to investors that may result from borrower fraud, certain borrower early payment defaults, or loans that have not been underwritten in accordance with the investor guidelines. In the normal course of business, our mortgage operations also provide limited indemnities for certain loans sold to investors. During 2009, our mortgage operations have experienced a significant increase in actual and anticipated losses as a result of the high level of loan defaults and related losses in the mortgage industry and increasing aggressiveness by investors in presenting such claims to us.
Our subsidiary title insurance companies serve as title insurance agents in selected markets by providing title insurance policies and examination and closing services to buyers of homes we sell.
Financial Information About Geographic Areas
We currently operate primarily within the United States. However, we have some non-operating foreign entities, which are insignificant to our consolidated financial results.
In 2007, income from discontinued operations included $18.7 million in refundable income taxes related to our investment in our discontinued Mexico homebuilding operations. We disposed of our Mexico homebuilding operations in December 2005.
Other Non-Operating Expenses
Other non-operating expenses, net consists of income and expenses related to corporate services provided to our subsidiaries. These expenses are incurred for financing, developing, and implementing strategic initiatives centered on new business development and operating efficiencies and providing the necessary administrative support associated with being a publicly-traded entity listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
All subsidiaries and operating units operate independently with respect to daily operations. Homebuilding real estate purchases and other significant homebuilding, mortgage banking, financing activities and similar operating decisions must be approved by the business unit’s management and/or corporate senior management.
At December 31, 2009, we employed approximately 5,700 people, of which approximately 900 people were employed in our vertically-integrated construction operations in our Southwest reporting segment and approximately 800 people were employed in our Financial Services operations. Except for certain employees in our St. Louis homebuilding division, our employees are not represented by any union. Contracted work, however, may be performed by union contractors. Our local and corporate management personnel are paid incentive compensation based on a combination of individual performance and the performance of the applicable business unit, subsidiary, or the Company. Each subsidiary is given a level of autonomy regarding employment of personnel, although our senior corporate management acts in an advisory capacity in the employment of subsidiary officers. We consider our employee and contractor relations to be satisfactory.