Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

PulteGroup Inc (PHM 0.35%)
Q1 2020 Earnings Call
Apr 23, 2020, 8:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Q1 2020 PulteGroup, Inc. Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would like to now hand the conference over to your speaker today, Jim Zeumer. Please go ahead, sir.

James P. Zeumer -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Great. Thank you, Joan, and good morning.

I want to welcome you to PulteGroup's first quarter earnings call, although sadly most of the conversation will be about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In that regard, I certainly hope that you are all well and staying safe.

Today's call is a little different, given we have PulteGroup participants located in a number of locations. So I apologize in advance for any technical difficulties we may encounter. Joining me here at an appropriate social distance are Ryan Marshall, President and CEO, and Bob O'Shaughnessy, Executive Vice President and CFO. Joining us remotely is Jim Ossowski, Senior Vice President of Finance. And I'm pleased to welcome Deb Still, President and CEO of Pulte Financial Services, who is dialing in from Denver. We thought it would be helpful to have Deb available to answer questions about our mortgage operations and overall mortgage market conditions.

A copy of this morning's earnings release and the presentation slides that accompany today's call have been posted to our corporate website at pultegroup.com. We'll also post an audio replay of today's call to our website a little later.

Before I turn the call over to Ryan, I want to alert everyone that today's presentation includes forward-looking statements about the Company's expected future performance. Actual results could differ materially from those suggested by our comments made today. The most significant risk factors that could affect future results are summarized as part of today's earnings release and within the accompanying presentation slides. These risk factors and other key information are detailed in our SEC filings, including our annual and quarterly reports.

Now let me turn the call over to Ryan Marshall. Ryan?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jim, and good morning.

Before we begin, let me offer my thoughts and prayers to everyone on the call today and in the communities in which PulteGroup operates. I sincerely hope that you and your families are well and are managing through the challenges created by COVID-19. I also want to acknowledge and say thank you to our nation's healthcare workers and first responders who have been remarkable in fighting the onslaught of this disease.

Given the devastating effects COVID-19 has had across the country, I'm going to focus my comments on the Company's specific impacts and our operational responses. Bob will then discuss some of the key numbers within our first quarter results as well as some factors to consider as you think about our business going forward.

To assess the impact of COVID-19, it's probably best to go back to the beginning. While that seems like a lifetime ago, it really has only been six to eight weeks. More specifically, PulteGroup and the broader housing industry entered 2020 with tremendous momentum and strong buyer demand, and this is reflected in the 16% growth in orders that we reported for the first quarter compared with the prior year.

Our reported Q1 order growth, however, is not reflective of current market conditions. In the first quarter, net new orders were up more than 30% over the prior year for both January and February. It's now old news when I say that, with the virus spreading rapidly and governments implementing shelter in place restrictions. Home buying demand slowed dramatically as March progressed.

To appreciate the magnitude of the slowdown, in the first full week of March, our net new orders exceeded 800 homes. In the final full week, this number dropped to just 140. As a result, our March 2020 orders in total were down 11% from March of 2019 from orders being up 30 plus percent to being down 11% in just a few weeks is unlike anything we have experienced before. It's this level of volatility, along with the dramatic economic slowdown and ongoing job loss, that led us to withdraw our guidance for 2020 as indicated in our press release earlier today, and we will not be providing any new guidance until conditions stabilize.

Given how the US economic slowdown intensified as we moved into April, it is no surprise that housing demand has slipped even further. Through the first three weeks of the month, we have sold approximately 920 homes on a gross basis, excluding cancellations. The underlying trend is that buyer traffic to our website and in turn our communities has decreased materially. This is obviously a very small sample size, but directionally, we are running a little below 50% of the pace in the first quarter, with the most recent trends generally stable to up slightly.

While the impact of COVID-19 was hard and fast, PulteGroup is fortunate to have an experienced management team throughout our organization. In other words, we have been through slowdowns before such that we can and are responding quickly. A cadence of functional meetings, Skype calls, to be exact, at every level of our operations were organized and are ongoing. Based on real-time insights supplied by frontline managers, we are routinely adjusting sales, construction, purchasing, mortgage and other functional practices to the rapidly changing market conditions.

Important information from these division level meetings has been routinely shared via a daily call with my senior team that reviews everything from customer traffic and sales to land investment and conditions in the mortgage market. Think of my leadership calls as a virtual war room in which we can quickly assess ongoing events and adjust business tactics as required.

It's vital that information flows both ways inside our organization. We can quickly disseminate critical data and decisions back into our operations via internal communications channels, including the newly built section within our Internet. This section also acts as a data repository for key policies and materials as well as a robust and growing warehouse of best practice videos. These videos cover everything from the direct marketing and managing a great virtual house tour to conducting an efficient option selection meeting online and even closing the home purchase remotely. I won't take you through the daily, even hourly, evolution of our business practices, but I will share with you how we are operating the business today.

To help ensure the health and safety of our customers and employees, we are working remotely and leveraging available technology platforms to enable virtual interactions with our homebuyers. From walking computer generated floor plans and picking a lot on our interactive community maps to selecting options and applying for and ultimately closing the mortgage, at this point we are able to effectively do everything remotely. In fact, I fully expect we will be integrating a number of these new practices into our selling processes even as we move back to more normal operating conditions.

I think our millennials and active adult buyers in particular will appreciate having more options in terms of how they interact with the home-buying process. For potential homebuyers who do want to visit a model and meet in person, such meetings where permitted are by appointment only. Appointments ensure we can control the number of attendees and enforce social distancing as well as to provide time for us to implement our enhanced cleaning protocols.

Moving from sales to construction. We are working closely with our trades to confirm compliance with national and local guidelines relating to social distancing and onsite help and personal hygiene practices. Construction has been designated an essential service across all of our markets, except for Michigan, Pennsylvania, the State of Washington and key municipalities in Northern California. We have also notified our homebuyers that we will be providing warranty service for emergency situations only until this crisis has passed.

Finally, as an extension of protecting the health and reducing risks for our entire team, toward the end of March, we made the decision to guarantee employment for all PulteGroup employees through the end of April. We wanted to make sure we provided a sense of security so our employees could focus on their families and on taking care of our customers. Given the severity of the economic slowdown, we recognize that staffing actions will be needed to better align overhead expenses given the slowdown in housing demand, and we are planning for such, but this decision is consistent with PulteGroup's employee-first culture.

Beyond our people, given the challenging operating environment and economic uncertainties resulting from COVID-19, our focus is on protecting the Company's liquidity and closely managing our cash flows. Bob will review details shortly, but let me provide a few high-level comments on the actions that we've taken to date.

On the land side, we are working closely with our existing land sellers to postpone the purchase of land parcels currently under contract. Land sellers understand what's happening in the market, so conversations typically take a very collaborative approach. I am extremely pleased to say that we have been successful in delaying well over 90% of the lots scheduled for purchase in the near term. We would hope to have similar success as and when we need to deal with contracted land positions such scheduled to close in the future. In the rare situations where we have been unable to agree on some form of extension with the land seller, we have walked away from the lots and written off any associated option and/or pre-acquisition expense. In the first quarter, these charges amounted to only $4 million.

In a similar fashion, we are working to intelligently slow land development such that it is more appropriately aligned with the current sales environment. At this point, our approach is focused on delaying development rather than outright mothballing communities. The latter may become a tactic depending on how the slowdown plays out, but for now we want to continue turning assets even at a reduced rate.

We've also implemented strategies to limit the amount of capital we are investing in vertical construction. This includes contacting backlog customers and reconfirming their status before beginning construction of that sold unit. Having said that, between our existing spec starts and an elevated cancellation rate, we have spec units in production that we are also moving onto a slower track. At quarter-end, we had a total of about 3,100 specs in the pipeline, of which almost 40% were early enough in the build cycle that we are able to suspend further construction.

Depending upon the exact stage of production, construction on the remaining spec units will be held, slowly advanced or completed on schedule and then sold. Given the actions that we've taken to adjust land and house spend, we'll be able to postpone several hundred million dollars in cash outflows for a number of months. By effectively idling parts of our business, we can maintain strong liquidity, while positioning our operations to meet buyer demand however it develops over the remainder of 2020 and into the next year.

It's hard to envision a more difficult operating environment than what we are experiencing today, and I don't even want to try to sugarcoat it. That being said, given the way that we have been running the business over the past decade, I do believe that PulteGroup is very well positioned, both operationally and financially, to navigate the challenging and volatile market conditions we'll face until the impacts of the pandemic recede.

Now let me turn the call over to Bob to discuss key elements of our first quarter operating and financial results. Bob?

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Ryan, and good morning, everyone.

Before starting my review, let me reiterate that we have withdrawn our previous guidance relating to our 2020 results and will not be providing any new guidance at this time. This decision was driven by the dramatic impact coronavirus has had on employment, GDP and consumer confidence, the result of which is that it's impossible for us to forecast how markets and buyers will respond when conditions ultimately begin to improve. We are optimistic that buyer demand has the ability to rebound, but there is too much uncertainty at this time for us to provide meaningful guidance.

As Ryan indicated, given the dramatic change in demand dynamics and overall market conditions, I'm not going to walk through our first quarter statements in the usual detail. I will, however, discuss Q1 results on a high level and in the context of how we expect the business to operate over the next couple of quarters.

Looking at the income statement. Home sale revenues in the first quarter increased 14% to $2.2 billion. Higher revenues in the period were driven by a 16% increase in closings to 5,373 homes, partially offset by a 2% decrease in average sales price to $413,000. The decrease in average sales price for the quarter was driven primarily by changes in the product and geographic mix of homes closed.

Product mix continues to benefit from the expansion of our first-time business which increased to 33% of our closings in the quarter, up from 24% last year. In addition, 42% of our closings came from move-up buyers, and the remaining 25% came from active adult buyers. In the prior year, 48% of closings were move-up and 27% were active adult. At 33% of closings, we have achieved our stated goal of having first-time represent about one-third of our business. Given our growing investment in first-time and the fact that it was experiencing the strongest demand prior to the slowdown, first-time could increase slightly as a percentage of our overall business going forward.

As Ryan noted, orders for the first quarter were up 16% over the prior year to 7,495 homes. By buyer group, first-time orders were up 31% to 2,476 homes; move-up increased 13% to 3,345 homes; and active adult was up 5% to 1,674 homes. Driven in part by the 16% increase in orders, we ended the quarter with 12,629 homes in backlog, which is up 20% over the first quarter of last year.

Given the strong order rates over the past several quarters, we ended Q1 with 12,088 homes under construction, which represents an increase of 17% over last year. The increase in production was driven entirely by sold homes as spec production on a unit basis was down 1% from 2019 and represented only 26% of homes under construction. Consistent with Ryan's comments, we have curtailed new spec starts for the time being and are identifying opportunities to efficiently and safely pause construction of spec units already in production. Ideally, this would entail holding units at the foundation stage, but we can hold after they're dried in if needed.

While we are not providing guidance with regard to expected quarterly or annual results, I think it's useful to share information on backlog performance and the current state of our construction operations.

First, to-date, buyers have wanted to close. Relative to the size of our backlog, we are seeing minimal cancellations with most, as you would expect, driven by job loss resulting from the coronavirus. Through the first three weeks of April, we've had 360 backlog units canceled, which represents only 3% of homes in backlog. Based on these numbers and our experiences to date, it's clear that our homebuyers are willing and even anxious to get into the safety of their new home.

Second, our trades want to work. We remain in close communication with our trades to coordinate activities and ensure we are operating in compliance with all work rules and safety guidelines. As we have had to adjust the cadence of starts and alter production timeline, ongoing communication with our trade base is critical to maintaining production efficiency.

And third, we are having to proactively and intelligently manage the supply chain. The initial challenge was adjusting to any disruption in materials and/or components from China. We were fortunate in that we had recently conducted an extensive analysis of that supply chain in response to the US-China tariff issues in 2019. More recently, however, we are dealing with the closures of US plants as a result of state or municipal restrictions to keep people at home.

The US based plants typically hold less inventory in the supply chain, so adjustments have to be made very quickly. For commodities and mechanicals like plumbing, electrical and HVAC, we can usually swap to an upgrade or identify a comparable product manufactured by another supplier. It's much more difficult when the delay involves products such as cabinets, countertops and appliances where colors and styles can be difficult to match. In these instances, we are working with our customers to identify suitable alternatives or we may simply have to wait extra days until the required product becomes available. As of today's call, delays across the enterprise are relatively minor, but they can be disruptive within a specific community or market and may cause delays in completing impacted homes.

Continuing with my review of our first quarter results, gross margin for the quarter was 23.7%, which is up 30 basis points over last year and up 90 basis points sequentially from the fourth quarter 2019. Gross margin exceeded not only last year but our guidance for the period. In addition to benefits resulting from the mix of homes closed, our improved gross margin reflects the prior strength in housing demand and our ability to capture incremental pricing opportunities as incentives decreased to 3.6% in the quarter. This is down 40 basis points from the first quarter of last year and 20 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2019.

Broadly, we would generally tell you that prices have been holding. Unlike the back half of 2018 when there were issues related to affordability, the issues today relate to the inability to leave your home, job loss or simply fear. Price does not solve these issues. Price was also benefiting from low levels of new and existing home inventory on the market. That being said, spec units [Phonetic] in the industry's production pipeline are rising and cancellations are resulting in inventory buildup in a number of markets across the country. We focus on driving the best returns, which often leads us to sell for price over pace, but we need to continue selling homes, and we will be competitive in the market.

Our SG&A expense in the first quarter was $264 million or 11.9% of home sale revenues. This is 110 basis points lower than the first quarter of last year in which SG&A expense was $253 million or 13% of home sale revenues. The improvement in overhead leverage was driven by the volume growth realized in the quarter.

As Ryan discussed, given the ongoing erosion in homebuyer demand witnessed across the country, we recognize that we will need to make adjustments to our organization. Planning is already in process that will result in furloughs and layoffs in addition to other general cost reductions needed in order to right-size our operations.

Moving on, you will see a line for goodwill impairment in our first quarter income statement. Given the significant decline in equity market valuations, we determined that an event driven impairment test on the goodwill associated with our January 2020 acquisition of ICG was appropriate. This test resulted in an impairment totaling $20 million. This impairment was not the result of any factors specific to ICG's operations, but rather reflects the broad-based declines in the market capitalization of publicly traded construction companies during the period.

Having now worked with ICG since the closing, we are even more excited about the opportunities we see for such offsite production. Of course, accounting guidelines don't factor in our excitement but simply evaluate the recoverability of goodwill based on objectively verifiable market data, and as we all know, the equity markets have been under stress in recent weeks.

Looking at our Financial Services operations, the business generated pre-tax income of $20 million, an increase of 58% over prior year pre-tax income of $12 million. This year's higher pre-tax income reflects an improved margin environment; higher loan volumes, consistent with growth in our homebuilding operations; as well as the higher capture rate. Mortgage capture rate increased to 87% in the quarter from 80% last year. I would note that, given disruptions in the national mortgage market caused by COVID-19, we did have to write down the value of our mortgage servicing rights in the quarter. Reported Financial Services pre-tax income for the first quarter includes this adjustment.

Completing my comments on our income statement, our first quarter income tax expense was $60 million for an effective tax rate of 22.8% compared with $50 million or an effective tax rate of 23% last year. Our effective tax rate for the quarter was lower than last year and our recent guidance as we recorded benefits related to equity compensation.

In summary, for the first quarter, our net income was $204 million or $0.74 per share, which is an increase from prior-year net income of $167 million or $0.59 per share.

Turning now to a discussion of our balance sheet, cash flows and uses of capital. We ended the quarter with $1.9 billion of cash, which is up from $1.3 billion at the end of 2019. Our increased cash position primarily reflects our decision to draw $700 million from our revolving credit facility in March. Given the dramatic decline in global economic conditions and the uncertainty as to future demand trends, we drew on our facility in an abundance of caution. The incremental net interest expense related to these borrowings which will be reflected in interest expense is approximately $1 million per month, so it's low-cost insurance as we move through the next few months.

In the first quarter, we invested $619 million in land acquisition and development. On a sequential basis, this is a decrease of $152 million from the fourth quarter as we are working quickly to adjust land spend to match the current operating environment. Land acquisition spend in the quarter amounts to only $219 million, our lowest quarterly investment since 2014, and will likely decline further as we work to defer future land purchases.

In the first quarter, we repurchased 2.8 million common shares for $96 million or an average price of $33.86 per share. As business conditions eroded during the month of March, we elected to stop our repurchase activities. At this time, we have suspended share repurchases, consistent with our focus on conserving capital.

In conclusion, we entered this period of economic uncertainty in a position of strength. Our homebuilding operations have proven to be efficient and highly profitable, and we maintain ample liquidity. We're operating in a period of unprecedented job loss and economic contraction, but I'm confident in our ability to manage through this turmoil and successfully exit at the other side.

Let me turn the call back to Ryan for some final comments. Ryan?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Bob highlighted that we are dealing with this economic crisis from a position of strength. We've put ourselves in this position by operating a highly profitable and high returning homebuilding business for a number of years. The strong operating results we delivered in this first quarter are consistent with the strategies and tactics against which we have consistently operated.

By the time we get through the challenges of COVID-19, we will have adapted to a lot of changes. What won't have changed, however, is the strategic and disciplined approach we take to running our business as also in the past. Our work to maintain an exceptional culture and a committed team doesn't change. Our ability to underwrite and develop outstanding communities designed to meet customer needs while delivering high returns, our focus on delivering superior quality homes and outstanding customer service doesn't change. So while a lot will change, the fundamentals that have made PulteGroup successful remain solidly in place.

In closing, before we open the call to questions, I want to say thank you to our employees and our suppliers who have been absolutely amazing throughout these past few weeks. In a period of heightened risks and fears, where and when appropriate, you have been on site and operating in our communities. As required, you have quickly adapted to working from home and servicing our customers from a socially acceptable distance. And through it all, you have maintained an upbeat attitude and a can-do spirit. It has been impressive to watch.

Let me turn the call back to Jim.

James P. Zeumer -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Great. Thanks, Ryan.

We're now prepared to open the call for questions so we can get as many questions as possible during the remaining time in this call. We ask that you limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. And I ask Joan to explain the process and open the line for questions.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Alan Ratner from Zelman Associates. Your line is open.

Alan S. Ratner -- Zelman & Associates -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning. Hope everyone's doing well within the organization and your families and thank you for all of your commentary this morning. My first question, if I could -- maybe this is directed for Deb -- I'd love to hear and dig in a little bit about what's going on in the mortgage markets today. I know the headlines have been kind of fast and furious about tightening in terms of credit overlays being instituted by a number of investors and lenders. And I know there is a lot of disruption on the servicing side as well. And I'm just curious, what you've seen over the last couple of weeks in terms your ability to originate loans, to sell loans, to sell servicing rights. And taking that a step further, where are the current standards today that you're originating for your buyers?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Alan. Thanks for the question. There is certainly a lot there. We are doing well, and I hope that everybody at Zelman is healthy as well. Maybe let me just start with some real broad overview comments and then I'll turn it over to Deb. Our Pulte Financial Services team has been absolutely outstanding. We do have very good liquidity. The operations of the mortgage company have really continued with minimal interruption. There certainly are some challenges there, but I really do believe that Deb and her team have effectively helped to navigate those. So with that, I'll turn it to Deb, and she can provide some additional commentary.

Debra W. Still -- President and Chief Executive Officer of Pulte Financial Services

Sure. Thanks, Ryan, and good morning, Alan. Yeah. So certainly disruptions, we've seen a lot of headlines. But I think one of the things that is important to note is not all disruptions apply to all lender business models. And so for Pulte, for the majority of our loan programs that Pulte Mortgage offers, we're working with the investors, we're working with the same buyers and servicing that we've done business with for years.

For Pulte Mortgage, we are looking to add additional investor partners for our government loans where the environment has gotten more restrictive than the conventional market. And our strategy remains the same, which is to sell our loans in the secondary market and to sell our servicing. The jumbo market, you read by headlines that it may be frozen, and while I think there is far fewer participants, we're partnering with several banks and several credit unions that are still buying our jumbo loans and providing us that liquidity. So I'll stop there and see if you want to go into any more detail.

Alan S. Ratner -- Zelman & Associates -- Analyst

Yeah, no, that's very helpful. I do have one or two follow-ups to that, if I could. I guess on the government side, it seems like that's where we had seen some FICO and DTI overlays put in place. I know some lenders have gone as high as 700, not gone below that. Others are kind of more in the 660, 680 range. So I guess the question is, when you look at your book of business and you look at your backlog, it seems like cancellations have been very modest. Are you still able to get an FHA, VA loan done at a, call it, 640, 660 FICO and what percentage of your business actually falls into that criteria right now?

Debra W. Still -- President and Chief Executive Officer of Pulte Financial Services

Yeah. So we still have credit available certainly at the 640, 660 range. Some investors are requiring loan level price adjustments for those credit scores. But for the most part, there's decent liquidity at that level, Alan. Much like our product mix has been for many years, FHA and VA together are about 20% of our book of business.


Your next question comes from the line of Jack Micenko from SIG. Your line is now open.

Jack Micenko -- SIG -- Analyst

Hi, good morning and hope everybody is well on your end.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Good morning, Jack.

Jack Micenko -- SIG -- Analyst

Good morning. Hey, pal. I think part of the silver lining here is you're coming into this with a really, really strong backlog. And so I guess first question I have is, Ryan, what are the regional heads doing to preserve that backlog? Any kind of strategies there? And then, Deb, what's the mortgage company doing proactively to kind of feel through that backlog? Is it a second set of eyes on the underwriting? Is it a closer touch on the employment status? Just kind of curious how you guys are managing that. There is a lot of forward revenue there and preserving that and managing it is priority number one.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Jack. Good morning. It's Ryan. And we really do believe that the size of our backlog is a real benefit for us as we through this crisis. The good news is that the majority of that backlog made a buying decision prior to the effects and the impacts of COVID-19. And as Bob highlighted in detail, we've largely seen most of those buyers anxious and ready to move to the closing table. We've certainly done a lot of things and working with our Pulte Financial Services partners, inclusive of doing drive-by closings, where we've been able to sign the majority of the documents virtually and there's only a handful of things that need a wet signature, and we've been able to do that without human interaction and contact which has been great.

In terms of tactics that our operators are taking to preserve that backlog, we are really working with our buyers in a collaborative way to understand their specific needs. In the cases of job loss and things like that, in some cases, we've had to take a cancellation, and that's reflected in the number that Bob shared with you. Certainly, we've got great partnership with our mortgage company on a number of fronts. And not only does that help minimize risk, they provide just outstanding products and service. Our mortgage team has been able to give us insight into concentrations of customers that might fall into a particular industry. But we are very careful not to violate any of the banking regulations that would prohibit the mortgage company from sharing specific buyer data. So those are a few of the things that we've been doing to manage the backlog.

Jack Micenko -- SIG -- Analyst

Okay. And then one for Bob. Looking at -- stop the buyback, slowing down the land spend, monetizing backlog. Cash position probably balloons pretty significantly into year-end assuming -- and it's a big assumption, but I guess assuming somewhat of a U recovery, how do you think about the cash 12 months out? I mean, Ryan, your comments sounded like prepare for the worst, hope for the best. But you're still looking at cash numbers $2.5 billion, $3 billion-ish kind of numbers, no debt coming due till 2021. If we get to the other side of this, is this going to be buyback, is this going to be reaccelerate the land spend because demand is there to catch up? How do you think about this large cash position at the end of this year?

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, Jack. Thanks for the question. And hopefully we are wrestling with that particular question. I think our view on this is, we wanted to get as liquid as we could. We drew on our revolver just from a precautionary standpoint. So I think the first use of any cash would be, as we get more comfortable with this, we would seek to pay that down. You mentioned that we've got a maturity in March of next year. It's not that far away. That would be a pretty high priority for our cash. Depending on market conditions, would we refinance it? I don't know. It will depend.

But other than that, I think the process we will go through is no different than what we've been doing for the last five plus years, which is evaluating the opportunity to generate return from that cash. So if we think there is an opportunity in the land market, obviously that would be a place where we would place primary importance on investing. If we have excess capacity beyond that, we're always thinking about repurchase activity. We've obviously stopped that. As time goes by, we will revisit whether that's appropriate.

And we obviously pay a dividend. We'll be, in the course of normal discussion with our Board, visiting what we do with that over time. So I think the answer is, it isn't really any different, but I would tell you, obviously, the first thing we would think about is revolver and paying that down.


Your next question comes from the line of Michael Rehaut from JP Morgan. Your line is now open.

Michael Rehaut -- JP Morgan Securities -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everyone, and hope everyone in the Pulte extended family are safe and healthy in this time. First question I had was, if I could try to get a little bit more clarity with regards to order trends in the last six weeks or so, and obviously appreciate all the detail that you've given. I think what a lot of people are thinking about is trying to parse out in terms of the orders and the falloff in orders -- which markets and which segments maybe you've seen it the worst. You mentioned about a 50% decline in sales pace versus the first quarter in April. And so, I was curious if there is any additional granularity you might have for us in terms of by market, which markets maybe you saw a greater dropoff in across your three major consumer segments where you saw a little worse or better.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Mike, good morning. What I would tell you is that April started very slow as the majority of the country went into shelter in place type orders. Some markets, very aggressive -- late end of March, early part of April, and then eventually you saw the entire country go into that mode. As our sales processes evolve and caught up to that, we went to a by-appointment-only for the protection of not only our sales team, but also the customers.

And then we quickly adapted to a lot of virtual selling practices, with virtual tours, heavy use of Microsoft Teams to engage with customers, where we could share documents and the various choices that a buyer would have. And what we saw as we move through April, each week we're doing more virtual appointments. Our team got more comfortable with it. I think buyers got more comfortable with it. And so we are encouraged by that. As I shared with you, we had over 900 sales in April. To date, in this environment, where largely the entire country is still at home, to be able to sell that many homes virtually I think is a fairly decent result.

We are starting to see some pretty positive trends in our traffic data just starting this week I think as more of the country is talking about reopening -- we've seen certain states already take action to reopen -- and I think some of the understanding and the fears around COVID-19 are starting to subside, we're seeing some positive traffic trends, which I think bodes well.

In terms of consumer groups and segments, the one that I would tell you was probably down the most early is the Del Webb consumer, which I'm sure as you can appreciate is understandable. Number one, that's an age demographic that is most susceptible and at the highest risk to the virus. And so that's a buyer group that I think was early on the most cautious and probably continues to be. They're also a buyer group that's heavily influenced by volatility in the equity markets, which we know there was plenty of that in the back half of March. As that stabilized and as the virus started to come under control, we started to see that buyer group rebound. It's a buyer group that's got great liquidity. They've got strong will. They are not as dependent on the job market. And so we're actually starting to see some nice trends from that group.

What I'd tell you, though, Mike, is, every buyer group is susceptible to the impacts of this virus. I don't think there's any one group that is going to be untouched. They may go through different phases as the impacts to the economy move through the entire system.

Michael Rehaut -- JP Morgan Securities -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate that answer. I guess for the second question, maybe if I could sneak in slightly a two-parter. Number one, you mentioned the virtual orders coming in. Of that 960, I was curious, roughly what percent was able to be counted as an order without the customer even physically walking into their home? And conversely, you had mentioned in a prior question around the 360 cans in the first three weeks of April, I think primarily driven by job loss.

I just wanted to try to get a sense, again, going back to the, I guess you want to call it backlog scrubbing. If you feel like that 360 represents fully the initial job losses that we've seen across the country or it's potentially there might be an additional portion of the backlog susceptible to the recent unemployment trends?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Mike, in terms of how many of the April sales we're able to do everything virtually, I don't have that number at my fingertips. I would tell you, it was the lion's -- the lion's share of the process was done virtually. There are some buyers that maybe they wanted to do at least one on-site visit. It wasn't required, however, and we were set up operationally that the entire process could be handled virtually. So we feel really good about that.

In terms of the cancellations, there are some number of cancellations that we take in a given month just as a normal course of business, and that's reflected in what is our kind of normal cancellation rate. For those that we've seen in April, I would tell you, probably the majority were COVID related in some way, shape or form, most of those kind of relating to job loss or family health reasons. As we move kind of through this, yeah, I think there is certainly continued risk, depending on how deep and how prolonged the downturn is and then what the recovery looks like. So the job loss or the unemployment claims today were a little better than they were last week, but at over 4 million, it's still a pretty big number and we'll ultimately just need to see how that plays out over the coming weeks and months.


Your next question comes from the line of Stephen Kim from Evercore ISI. Your line is now open.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Yeah. Thanks a lot, Ryan and team, and thanks for all the information thus far. It sounds like you are doing as great a job as one could expect in this environment. There were some very interesting things that you mentioned with respect to how things have been evolving very recently so far in April, and I just wanted to knit a couple of things together that you said and just sort of get your overarching view as to how the demand picture looks.

I think you indicated that when you gave your numbers for cancellations and the sales you were doing, obviously, it seemed like it picked up relative to the final week of March in terms of the gross orders. And now on top of that, the cancellation rate, if I were to extrapolate that out to a full quarter, it looks like you're talking about a backlog can rate of maybe 12% or something like that for a full quarter's worth, which is like less than half of what you saw during the global financial crisis. You said price isn't really the issue and people are wanting to move in.

So with all of that said, I'm curious as to how you think this buyer pullback compares to other demand pullbacks that we've seen. Usually, for instance, when you see a demand pullback, there is kind of an immediate price response. There is sort of a demand for that. And it doesn't seem like that's happening today. And you've seen a pickup in traffic even before the states have opened up. So it feels to me almost as if there is like a fire that's gone dormant because we had a blanket thrown over it and then the blanket gets removed, there may be a spike in demand.

And I'm wondering if you would be ready to capture that and if you think that that's even something that's worth preparing for or if it's more important to sort of be defensive in the case that things get worse and linger. So my question is a little bit of complicated, I apologize, but how are you seeing the demand potential to spike in the next, let's say, month or two, I think as we do open up, and what are some of the things that you're doing to position yourself to capture that if in fact that happens?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Stephen. It's a great question. And I would tell you, we don't have a better crystal ball than anybody else does in terms of what the recovery ultimately looks like. Is it a U, is it a V, is it an L, is it a square root recovery. There is a ton of theories out there. We are looking and studying all of them. I think you made a couple of interesting points that I would tend to agree with. Buyer desire to own a home seems to be holding pretty strong and pretty steady and strong.

The ultimate question I think is going to be when does the economy start to reopen and how deep and prolonged are the job losses. We know that jobs are a critical component of a homebuyer being able to make the decision to move and do something different. If the job losses can be minimized and the folks that have been furloughed are able to be called back, I think that bodes well for housing.

Different than I think other housing downturns, typically, there has been a buildup of supply, which we don't have right now. There is not a buildup on the resale side, there is not a buildup on the new side. And so I would tell you that's largely why we've seen price continue to hold. Bob's prepared remarks I think hit the nail right on the head, which is, this is something that is being driven by partly fear, partly folks being at home and not being able to leave their homes, and price doesn't necessarily solve that. And so I think what you've seen from the industry for the most part is there hasn't been a lot of discounting other than in a few places where we've seen some co-broke type incentives to move inventory that was finished. We haven't seen in the market broad-based price reductions on base pricing, which I think is generally a positive.

In terms of being opportunistic, Stephen, I think our model of having a very large backlog that is over 12,000 at this point, that puts us in a very good position, assuming the cancellation rates remain where they're at. And for clarity, we are running at a level that were 3% for the month of April. I think that translates into something a little less than the number that you quoted. But we'll see kind of what that cancellation rate ultimately trends to for the full quarter.

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Stephen, just to maybe further clarify the cans. I think what you're going to see is, based on the sales level that we're seeing today, growth, and the cans against that 12,000 unit backlog, you will likely see an elevated cancellation rate in Q2 because you're going to have a reduced sales environment. We highlighted that sales are down. Cans, while they're not huge against the total backlog, are going to be big against that relative numbers. And so -- I heard you say that we might have a lower can rate in Q2 or net can rate. That will not be the case.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Yeah. I was referring to a backlog can rate. [Speech Overlap]

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Got it.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Okay. So, yeah -- so that's great. I appreciate that. Sort of kind of follow up on that. I feel like it would be interesting to hear particularly since you're headquartered in Georgia. How you're planning on handling a reopening policy which probably won't be unified across the country? And so I'm curious as to whether Pulte would be adopting kind of a across the country kind of a policy or will it be determined locally.

And I'm also curious, if you could talk about this pricing issue, how price really is not an issue, you're not seeing a lot of discounting. I'm curious as to whether you're actually seeing any desire on the part of the people who are buying to actually -- in fact maybe upgrade, maybe, are you seeing any increased demand for an extra bedroom, let's say, or maybe the home office? And then lastly, are you seeing -- can you give us a sense for what percent of your buyers need to sell a home first and how that's factoring into the demand picture today?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Stephen. There is a lot there. Let me see if I can organize kind of my response.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

So it was the reopening, the demand for extra, maybe, upgrades and then what percent need to sell a home first.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, in terms of reopening, we are taking a coordinated effort from our corporate office and working with our regional heads and our division presidents in terms of how we reopen. But it will be a customized approach by state, by market, even by sales center or by active community, in some cases. So, in most of the places where -- well, let me back up. We will not open anywhere until we're permitted by state and/or local regulation. That being said, we will open on the timeframe that we believe is appropriate for us once permitted by local regulation. So in Georgia, to your point, starting this weekend, a lot of the Georgia economy is starting to reopen. We will be taking a phased approach in how we reopen our corporate office as well as how we open our sales centers in Georgia.

In terms of upgrading, Stephen, and I think what you'll likely see is a lot of folks that have been maybe living in more confined spaces, whether it'd be apartments, condos, my guess is, you're going to see an elevated desire for maybe suburbia and having a little bit more space. I think most of our homes do come with the ability to have flex space and do things like home offices, and I'd absolutely see that being high on the list of things that buyers would want.

And finally, as it relates to homes to sell, I don't know that that's necessarily changed from what the historical trends were. Talking with a number of resale agents that I know here locally as well as across the country, there is actually kind of a tight supply of good inventory on the resale market. And so the feedback that I'm getting is, if the home is priced properly and in good condition, they are actually selling and selling fairly quickly.


Your next question comes from the line of John Lovallo from Bank of America. Your line is now open.

John Lovallo -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Thank you for taking my questions. I hope everyone is well. First question. Pulte and many of your competitors have talked about delaying land purchases, which clearly makes sense. I'm wondering, though, are you anticipating any stress at the land developer level? Are developers still able to access capital at this point? Any thoughts around that would be helpful.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. It's a fair question. For the most part, we are self-developing, John. And so we are putting raw parcels under contract. For the larger developers, we have not gotten any indication that they've got capital constraints. I think they, like us, are looking at the phasing of development. So phases might be a little bit shorter, might be delaying the next phase until we can work through the existing ones. So we haven't heard of a lot of noise in the market from folks that we have development relationships with. Everybody is focused on cash, as you can well imagine, but I think it's pretty coordinated at this point.

John Lovallo -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. And then the labor challenges that some folks are seeing, most of them are smaller builders, and some of the social distancing that's going on on job sites. I mean, do you get the sense that this could increase the demand or the interest for offsite building? And with your ICG acquisition, have you guys seen increased inquiries into the business since COVID has hit?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, John. We're excited about ICG, as Bob mentioned. We've now been operating with ICG for just over three months. We're more excited today than we were at the time of acquisition. As we've started to incorporate ICG products and materials into our Jacksonville operation, it's really gone well. Just like we talked last quarter, we really see the implementation and integration of offsite as being a long-term strategic move for the Company, do address what we really believe are fundamental shortages in labor over time for the industry.

My guess is that, as social distancing practices will likely continue well into the future -- I don't think this is a 30 or 60 day time frame. We're going to be working on social distancing I think for a long time to come -- even better opportunity to take advantage of the labor efficiencies that are created by using offsite. So suffice it to say, we were excited then, we're more excited now and we're looking forward to continuing to see that expansion through our operation over the coming years.


Your next question comes from the line of Truman Patterson from Wells Fargo. Your line is now open.

Truman Patterson -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, everybody, and glad to hear you all are safe. So first question. You all have a proprietary pricing tool that's really helped you achieve elevated gross margins. I'm just hoping you could shed some light on the existing markets pricing. As I would imagine, there is a lack of inventory that you mentioned. There is also a lack of foreclosures with forbearance, which I think is going to help support the existing market pricing. But have you seen any local market pricing that's started to craft or roll over? Or are there any local metros that you're really watching near-term?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Truman, good morning. It's Ryan. As I think we addressed in some of the prepared remarks, we've actually seen price hold pretty steady. The only pricing actions that we've really seen, there's a few spots where certain builders have had an elevated level of spec inventory, and in an effort to move those, they put some financing incentives in place or some elevated co-broke incentives, which I think ultimately, at the end of the day, is more of an advertising mechanism as opposed to a price mechanism.

So, underlying values in this environment I think have held steady. We haven't seen broad-based discounting on to be built orders. I haven't necessarily even seen broad based discounting on the resale side either. So knock on wood, we'd hope that that can hold. For the time being, the results have been positive.

Truman Patterson -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. Okay, got you. So specifically, no real local metros that have really started to crack or anything along those lines.

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer


Truman Patterson -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you. And then just hoping to get a bit of an overview on the broader land environment. But really what I'm hoping to understand is whether you all are restructuring any of your optioned land deals and what those are starting to look like in those conversations. And then also, if you could look forward maybe one to two quarters, what portion or magnitude of the option deals are possibly at risk of being written off?

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. It's interesting. There isn't any particular form or fashion. Just like the way we've built the land book, it is negotiation with individual sellers. And as we mentioned on the call, to this point, everybody understands. We had very limited impact. We highlighted $4 million in write-offs of pre-tax, and we've got a normal run rate of $2 million. If you think about it, every quarter we usually have a couple of million dollars. So it was slightly elevated, but not materially. So I think what that tells you is that the dialog we're having with our sellers is constructive. In some cases, we've deferred 30 days. In some cases, we've deferred 60 days. In some cases, 90. And I think we'll continue to evaluate as we go forward.

I don't know that there is any particular bucket of the contracts that we have in place today that are any more or less at risk than anything else. Quite honestly, the decision to move forward is going to be based on how we see the market and whether we get the return we are seeking from the investment we're making. And we'll make those decisions candidly community by community. So we are working with all of the sellers. And yeah, I talked about development spend. We're suggesting to folks, hey, don't put more money into it because we may need to wait a little while. And they understand that. So on balance, you never know where this is going to go because demand will dictate how we operate.

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, Truman, the only thing I'd add to that is, when we negotiate land transactions, we underwrite to return as I think you well know. The two big variables in that are pace and price. And we've talked to price in your first question, which has largely held pretty consistent. Pace is the unknown, and until we kind of come out of this recovery and we start to see how things recover, that's what might ultimately kind of dictate what happens to underlying land values.

But we do believe, based on the optionality that we've really worked to put into our land book over the last several years, we're as well positioned as the Company's ever been to create some real optionality in how our land book comes onto our balance sheet or how we ultimately purchase things over the coming months.


There are no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back over to Jim Zeumer. Please go ahead, sir.

James P. Zeumer -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Okay. Well, thank you, Joan. I apologize, there were a few more questions. We've run out of time on this call. We'll certainly be available over the course of the day if you do have any other questions. We did run a little bit long. We wanted to provide as many comments as we could in our prepared script and hopefully answer as many questions as we could that way. Thank you for your time. Stay well. And we look forward to speaking to you on the next call.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 63 minutes

Call participants:

James P. Zeumer -- Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Ryan R. Marshall -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert T. O'Shaughnessy -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Debra W. Still -- President and Chief Executive Officer of Pulte Financial Services

Alan S. Ratner -- Zelman & Associates -- Analyst

Jack Micenko -- SIG -- Analyst

Michael Rehaut -- JP Morgan Securities -- Analyst

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

John Lovallo -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Truman Patterson -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

More PHM analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo