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As home builders compete for a limited pool of buyers, customer satisfaction with new-home builders and new-home quality have improved notably from 2008, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 U.S. New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Studysm. Overall customer satisfaction improves for a second consecutive year, averaging 811 on a 1,000-point scale in 2009, and up 32 points from 779 in 2008. Markets with the highest levels of overall satisfaction in 2009 include Orange/San Diego, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Inland Empire, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.. In addition, overall satisfaction has increased in 22 of the 23 individual markets that were also surveyed in 2008.

"Fierce competition among home builders has led to a market where only the strongest companies have survived," said Paula Sonkin, vice president of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "This is great news for new-home buyers-particularly first-time buyers-since builders are offering unprecedented high levels of quality, value and service at relatively low prices." New-home quality increased notably to an average of 825 index points in 2009 from 799 in 2008. The rate of customer-reported problems has decreased in 2009 to an average of 9.55 problems per home, from 11.51 problems per home in 2008. Problem rates have declined in each of the 23 markets that were also included in the study in 2008. Overall, the most commonly reported quality problems include issues with landscaping, heating and air conditioning problems and kitchen cabinet quality and finish.

The New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 13th year, includes satisfaction rankings for builders in 24 markets. Nine factors drive overall customer satisfaction with home builders: workmanship/materials; builder's warranty/customer service staff; price/value; builder's sales staff; construction manager; home readiness; recreational facilities provided by the builder; builder's design center; and location.

The study finds that the importance of the workmanship and materials factor has increased notably from 2008. Meanwhile, the builder's sales staff, construction manager and home readiness factors have declined in importance.

“Compared with past years, fewer home buyers are spending large amounts of time working with construction managers or are concerned about home readiness, since many builders have large inventories of homes that are already complete at the point of purchase," said Sonkin. "For home owners, this can make for a smoother, turnkey ownership experience, with fewer unanticipated delays." The proportion of homes delivered both completely finished and on time has increased notably to 76 percent in 2009 from 70 percent in 2008.

“Green" Home Features Approximately 31 percent of new-home owners perceive that their home is environmentally friendly, but a majority of these owners--65 percent--say that their home builder did not identify the home as "green." “Builders that neglect to point out environmentally friendly home features to buyers are missing out on a very important opportunity," said Sonkin. "New-home buyers are increasingly seeking out green home features and the benefits they bring in terms of energy and cost savings." The top three reasons home owners give for building or buying a green home are: saving on power and heating costs; reducing water usage; and reducing their impact on the environment.

2009 New-Home Quality Study Rankings The New-Home Quality Study, now in its third year, measures the occurrence and impact of construction problems experienced by new-home owners in 24 markets. The study utilizes an index that takes into account the number of problems that occur, the severity of problems and size of the home, and covers 41 different problem categories for the following areas: bathroom; drywall; electrical/appliances; flooring/stairs; home exterior; interior paint; kitchen; windows/doors; and other significant problems.

Pulte brands rank highest in new-home quality in five markets. Other builders achieving highest rankings in new-home quality in their respective markets include (in alphabetical order): Ashton Woods; Brookfield Homes; Centex Homes; Classic Homes (headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo.); Holiday Builders (Melbourne, Fla.);J. Patrick Homes (Houston, Texas); John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods (Smyrna, Ga.); KB Home (Los Angeles, Calif); Lennar; Lifestyle Communities (Columbus, Ohio); Pardee Homes; Ryland Homes (Calabasas, Calif.); Standard Pacific Homes; Taylor Morrison Homes (Scottsdale, Ariz.); Toll Brothers (Horsham, Pa.); and Winchester Homes (Bethesda, Md.).

[Editor's Note: The 2009 U.S. New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 26,231 buyers of newly built single-family homes who provided feedback after living in their homes an average of four to 18 months. The study was fielded between March and July 2009. For more comprehensive builder rankings for all 24 U.S. markets, visit www.jdpower.com/homes.]

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