Select Page

Toll Brothers announced its fourth quarter results on Tuesday, unleashing a fresh flood of concerns about the state of the housing market after it disclosed its first drop in orders since 2014. Orders were down 13% from the year prior, missing the analyst estimate of a 5% increase in dramatic fashion.

The company focuses much of its business on the California high-end home segment, which - as a result of the housing bubble in most west coast cities and rising rates, is facing an "affordability crisis" coupled with a sharp drop in overseas demand. According to the company, orders for the state were down an astounding 39%.

The company blamed rising rates for the drop off in buyer demand, as well as sinking stock prices. What is odd is that stock prices haven't really "sunk" - unless the company was referring to its own stock...

... with the CEO blaming "the effect on buyer sentiment of well-publicized reports of a housing slowdown" for the plunge in orders. You see, it's not the housing market that is slowing: it is perceptions about the market slowing, that is hitting the company.

That said, "perceptions" are correct: as we noted last week, new home sales crashed in October, suffering the biggest plunge since 2011.

Even so, the atrocious quarter didn't deter all analysts, who promptly defended the stock. Drew Reading, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst stated that "there are many positive factors underpinning the economy that we believe are supportive of the housing sector longer-term, and our affluent markets particularly."

Tolls dismal results follows signs that we have been discussing for much of the past year, which have confirmed that the luxury housing market is cooling off across the country.

Recently, we profiled a mansion in Chicago that was taken off the market after being listed for $50 million and only being assessed for $19.4 million. United Automobile Insurance Chairman and CEO Richard Parrillo constructed the 25,000 sq ft Lincoln Park mansion a decade ago, after buying the property in 2005 for $12.5 million from the Infant Welfare Society.

After two years on the market, Parrillo and his wife held firm at $50 million, a record for the region, their original listing agent told the Chicago Tribune. The agent said the couple plowed more than $65 million into the estate, including land cost.

Cook County Assessor's Office reports shows the mansion's $50 million asking price was hugely overinflated versus its most recent estimated market value, which stood some 60% lower, at $19.4 million. The report notes the 2018 property value is significantly higher from the assessor’s $14 million estimated market value for the mansion in 2017, due to a quick burst in high-end home sales in the last several years that had since cooled.