Daniel Gross

Great Moments in Forecasting, Toll Brothers Edition

Contrary Indicator

Forecasting is very difficult, especially about the future. Which is why we should always be weary of entitites — companies, government agencies, deficit-hawk outfits — when they issue concrete numbers on what will happen five years from now, six years from now, ten years from now.

For example, back in 2005, Jon Gertner wrote a great profile of Toll Brothers, the McMansion purveyor that was going great guns. It can be seen here. The company expressed great optimism and certainty about its growth prospects.

 "The company expects to grow by 20 percent for the next two years and then will strive for 15 percent annually after that. Those estimates suggest that the company's expected production of around 8,600 houses this year will expand to at least 15,000 houses by 2010."

Well, it didn't quite work out like that. The company's sales have been dropping — rather than rising for years. Toll Brothers reported quarterly results. How is 2011 shaping up?

 "We currently estimate that we will deliver between 2,475 and 2,675 homes in FY 2011, which reflects our projected range of 620 to 820 home deliveries in FY 2011's fourth quarter at an average price of between $555,000 and $570,000 per home."

Which is about the same number of houses it sold in 1997.

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