Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Organization and Basis of Presentation (Policies)

Organization and Basis of Presentation (Policies)
9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2013
Organization, Consolidation and Presentation of Financial Statements [Abstract]  
Cash and Cash Equivalents
Cash and Cash Equivalents. Liquid investments with an initial maturity of three months or less are classified as cash equivalents. Amounts in transit from title companies for home closings of approximately $43.2 million and $30.4 million are included in cash and cash equivalents at September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2012, respectively. Included in our cash and cash equivalents balance as of September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2012 are $20.3 million and $0.3 million, respectively, of money market funds that are invested in short term (three months or less) U.S. government securities.
Restricted Cash
Restricted Cash. Restricted cash consists of amounts held in restricted accounts as collateral for our letter of credit arrangements. The aggregate capacity of these secured letter of credit arrangements was $60.0 million at September 30, 2013. Our restricted cash accounts invest in money market accounts and U.S. government securities and totaled $40.9 million and $38.9 million at September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2012, respectively.
Investments and Securities
Investments and Securities. Our investments and securities are comprised of both treasury securities and deposits with banks that are FDIC-insured and secured by U.S. government treasury-backed investments, and therefore we believe bear a limited risk of loss. All of our investments are classified as held-to-maturity and are recorded at amortized cost as we have both the ability and intent to hold them until their respective maturities. The contractual lives of these investments are greater than three months but do not exceed 18 months. Due to their short duration and low contractual interest rates, the amortized cost of the investments approximates fair value with no unrecognized gains and losses or other-than-temporary impairments.
Real Estate
Real Estate. Real estate is stated at cost unless the asset is determined to be impaired, at which point the inventory is written down to fair value as required by Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Subtopic 360-10, Property, Plant and Equipment (“ASC 360-10”). Inventory includes the costs of land acquisition, land development, home construction, capitalized interest, real estate taxes, capitalized direct overhead costs incurred during development and home construction that benefit the entire community, less impairments, if any. Land and development costs are typically allocated and transferred to homes under construction when construction begins. Home construction costs are accumulated on a per-home basis, while most selling costs are expensed as incurred. Cost of home closings includes the specific construction costs of the home and all related allocated land acquisition, land development and other common costs (both incurred and estimated to be incurred) that are allocated based upon the total number of homes expected to be closed in each community or phase. Any changes to the estimated total development costs of a community or phase are allocated to the remaining homes in the community or phase. When a home closes, we may have incurred costs for goods and services that have not yet been paid. Therefore, we record an accrued liability to capture such obligations in connection with the home closing and charged directly to cost of sales.
We rely on certain estimates to determine our construction and land development costs. Construction and land costs are comprised of direct and allocated costs, including estimated future costs. In determining these costs, we compile project budgets that are based on a variety of assumptions, including future construction schedules and costs to be incurred. It is possible that actual results could differ from budgeted amounts for various reasons, including construction delays, labor or material shortages, increases in costs that have not yet been committed, changes in governmental requirements, or other unanticipated issues encountered during construction and development and other factors beyond our control. To address uncertainty in these budgets, we assess, update and revise project budgets on a regular basis, utilizing the most current information available to estimate construction and land costs.
Typically, a community’s life cycle ranges from three to five years, commencing with the acquisition of the land, continuing through the land development phase, if applicable, and concluding with the sale, construction and closing of the homes. Actual community lives will vary based on the size of the community, the sales absorption rate and whether the land purchased was raw, partially-developed or in finished status. Master-planned communities encompassing several phases and super-block land parcels may have significantly longer lives and projects involving smaller finished lot purchases may be shorter.
All of our land inventory and related real estate assets are reviewed for recoverability, as our inventory is considered “long-lived” in accordance with GAAP. Impairment charges are recorded to write down an asset to its estimated fair value if the undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated by the asset are lower than its carrying amount. Our determination of fair value is based on projections and estimates. Changes in these expectations may lead to a change in the outcome of our impairment analysis, and actual results may also differ from our assumptions. Our analysis is completed on a quarterly basis with each community or land parcel evaluated individually. For those assets deemed to be impaired, the impairment recognized is measured as the amount by which the assets’ carrying amount exceeds their fair value. The impairment of a community is allocated to each lot on a straight-line basis.
Existing and continuing communities. When projections for the remaining income expected to be earned from existing communities are no longer positive, the underlying real estate assets are not deemed fully recoverable, and further analysis is performed to determine the required impairment. The fair value of the community’s assets is determined using either a discounted cash flow model for projects we intend to build out or a market-based approach for projects to be sold. Impairments are charged to cost of home closings in the period during which it is determined that the fair value is less than the assets’ carrying amount. If a market-based approach is used, we determine fair value based on recent comparable purchase and sale activity in the local market, adjusted for variances as determined by our knowledge of the region and general real estate expertise. If a discounted cash flow approach is used, we compute fair value based on a proprietary model. Our key estimates in deriving fair value under our cash flow model are (i) home selling prices in the community adjusted for current and expected sales discounts and incentives, (ii) costs related to the community — both land development and home construction — including costs spent to date and budgeted remaining costs to spend, (iii) projected sales absorption rates, reflecting any product mix change strategies and expected cancellation rates, (iv) alternative land uses including disposition of all or a portion of the land owned and (v) our discount rate, which is currently 14-16% and varies based on the perceived risk inherent in the community’s other cash flow assumptions. These assumptions vary widely across different communities and geographies and are largely dependent on local market conditions. Community-level factors that may impact our key estimates include:
The presence and significance of local competitors, including their offered product type and pricing, comparable lot size, and competitive actions;
Economic and related demographic conditions for the population of the surrounding community;
Desirability of the particular community, including unique amenities or other favorable or unfavorable attributes; and
Existing home inventory supplies, including foreclosures and short sales.
These local circumstances may significantly impact our assumptions and the resulting computation of fair value and are, therefore, closely evaluated by our division personnel in their generation of the discounted cash flow models. The models are also evaluated by regional and corporate personnel for consistency and integration, as decisions that affect pricing or absorption at one community may have resulting consequences for neighboring or nearby communities. We typically do not project market improvements in our discounted cash flow models, but may do so in limited circumstances in the latter years of a long-lived community.
Mothball communities. In certain cases, we may elect to stop development of an existing community (mothball) if we believe the economic performance of the community would be maximized by deferring development for a period of time to allow market conditions to improve. When a community is initially placed into mothball status, it is management's belief that the community is affected by local market conditions that are expected to improve within the next 1-5 years. Therefore, a temporary postponement of construction and development work is expected to yield better overall future returns. The decision may be based on financial and/or operational metrics. If we decide to mothball a community, we will, if necessary, impair it to its fair value as discussed above and then cease future development activity until such time as management believes that market conditions have improved and economic performance will be maximized. No costs are capitalized related to communities that are designated as mothballed.

In addition to our quarterly impairment analysis, which is conducted to determine if any current impairments exist, we also conduct a thorough quarterly review of our underperforming and mothballed communities to determine if they are at risk of future impairment. The financial and operational status and expectations of these communities are analyzed as well as any unique attributes that could be viewed as indicators for future impairments. Adjustments are made accordingly and incremental impairments, if any, are recorded at each re-evaluation. Based on the facts and circumstances available as of September 30, 2013, we do not believe that any of our underperforming or mothballed communities will incur material impairments in the future. Changes in market and/or economic conditions could materially impact the conclusions of this analysis, and there can be no assurances that future impairments will not occur.
Inventory assessments on inactive assets. For our mothballed communities as well as our land held for future development, our inventory assessments typically include highly subjective estimates for future performance, including the timing of development, the product to be offered, sales rates and selling prices of the product when the community is anticipated to open for sales, and the projected costs to develop and construct the community. We evaluate various factors to develop our forecasts, including the availability of and demand for homes and finished lots within the marketplace, historical, current and future sales trends, and third-party data, if available. Based on these factors, we reach conclusions for future performance based on our judgment.
Deposits. Deposits paid related to purchase contracts and land options are recorded and classified as Deposits on real estate under contract or option until the related land is purchased. Deposits are reclassified as a component of real estate inventory at the time the deposit is used to offset the acquisition price of the lots based on the terms of the underlying agreements. To the extent they are non-refundable, deposits are charged to expense if the land acquisition is terminated or no longer considered probable. Since the acquisition contracts typically do not require specific performance, we do not consider such contracts to be contractual obligations to purchase the land and our total exposure under such contracts is limited to the loss of the non-refundable deposits and any ancillary capitalized costs. The review of the likelihood of the acquisition of contracted lots is completed quarterly in conjunction with the real estate impairment analysis noted above and therefore, if impaired, the deposits are recorded at the lower of cost or fair value. Our deposits were $34.9 million and $14.4 million as of September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2012, respectively.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements Joint Ventures. In the past, we have participated in land development joint ventures as a means of accessing larger parcels of land, expanding our market opportunities, managing our risk profile and leveraging our capital base; however, in recent years, such ventures have not been a significant avenue for us to access lots. See Note 4 for additional discussion of our investments in unconsolidated entities.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements Other. We may acquire lots from various development and land bank entities pursuant to purchase and option agreements. The purchase price generally approximates the market price at the date the contract is executed (with possible future escalators). See Note 3 for further discussion.
We may provide letters of credit in support of our obligations relating to the development of our projects and other corporate purposes. We may also utilize surety bonds to guarantee our performance of certain development and construction activities. Surety bonds are generally posted in lieu of letters of credit or cash deposits. The amount of these obligations outstanding at any time varies depending on the stage and level of our development activities. Bonds are generally not released until all development activities under the bond are complete. In the event a bond or letter of credit is drawn upon, we would be obligated to reimburse the issuer for any amounts advanced under the bond. We believe it is unlikely that any significant amounts of these bonds or letters of credit will be drawn upon.
Warranty Reserves
Warranty Reserves. We provide home purchasers with limited warranties against certain building defects and have certain obligations related to those post-construction warranties for closed homes. The specific terms and conditions of these limited warranties vary by state, but overall the nature of the warranties include a complete workmanship and materials warranty typically during the first year after the close of the home and a structural warranty that typically extends up to 10 years subsequent to the close of the home. With the assistance of an actuary, we have estimated these reserves for the structural related warranty based on the number of homes still under warranty and historical warranty data and trends for our communities. We also use industry data with respect to similar product types and geographic areas in markets where our experience may not be sufficient to draw a meaningful conclusion. We regularly review our warranty reserves and adjust them, as necessary, to reflect current claims pace and changes in trends as information becomes available.
Warranty reserves are included in accrued liabilities on the accompanying consolidated balance sheets, and additions and adjustments to the reserves are included in cost of home closings within the accompanying consolidated income statements. These reserves are intended to cover costs associated with our contractual and statutory warranty obligations, which include, among other items, claims involving defective workmanship and materials. We believe that our total reserves, coupled with our contractual relationships and rights with our trades, are sufficient to cover our general warranty obligations. However, unanticipated changes in legal, weather, environmental or other conditions could have an impact on our actual warranty costs, and future costs could differ significantly from our estimates.
Fair Value Measurements
We account for the non-recurring fair value measurements of our non-financial assets and liabilities in accordance with ASC 820-10, Fair Value Measurement and Disclosure. This guidance defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value and addresses required disclosures about fair value measurements. This standard establishes a three-level hierarchy for fair value measurements based upon the significant inputs used to determine fair value. Observable inputs are those which are obtained from market participants external to the company while unobservable inputs are generally developed internally, utilizing management’s estimates, assumptions and specific knowledge of the assets/liabilities and related markets. The three levels are defined as follows:
Level 1 — Valuation is based on quoted prices in active markets for identical assets and liabilities.
Level 2 — Valuation is determined from quoted prices for similar assets or liabilities in active markets, quoted prices for identical or similar instruments in markets that are not active, or by model-based techniques in which all significant inputs are observable in the market.
Level 3 — Valuation is derived from model-based techniques in which at least one significant input is unobservable and based on the company’s own estimates about the assumptions that market participants would use to value the asset or liability.
If the only observable inputs are from inactive markets or for transactions which the company evaluates as “distressed”, the use of Level 1 inputs should be modified by the company to properly address these factors, or the reliance of such inputs may be limited, with a greater weight attributed to Level 3 inputs. Refer to Notes 1 and 2 for additional information regarding the valuation of our non-financial assets.
Stock Based Compensation
Compensation cost related to time-based restricted stock awards are measured as of the closing price on the date of grant and are expensed on a straight-line basis over the vesting period of the award. Compensation cost related to performance-based restricted stock awards are also measured as of the closing price on the date of grant but are expensed in accordance with ASC 718-10-25-20, Compensation – Stock Compensation, which requires an assessment of probability of attainment of the performance target. As our performance targets are annual in nature, once we determine that the performance target outcome is probable, the year-to-date expense is recorded and the remaining expense is recorded on a straight-line basis through the end of the award’s vesting period.
Income Taxes
In accordance with ASC 740-10, Income Taxes, we determine our net deferred tax assets by taxing jurisdiction. We evaluate our net deferred tax assets, including the benefit from NOLs, by jurisdiction to determine if a valuation allowance is required. Companies must assess whether a valuation allowance should be established based on the consideration of all available evidence using a “more likely than not” standard with significant weight being given to evidence that can be objectively verified. This assessment considers, among other matters, the nature, frequency and severity of cumulative losses, forecasts of future profitability, the length of statutory carryforward periods, a company's experience with operating losses and experiences of utilizing tax credit carryforwards and tax planning alternatives.
Segment Reporting
As defined in ASC 280-10, Segment Reporting, we have seven homebuilding operating segments (the seven states in which we operate) within our homebuilding business. These segments are engaged in the business of acquiring and developing land, constructing homes, marketing and selling those homes, and providing warranty and customer service. We aggregate our homebuilding operating segments into reporting segments based on similar long-term economic characteristics and geographical proximity.