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Housing Bubble vs. Housing Today: The Charts Tell the Tale

The Exchange

If you want to get a sense of how far housing has fallen from its peak years in the mid-2000s, you've got your choice of data. One set that contrasts the present day with the bubble days comes courtesy of the homebuilders and three key measures -- backlog, deliveries and orders.

The charts below show the tallies for seven publicly traded builders -- PulteGroup (PHM), Lennar (LEN), D.R. Horton (DHI), Beazer (BZH), Hovnanian (HOV), KB Home (KBH) and Toll Brothers (TOL) -- over the past three years.

First, the backlog trend for 12 quarters:

Housing Backlog 2010-2012

Second, deliveries, the homes the builders have closed. Here again are the past three years:

Housing Deliveries 2010-2012

Finally, the orders, which reveal combined numbers above 20,000 in the prior two quarters, both marking the only time that's happened in the survey period.

Housing Orders 2010-2012

Here's where the difference becomes really stark. The charts below include the data above and compare them alongside the backlog, closings and orders for the same builders in 2005-2007. Remember, this isn't the entire industry, but it paints a pretty clear picture of the time that was and the time that is now. (PulteGroup was formed by the 2009 merger of Pulte Homes and Centex, so the earlier trio represents the combined data for the two companies).

To begin, the closings:

Housing Deliveries

Those 2010-2012 numbers are the same as the chart above, scaled down to fit the width and in order to include the earlier data. Compared with the peak, the apex for deliveries in the past three years, just above 20,000, is around one-quarter the level of the top years.

Next, the orders:

Housing Orders

Here again, totals above 20,000 for back-to-back quarters in 2012 is a far cry from where housing was. The second quarter of 2005 exceeded 70,000.

The last chart is probably the notable of all, showing the housing backlog data for each of the three-year periods:

Housing Backlog

That's six straight quarters well above 120,000, from the second quarter of 2005 through the third quarter of 2006. Nowadays, three straight quarters of 25,000 or so is the height.

(For more, see Housing Data Are Stable. Housing Stocks Are Awfully Hot.)