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Tri Pointe Group Inc (TPH) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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TPH earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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Tri Pointe Group Inc (TPH 0.09%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 21, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Hello, and welcome to Tri Pointe Homes' Third Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to David Lee, General Counsel. Please go ahead.

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David C. Lee -- Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

Good morning, and welcome to Tri Pointe Homes' Earnings Conference Call. Earlier this morning, the Company released its financial results for the third quarter of 2021. Documents detailing these results, including a slide deck are available at www.tripointehomes.com through the Investors link and under the Events and Presentations tab.

Before the call begins. I would like to remind everyone that certain statements made on this call, which are not historical facts, including statements concerning future financial and operating performance are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties.

Discussion of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are detailed in the Company's SEC filings. Except as required by law, the Company undertakes no duty to update these forward-looking statements. Additionally, reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures discussed on this call to the most comparable GAAP measures can be accessed through TRI Pointe's website and in its SEC filings. Hosting the call today are Doug Bauer, the company's Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Keeler, the company's Chief Financial Officer, Tom Mitchell, the company's Chief Operating Officer and President and Linda Mamet, the company's Chief Marketing Officer. With that I will now turn the call over to Doug.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks David, and good morning to everyone joining us on the call today. Tri Pointe Homes delivered another quarter of excellent operating results in the third quarter of 2021, generating net income of $133 million earnings of $1.17 per share. New home deliveries of 1,632 represent a 25% increase compared to the prior year and exceeded our stated guidance for the quarter. As our teams did an outstanding job dealing with the labor and supply chain issues that continue to challenge our industry. Our focus on returns was evident in our third quarter performance with a return on average tangible equity hitting 20.8% on a trailing 12-month basis, representing a 650 basis point improvement over the same period last year.

Margin expansion has been a key component to our success in driving better returns this year, and we made even more progress on that front in the third quarter with gross margins hitting 26.3% a record for our company. Another factor that continues to improve our returns has been our shift to a more asset light land strategy using option agreements and land banking arrangements to control lots. At the end of the third quarter, the percentage of lots controlled but not own stood at 42% of our total lot count compared to 37% at the end of the third quarter of 2020. Programmatic share repurchases, continue to be an area of focus and we repurchased an additional $65 million of stock in the third quarter and have surpassed $850 million of share repurchases dating back to 2015.

We have executed this without sacrificing homebuilding revenue growth, which has increased it at a compounded annual growth rate at 9% over the same period. As a result of this revenue growth coupled with margin expansion any significant reduction in shares outstanding our book value per share has also grown by a compounded annual growth rate of 13% since 2015. Concurrently, we have reduced our current net capital ratio to 24.3% and continue to accelerate our inventory turns, we are extremely pleased with the way these initiatives have led to tangible improvements to our return profile and believe they will continue to benefit our shareholders.

New home demand in the third quarter was healthy across all our markets and product segments with our monthly sales pace averaging 4.1 homes per community per month for the quarter. We continue to see favorable new home environment in our markets with low levels of home inventory, low interest rates and a heightened interest in single-family homeownership brought about by the pandemic. In addition, millennials are the most active homebuyers and we expect this to continue over the next several years. Millennials currently represent 54% of our backlog with our affiliated mortgage company Tri Pointe Connect that coupled with current demand for entry level and first move-up homes in locations that are close to job centers and transportation gives Tri Pointe a significant advantage across our markets.

We believe that this favorable demand dynamic will be in place for the foreseeable future providing an excellent operating environment for our company and our industry. Complicating this positive fundamental outlook for homebuilding, however, are the ongoing supply chain challenges that continue to slow the pace of our operations. While the rate of the slowdown varies by market, we are experiencing supply chain issues across our homebuilding footprint and expect these issues to persist into 2022. Fortunately, we have successfully navigated this difficult operating environment, thanks in part to our focus on being the best at big and small, as a homebuilder. For that, I mean, we strive to take advantage of our size and scale to procure the inputs we need from our national suppliers while staying nimble enough to work with our local suppliers and contractors to get our backlog close in a timely manner.

As a result of these efforts, we have not changed our full year delivery guidance, and still expect to deliver 6,000 and,6300 homes for the year. Looking forward,we are extremely pleased with our new community pipeline. We plan to open a 110 new communities over the next five quarters and end 2022 with between 150 and 160 active selling communities. Beyond that, we have an additional 80 new communities plan to open in 2023, which we estimate will grow ending community count in 2023 to between 170 and 180 communities. Based on the cadence of community openings and assuming a continued strong market we expect year-over-year order growth to occur starting in Q2 of next year.

With strong operational momentum, and excellent balance sheet and a sizable backlog Tri Pointe is in a great position to finish out 2021 on a high note and carry that momentum into 2022. With that I like to turn it over to Glenn, who will provide more details about our results for this quarter, and give some guidance for the rest of this year in 2022. Glenn?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Doug, and good morning. I am going to highlight some of our results and key financial metrics for the third quarter and then finish my remarks with our expectations and outlook for the full year of 2021. At times, I will be referring to certain information from our slide deck that is posted on our website. Slide 6 of the earnings call deck provides some of the financial and operational highlights from our third quarter. As Doug mentioned earlier, demand continue to be strong in the third quarter with an absorption rate of 4.1 homes per community per month, which is an elevated level of demand for our third quarter compared to historical comparisons. Demand was strong across all geographies with the West reporting an absorption rate of 4.5 homes per community per month the Central region had a absorption rate of 3.5 and the East had an absorption rate of 3.3.

We reported outstanding performance on all key metrics this quarter and either met or exceeded all of our stated guidance. We delivered 1,632 homes which was a 25% increase year-over-year, home sales revenue was $1 billion also an increase of 25% and our average sales price was 630,000. Our homebuilding gross margin percentage for the quarter exceeded the high-end of our guidance range at 26.3% a 420 basis point improvement year-over-year. This was a record gross margin for our company and demonstrates the pricing power we experienced in the first half of this year. Finally, SG&A expense as a percentage of home sales revenue came in at 9.6% which was a 20 basis point improvement compared to the prior year.

We continue to focus on our new community pipeline and opened 16 new communities in the third quarter. We expect to open 20 new communities in the fourth quarter, which will get us to our stated goal of 70 new communities for the full year. Based on current demand trends we anticipate closing more communities and expected, and we, as a result, will be lowering our year-end community count guidance to between 110 to 115 active selling communities. For 2022, we expect to open approximately 90 new communities and end the year between 150 to a 160 active selling communities. For 2023, we expect to open approximately 80 new communities and end the year between 170 and a 180 active selling communities.

Looking at the balance sheet, at quarter end, we had approximately $3.1 billion of real estate inventory our total outstanding debt was $1.3 billion, resulting in a ratio of debt to capital of 36.3% and a ratio of net debt to net capital of 24.3%. We ended the quarter with $1.2 billion of liquidity, consisting of $587 million of cash on hand and $590 million available under our unsecured revolving credit facility. Now, I'd like to summarize our outlook for the full year. We anticipate delivering between 6,000 and 6,300 homes for the full year and we are raising the range of our expected average sales price to $635,000 to $640,000. We are also increasing our homebuilding gross margin range to 24.5% to 25% for the full year. Our SG&A expense, as a percentage of home sales revenue is expected to be in the range of 9.8% to 10.2% and finally, the company is forecasting its effective tax rate for the full year to be approximately 25%. I will now turn the call back over to Doug for some closing remarks.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks, Glenn. In conclusion, I am extremely pleased with our performance this quarter, as we exceeded our guidance for a number of key metrics despite the difficult operating environment. We also made improvements to our return profile and laid the groundwork for what we anticipate will be a year of significant growth in 2022. While we expect the supply chain issues in our industry to persist for the foreseeable future, we also expect the positive demand dynamics that have emerged during this housing cycle to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Tri Pointe is in an excellent position to capitalize on these positive industry fundamentals, thanks to a significant increase in community count scheduled for next year, coupled with our premium brand focus and our shift to more affordable price points. We're in a great place, both, financially and operationally, as we head into the end of the year, and we are excited to capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead for our company.

Finally, I would like to thank all our team members for their outstanding performance this quarter. This is undoubtedly, one of the most difficult operating environments from a logistics standpoint that I have witnessed in more than 30 years in the homebuilding industry. The fact that we are able to overcome industrywide challenges and meet our delivery goals for the quarter shows a lot about the character of this company, and the talented and dedicated people who work here. I truly appreciate your efforts. That concludes our prepared remarks, and now we like to open it up for questions. Thank you.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question today is coming from Stephen Kim from Evercore ISI. Your line is now live.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Thanks very much guys. Congratulations, strong quarter. A lot of good performance. I think that the closings were particularly impressive, but I guess, I would like to ask with respect to the closings and the supply chain commentary you gave. It sounded like the challenges obviously continuing into 2022, most likely that's consistent with what I think a lot of people are thinking, and yet, you clearly navigated those well, your closings guidance for the year was maintained. And so my question is, do you at this point feel that you have caught up on the production side sufficiently so that sales restrictions at your communities could be scaled back? You could loosen some of those restrictions, sales restrictions on those communities that have them.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Stephen, it's Doug. To begin with, we lifted any sales restrictions on all our communities. Linda, I think maybe there is one or two, so we don't have any sales restrictions. The biggest restriction the industry has is the supply chain, and we're no different than the rest of the builders. We've got a strong team that we're able to substitute and bob and weave through the supply chain to get homes done, but we're no more special than anybody else, but we have just had a very strong team. Our head of national purchasing and supply chain management, Kevin Wilson, has worked tirelessly with our 15 divisions, and we expect the same type of environment going into 2022, but we don't have any sales restrictions in our communities right now.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Stephen.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Okay, that is interesting. I didn't realize that.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

I'm Tom. Just to add a couple of things onto that. Obviously, we've been in this environment for over a year now, so we started making changes to our construction schedules early on. We've adjusted communication with our trade partners. It's all about early lead time. So, I think, we have reached a balance point between our starts and our sales releases, and so it's not business as usual, but this new normal is going to persist, as Doug said, and we're prepared for that.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Yeah. That's encouraging, certainly to see those strong closings, because I don't think that's something that we're seeing from every other builder. I'm sure people are going to ask about the gross margin. I guess, the one aspect of that gross margin that I wanted to get a little clarity on is the breakdown of material, basically my sense is that one of the ways in which you guys are navigating around the supply chain issues is by substituting products where you need to, taking from other homes in order to -- that you -- parts or things you need in order to close homes, and maybe expediting and all that incurring some cost. And I'm curious, Glenn, if you could give us a sense for whether there was any material or significant costs associated with this scrambling if you will, that the supply chain has created?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, there is definitely a cost to that. I think, what's reflected in the gross margins for the quarter is obviously the strong pricing environment we had in the beginning half of this year and the back half of last year. And I think you're seeing in the guidance that margins are sequentially forecasted to be down in the fourth quarter because a lot of those costs are coming through, especially peak lumber from the beginning of this year. So, yes, there is a cost associated with all of that moving around for sure.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Okay, but you're not comfortable quantifying it at this point, I guess?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

I mean costs overall have risen from the beginning of the year about 15% overall, that's including lumber, so that's a pretty sharp rise in cost. We've been able to offset it mostly with price, but costs are definitely up, and they're continued. They're going to continue to go up.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

And this is Doug, Stephen. One of the things I would caution everybody on is this lumber drop because not only are you substituting products, you mentioned the costs included at, but there isn't a week that doesn't go by that between labor and other input costs that are being managed are going up. So, lumber, yes, has gone down from its peak, but there isn't this windfall going forward into 2022 because the supply chain does not let up in all the other input costs. So, be very wise about that phenomenon going into 2022.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it, that's helpful. And then lastly from me is capital allocation. You talked about share repurchases being up a little bit. I'm curious, though with given what we're anticipating, you're likely going to be able to do next year. I'm curious about how you think about the cash balance, Glenn. I mean, it usually goes up a bit in the fourth quarter. You're already running at a fairly hefty rate or a level of cash. Should we be thinking that this level of cash we're seeing here in the 3Q, is about the level of cash, call it high 500s or something like that, is about what we should expect for the foreseeable future barring a little bit of movement quarter-to-quarter just due to seasonality or something like that. There is no reason to expect that level of cash to build significantly from here, is there?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

No, no, I wouldn't say it would build significantly, and I think it's roughly a good estimate. Unlike you said, there could be some ups and downs quarter-to-quarter, but on average, it's a comfortable level for us.

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Excellent. Okay, thanks very much guys.

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Steve.

Operator

Thank you. Next question today is coming from Truman Patterson with Wolfe Research. Your line is now live.

Truman Patterson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Hey, good morning guys. thanks for taking my question. Just wanted to follow-up on one of Steve's questions. Based on your closings, it seems like you're performing pretty well on the construction side of the business, so just a couple-part question here. Are there any specific actions you all have taken to help navigate the supply chain constraints? I think you mentioned ordering products a little bit earlier. I'm thinking if you all are staging the construction differently or anything like that?

Then second, Doug, you also touched on this in the opening remarks, but we've always thought scaling the local market is extremely important, but on a national level, I'm thinking about this year, you are larger than your private peers, but you are smaller than the public peers. Is there any way that this might be a benefit in the current environment?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Possibly. I'll take the latter half of that. I would say, possibly. Listen, Truman, it is a battle out there. Our teams are battling every day. I don't think we have any secret sauce. As Tom mentioned earlier, and he can talk more about it, we have been working in this environment for a year. It's gotten worse and so we are very proactive instead of reactive, its probably the best way to look at it. But listen, if Tri Pointe is looking for 50 windows in DFW and one of the bigger builders is looking for 1,000, I bet 50 is probably a little easier than a 1,000, right. So, I mean, that doesn't mean we are any better, but so we are somewhere in between that large and, definitely, obviously bigger than the small local builders. So, Tom, you want to add anything to it?

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure. Truman. Like I said, we've been in this environment for a year. It's been a priority for us and our operations teams to overcome these challenges. I can't stress enough about lead times, proactive communication with trade partners. Again, we adjusted our scheduled templates early. We've really pushed early construction start, and then we have been fairly successful and creative in sourcing alternative materials. So, all those things have added up to some strong results, but we still are off-relative to normal cycle time, so we don't want to give anybody the opinion that, that is any different. On average, we're year-over-year, about 30 days, up on cycle times. So, it still is having an impact, but so far, we've been able to manage through it.

Truman Patterson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay. And then, secondly, on your shift toward more option land. I think it's up like 12 percentage points versus a year ago to now 42% of your portfolio. Is there any target you could give us as to where you want to go over the next two, three years? And any way that you can help us out on what sort of cash that frees up benefiting your free cash flow?

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes, Truman, it's a key component of our five strategic strategy points that we've articulated over the last 18 months to really hone-in on that consistent ROE going forward over the next several years. So we would target percent 50%, 50-50. On the option land we continue to harvest our long-term dated California assets, which generates significant cash flow and earnings to allow us to continue with a programmatic share repurchase program, which is the other leg to this tool. And I don't know if it was you or somebody noticed the divisions outside of California are growing like a weed. They're generating huge income and that is going to continue to change dramatically over the next couple of years.

The other thing that really affects ROE and ROIC is keeping your inventory turns up higher. And in some of these markets, most of the markets actually, outside of California, it's less capital intensive and so you can really focus in on getting those turns up. We inherited a lot of long land with warehouses. It's been a blessing. It generates huge cash on earnings, but we're using all these tools to hopefully benefit the shareholders long-term and drive consistent returns and hopefully, we can take that Rodney Dangerfield label office and the shareholders will really appreciate these type of returns that we're generating.

Truman Patterson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Yeah, I know, absolutely, and your performance over the past year, especially, has been nice. So thanks for the time, and good luck on the upcoming quarter.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Truman.

Operator

Your next question today is coming from Tyler Batory with Janney. Your line is now live.

Tyler Batory -- Janney Montgomery -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. So I wanted to follow-up on a comment you made in the prepared remarks. I think you said that you expect year-over-year order growth to start in the second quarter of next year. Can you just expand on that a little bit more. I'm assuming that that inflection is driven by the community count moving higher, but I'm just trying to get a sense of how you're thinking about sales pace early on next year in relation to order growth?

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes, you're thinking about the right way. It's a reflection of the cadence of when the communities open and looking at how we've planned versus the comps. And obviously, Q1 is a tough comp because absorptions were really high this year, in 2021, and so that creates a little bit of a tough comp in 2002. We're planning, like we've discussed before, kind of a 3.5 to 4 absorption pace across our divisions and it's a little bit higher in the beginning half of the year and lower in the back half of the year, assuming normal home-building seasonality trends throughout the year, and so that's how we're planning the year next year.

Tyler Batory -- Janney Montgomery -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then just to follow-up on the gross margin discussion. Certainly, very strong performance in the quarter and you mentioned the pricing strength and the pricing environment is contributing to that. Was there any mix shift that was a positive benefit in the quarter as well, perhaps, you may be selling some additional long-dated California assets than expected that drove that margin upside versus the guidance?

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

No, I wouldn't say anything in particular on the mix side that drove it up. And actually compared to a year ago, our long-term California asset deliveries were lower in the third quarter of 2021 versus 2020, which just really reflects the strength across -- and margin across the whole portfolio and not just the long-term California assets. You are seeing a little bit of a mix in the fourth quarter and increased lumber pricing like I stated that's flowing through the P&L in the fourth quarter, but nothing in particular in the third quarter. Just really strong results across the board.

Tyler Batory -- Janney Montgomery -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then maybe a last one, if I could, just on the demand side of things. On your, opening remarks, you talked about demand remaining quite strong. Can you expand a little bit more on what you're seeing the demand and traffic perhaps into October here? Are you seeing evidence of a more normalized demand environment out there, perhaps some more seasonality impacting the business?

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

Hi. Tyler, this is Linda. Yes we are definitely continuing to see that healthy demand environment. So far in October, we're just over that 4 per month pace that we're looking to achieve. And so, continued strengths across markets, definitely expecting a much more normal seasonality across markets and customer segments.

Tyler Batory -- Janney Montgomery -- Analyst

Okay, great. I'll leave it there. Thank you for the detail.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question today is coming from Alex Rygiel from B. Riley, your line is now live.

Alex Rygiel -- B. Riley Financial -- Analyst

Thank you. Nice quarter, gentlemen. A couple of quick questions here. Can you help us to better understand some of the, how we should think about modeling gross margins over the next handful of quarters coming off of a very, very strong quarter here? As well, help us to think about how to model average selling prices in 2022 given the quantity of new communities that are being opened up?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

So I think, going to the ASP first, for the full year. ASP, it will be similar to this year, next year on ASP. Even though we're opening more first time move up and entry level communities next year as part of the mix, just with the price increases that we've seen this year, we had previously thought ASPs were going to go down, but they look like they're going to be more flat this year despite that heavier mix toward entry level and first time move up. And then from a margin perspective, I think you're going to see the peak of the lumber rise impact the fourth quarter and the first quarter the most. And everything, the little bit of relief like Doug mentioned we're seeing on lumber, which largely has been offset by other cost increases that started happening for houses we started in the third quarter, and you'll start to see those deliveries in the second quarter of next year.

Alex Rygiel -- B. Riley Financial -- Analyst

Very helpful. And then, as it relates to the characteristics of your buyers. Have you noticed any rebound in the international buyer category?

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

This is. Linda. No, we have not. We continue to see really strong percentages of our buyers. Over 80% of our buyers are U.S. citizens.

Alex Rygiel -- B. Riley Financial -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question today is coming from Mike Dahl from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is now live.

Michael Dahl -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks for taking my questions. Appreciate the balance and candor so far. I wanted to ask another related question about demand and margin or pricing. If I look at the monthly absorption, it seems like it's dipped a little in late summer then bounced back August. Yes, some of this is seasonality, but I wanted to ask what you've experienced in terms of pricing power as you've gone through the past few months?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, this is Doug. Pricing power has moderated in most of the markets, still fairly stronger, fairly strong, stronger, strong in markets in Texas and in Arizona. But since lumber decreased in the second half of the year, all the builders have and our competitors have tempered the pricing environment, frankly, which I think is good. So, we're seeing some modest price increases that led the backlog now that they are in good shape, but the market overall is really good. I mean, come on, third quarter '19 our absorption was 2.9 and we thought that was a great quarter, and it was what, 4 in the third quarter this year. Year-to-date, we're about 1% above our total orders compared to the last year and with a lot less communities. So the demise of housing, which a lot of opponents have tried to make a headline on, I'm not sure it's there and I'm not criticizing anybody. Nobody has come out of a pandemic. Nobody knows what the outcome of the pandemic is. And obviously, the pandemic is going on longer and it is definitely continue to help the consumers' mind get around the need for housing. And that's been a big driver of our demand.

Then the second thing is millennials, 54% of our backlog are millennials, 80% of our buyers are captured by our mortgage company by the way. So the millennials are a big, big demograph or I'm big into demographics and that's going to drive housing for this foreseeable future.

Michael Dahl -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah. I appreciate that. And I mean, certainly still holding around 4 a month at this point is healthy and good.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes.

Michael Dahl -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

So I wanted to shift gears and come back to the land position also. Because I think it's interesting, looking at the breakdown, as we go state-by-state. A lot of the growth in both total and controlled loss has come from Texas, and I know these are good growth markets for you, but really a notable increase in land controlled and total lots the past few quarters in Texas. A lot of your other markets may be a little flatter to even down. So could you elaborate a little bit more on the strategy or where you're seeing success? And maybe if you could tie that into, as we think about that community count trajectory for the next two years? How much should we think of this, as being a little bit more skewed toward Texas versus some of the other regions?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, It's definitely going to be skewed toward the Central and Eastern regions. I mean, we talked about this 18 to 24 months ago, guys, Linda. I think, California, we've got an incredible land book. Nobody can compete with us on our old retail land basis, which I continue to talk about the cash on earnings and California has a very regulatory environment. Nobody is getting a hall-pass here when it comes to entitlement. So we have pushed dramatically in Arizona less, and then of our divisions our goal is to be in the top 10 market share. And in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and now the Carolina's East Coast, I mean, we aren't there. So, we will be there by the end of '23 and '24. I mean, that's been our goal. It's a lot less capital to grow in those markets, it's is much more efficient.

We've done a lot of ventures, we've done a lot of land banking. So, again, it's part of those strategic alternatives, points that I made to continue to enhance our returns. So you'll see tremendous growth. When you look, sit here today and look at 2023, the Central and East regions are growing like a weed.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Mike, it's Tom. Just a couple of add-ons to strategy relative to Texas specifically. We have in-house capability to do some self-development and we're shifting in that direction quite a bit, and that has enabled us to take some larger positions in really well-located projects. So I think some of the scale of the projects that we're going to be bringing into the market in the future is going to be really helpful in capturing additional market share that Doug talked about.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

And I would finish with the land position the company has, Tom. In our 30 plus years being in the business, I don't think we've ever had as strong of a land position where we own and control our growth through '23. So all the land efforts, we are, I mean we're being, we're always very disciplined as you know, and really focused on '24 and '25, so it's got a good set up, as we mentioned. And with the demand demographics and supply constraints that we keep battling, I think Tri Pointe is in a really, really strong position.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

And without a doubt, that's a differentiator for us. I think one of our strong suits is really the strength of our acquisition teams. And as Doug said, we've got the best pipeline that we've ever had.

Michael Dahl -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you. Really appreciate the color. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you, our next question today is coming from Carl Reichardt from BTIG. Your line is now live.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everybody. Glenn or anybody, of the 1,349 orders you took in the quarter, what percentage of those do you think were like say slab or frame up? In other words, what percentage were specs versus pre-sales under?

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

Yes, I can answer that. Carl, This is Linda.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Hey Linda.

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

We have, although, Q3 construction starts actually 44% of them was spec starts, but they sell very quickly. So we have a very, very low number of completed unsold homes, 0.2 per community at this time.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Okay, great, thanks. Linda. And then on the lot options that you've got, can you distinguish between the percentage that would be, say with either third-party lot developers or the land seller where you're going to self-develop versus land-banking transactions where you effectively have a financial partner?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

We'd have to dig into that, Carl. Not of top of my head.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Okay, thank you. And then just one more and I want to go back to the guidance beat this quarter, Glenn, particularly on the margins. So I think you were 230 basis points above the midpoint of the range this quarter. Can you just help me understand of that 230, what exceeded your expectations, like specifically what improved relative to what you told us you thought you'd do?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, I think really it's just how we were looking at things and the timing of certain deliveries coming in relative to the price appreciation. I think to be honest, we went a little bit conservative because costs were rising quickly but also price, and so it ended up just coming in higher than what we expected once we got through everything. So it was really just way in the price increased versus the cost increases and it exceeded our expectations.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Okay, thanks, but you're not anticipating that same dynamic to occur in Q4 then?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Not right now, but this would be pleasantly surprised if we do.

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Okay. And I appreciate it. Thanks everybody.

Operator

Thank you, your next question today is coming from Ivy Zelman from Zelman and Associates. Your line is now live.

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

Thanks for taking my question. Hey, guys. So can you tell me, on the land that you purchased during the quarter, absolute land that you purchased? How much have you seen lot prices increase? And what's your assumptions on absorption that you're underwriting for those lots? So absolute number of lots, let year-over-year lot inflation and underwriting assumptions please.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

On the absorption side, Ivy, we continue to underwrite all our, it depends on the price point of product. It's a multifaceted equation, but it ranges from 3.5 to more of an entry-level product, maybe up to 4.5, 5. So that's kind of the underwriting assumptions. What was the other?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

I don't have the number of lots right in front of me, Ivy, but as far as price appreciation in the land, what do you think, Doug?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

15% to 20%. And I think I pointed this out to you before, Ivy. The land that we're closing on now was land that was really tied up in late '19 and early 2020 and then there was that pandemic moment where everything got extended. And so we've got, and I mentioned this several times this land position that gives us huge flexibility going forward in a market that could create some uncertainty. Obviously, interest rates are always the bogeyman out there, but we have tremendous amount of flexibility and we have a lot of strong basis in there because of the strong inflationary environment.

If you're looking for just in time land right now, yes, you're going to pay dearly for that. So that's part of the reason why, Tom and I have said a number of times over our career, we are in an excellent position. And then, when you look at that land and I'm always looking at the upside and the downside, that's just the way we want to be proactive, that land has the flexibility to be reposition to even more affordable products, different products. Obviously, that's a lot easier outside of the State of California when it comes to doing that and that's where most of our growth is, so that's another reason why I feel very secure going forward based on the ups and downs that the housing business can give us.

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

No, that's really helpful, Doug. So if I understand you correctly, you're not purchasing real-time right now, incremental lots at today's prices because you're concerned about the inflation, so you're not incrementally signing new contracts that are going to close in the future at these inflated prices or you are?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

We are definitely in the land business. And we are underwriting the current revenues and current costs, but we're looking for the land positions that probably have a little more of a self-develop component, so it's probably got a stronger margin profile, and it doesn't deliver homes until '24 and beyond.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes, we're staying disciplined in our underwriting, Ivy. We don't include inflation in our underwriting. We're using historical absorption paces. We're not using increased absorption paces to make underwriting work. We're staying very disciplined in our underwriting.

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

Perfect. just switching gears for a moment. Recognizing that you did a great job this quarter of achieving your closings in a very challenging market. With respect to the sales caps the restrictions that you lifted, are you seeing a pickup in the need for incentives in the market to move and get the velocity and sales pace that you're achieving? And if so, maybe Linda can tell us what percent of your orders had incentives associated with them?

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

Yes, thank you, Ivy. We're still seeing very low levels of incentives. I would say just continuing customary lender incentives. There has been some incremental increase in incentives in our DC Metro market, but certainly nothing untoward and still at lower levels than prior years. So in Q3, our incentives pre-delivery were 1.7% of revenue.

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

And that's down from the prior year, in September it was 4.3%. So incentives are really low.

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

Right, got it. And last one, I'll sneak another one in for you, Doug. If you'd like to just opine on your perspective. The market with community count is poised to grow pretty significantly in '22 by many of your peers and yourself included. Are you concerned about getting those communities ramped up? It feels like a lot of communities right now are not, builders are not hitting the targets that they had anticipated due to the constraints in the market and municipalities. And if you give us some confidence level of your ability to get to the community count goals that you've articulated and at the same time everybody is during the same thing. So, it's a hardest thing for you to forecast and we appreciate you even attempting it, but what's your conviction level? That's a pretty big increase percentage-wise maybe not an absolute, but hearing your perspective of you and the industry and the challenges that you face when it comes to, not the construction of homes, but the actual development of land and getting municipalities to approve and get those communities rolled out. A lot to unpack but thank you guys for taking my questions.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, no, it's is a great question. And, hey, listen, it's a daily grind with supply chain. And you mentioned municipalities, that's obviously also a big delay. Not only is getting communities started in open, but also even getting getting homes final then signed off. So, you're spot on, but confidence factor. And if Tom and I, our management system here is, he and I play the regional presence. So we can tell you right now, our growth going into '22 is a 90% confidence level. You get a little bit of a 10% cushion in there because of municipalities and supply chain, but very-very-very-very confident.

And the reason, it gets back to what Tom was talking about. We've started, we have been dealing with the supply chain and municipality issues for a year, so that means you just need to be more forward thinking. So, we want to have most our year started much earlier in the year, next year than what would be normal. We want community started much earlier, and we started that planning process. So, if you don't start that planning process, 6 to 12 months ago, you never going to open the communities we talked about in '22.

So it's really about being proactive in your planning process. And the other point you're making is, there is going to be a ramp up of communities for all the builders. And, yes, we're all out there doing the same thing. But on a relative basis, there has been such a huge drop off in communities across the marketplaces, with Charlotte land I think about 30%, and so if you go up 20% to 30%, you really getting back to where you were maybe in the early part of 2020 as an industry. So yeah, there is going to be a lot of commotion, on new community started, but it all comes to, comes back to proactive planning. Don't you think. Tom?

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Absolutely. The team is 100% focused on that. The future lifeblood of the company is based on increasing our community count. And I think by the end of next year and then we've even messaged about communities going into '23, we put ourselves in a whole different league. So, we're excited to move forward and increase our volume and get those stores open on a timely basis.

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

Well, good luck, guys and wish you the best. And look forward to our follow-up. Thanks.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Ivy.

Operator

Thank you, your next question today is coming from Alex Barron from Housing Research Center. Your line is now live.

Alex Barron -- Housing Research Center -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone, and great job in the quarter. I wanted to focus...

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Great job in some of your write-ups too, by the way.

Alex Barron -- Housing Research Center -- Analyst

Thank you, Doug, appreciate that. Yes, I wanted to ask about, I guess one component that I think few people focus on, which is the share buybacks. I think you guys have been more consistently and aggressively buying back your stock and driving down the share count. I guess, as you guys just extended the share buyback authorization, should we expect that to be a fairly consistent thing going forward every quarter or is it expected to be more opportunistic? And my second question is, along the lines of giving back capital have you guys considered starting a dividend? Thank you.

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Alex, it's Glenn. I'll take that one. Yeah, good to mention the share buyback. Like Doug mentioned, it's a key component of our strategic goals and the level of buyback that you're seeing in each quarter that we've been consistently doing that is a good run rate to use going forward. We do think that is a good place to put capital right now. Especially. where our stock has been trading that makes a lot of sense for us and it's driving part of the equation to drive returns. So, yes, you could expect that same level going forward. And then what was the second question?

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Dividends.

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Dividends, we've looked at that. We've done the math. I don't think right now that makes sense. I think we'd rather focus on the share buyback at this time, but it's something we may look too in the future once we achieve some of our growth goals. Right now, we're focused, from a capital standpoint and growing our early stage divisions, growing in our Central and East divisions, like Doug said, and focusing on the share buyback.

Alex Barron -- Housing Research Center -- Analyst

Okay, thanks and best of luck.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Alex.

Operator

Thank you, your next question today is coming from Deepa Raghavan from Wells Fargo Securities. Your line is now live.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Hi, good morning everyone. Great quarter. Couple of questions from me. As I think through your 2022 gross margin set up, it feels like it should grow year-on-year. The parts that have been your lumber problem and benefits was good part of the next year, and then there is a little bit of an operating leverage that comes with huge community count lift even with those initial land costs. And the offset side, additional commodity inflation elsewhere, that seems like it can only be a partial offset, and you mentioned pricing is flat. Are there any big moving parts with this train of thought or do you have any comments that the gross margins actually are biased to grow next year?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

So, we haven't given gross margin guidance for 2022, but the one thing I'll say is, costs are still rising, so that's something we have to watch. We're opening 90 new communities next year, so there is definitely a mix change. We're ending the year between 110 to 115 active communities, so that's a big mix shift around there in communities. And so that plays a factor, but we'll give guidance next quarter on where margins are going for 2022.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay. Can you talk through your starts pace. I think your supply chain so that probably lined up with your backlog intake. But any dynamics the impacted by the supply chain, incremental supply chain issues? And also any updated thoughts on your cycle times have increased or decreased because of the supply chain?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

If I heard you right, or you asking, you're breaking up a little bit. It sounds like what in particular in the supply chain is causing the cycle times to increase, is that what you're asking. Sorry.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

That's one part of it. But anything, and also, is that impacting your start space?

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Start space.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

As I said, I think we're reaching a balance point between our sales releases in starts pace. We've lifted restrictions. Certainly, as Doug mentioned, municipalities and processing to get permits for starts has been probably the biggest impediment. Once we get started. We've got the normal supply chain issues that are leading to on average about a 30-day cycle time delay.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Year-over-year.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Year-over-year.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, got it. That's it for me. I'll follow-up later. Thanks so much.

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks Deepa.

Operator

Thank you. We reached at the end of our question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the floor back over to Doug for any further closing comments.

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks everyone for attending today's call. I hope, everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Can't believe it's, we're looking at the holiday season already. It has been a fast-moving year and we look forward to our 2021 results reporting those next year. So, thank you and have a great weekend.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 52 minutes

Call participants:

David C. Lee -- Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

Douglas F. Bauer -- Chief Executive Officer

Glenn J. Keeler -- Chief Financial Officer

Tom Mitchell -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Linda H. Mamet -- Chief Marketing Officer

Stephen Kim -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Truman Patterson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Tyler Batory -- Janney Montgomery -- Analyst

Alex Rygiel -- B. Riley Financial -- Analyst

Michael Dahl -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Carl Reichardt -- BTIG -- Analyst

Ivy Zelman -- Zelman and Associates -- Analyst

Alex Barron -- Housing Research Center -- Analyst

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

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