On Friday, Hovnanian Enterprises
The company's net contracts for the quarter dipped about 21% to 3,116, but without the especially hard-hit Fort Myers-Cape Coral market, net contract additions would have declined just 17%.
Hovnanian's prerelease follows recent reports from other major builders, including Beazer
Centex noted during its earnings conference call that March had been a particularly difficult month, given the crescendo in media attention to subprime-lending difficulties and buyers consequently seeming to have "taken a pause." Similarly, Hovnanian said that its contract results "reflect a continued challenging operating environment in most of the company's markets, which were exacerbated by recent problems in the subprime-mortgage market."
So, Fools, there's little doubt that none of the major homebuilders is currently willing to step up and describe a brightening housing picture. That's probably because for them all, the picture remains murky at best.
For my money, however, I believe that the rat-a-tat-tat of negativism may be creating an opportunity for Foolish investors with longer-than-normal investment time horizons. For instance, the shares of one of my favorite builders, Toll Brothers
So be careful, Fools, but also know that the better builders will begin to move somewhat before the first rays of goods news become visible in the housing numbers. Therefore, this may be the ideal time to look at the relative differences among the homebuilders and at least decide on your favorite.
For related Foolishness:
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