Toll Bros. reports 1Q profits up by 78%

A Toll Bros. home in Colo. (Rick Wilking / Reuters)

Horsham-based Toll Bros. saw profits climb 78 percent in its fiscal first quarter as the luxury-home builder sold more houses at higher prices.

First-quarter net income was $81.3 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with $45.6 million, or 25 cents a share, in the same period in 2014, Toll reported Tuesday.

Revenue in the fiscal first quarter, which ended Jan. 31, was $853.5 million, 33 percent higher than the $643.7 million of the year-ago quarter, the home builder said.

Toll said it delivered 1,091 homes in the quarter, 18 percent more than the 928 of a year ago.

The average price of those houses was $782,300, compared with $693,600 in the same quarter of 2014, Toll reported.

Prices are continuing to increase. The home builder said it signed contracts with buyers for 1,063 units in the quarter, at an average price of $821,500. A year ago, the average price of the contracts signed was $766,100.

The earnings report boosted Toll's share price 3.85 percent Tuesday, closing up $1.43 to $38.53 on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Momentum continues to build as we begin the spring selling season," Douglas C. Yearley Jr., Toll's chief executive officer, said Tuesday.

In its first quarter, the builder experienced a 24 percent increase in the dollar value of its signed contracts, Yearley said, and since the second quarter started, the number of those contracts has risen 13 percent over last year's period.

Yearley attributed Toll's growth to its "geographic diversification strategy," which began in the mid-1990s under Robert I. Toll, now the company's executive chairman.

Though Yearley emphasized Toll's continued dominance of the luxury-home market in the Boston-Washington corridor, the company's acquisition of Shapell Homes and other well-positioned builders on the California coast contributed considerably to its bottom line.

California accounted for 29 percent of the value of Toll's signed contracts in the quarter, with Texas - primarily Dallas - contributing 11 percent.

Toll's City Living division, which built Naval Square and is working in Center City on 2400 South Condominiums and 410 at Society Hill, contributed 5 percent of the contract value in the quarter, with an average unit price of $2.3 million.

In fact, said Martin P. Connor, Toll Bros' chief financial officer, the builder's "particularly strong" first-quarter gross margin was the result of a large number of high-price home deliveries in City Living's New York and Hoboken divisions.

For fiscal 2015, Toll expects to deliver 5,200 to 6,000 homes nationally at an average price range of $725,000 to $760,000, and to end the year with 270 to 310 communities, Connor said.

Toll's first-quarter results were announced just as S&P's Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for December showed a 4.5 percent year-over-year growth in home prices in 20 cities. Philadelphia is not included in that mix.

Nor are prices of newly constructed homes included in Case-Shiller. It is a repeat-sales index, computing "the percentage change between when a house recently sold and when it last sold, and then determines if the change represents overall market appreciation or depreciation," said Kevin Gillen, senior fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and chief economist at Meyers Research L.L.C.

According to Gillen, the Philadelphia region's home prices rose just 0.8 percent year over year, with the city up 5.1 percent and the suburbs down 2.8 percent.

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