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Toll Brothers Plan To Battle Fear

Toll Brothers
CNBC.com
Toll Brothers

First it was Hyundai, with its radical offer to let you give the car back if you lose your job.

Now it’s Toll Brothers , offering to make the monthly payments. That’s right, the nation’s luxury home builder will cover "up to six monthly payments of principal, interest, real estate taxes, and homeowner’s insurance when the borrower experiences a qualified job loss within 24 months of closing." They cap it at $2500/month. Of course you have to fund your loan with TBI Mortgage, a subsidiary of Toll Brothers, Inc.

Toll is being smart about the offer. You have to “vest” in the house for 60 days before you become eligible, you have to have been continuously employed for wages or salary for 12 consecutive weeks prior to the effective date of job loss, and you cannot have knowledge of any impending job loss as of the date of settlement. You also can’t be self-employed, which knocks a whole lot of potential buyers out as well.

I think it’s a great marketing tool, but when you get right down to it, I doubt anyone who has even the slightest concern over keeping his/her job, is going to buy a half million-dollar home. Toll’s average closing price is around $600,000, and with today’s tighter lending standards, that means that even with a perfect credit score, you’re going to have to put at least $120,000 cash down.

So what’s the play really here? Is it to give fence-sitters peace of mind or is it to position Toll Brothers as a caring company that feels America’s pain? Or is it just the last possible incentive a home builder can offer when it’s staring down the face of 50% drops in revenue and 60% drops in net contracts. Toll has been buying down mortgage rates, but apparently that didn’t do the trick, and granite floor to ceiling is already a given.

Whether it’s home builders or automakers, the incentives clearly aren’t working, so they need to appeal to what’s really keeping everyone’s wallet’s clamped shut: fear.

I don’t think this is a bad attempt, but again, I think it might have been more effective coming from builder with a lower price-point.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com