Toll Brothers (TOL)] swung to a loss in its fiscal first quarter as the homebuilder's income tax benefits were significantly reduced from a year earlier.

The company reported a first-quarter loss of $2.8 million, or 2 cents a share, missing analysts estimates of earnings of 3 cents a share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

The luxury homebuilder earned $3.4 million, or 2 cents a share, in the year-ago first quarter.

First-quarter results include a tax benefit of $3.6 million from the reversal of previously accrued taxes and interest, whereas the year-earlier period included a tax benefit of $20.5 million

Revenue for the three months ended Jan. 31 fell almost 4% to $322 million and home building deliveries of 564 units decreased 1% compared to year-earlier totals of $334.1 million and 570 units.

The Horsham, Pa.-based company ended the quarter with $719.4 million of cash and marketable securities, 35% less than $1.1 billion a year earlie.

Historically, the first quarter is the most challenging time to gauge sentiment among homebuyers, said Chief Executive Douglas Yearley, adding that in general the market feels healthier than it did one year ago.

"The urban metro New York City market remains very strong," Yearly said. "We are also encouraged by the continued health of the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston corridor, along with Houston, Dallas, Raleigh, and more recently Southern California. We are even seeing some recovery on the east coast of Florida and in the suburbs of Detroit and Phoenix."

The company's first-quarter signed contracts of $444.7 million and 652 units, rose 45% and 19% from $307.2 million and 548 units last year.

The average price of first-quarter of signed contracts was $682,000, compared to $561,000 in the year-ago period, driven by The Touraine on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where the value of the 16 contracts signed in the quarter was $65.5 million — an average of about $4.1 million per unit.

Toll Brothers ended its first quarter holding a backlog of 1,784 units, an increase of 21%, from a year earlier when it held 1,472 units.

The company said first-quarter signed contracts of 2.86 units per community were the highest for any first quarter in five years. They were, however, still well below the company's historical first-quarter average of 4.82 units, dating back to 1987, Toll Brothers first year as a public company.