Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)


12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2020
Organization, Consolidation and Presentation of Financial Statements [Abstract]  
Organization. Meritage Homes Corporation ("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 for the first-time and first move-up buyers. 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. These three regions are our principal homebuilding reporting segments. We also operate a financial services reporting segment. In this segment, we offer title and escrow, mortgage, and insurance services. Carefree Title Agency, Inc. ("Carefree Title"), our wholly-owned title company, provides title insurance and closing/settlement services to our homebuyers. Managing our own title operations allows us greater control over the entire escrow and closing cycles in addition to generating additional revenue. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2019, we commenced operations of a wholly-owned insurance broker, Meritage Homes Insurance Agency (“Meritage Insurance”). Meritage Insurance works in collaboration with insurance companies nationwide to offer homeowners' insurance and other various insurance products to our homebuyers. Our financial services operations also provide mortgage loans to our homebuyers indirectly through an unconsolidated joint venture.
We commenced our homebuilding operations in 1985 through our predecessor company known as Monterey Homes. Meritage Homes Corporation was incorporated in the state of Maryland in 1988 under the name of Homeplex Mortgage Investments Corporation and merged with Monterey Homes in 1996, at which time our name was changed to Monterey Homes Corporation and later ultimately to Meritage Homes Corporation. Since that time, we have engaged in homebuilding and related activities and ceased to operate as a real estate investment trust. Meritage Homes Corporation operates as a holding company and has no independent assets or operations. Its homebuilding construction, development and sales activities are conducted through its subsidiaries. Our homebuilding activities are conducted under the name of Meritage Homes in each of our homebuilding markets. At December 31, 2020, we were actively selling homes in 195 communities, with base prices ranging from approximately $191,000 to $921,000.
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 $61.3 million and $54.5 million are included in cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Real Estate. Real estate is stated at cost unless the community or land 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, and capitalized direct overhead costs incurred during development, 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) and 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, slower absorptions, 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 home construction and land development 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 periodically reviewed for recoverability when certain criteria are met, but at least annually, 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 asset's carrying amount exceeds its fair value. The impairment of a community is allocated to each lot on a straight-line basis. See Note 2 for additional information related to real estate and impairments.

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 $59.5 million and $50.9 million as of December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019, 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 goodwill impairment test. ASC 350 states that an entity may assess qualitative factors to determine whether it is necessary to perform a goodwill impairment test. 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 10 for additional information related to goodwill.
Property and Equipment, net. Property and equipment, net consists of computer and office equipment, model home furnishings and capitalized sales office costs. Depreciation is generally calculated using the straight-line method over the estimated useful lives of the assets, which range from three to seven years. Depreciation expense was $18.9 million, $17.3 million, and $16.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Maintenance and repair costs are expensed as incurred. At December 31, 2020 and 2019, property and equipment, net consisted of the following (in thousands):
  At December 31,
  2020 2019
Computer and office equipment $ 59,407  $ 57,162 
Model home furnishings and capitalized sales office costs 76,398  86,047 
Gross property and equipment 135,805  143,209 
Accumulated depreciation (96,872) (92,603)
Total $ 38,933  $ 50,606 
Deferred Costs. At December 31, 2020 and 2019, deferred costs representing debt issuance costs related to our Credit Facility of approximately $4.7 million and $3.3 million, net of accumulated amortization, 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. See Note 7 for additional information related to net debt issuance costs associated with our senior notes.
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 Other income net, or Earnings from financial services unconsolidated entities and other, net, in our income statements. We use the cost method of accounting for investments in unconsolidated entities over which we do not have significant influence, if any. 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 5 for additional information related to investments in unconsolidated entities.

Accrued Liabilities. Accrued liabilities at December 31, 2020 and 2019 consisted of the following (in thousands):
  At December 31,
  2020 2019
Accruals related to real estate development and construction activities $ 92,701  $ 74,448 
Payroll and other benefits 88,337  67,734 
Accrued interest 8,457  8,758 
Accrued taxes 34,373  8,459 
Warranty reserves 23,743  22,015 
Lease liabilities (1)
28,254  34,231 
Other accruals 20,256  10,363 
Total $ 296,121  $ 226,008 
(1)Refer to Note 4 for additional information related to our leases.    
Revenue Recognition. In accordance with ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, we apply the following steps in determining the timing and amount of revenue to recognize: (1) identify the contract with our customer; (2) identify the performance obligation(s) in the contract; (3) determine the transaction price; (4) allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract, if applicable; and (5) recognize revenue when (or as) we satisfy the performance obligation. The performance obligation and subsequent revenue recognition for our three sources of revenue are outlined below:

Revenue from closings of residential real estate is recognized when closings have occurred, the risks and rewards of ownership are transferred to the buyer, and we have no continuing involvement with the property, which is generally upon the close of escrow. Revenue is reported net of any discounts and incentives.
Revenue from land sales is recognized when a significant down payment is received, title passes and collectability of the receivable is reasonably assured, and we have no continuing involvement with the property, which is generally upon the close of escrow.
Revenue from financial services is recognized when closings have occurred and all financial services have been rendered, which generally upon the close of escrow.

Home sale contract assets consist of cash from home closings that are in transit from title companies, which are considered cash in transit and are classified as cash on our accompanying consolidated balance sheet. See "Cash and Cash Equivalents" in this Note 1 for further information. Contract liabilities include home sale deposit liabilities related to sold but unclosed homes, and are classified as Home sale deposits in our accompanying consolidated balance sheet. Substantially all of our home sales are scheduled to close and be recorded as revenue within one year from the date of receiving a customer deposit. Revenue expected to be recognized in any future year related to remaining performance obligations (if any) and contract liabilities expected to be recognized as revenue, excluding revenue pertaining to contracts that have an original expected duration of one year or less, is not material. Revenue from financial services includes estimated future insurance policy renewal commissions as our performance obligations are satisfied upon issuance of the initial policy with a third party broker. The related contract assets for these estimated future renewal commissions are not material. Our three sources of revenue are disaggregated by type in the accompanying consolidated income statements.
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 Provision for income taxes in the accompanying consolidated income statement. Accrued interest and penalties are included within Accrued liabilities in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. See Note 12 for additional information related to income taxes.
Advertising Costs. We expense advertising costs as they are incurred. Advertising expense was approximately $10.5 million, $14.6 million and $15.4 million in fiscal 2020, 2019 and 2018, 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 9 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. Awards with either a graded or cliff vesting are expensed on a straight-line basis over the life of the award. See Note 11 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 $4.7 million, $4.1 million and $3.7 million for the years ended 2020, 2019 and 2018, 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, although our participation in such ventures is currently very limited. See Note 5 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 to purchase and option agreements. The purchase price generally approximates the market price at the date the contract is executed (with possible future escalators) and may have staggered purchase schedules. See Note 3 for additional information on off-balance sheet arrangements.
Surety Bonds and Letters of Credit. We provide surety bonds and letters of credit in support of our obligations relating to the development of our projects and other corporate purposes, in lieu of 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 wholly 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 or letter of credit. 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):
At December 31,
  2020 2019
  Outstanding Estimated work
remaining to
complete (unaudited)
Outstanding Estimated work
remaining to
complete (unaudited)
Sureties related to owned projects and lots under contract 478,788  216,708  405,017  186,986 
Total Sureties $ 478,788  $ 216,708  $ 405,017  $ 186,986 
Letters of Credit (“LOCs”):
LOCs for land development 93,661  N/A 57,192  N/A
LOCs for general corporate operations 3,750  N/A 3,750  N/A
Total LOCs $ 97,411  N/A $ 60,942  N/A

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 for the first year after the close of the home, a major mechanical warranty for two years after the close of the home and a structural warranty that typically extends up to 10 years after 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 may 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 did not adjust the warranty reserve balance in the twelve months ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. Included in the warranty reserve balances at December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019 reflected in the table below are case-specific reserves for a warranty matter related to alleged stucco defects in Florida and water drainage issues in a single community in Florida. See Note 16 for additional information regarding these case-specific reserves.
A summary of changes in our warranty reserves follows (in thousands):
  Years Ended December 31,
  2020 2019
Balance, beginning of year $ 22,015  $ 24,552 
Additions to reserve from new home deliveries 18,503  15,841 
Warranty claims (16,775) (18,378)
Adjustments to pre-existing reserves —  — 
Balance, end of year $ 23,743  $ 22,015 

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 and the 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 2018, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued ASU No. 2018-15, Intangibles - Goodwill and Other - Internal-Use Software (Subtopic 350-40): Customer's Accounting for Implementation Costs Incurred in a Cloud Computing Arrangement that is a Service Contract ("ASU 2018-15"), which aligns the requirements for capitalizing implementation costs incurred in a hosting arrangement that is a service contract with the requirements for capitalizing implementation costs incurred to develop or obtain internal-use software. Entities will need to consider both the nature of the costs and the phase of development in which the implementation costs are incurred to determine whether the costs should be capitalized or expensed. ASU 2018-15 was effective for us beginning January 1, 2020 on a prospective basis to all implementation costs incurred after the date of adoption. The adoption of ASU 2018-15 did not have a material impact on our financial statement disclosures.
In August 2018, the FASB issued ASU No. 2018-13, Fair Value Measurement (Topic 820): Disclosure Framework - Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Fair Value Measurement ("ASU 2018-13"), which eliminates, adds, and modifies certain disclosure requirements for fair value measurements. Entities will no longer be required to disclose the amount of and reasons for transfers between Level 1 and Level 2 of the fair value hierarchy, but public companies will be required to disclose the range and weighted average used to develop significant unobservable inputs for Level 3 fair value measurements. ASU 2018-13 was effective for us beginning January 1, 2020. As we currently only have Level 2 financial instruments, the adoption of ASU 2018-13 did not have a material impact on our financial statement disclosures.