In another sign of continued weakness in the new-home market, Toll Bros. yesterday posted a second-quarter net loss of $93.7 million, or 59 cents a share, from a year-earlier profit of $36.7 million, or 22 cents a share.
Results included pretax write-downs of $288.1 million for the quarter ended April 30, the Horsham luxury-home-builder said.
Earnings without those write-downs would have been $81.3 million, or 49 cents a share.
In its 2007 second-quarter, pretax write-downs amounted to $119.7 million.
In an afternoon conference call yesterday, chief financial officer Joel H. Rassman said two-thirds of the second-quarter write-downs were attributable to the troubled markets in California, Nevada and Florida.
About $85 million of the pretax write-downs were from joint ventures that Toll Bros. has with other builders, primarily in those markets, but Rassman declined to assign amounts to specific joint projects, which is company policy.
Second-quarter results included other income of $60.6 million, $40.2 million of which was pretax net proceeds from a condemnation judgment.
Second-quarter revenue fell 30 percent from the 2007 period, to $818.8 million from $1.17 billion.
Blaming the loss on weak demand in most of his firm's markets around the nation, chairman and chief executive officer Robert I. Toll added his voice to other major players in the residential-construction industry by urging Congress to approve tax credits to spur buying.
"Interest rates are low, supply is abundant, and a buyer's market prevails," Toll said. "With a little motivation, the new-home market could turn around, which would have a very positive impact on banks, bond prices, and many other areas of the economy.
"Once home prices stabilize," he said, "Congress could then more successfully address mortgage issues. However, without stabilization of home prices, trying to address mortgage issues may be difficult, at best."
Surprisingly, despite slower sales, material and labor costs are not falling all that much - only about $2,000 a house in the second quarter year over year - and "we don't expect that [decline] to continue for long," Toll said.
Land-sales revenue totaled $800,000 for the quarter, compared with $2 million in the period a year earlier.
The average price for a new-home contract signed in the quarter slipped to $590,000 from $711,000 a year earlier, and from $634,000 in the first quarter.
Toll attributed the lower average price to higher incentives - including more "free" options - and a product mix that included a higher percentage of contracts from active-adult and lower-priced projects, and fewer sales in high-price markets such as California, and in Manhattan, where the company has sold out of available inventory.
The cancellation rate was 24.9 percent (308 houses), compared with 29.8 percent (384 houses) in the year-earlier second quarter.
Net contracts totaled 929 houses, or $496.5 million, a 44 percent drop in units and 58 percent drop in dollars from 1,647 net contracts, or $1.17 billion, in the second quarter of 2007.
Rassman said Toll Bros. expected to deliver between 4,200 and 4,800 houses in a range of $625,000 to $635,000 through the rest of the company's fiscal year.
While the impact has been "slight" so far, Toll said, "foreclosure bus tours" being sponsored by real estate brokers through troubled new-home developments in the West and Florida might affect sales if the phenomenon increases, "which is something I wouldn't like to see."
Toll Bros. ended the second quarter with more than $2.5 billion in available capital, with $1.23 billion in cash, plus more than $1.27 billion from its bank credit facility, which expires in 2011.
Toll's net-debt-to-capital ratio of 22.7 percent is its lowest ever, the company said. A year ago, the ratio was 31.8 percent.
Bruce Toll, vice chairman of Toll Bros., is also chairman of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com.