Homebuilders Try To Ride Tax Credit Wave [Housing Tracker]

by: Judy Weil

Homebuilder Stocks 

$7,500 Tax Credit Fails to Spark Traffic. “FTN Midwest Securities neighborhood survey: Neither the new $7,500 first-time buyer tax credit nor the closing window on seller-funded down payment assistance have had much effect on traffic at new-home builder communities in the weeks since the housing recovery bill was signed into law. The results suggest that the legislation's stimulative effect on housing may be less of a shot in the arm and more of a time-release formula. Of the sales representatives surveyed, nearly half said traffic levels remained primarily unchanged from last month. Thirty percent reported increased traffic at their communities since July while 23% saw traffic levels decline.” (Big Builder Online, Aug. 20) 

WCI Gets Replacement Director. “Boardroom faces are changing at WCI Communities as it moves through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization process that started on Aug. 4. David Schechter, one of three Carl Icahn-sponsored directors, resigned from the board of the active home and condominium builder (WCIMQ) on Aug. 14. He was replaced by Vincent J. Intrieri under a previously negotiated agreement that guaranteed Icahn’s group the ability to replace any of its sponsored board members with another. The agreement came about as a truce between Icahn and the former WCI board to settle a 2007 proxy fight.” (South Florida Business Journal, Aug. 20) 

Martha Stewart Drives Home Sales. Colorado: Since launching KB Home (NYSE:KBH) Stapleton: Homes Created With Martha Stewart, KB has sold 43 homes and will deliver 35 of them this year. Year-to-date sales at KB Home Martha Stewart are 38% higher than the 11 other builders in the Stapleton master plan, according to MetroStudies. "It's one of the three top-selling communities in Denver," said Jeffrey Mezger, president and CEO of KB Home… The Stapleton project is the 10th community in which KB has teamed with Stewart.” (Denver Post, Aug. 20)

Super Saturday And Sunday Event Continues Momentum For Lennar In Tucson. “First-time homebuyers eligible for the new $7,500 government tax credit are receiving an added bonus from Lennar (NYSE:LEN) this weekend from a $7,500 discount off the list price on new homes in select communities… Lennar’s “Super Saturday and Sunday” event, [with] outstanding financing rates, new first-time homebuyer tax credits, [is] one of the last chances for select homebuyers  to purchase a new home with zero down and zero closing costs... Lennar will match the government’s first-time homebuyer $7,500 tax credit and offer first-time homebuyers a $7,500 discount off the list price of a their new Lennar home.” (PR Log.org, Aug. 20)

Playhouses on Display. California: “Six builders and agencies have planned and built playhouses that will be available for touring from Saturday through Sept. 27 at Chaffey Town Square. The playhouses are a part of HomeAid Inland Empire, an organization associated with the building industry to raise money for safe dependable housing for those in need, including pregnant women, abused children and victims of domestic violence. The playhouses are being built by Capital Pacific Homes, Fullmer Construction, K. Hovnanian Homes (NYSE:HOV), Pardee Homes and Shea Homes, as well as members of Cal Fire, formerly known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.” (San Bernardino Sun, Aug. 20)

In Building Sector, M/I Homes Diamond In the Rough. “M/I Homes Inc. (NYSE:MHO), the quiet star among home builders for months until it cut its dividend, could be a good bet among its beleaguered rivals… It is purging overpriced land, whittling down debt - it aims for no bank debt by the end of the year - and avoids former glamour markets Las Vegas and Phoenix, in favor of heartland cities including Columbus, Ohio - where it is based and has operated for years. Its stock has climbed more than 50% since the start of the year (it was way beyond that before the dividend cut), outpacing rivals [like] Centex Corp. (CTX) and Lennar Corp.” (Dow Jones via CNN Money, Aug. 19)

Beazer Shares Fall On Analysts' 4Q Estimates. “Wall Street analysts [have] changed their forecast for homebuilder Beazer Homes (NYSE:BZH) FQ4 financial results, projecting a slightly larger loss per share. Beazer shares fell $0.70, or 10%, to $6.33. On average, analysts… are expecting Beazer to report a loss of $2.02/share on revenue of $580.4 million for the quarter ended in September. The previous consensus estimates called for the builder to post a loss of $2.01/share during FQ4. The six analysts' estimates range from a loss of $3.21/share to a loss of $0.74/share. Four weeks ago, analysts' earnings estimates for the quarter ranged between a loss of $4.50/share and a loss of $0.76/share.” (CNN Money, Aug. 19)

Stan Pac Stockholders Approve Second Phase of MatlinPatterson Deal. “Standard Pacific Homes' (SPF) stockholders gave the nod to a stock conversion plan that closed the second part of its deal with MatlinPatterson Global Advisors, a private equity firm that is infusing the heavily-indebted company with $530 million in cash. MatlinPatterson also received three seats on the company's board as part of the deal.” (Big Builder Online, Aug. 19)

Pulte Offers Jump Start Savings For All Home Buyers On August 18 2008. Florida: “While the recently passed housing stimulus package helps first-time home buyers enter the housing market, Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) is giving an even broader boost to buyers with the launch of its Jump Start promotion. Every buyer who signs a purchase agreement on a new Pulte, Del Webb or DiVosta home through Sept. 15, is eligible for at least $7,500 in savings in addition to any government-sponsored tax credits that may apply to their home purchase.” (CNews, Aug. 18)

Ryland Homes Launches Summer Clearance Event With Discounts. Florida: Ryland Homes (NYSE:RYL) has launched a Summer Clearance Event to sell over 30 ready-to-move-in homes in ten neighborhoods in the Tampa Bay region with price rollbacks and buyer incentives worth thousands of dollars.Joe Fontana, president of Ryland Homes in the Tampa Bay region, said the Summer Clearance Event includes inventory town homes and single-family homes starting at the mid $160s and many of the homes are available for immediate move-in with no down payment required. Some of the homes are former models.” (CNews, Aug. 18)

Owners Arguing Tax Value Of Homes. Ohio:  “Patricia Ryan… last week told the Franklin County Board of Revision that her house near Canal Winchester is worth less than the auditor's $139,800 value. The county should cut the property taxes on the Pompano Street house she bought new for $112,643 two years ago, she said. Ryan pointed out a neighboring house also built by Dominion Homes (DHOM) that has been vacant for a year. "Can't sell it. Can't rent it," she said. "And they're still building more new homes?" asked Kimbol B. Stroud, a board member… Ryan nodded: "Doesn't make sense, does it?" (Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 18)


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