Housing stocks were at the core of the late 2018 turbulence in financial markets, mostly because the things that were killing broader markets (the threat of rate hikes and a slowing economy) are especially large headwinds for housing stocks. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSEARCA:XHB) peaked in early 2018. Ever since, it has fallen 25%.
But, where there’s rubble, there’s opportunity. Housing stocks actually look attractive here. They have been oversold on overstated concerns regarding the health of the housing market. In reality, the fundamentals underlying the housing sector aren’t that bad. They are actually pretty good. Consider the following:
- The U.S. consumer is healthy. Despite all the calls for a coming recession, the U.S. consumer is still relatively healthy. The unemployment rate is low. The economy is still adding hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. Labor participation rates are up. Wages are rising. Inflation is checked. Consumer confidence and sentiment are high. Retail sales were robust last holiday season. The personal savings rate is well above its 20 year average. A healthy consumer usually supports a healthy housing market.
- Home prices are steadily rising. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index is still rising at a gradual mid single-digit year-over-year rate, the same rate it has been rising at for the past three years, thus indicating that supply-demand fundamentals underneath the housing market remain healthy, stable, and favorable for homebuilders. For comparison purpose, back before the housing crisis in 2007-08, home prices went from double digit growth in 2004-2005 to low single-digit growth in 2006 and negative growth in 2007.
- New houses are being built at a steady and sustainable rate. The headlines continue to scream about weak housing starts data, but in the big picture, housing starts remain on a multi-year uptrend since 2008. Granted, the pace of the growth has slowed, but the trend presently looks more like moderation in housing starts than a steep drop off in housing starts. Prior to nearly every recession in history, housing starts volume plummeted heading into the economic slowdown.
- We are in a seller’s market, but buyers are sticking around. The monthly supply of homes in the U.S. real estate market currently measures 7.4. That is up sharply from where the months supply has hovered over the past several years, and does indicate that we are in a seller’s market (usually numbers below 5 indicate a buyer’s market, while numbers above 7 indicate a seller’s market). But, 7.4 months of supply is only slightly above 7. Leading into prior housing market collapses, that number has usually risen as high as at least 8, but usually 10 or higher.
- Home ownership rates are low, and have room to move higher. Last quarter, the home ownership rate in the U.S. was below 65%. In the early-to-mid 2000’s, the home ownership rate was closing in on 70%. Thus, today’s home ownership rate is well off its highs, implying that the pool of potential buyers is still relatively large. So long as that pool remains large, and the individuals within that pool remain economically healthy, the housing market should be relatively stable.
- The Fed is going dovish. The Fed was exceptionally hawkish in late 2018. Their tune has changed dramatically in early 2019. Multiple current and former Fed members have come out and voiced dovish opinions regarding a “wait-and-see” approach to rate hikes, and many have suggested that this rate hike cycle may be over.
- Mortgage rates are falling. Thanks to a dovish Fed, mortgage rates across the U.S. are finally falling after consistently and sharply rising for most of the back half of 2018. The 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage is around 4.45% today, roughly 45 basis points lower than where it was in mid-November. Falling mortgage rates increase home affordability, and increasing affordability usually sparks demand, especially against the backdrop of low unemployment, rising wages, and a high savings rate.
Overall, the fundamentals underlying the housing market remain strong. Valuations on housing stocks are now anemic. That combination implies a solid opportunity to buy the dip in housing stocks.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: LGI Homes (LGIH)
One housing stock that looks really good here is LGI Homes (NASDAQ:LGIH).
This is a stock which has fallen 30% off its recent highs and trades at a 20% discount to its “normal” valuation (10x trailing earnings, versus 12x average trailing P/E multiple). Yet, LGI just announced record December results that run contrary to the recent 30% decline and 20% valuation discount. As such, estimates and sentiment should move higher, providing a double tailwind for the stock through higher earnings and multiple expansion.
Longer term, this is a healthy homebuilder with a history of sustained growth and broad exposure to the U.S. housing sector with operations in 26 markets and 16 states. So long as the housing market remains healthy, LGIH stock should head higher from here.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: Pulte Group (PHM)
Another housing stock that has been overly beaten up is Pulte Group (NYSE:PHM).
Pulte Group is big (the nation’s third largest homebuilder) with healthy geographic diversity (25 states and nearly 50 major markets) and demographic diversity (30% entry-level buyers, 30% move-up buyers, 15% luxury buyers, and 25% active adult buyers). Because of this broad exposure, Pulte Group truly moves with the U.S. economy.
As stated before, the U.S. economy is actually doing just fine right now, and projects to be just fine for the foreseeable future. PHM stock is not priced for that. Not only has it fallen 20% off recent highs, but it’s also trading at under 10x trailing earnings, versus an average trailing P/E multiple of over 12. Thus, so long as the economy continues to stabilize in 2019, PHM stock should rebound.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: NVR (NVR)
A large housing stock which looks attractive on this dip is NVR (NYSE:NVR).
NVR is a big homebuilder that operates in 14 sates and 31 metropolitan areas. The company’s home building operations also span multiple income demographics. As such, given broad exposure to the housing market, stabilization in housing market fundamentals through an indefinite rate hike pause should propel NVR stock higher.
If that does happen, NVR stock has plenty of room to run. NVR stock has fallen 30% off its recent highs. More than that, this stock normally trades around 20x trailing earnings. Today, it trades at just 15x trailing earnings. Thus, multiple expansion through improved sentiment could send shares materially higher.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: Lennar (LEN)
One housing stock which has been really beaten up is Lennar (NYSE:LEN).
Much like the other homebuilders on this list, Lennar is big with healthy geographic and demographic diversity. But, LEN stock has been chopped down worse than most of its peers. As of this writing, the stock trades nearly 40% off recent highs.
This compression provides a big upside opportunity in 2019. If housing market fundamentals continue to stabilize, sentiment surrounding LEN stock will improve dramatically. That will lead to huge multiple expansion. Normally, LEN stock trades around 15x trailing earnings. Today, it trades at about half that level, around 8x trailing earnings. Thus, this stock could easily almost double from here if valuation simply reverts to the norm.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: D.R. Horton (DHI)
The number one homebuilder in America by closings volume — D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI) — also looks good on this dip.
The fundamentals here are good. DHI is the biggest homebuilder in America and has been so for almost two decades. The company has broad geographic and demographic diversity, and controls dominant market share in rapidly expanding metro areas like Phoenix and Dallas Fort Worth. Fiscal 2018 was a good year, with healthy sales and closing growth and 20%-plus ROI.
If these fundamentals persist in 2019 — and they should — then DHI stock will rebound in a big way. This stock is already more than 25% off its recent highs. It is also trading at just 10x trailing earnings, versus a five-year average trailing multiple of 15. Thus, multiple expansion and stabilized EPS forecasts could drive huge gains for DHI stock in 2019.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: KB Home (KBH)
The housing stock that was hit hardest in 2018 was KB Home (NYSE:KBH).
Due to deterioration it its core operating results as a result of macroeconomic headwinds, KBH stock struggled throughout 2018. But, those macroeconomic headwinds are improving, and the company just reported fourth-quarter numbers that were largely better than expected and confirm a “less bad” macroeconomic backdrop.
But KBH stock isn’t priced for “less bad”. It’s priced for “more bad”. KBH has plunged nearly 50% off its January 2018 highs, and trades at just 12x trailing earnings, versus a five-year average trailing P/E multiple of 15. Estimates have also come down sharply over the past several months. Thus, through a combination of multiple expansion and higher EPS revisions, KBH stock could soar in 2019.
Housing Stocks Due for a Bounce: Toll Brothers (TOL)
The final beaten up housing stock on this list is Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL).
Due to rising home prices and mortgage rates, Toll Brothers shocked investors in early December by reporting its first decline in new orders in 4 years. That essentially confirmed a housing market slowdown, and kept bears in control of TOL stock.
But, mortgage rates are now starting to fall, and that could provide a nice lift to beaten-up TOL stock. After all, this stock trades at just 7x trailing earnings. That’s super cheap, even for a housing stock. It’s also well below the stock’s average trailing P/E of 17. Plus, 2019 EPS estimates have come down more than 10% in the past 90 days alone, implying that next year’s numbers look beatable. Overall, successive EPS beats plus multiple expansion could drive huge gains for TOL stock in 2019.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long XHB, LGIH, KBH, and TOL.