Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)


9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2021
Share-based Payment Arrangement [Abstract]  
We have a stock compensation plan, the Meritage Homes Corporation 2018 Stock Incentive Plan (the “2018 Plan"), that was approved by our Board of Directors and our stockholders and adopted in May 2018. The 2018 Plan is administered by our Board of Directors and allows for the grant of stock appreciation rights, restricted stock awards, restricted stock units, performance share awards and performance-based awards in addition to non-qualified and incentive stock options. All available shares from expired, terminated, or forfeited awards that remained under prior plans were merged into and became available for grant under the 2018 Plan. The 2018 Plan authorizes awards to officers, key employees, non-employee directors and consultants. The 2018 Plan authorizes 6,600,000 shares of stock to be awarded, of which 1,050,079 shares remain available for grant at September 30, 2021. We believe that such awards provide a means of performance-based compensation to attract and retain qualified employees and better align the interests of our employees with those of our stockholders. Non-vested stock awards are usually granted with a five-year ratable vesting period for employees, a three-year cliff vesting for both non-vested stock and performance-based awards granted to senior executive officers and either a three-year cliff vesting or one-year vesting for non-employee directors, dependent on their start date.
Compensation cost related to time-based restricted stock awards is measured as of the closing price on the date of grant and is expensed, less forfeitures, on a straight-line basis over the vesting period of the award. Compensation cost related to performance-based restricted stock awards is also measured as of the closing price on the date of grant but is expensed in accordance with ASC 718-10-25-20, Compensation – Stock Compensation ("ASC 718"), which requires an assessment of probability of attainment of the performance target. As our performance targets are dependent on performance over a specified measurement period, once we determine that the performance target outcome is probable, the cumulative expense is recorded immediately with the remaining expense recorded on a straight-line basis through the end of the award vesting period. A portion of the performance-based restricted stock awards granted to our executive officers contain market conditions as defined by ASC 718. ASC 718 requires that compensation expense for stock awards with market conditions be expensed based on a derived grant date fair value and expensed over the service period. We engage a third party to perform a valuation analysis on the awards containing market conditions and our associated expense with those awards is based on the derived fair value from that analysis and is being expensed straight-line over the service period of the awards. Below is a summary of compensation
expense and stock award activity (dollars in thousands):
  Three Months Ended September 30, Nine Months Ended September 30,
  2021 2020 2021 2020
Stock-based compensation expense $ 5,845  $ 6,130  $ 14,435  $ 15,724 
Non-vested shares granted 4,114  2,112  225,666  225,593 
Performance-based non-vested shares granted —  —  46,593  56,139 
Performance-based shares issued in excess of target shares granted (1)
—  —  37,425  24,054 
Restricted stock awards vested (includes performance-based awards) 3,615  8,610  438,344  413,016 
(1)Performance-based shares that vested and were issued as a result of performance achievement exceeding the originally established targeted number of shares related to respective performance metrics.
The following table includes additional information regarding our stock compensation plan (dollars in thousands):
  As of
  September 30, 2021 December 31, 2020
Unrecognized stock-based compensation cost $ 29,890  $ 22,687 
Weighted average years expense recognition period 2.02 2.01
Total equity awards outstanding (1)
910,557  1,098,545 
(1)Includes unvested restricted stock, performance-based awards (assuming 100% payout) and restricted stock units.
We also offer a non-qualified deferred compensation plan ("deferred compensation plan") to highly compensated employees in order to allow them additional pre-tax income deferrals above and beyond the limits that qualified plans, such as 401(k) plans, impose on highly compensated employees. We do not currently offer a contribution match on the deferred compensation plan. All contributions to the plan to date have been funded by the employees and, therefore, we have no associated expense related to the deferred compensation plan for the three or nine months ended September 30, 2021 or 2020, other than minor administrative costs.