- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

The company building the housing subdivision that burned in Charles County Monday is a prolific builder in the Washington area.

It is selling houses in at least 28 residential communities in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Its subdivisions in the Washington area include Holly Acres in Alexandria, Fairwood Estates in Bowie and Willows Oaks Condominiums in Fairfax.

Many of the more than 32,000 houses Lennar Corp. sold last year nationwide were intended for first-time buyers and retirement communities.

The blaze Monday at the Hunters Brooke community, off Route 225 in Charles County, damaged or destroyed 41 upscale houses valued at $373,000 to $486,000 each.

“They’re a very significant publicly traded company,” said Paul Hanafin, investment services director for West, Lane & Schlager, a Washington real estate brokerage firm. They’re very, very big up and down the East Coast and in California.”

The arson fire, although it appears to be one of the worst in Maryland, would be little more than an inconvenience for Lennar.

“I don’t see it as having much impact at all,” Mr. Hanafin said.

Lennar Corp., the nation’s third-largest home builder by stock market value, reported sales of $8.9 billion last year and earnings of $751 million, according to its annual report. A year earlier, it earned $545 million on $6.6 billion in house sales.

“Lennar is one of the largest home-building, land-owning, loan-making leviathans in the U.S.,” according to Hoover’s Online, a business information firm. “The company joins Centex and Pulte Homes in the top tier of U.S. home builders.”

The company’s financial services provide mortgage financing, title insurance and house-sale-closing services. Its technology subsidiaries provide high-speed Internet access, cable television and alarm-monitoring services.

Lennar bought the subdivision site near Indian Head from Falls Church-based Hunters Brooke LLC, which owned rights to build 319 houses on the 191-acre plot.

Company officials declined to discuss the financial effect of the fire on the company.

“We’re really not focused on that issue right now,” said Marshall Ames, Lennar’s vice president of investor relations. Instead, the company is trying to help its customers whose houses were burned.

The company has been unable to assess the damage.

“We can’t even get on the site right now,” Mr. Ames said. “It’s still an investigative site.”

Lennar was founded in 1954 and has grown steadily through acquisitions and diversified enterprises. Its chief executive officer, Stuart Miller, oversees an operation with more than 10,000 employees.

Lennar is riding this year’s low mortgagerates and rise in new-house starts to financial success. The company recently raised its earnings outlook for fiscal 2005 to $6.60 per share from $6 per share.

The National Association of Realtors this week improved its year-end forecast for the nation’s housing market. Existing-home sales are expected to increase 7.9 percent to 6.58 million this year, beating last year’s record.

For next year, the association projects 6.38 million sales, which would be the second-highest number on record.

Its recent activities have included plans for major housing developments in suburban Chicago and a $100 million donation to the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. The company suffered a setback this fall when hurricanes delayed completion of about 600 houses in the Southeast.

The company recently raised its earnings outlook for fiscal 2005 to $6.60 per share from $6 per share.

Lennar’s stock closed down yesterday 1.51 percent, or 68 cents, to $44.27 per share on the New York Stock Exchange.

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