It's no secret that the stock market has been volatile of late.
A combination of rising interest rates, inflation, geopolitical tensions, and other concerns have all pressured stocks, and investors are now worried about monetary policy tightening that puts the brakes on economic growth.
Real estate tends to be one of the more cyclical sectors as demand booms can drive up prices while crashes are common during recessions, so it's important for real estate investors to pay attention to macroeconomic factors. Despite the uncertainty, there are still stocks that look like good buys in the current environment.
Homebuilder stocks have been hammered in recent months over fears of a housing crash, but those fears seem largely unfounded. While price growth is likely to slow as mortgage rates rise and the economy normalizes from the pandemic, there are still a number of tailwinds for homebuilders like Lennar (LEN 1.87%) out there.
First, there's already a national housing shortage so demand for housing is likely to support elevated pricing. That imbalance is unlikely to be corrected anytime soon due to materials and labor shortages, strict zoning laws, a NIMBY culture that hinders new construction in communities with housing shortages, and a reluctance among homebuilders to repeat the mistakes of the financial crisis.
Second, many Americans took advantage of rock-bottom mortgage rates during the pandemic and grabbed a mortgage rate of 3% or even less in some cases, meaning they're reluctant to move and take on a higher mortgage.
Lennar trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of just six, and is still putting up solid numbers. In its fiscal first-quarter earnings report for the period ended Feb. 28, revenue increased 16% to $6.2 billion, and its backlog dollar value jumped 43%, showing that demand for new homes remains strong. Most of the increase in revenue was due to higher prices, but that should support Lennar over at least the next year. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings per share rose from $2.04 to $2.70. Based on the trajectory, the stock looks like a safe bet unless the housing market goes through a 2008-style crash, and that seems highly unlikely.
Home prices aren't the only winner during the pandemic. Commodities prices have also soared, among them lumber, and that's been good news for Weyerhaeuser (WY 1.54%), whose stock price has climbed steadily since March 2020.
Weyerhaeuser is the world's largest private owner of softwood timber, and one of the biggest owners of forest land. With lumber prices again topping $1,000 per thousand board feet, that puts Weyerhaeuser in an enviable position.
The company is coming off a year in which revenue increased 35% to $10.2 billion, and earnings tripled thanks to sky-high lumber prices last spring, but there's good reason to expect lumber prices to remain elevated above pre-pandemic levels due to the housing shortage, high demand for housing, and higher home prices.
In its first-quarter outlook, the company called for earnings to be significantly higher sequentially from the fourth quarter, showing market conditions continue to favor it. Weyerhaeuser is also making moves to expand as it just announced a purchase of 80,000 acres of high-quality timberland in North Carolina and South Carolina. Despite its momentum and industry leadership, the stock trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of just 12. As a real estate investment trust (REIT), the company also must pay out 90% of its earnings as a dividend, meaning now could be a good time for income investors to take advantage of a rising dividend.