Recs

6

Dueling Fools: Homebuilder Bear Rebuttal

As expected, I disagree with Anders. Comparing the housing bubble bursting to the dot-com bust is like equating a magnificent mansion with a shotgun shack. The tech debacle was based on unreasonable valuations forged from iffy metrics like eyeballs and venture-capital spending. The housing market's crumble is a tangible event. Profits have become losses. Land options are being forfeited. Book values are being marked down.

You can't spin that, and you can't right it -- at least, not for several more quarters at the earliest. Besides, if tech stocks are back in fashion, why are housing-related online companies like HouseValues (Nasdaq: SOLD  ) and Realtor.com parent Move (Nasdaq: MOVE  ) languishing in the single digits?

Still, I had to rub my eyes when I saw my buddy Anders lean on trailing profit margins as part of the basis of his bullish argument. For starters, let's kick Homex (NYSE: HXM  ) off the list. I trust that the housing market in Mexico is marching to a much healthier beat than what's going on over on this side of the border. Lo siento, Homex.

The other four firms are heading the wrong way, if you like positive net margins. Two of them cited posted losses in their latest quarters. The other two didn't hold up much better, with Brookfield (NYSE: BHS  ) and Avatar (Nasdaq: AVTR  ) posting bottom-line pratfalls of 77% and 81%, respectively.

Anders suggests trash-picking. Let me tell you why that's a terrible idea. You're there, happily wolfing down junk, when the garbage truck scoops you up, compacts you, and leaves you even smaller than when you started.

Speaking of junk, that's what the heavy debt of Beazer Homes (NYSE: BZH  ) got downgraded to last week, following the trash-heap steps off three of its larger rivals. Want more junk? See if you find Comstock (Nasdaq: CHCI  ) in that Dumpster. Last week found the company declaring that it sold just 81 homes during the quarter, offset by 78 cancellations. Oh, and the cancelled orders were for far more expensive homes, so the company is booking a negative $11.5 million in net new home orders for the September quarter.

"Every crash has a bottom," argues Anders. He's right. The problem here is that the skid marks are just getting started.


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Rick Munarriz
TMFBreakerRick

Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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