BUILDER's premier lists of the top 200 builders in the country, the BUILDER 100 and the Next 100, are set to be released next week. In light of that, we are counting down each day with some facts and figures gleaned from the data.
Much like national indices provide a top-level view of economic trends over time, our annual Builder 100/Next 100 survey paints a long-term picture of the housing industry by documenting activity of the top 200 builders in the country.
Our look at the total number of closings and combined gross revenue of all builders on the list paints an interesting portrait of the last 10 tumultuous years. What emerges is a timeline of the housing industry's boom, downturn, and steady recovery. In 2004, the U.S. home-ownership rate was 69.2%, an all-time high according to the Census Bureau. Builders were full-speed ahead in 2005--the top 200 builders reported a total of 553,597 unit closings, the high point between 2005 and 2010. However, gross revenue among the top 200 peaked in 2006 at $186.340 billion, likely due to the fact that median and average sale prices of new homes continued to grow until the start of their rapid decline at the end of the first quarter of 2006.
During the downturn, many builders disappeared from our ranking, and other builders appeared under a new name, as IPOs, mergers, and acquisitions became a strategic solution for some builders to continue growing their community count.
Right in line with the national foreclosure crisis, 2007 was the first year of significant decline among the top 200 builders. Between 2006 and 2007, total unit closings were down 27.81%, and gross revenue dropped by 33.47%. In 2008, the national median home price fell 9.8%, and the plummeting value of housing continued to take its toll on builders, with closings dropping another 38.27% year-over-year. Sales volume and gross revenue among the top 200 builders reached their lowest point in 2010, when the fallout of the housing crisis was starting to come into full view. By the end of 2010, a total of of 3,825,637 foreclosures had been filed, and unit closings among the top builders had fallen 73.18% since 2005, with a reported 148,495 total units closed.
Our data clearly indicates that for the top builders in the nation, the recovery started its slow journey in 2011 and is continuing at a slow crawl. In 2014, a total of 242,286 unit closings were recorded, finally surpassing 2008's total of 240,695. In 2015, total unit closings among the top 200 builders continued to grow, with a total of 261,372. However, builders are wise to remain cautiously optimistic, as 2015's numbers are still only an 8.59% increase compared to 2008, and are still 52.79% below 2005's peak.
The positive trajectory of housing should continue in the coming years, as low unemployment rates typically foster household formation. However, if price growth continues to significantly outpace wage growth, it will become more and more difficult for builders to sell homes that are affordable (at a good margin), and less likely that younger, first-time buyers will enter the market.