Meritage Homes reports $45 million loss

Meritage Homes, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based home builder, reported a net loss of $45 million for the first quarter of 2008, compared with net earnings of $15 million in the same period last year. At the same time, net sales declined to $371.66 million from $576.12 million for the first quarter of 2007.

Home closing revenue fell 35 percent year over year, with the central region experiencing the greatest declines. In Arizona, for example, closings and closing revenue were lower than the prior year's first quarter by 58 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

The company purchased just 889 lots under option contracts during the quarter -- 60 less than a year ago -- with 65 percent of those lot purchases in Texas.

“Based on the first quarter results we've seen reported so far, we believe that our strong Texas franchise is becoming a clear differentiating factor for Meritage, relative to other home builders,” said Steven Hilton, chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes. “Texas has continued to outperform other areas of the country.”

Hilton also said that while total inventories of homes remain high relative to the recent pace of sales, he believes the market is beginning to see less significant declines in new home prices. “Stabilizing prices should help improve buyer confidence over the next several quarters, and lead to improving demand in 2009 and beyond,” he said.

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