Toll Bros. today reported a second-quarter net loss of $83.17 million, or 52 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $93.74 million or 59 cents per share last year, on revenue 51 percent lower than the same 2008 period.

Analysts had expected a loss of 44 cents a share.

While saying that it appears "some buyers are beginning to re-enter the new-home market" and that cancellations are leveling off, chairman and chief executive officer Robert I. Toll also observed that "concerns about job security and the economy continue to inhibit traffic and the conversion of deposits to contracts."

Excluding write-downs, the Horsham luxury-home builder's loss was $5.2 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with earnings of $56.5 million, or 32 cents per share in last year's second quarter.

Second-quarter total revenue of $398.3 million, or 648 units, was 51 percent below the 2008 second-quarter total revenues of $818.0 million, or 1,212 units.

The quarter's backlog of $944.3 million, or 1,581 units, fell 55 percent in dollars and 48 percent in units from the $2.08 billion and 3,035 units of the 2008 second quarter.

The latest quarter included pretax write-downs of $119.6 million, or $0.48 per share, compared with $288.1 million, of $1.06 a share, in the second quarter of 2008.

There were 161 contracts canceled in the quarter, compared with 308 in the second quarter of 2008. In the first three months of Toll's 2009 fiscal year, there were 157 cancellations.

Chief financial officer Joel H. Rassman again declined to give earnings guidance for fiscal 2009, citing the uncertainty of the economy. He did say, however, that Toll expected to deliver 2,200 to 2,800 houses during the fiscal year, at an average price of $590,000 to $620,000 a house, reflecting the average price during the first six months of the builder's year.

Despite the continuing downturn, Toll announced that the company was entering the Houston market for the first time, with pre-sales starting in the summer.

Toll Bros. will join a number of regional and national builders in the Woodlands, a master-planned community in suburban Montgomery County, outside Houston, where homebuilding began in the 1990s.

Toll said he is even buying unimproved lots in some areas, especially in areas where "foreclosure is not an issue and where there isn't much competition."

"We're seeing more offerings of lands in a number of markets," he said. "Sellers seem to be more motivated."

Despite lower sales, especially in the New York market, "we're still making a bushel of money," Toll told a conference call this afternoon.

As fixed rates rise, Toll's lending arm, TBI, is offering mortgages below that rate, said its president, Don Salmon, because of a growing perception that the housing industry is showing signs of improvement.

Toll said he believed that, in spite of the recession, "affluent buyers continue to have an appetite for higher-end homes while still demanding value and quality. When we have run promotions offering reduced mortgage rates or other special savings, many customers instead have elected to convert the special savings to upgrades on their homes."

Shares shed 6.91 percent ($1.35) to trade at $18.18 at midafternoon.

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