BUSINESS AND SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES
|12 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2016
|Organization, Consolidation and Presentation of Financial Statements [Abstract]|
|BUSINESS AND SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES||
BUSINESS AND SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES
Organization. Meritage Homes is a leading designer and builder of single-family homes. We primarily build in historically high-growth regions of the United States and offer a variety of homes that are designed to appeal to a wide range of homebuyers, including first-time, move-up, active adult and luxury. We have homebuilding operations in three regions: West, Central and East, which are comprised of nine states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. We also operate a wholly-owned title company, Carefree Title Agency, Inc. ("Carefree Title"). Carefree Title's core business includes title insurance and closing/settlement services we offer to our homebuyers. Through our successors, we commenced our homebuilding operations in 1985. Meritage Homes Corporation was incorporated in 1988 in the state of Maryland.
Our homebuilding and marketing activities are conducted under the name of Meritage Homes in each of our homebuilding markets. We also operate under the name Monterey Homes in some markets. At December 31, 2016, we were actively selling homes in 243 communities, with base prices ranging from approximately $162,000 to $1,440,000.
Basis of Presentation. The accompanying consolidated financial statements have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) and include the accounts of Meritage Homes Corporation and those of our consolidated subsidiaries, partnerships and other entities in which we have a controlling financial interest, and of variable interest entities (see Note 3) in which we are deemed the primary beneficiary (collectively, “us”, “we”, “our” and the “Company”). Intercompany balances and transactions have been eliminated in consolidation.
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 $75.3 million and $74.5 million are included in cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. Included in our balance as of December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2015 is $0.1 million and $20.0 million, respectively, of money market funds that are invested in short term (three months or less) government securities.
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”) 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 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. An accrued liability to capture such obligations is recorded 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. Actual results can 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 significantly 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 conducted if indication of a decline in value of our land and real estate assets exist. If an asset is 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.
Deposits. Deposits paid related to land option and purchase contracts are recorded and classified as Deposits on real estate under option or contract 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 our 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 any non-refundable deposits and any ancillary capitalized costs. Our deposits were $85.6 million and $87.8 million as of December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2015, respectively.
Goodwill. In accordance with ASC 350, Intangibles, Goodwill and Other ("ASC 350"), we analyze goodwill on an annual basis (or whenever indicators of impairment exist) through a qualitative assessment to determine whether it is necessary to perform a two-step goodwill impairment test. ASC 350 states that an entity may assess qualitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, including goodwill. Such qualitative factors include: (1) macroeconomic conditions, such as a deterioration in general economic conditions, (2) industry and market considerations such as deterioration in the environment in which the entity operates, (3) cost factors such as increases in raw materials, labor costs, etc., and (4) overall financial performance such as negative or declining cash flows or a decline in actual or planned revenue or earnings. If the qualitative analysis determines that additional impairment testing is required, the two-step impairment testing in accordance with ASC 350 would be initiated. We continually evaluate our qualitative inputs to assess whether events and circumstances have occurred that indicate the goodwill balance may not be recoverable. See Note 9 for additional information related to goodwill.
Property and Equipment, net. Property and equipment, net consists of computer and office equipment and model home furnishings. Depreciation is generally calculated using the straight-line method over the estimated useful lives of the assets, which range from 3 to 7 years. Depreciation expense was $14.3 million, $12.7 million, and $10.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Maintenance and repair costs are expensed as incurred. At December 31, 2016 and 2015, property and equipment, net consisted of the following (in thousands):
Deferred Costs. At December 31, 2016 and 2015, deferred costs representing debt issuance costs related to our Credit Facility totaled approximately $2.7 million and $2.9 million, net of accumulated amortization of approximately $5.6 million and $4.4 million respectively, and are included on our consolidated balance sheets within Prepaids, other assets and goodwill. The costs are primarily amortized to interest expense using the straight line method which approximates the effective interest method.
Investments in Unconsolidated Entities. We use the equity method of accounting for investments in unconsolidated entities over which we exercise significant influence but do not have a controlling interest. Under the equity method, our share of the unconsolidated entities’ earnings or loss is included in Earnings/(loss) from other unconsolidated entities, net, or Earnings from financial services, unconsolidated entities and other, net, in our statements of operations. We use the cost method of accounting for investments in unconsolidated entities over which we do not have significant influence. We track cumulative earnings and distributions from each of our ventures. For cash flow classification, to the extent distributions do not exceed cumulative earnings, we designate such distributions as return on capital. Distributions in excess of cumulative earnings are treated as return of capital. We evaluate our investments in unconsolidated entities for impairment when events that trigger an evaluation of recoverability present themselves. See Note 4 for additional information related to investments in unconsolidated entities.
Accrued Liabilities. Accrued liabilities at December 31, 2016 and 2015 consisted of the following (in thousands):
Revenue Recognition. Revenue from closings of residential real estate is recognized when closings have occurred, the buyer has made the required minimum down payment, obtained necessary financing, the risks and rewards of ownership are transferred to the buyer, and we have no continuing involvement with the property, which is generally the close of escrow. Revenue is reported net of any discounts and incentives.
Cost of Home Closings. Cost of home closings includes direct home construction costs, closing costs, land acquisition and development costs, development period interest and common costs, and impairments, if any. Direct construction costs are accumulated during the period of construction and charged to cost of closings under specific identification methods, as are closing costs. Estimates of costs incurred or to be incurred but not paid are accrued and expensed at the time of closing. Land development, acquisition and common costs are allocated to each lot based on the number of lots remaining to close.
Income Taxes. We account for income taxes using the asset and liability method, which requires that deferred tax assets and liabilities be recognized based on future tax consequences of both temporary differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply in the years in which the temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred tax assets and liabilities of a change in tax rates is recognized in earnings in the period when the changes are enacted.
We record deferred tax assets to the extent we believe these assets will more likely than not be realized. In making such determination, we consider all available objectively verifiable positive and negative evidence, including scheduled reversals of deferred tax liabilities, whether we are in a cumulative loss position, projected future taxable income, tax planning strategies and recent financial operations. If we determine that we will not be able to realize our deferred tax assets in the future, we will record a valuation allowance, which increases the provision for income taxes.
We recognize interest and penalties related to unrecognized tax benefits within the Provision for income taxes line in the accompanying consolidated statement of operations. Accrued interest and penalties are included within the Accrued liabilities line in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. See Note 11 for additional information related to income taxes.
Advertising Costs. We expense advertising costs as they are incurred. Advertising expense was approximately $15.0 million, $14.8 million and $11.8 million in fiscal 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Earnings Per Share. We compute basic earnings per share by dividing net earnings by the weighted average number of common shares outstanding during the period. Diluted earnings per share gives effect to the potential dilution that could occur if securities or contracts to issue common stock that are dilutive were exercised or converted into common stock or resulted in the issuance of common stock that then shared in our earnings. In periods of net losses, no dilution is computed. See Note 8 for additional information related to earnings per share.
Stock-Based Compensation. We account for stock-based compensation in accordance with ASC 718-10, Compensation—Stock Compensation ("ASC 718"). This guidance requires us to estimate forfeitures in calculating the expense related to stock-based compensation and to reflect the benefits of tax deductions in excess of recognized compensation expense as both a financing inflow and an operating cash outflow. Awards with either a graded or cliff vesting are expensed on a straight-line basis over the life of the award. See Note 10 for additional information on stock-based compensation.
401(k) Retirement Plan. We have a 401(k) plan for all full-time Meritage employees. We match portions of employees’ voluntary contributions, and contributed to the plan approximately $2.7 million, $2.4 million and $1.9 million for the years ended 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements - Joint Ventures. We may participate in land development joint ventures as a means of accessing larger parcels of land and lot positions, expanding our market opportunities, managing our risk profile and leveraging our capital base. See Note 4 for additional discussion of our investments in unconsolidated entities.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements - Other. In the normal course of business, we may acquire lots from various development entities pursuant 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 additional information on off-balance sheet arrangements.
Surety Bonds and Letters of Credit. We provide letters of credit in support of our obligations relating to the development of our projects and other corporate purposes. 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. The table below outlines our surety bond and letter of credit obligations (in thousands):
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 one to two years 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 warranty based on the number of homes still under warranty and historical 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 is incomplete to draw a meaningful conclusion. We regularly review our warranty reserves and adjust them, as necessary, to reflect changes in trends as information becomes available. Based on such reviews of warranty costs incurred, we decreased our warranty reserve balance by $1.0 million in the twelve months ended December 31, 2016, which decreased our cost of sales. In the twelve months ended December 31, 2015 we increased our warranty reserve balance by $1.1 million, which increased our cost of sales.
A summary of changes in our warranty reserves follows (in thousands):
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 statements of operations. 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 and the general liability insurance we maintain, are sufficient to cover our general warranty obligations. However, as unanticipated changes in legal, weather, environmental or other conditions could have an impact on our actual warranty costs, future costs could differ significantly from our estimates.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements.
In August 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued Accounting Standards Update ("ASU") No. 2016-15, Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230): Classification of Certain Cash Receipts and Cash Payments, ("ASU 2016-15"). ASU 2016-15 adds and clarifies guidance on the classification of certain cash receipts and payments in the statement of cash flows, reducing the existing diversity in practice that has resulted from the lack of consistent principles on this topic. ASU 2016-15 is effective for us beginning January 1, 2018. Early adoption is permitted and a retrospective transition method is required on adoption. We are currently evaluating the impact adopting this guidance will have on classifications in our statement of cash flows.
In March 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-09, Compensation - Stock Compensation (Topic 718): Improvements to Employee Share-Based Payment Accounting ("ASU 2016-09"). ASU 2016-09 simplifies several aspects of the accounting for share-based payment transactions, including the income tax consequences, classification of awards as either equity or liabilities, and classification on the statement of cash flows. ASU 2016-09 is effective for us beginning January 1, 2017. Amendments to the presentation of employee taxes paid on the statement of cash flows should be applied retrospectively, and amendments requiring the recognition of excess tax benefits and tax deficiencies in the income statement are to be applied prospectively. Amendments related to the presentation of excess tax benefits on the statement of cash flows can be applied using either a prospective or retrospective transition method. We do not expect the adoption of ASU 2016-09 to have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In February 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842) ("ASU 2016-02"), which amends the existing accounting standards for lease accounting, including requiring lessees to recognize most leases on their balance sheets. ASU 2016-02 will be effective for us beginning January 1, 2019, and early adoption is permitted. ASU 2016-02 requires a modified retrospective transition approach for all leases existing at, or entered into after, the date of initial application, with an option to use certain transition relief. We are currently evaluating the impact adopting this guidance will have on our financial statements.
In April 2015, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued Accounting Standards Update ("ASU") 2015-03, Interest - Imputation of Interest (Subtopic 835-30): Simplifying the Presentation of Debt Issuance Costs (“ASU 2015-03”). ASU 2015-03 requires that debt issuance costs related to a recognized debt liability, other than those related to a revolving debt arrangement, be presented in the balance sheet as a direct deduction from the carrying amount of that debt liability, consistent with debt discounts. In August 2015, the FASB issued ASU 2015-15, Presentation and Subsequent Measurement of Debt Issuance Costs Associated with Line-of-Credit Arrangements - Amendments to SEC Paragraphs Pursuant to Staff Announcement at June 18, 2015 EITF Meeting ASU 2015-15, which clarifies that the SEC staff would not object to an entity deferring and presenting debt issuance costs related to a line-of-credit arrangement as an asset and subsequently amortizing the deferred debt issuance costs ratably over the term of the line-of-credit arrangement, regardless of whether there are any outstanding borrowings on the line-of-credit arrangement. ASU 2015-03 was effective for us beginning January 1, 2016 and was applied on a retrospective basis. The adoption of ASU 2015-03 resulted in a retrospective reclassification of our debt costs as described above from Prepaids, others assets and goodwill to Senior and convertible senior notes, net on our balance sheet in the amount of $8.2 million at December 31, 2016 and $10.7 million at December 31, 2015. As allowed by ASU 2015-15, we elected not to reclassify deferred debt issuance costs associated with our Credit Facility and continue to present these capitalized costs as an asset.
In May 2014, the FASB issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), (“ASU 2014-09”). ASU 2014-09 requires entities to recognize revenue that depicts the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services by applying the following steps: (1) identify the contract(s) with a customer; (2) identify the performance obligations in the contract; (3) determine the transaction price; (4) allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract; and (5) recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation. ASU 2014-09 supersedes the revenue recognition requirements in ASU 605, Revenue Recognition, most industry-specific guidance throughout the industry topics of the ASC, and some cost guidance related to construction-type and production-type contracts. ASU 2014-09 is effective for us on January 1, 2018 and the guidance allows for full retrospective or modified retrospective methods of adoption. Early adoption is permitted only as of annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2016. We are currently evaluating the potential impact of adopting this guidance on our consolidated financial statements. We do not believe the adoption of ASU 2014-09 will have an impact on the amount or timing of our homebuilding revenues. We are still evaluating the potential impact the adoption of ASU 2014-09 will have on the timing and recognition of certain marketing costs we incur to obtain a sales contract.
The entire disclosure for the general note to the financial statements for the reporting entity which may include, descriptions of the basis of presentation, business description, significant accounting policies, consolidations, reclassifications, new pronouncements not yet adopted and changes in accounting principles.
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