I can sympathize with the management of Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE:HOV), the New Jersey-based homebuilder with substantial operations in Florida. I also live in the Sunshine State, and while it's truly a wonderful place to hang one's hat -- or scuba gear -- it's also beset by a major housing slowdown. In my area, for-sale signs continue to proliferate, but none ever disappear.

So it was not particularly surprising on Tuesday when Hovnanian pre-released the results of its quarter that ended on Jan. 31 and said that it would take $90 million in charges in connection with its operations in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area of Southwest Florida. Those charges involve most of the company's August 2005 acquisition of First Home Builders.

The company also said that before the effects of those charges, earnings for the quarter appear to be about $0.20 per common share, compared with $1.25 a year ago, but higher than the $0.05 to $0.10 that it had forecast previously. Beyond the effects of the Florida charges, Hovnanian also said it expects to take about $8 million of charges related to land impairments and write-offs in other markets. Those charges are included in the $0.20 estimate.

Hovnanian management said the company delivered 3,266 homes in the quarter, excluding the 289 homes delivered from unconsolidated joint ventures. Net contracts for the quarter amounted to 2,570, a dip of 23% from the net contracts written in the comparable quarter a year ago. The company will formally release the results of its quarter on March 8.

In commenting specifically on the Fort Myers-Cape Coral market, Hovnanian officials said the company "primarily targets homes designed for first-time homebuyers. This market continues to face increasing resale listings, including many home listings that were recently constructed and purchased by investors." Management also said that "most of the company's other markets have been experiencing a reduction in resale listings over the past few months."

The Florida market also has had a materially negative effect on Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities (NYSE:WCI), which has been heralded as a takeover candidate. On Tuesday, the company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $64.6 million, or $1.52 per share, following land and inventory impairments of $118.3 million. A year ago for the same quarter, WCI reported income of $1.20 per share.

The housing market continues to exhibit softness nationwide, with some areas clearly being harder hit than others. Housing starts in January slid by 14.3% from December to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.4 million units. Further, Florida has been particularly adept at testing builders. In releasing the results of its most recent quarter, Centex (NYSE:CTX) management called Southwest Florida its most challenging market.

Despite the steady stream of negative news surrounding housing, I urge Fools with longer-than-usual investment time horizons to realize that homebuilding stocks and housing news frequently are disconnected. As such, I believe that such companies as Centex, Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL), and Ryland (NYSE:RYL) should be watched carefully.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith owns shares in Centex but not in the other companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments or questions. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.