One niche of the housing market has been faring better than most in the last several months: new home sales. Homebuilders have been seeing faster inventory turnover in 2012, as homebuyers start snapping up new construction.
There's one key (and very positive) difference between the new home sales this year versus 2005: By and large, folks are buying new homes as primary residences, not as investments or second homes. My favorite homebuilder has to be Toll Brothers (TOL) right now.Toll Brothers exclusively builds higher-end homes. Last year, for example, the firm's average home price was more than $500,000 -- and it sold 2,600 of them. By targeting a more affluent niche of new homebuyer, Toll is able to capture a market with better credit, bigger down payments, and lower unemployment than the national average. It's also able to benefit from its scale. Because the homes Toll Brothers builds are bigger and pricier, there's more room for TOL to take home bigger margins for its efforts than a more conventional builder could. Despite taking big write-downs when the housing bubble burst -- or perhaps because of it -- Toll Brothers is in solid financial shape. The firm carries more than $1.2 billion in cash and investments on its balance sheet, enough to dramatically offset $1.9 billion in debt. With profit margins on the rise in the trailing 12 months, TOL looks like a solid way to get housing exposure right now. Toll Brothers was also featured recently in "7 Stocks for a Housing Rebound."
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