Luxury-home builder Toll Bros. reported Wednesday a second-quarter net loss of $20.8 million, slightly more than half what the Horsham company lost in the same period last year.

The loss was 12 cents per share, compared with 24 cents per share in its 2010 second quarter, when Toll's net loss was $40.4 million.

"We continue to see stability and, in some cases, improvement across our various luxury-product lines," said Douglas C. Yearley Jr., Toll's chief executive officer. "Target customers generally have remained employed during this downturn and, with their solid credit profiles, been able to secure mortgages at good rates."

The National Association of Home Builders reported Wednesday that housing affordability during the first quarter of 2011 rose to its highest level in the 20-plus years it has been measured.

But buyers and builders "continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions," the group said, "and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales."

Last week, loan applications rose slightly, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday, but the pace of the increase was slower than in the previous week.

Toll Bros.' second-quarter results, for Feb. 1 to April 30, included $32.5 million in pretax write-down and impairments from joint ventures, compared with $42.3 million a year earlier.

Excluding write-down and impairments, the quarter's pretax income was $1 million, compared with a loss of $9.5 million in the 2010 period.

Toll delivered 591 units, 9 percent more than the 543 of a year earlier. Revenues rose 3 percent, from $311.3 million to $319.7 million.

Buyers signed contracts of $521.1 million for 915 units in the quarter, 6 percent higher in dollars and volume than the $489.4 million and 866 contracts signed in the second quarter of 2010.

The average price of gross contracts was $570,000, compared with $561,000 in the first quarter of 2011 and $565,000 in the second quarter of 2010. There were 10 fewer contract cancellations (36 vs. 46) than in the 2010 period.

Executive chairman Robert I. Toll said, "Many studies quoted in the media combine distressed sales data, including foreclosures and short sales, with new and/or non-distressed existing-home sales data. We believe that averaging distressed and non-distressed sales data provides a misleading picture to the public regarding home-price direction."

Nationally, total new-home sales in April rose 7.3 percent from March, but remained 23 percent lower than the same month a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported this week.

Vicki Bryan of Gimme Credit said Wednesday that though the cycle was stabilizing, "There is little to indicate a significant rebound" soon.

Prices remain weak, Bryan said, and new-home sales "now claim less than 6 percent of total home sales vs. 16 percent at the market peak in 2005."

"Most home builders have evolved a much more sober outlook vs. previous enthusiasm for a bounce of sorts beginning in the latter half of this year," she said.

Contact real estate writer Alan J. Heavens
at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com, or @alheavens on Twitter.