Luxury homebuilder Ryland (NYSE:RYL) drove a bulldozer through its earnings report as expected, recording a first-quarter loss of $0.58 per share on consolidated revenues of $706 million while homebuilding revenue fell 34% to $691 million. Last year, it had built up a $90 million profit.

The termites eating at Ryland were the falling values of homes, the need to write off land inventory, and charges for impairment of goodwill. Closings for the builder were off 35% in the quarter and it took in 26% fewer new orders. Backlog and the value of the properties in backlog were also down by nearly 50% from last year.

The housing sector is still resting on a wobbly foundation, trying to divine hope from the encouraging results at builders like Meritage (NYSE:MTH) and ignore the deep-seated problems that still fester at DR Horton (NYSE:DHI), Centex (NYSE:CTX) and Hovnanian (NYSE:HOV). As the largest builders in the country, they have more exposure to the conditions in various geographic regions and, having built up large inventories of houses for sale, have felt the implications of the housing market implosion more heavily.

Meritage, although the 12th-largest builder in the U.S., concentrates its activities primarily in Southern and Western states. While it reported a greater than 80% plunge in profits, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation still managed to wow analysts with its results. It also saw its market improving.

That's in marked contrast to Ryland, which not only foresaw greater uncertainty in housing, but said it didn't think it could meet its prior forecasts for the year and pulled all guidance as a result. Instead, "the company is maintaining focus on its liquidity and balance sheet while optimizing its earnings performance." Ryland also has a mortgage finance unit which, while posting earnings of $8 million, noted it was off 30% from last year as the number of mortgages originated plummeted.

Perhaps Ryland can take some comfort in Meritage's results, since it has a base of operations in the same regions as its rival. Meritage is looking for stabilization if not growth from there, so at least a portion of Ryland's portfolio may see better results. Florida looks like it will be a problem area for any builder, but Texas and California may be able to provide the hammer and nails for a future rebuilding.

Meritage is a recommendation of Motley Fool Stock Advisor. A 30-day guest pass lets you build on that selection with a toolbox full of market-beating companies.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.