UPDATE 1-Toll Brothers posts profit, to enter rental market
* First-quarter earnings/share $0.03 vs loss $0.02 last year
Revenue rises 32 percent; Orders up 49 percent
* Expects rental business to be profitable from 2015
Feb 20 (Reuters) - Toll Brothers Inc, the largest luxury homebuilder in the United States, reported a 49 percent jump in new orders in the first quarter and said it would enter the apartment rental business to take advantage of a supply crunch.
The company said it has assembled sites for about 4,000 rental apartment units and expects the new business to start making money from 2015.
No.3 U.S. homebuilder Lennar Corp also said last month it would venture into the apartment rental market, as a tight credit market and high unemployment rates have encouraged consumers to rent rather than own homes.
Rents have risen for 12 straight quarters and apartment vacancy rates are the lowest since the third quarter of 2001, according to real estate research firm Reis.
Toll, which targets affluent customers who typically make at least $100,000 a year and have spotless credit records, said orders in the first quarter jumped 49 percent to 973 homes.
Orders are a key indicator for builders because they do not recognize revenue until they close on a home.
It reported a first quarter profit of $4.4 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 32 percent to $424.6 million.
Homebuilders D.R. Horton and Pultegroup reported better-than-expected quarterly profits last month as new homes were in low supply.
Toll's shares closed at $36.90 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The stock has gained 55 percent in the last 12 months as the U.S. housing market picked up.