Rising home prices are good for homebuilders
Homebuilders compete with existing homes for buyers, and increasing prices for existing homes means they have more latitude to raise prices for new homes. We’ve seen huge increases in gross margins from virtually all of the homebuilders. Average selling prices have been increasing by double digits, although in all fairness, these aren’t necessarily apples-to-apples comparisons. Homebuilders are finding that the luxury end of the scale is where the purchasing power is, and those that concentrate on the lower price points are having a more difficult time.
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Geography matters with home price appreciation
In the map above, you can see just how dispersed home price appreciation is. In the red-hot West Coast markets, we’re seeing prices increase in the high teens. In the Northeast, however, prices are increasing at a much slower pace. What accounts for the difference? In large part, state foreclosure laws make a big difference. In the Northeastern states—particularly New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—foreclosures have to be approved by a judge. Judges have been extremely borrower-friendly in these states (New York is legendary for how long someone can stay in their house without paying their mortgage—several years). On the West Coast and the sand states, foreclosures move through an expedited process. The upshot is that the inventory of foreclosed properties in the West Coast has largely been worked through, and prices are now rising rapidly. On the East Coast, the shadow inventory has barely budged.
Pay attention to geographic exposure with the builders
When looking at homebuilders, it pays to analyze their geographic footprint. Builders that are West Coast–centric, like Lennar (LEN) and Standard Pacific (SPF), are experiencing faster growth than East Coast–based builders like NVR (NVR) or even diversified builders like PulteGroup (PHM). Finally, the luxury segment continues to outperform, which means investors should take a closer look at Toll Brothers (TOL).