The nation's largest homebuilders lost market share in 2011, but maintain stronger capital positions that are likely to push them into better positions in the coming years.

Researchers with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods made that assertion in a new report analyzing builder market share.

According to the KBW report, the nation's top 20 builders saw their market share dwindle to 32.6% in 2011 from 34.4% in 2010.

This drop is a reflection of homebuilding declines in some of the nation's major markets, but those conditions are unlikely to persist long term, KBW suggested.

"Over time, we expect the largest builders to capture market share as the major builders remain better capitalized with greater access to capital than most smaller private players," KBW analysts Jade Rahmani, Bose George and Ryan O'Steen wrote in their report. 

Builders may have lost some of their market share in 2011, but before that, they were capturing market share steadily for 10 years.

In 2003, the top 20 players only had 21.7% of the total homebuilding market. That figure rose to 31.5% in 2008 before falling to 29.3% in 2009.

Major markets, where large homebuilders still dominate, are dealing with excessive inventory from overbuilding during the housing bubble. In time, the effect of those inventory levels will subside, creating more room for builders.

The largest builder based on closings in 2011 was Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton (DHI), which owned 5.6% of the market share. Pulte (PHM) came in second with 5% of the market share, while third-placed Lennar captured 3.6%.

Major builders dominated in the states of Texas, Arizona, Florida, California, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Major homebuilder's maintained more than 60% of the market share based on new permits in the metros of San Antonio (64.7%), Austin (63.9%), Miami (67.8%), Orlando (68.4%), Las Vegas (75.7%), San Bernardino (72.2%) and Denver (65.6%).

Markets where major builders had less than 50% of the new permits, included New York (19.8%), Atlanta (44.8%), Seattle (41.9%), Los Angeles (41.7%), Chicago (33.6%), Raleigh (40.9%) and Philadelphia (44.5%).