Homebuyer satisfaction up in 2004, survey says

Scores rise in 18 of 20 metropolitan markets

Pulte Homes wins award

September 19, 2004|By Steve Kerch | Steve Kerch,CBS MARKETWATCH

Customers of U.S. homebuilders were more satisfied with their houses in 2004 than a year earlier as the residential-construction industry continues to make strides in customer service, J.D. Power and Associates reported Wednesday.

Overall customer satisfaction increased to 112 on the J.D. Power index from 109 in 2003. The company said satisfaction scores increased in 18 of the 20 metropolitan markets included in both the 2003 and 2004 studies, with the most notable increases seen in Minneapolis; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Las Vegas; Austin, Texas; and Denver/Colorado Springs.

The study includes homes built in the Washington area, where Pulte Homes scored the highest among builders. U.S. Home Corp. and Del Webb, which is a division of Pulte, also scored well in the Washington survey.

"The bar continues to be raised by builders committed to improving customer satisfaction, and the rewards come in the form of customers who are more likely to repurchase from the builder again, more likely to recommend the builder to others, and will likely tell more people about their positive experience," said Paula Sonkin, executive director of the real estate industries practice at J.D. Power.

The 2004 study is based on responses from 64,502 buyers of new single-family homes who provided feedback after living in their homes from four to 18 months.

Among big homebuilding firms, Pulte Homes ranked highest in 14 of the 25 largest home-building markets in the United States. Pulte earned a "platinum award" from J.D. Power for its efforts; the award is given to homebuilders that are included in at least one-half of the markets surveyed, achieve above market-average scores for each division of the corporation and have an average index score that exceeds the 90th percentile of the study average.

Pulte, including its Del Webb and DiVosta brands, is the first builder to garner the award.

"Pulte Homes continues to be a standout among new-home builders, repeatedly pushing the benchmark for customer satisfaction in the markets they serve," Sonkin said.

Richard J. Dugas Jr., president and chief executive officer of Pulte Homes, said his company has a comprehensive system for communicating with every customer to ensure their needs are being met. The company tracks customer feedback shortly after move-in and again at the 11-month mark.

"The difference between short-term and longer-term satisfaction is narrowing," Dugas said.

Other builders ranking highest in multiple markets include Centex in three markets and Lennar Homes in two. U.S. Homes Corp. is a division of Lennar.

The study measures customer satisfaction with new-home builders in 25 U.S. markets, including five new markets for 2004: Detroit; Fort Myers/Naples, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; San Diego (which was previously included in the Southern California market); and Seattle/Tacoma, Wash.

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