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Despite downturn, customer satisfaction in home builders up

They may be struggling through the housing downturn, but home builders still must please their customers. And in that race, J.D. Power and Associates has ranked national home builder Pulte Homes on top.

In its 2008 study of customer satisfaction in home builders, J.D. Power said, in fact, builders succeeded in “significantly improving overall customer satisfaction in 2008, compared with 2007.”

Overall, customer satisfaction averaged 779 on a 1,000-point scale in 2008, up 38 points from last year. Markets experiencing the largest customer satisfaction improvements include Palm Beach, Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; and Albuquerque, N.M. In addition, overall satisfaction has increased in 28 of the 29 individual markets that were also surveyed in 2007.

In the New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 12th year, Pulte brands (which include Del Webb, DiVosta Homes and Pulte Homes) ranked highest in customer satisfaction among new-home builders in 11 markets.

Besides the Pulte brands, other builders topping market rankings include (in alphabetical order): Cambridge Homes (which is part of D.R. Horton and ties with Lakewood Homes and Pulte Homes in Chicago); Centex Homes (headquartered in Dallas); Darling Homes (Frisco, Texas); David Weekley Homes (Houston); Eastwood Homes (Charlotte, N.C.); Granville Homes (Fresno, Calif.); John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods (Atlanta); Lakewood Homes (which ties with Cambridge and Pulte Homes in Chicago); M/I Homes (Columbus, Ohio); Medallion Homes (San Antonio); Minto Communities (Coconut Creek, Fla.); Shea Homes (Walnut, Calif.); Standard Pacific Homes (Irvine, Calif.); Tim Lewis Communities (Citrus Heights, Calif.); and Trendmaker Homes (which is part of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. and headquartered in Houston).

“In 2008, a wide variety of home builders performed well,” said Paula Sonkin, vp-real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

“In the midst of the volatility that has defined the overall housing market during the past two years and has caused several home-building companies to go out of business, many local and regional builders have seized the opportunity to attract and serve potential home buyers," Sonkin said.

Furthermore, the percentage of home buyers who report that construction on their new home was finished when they signed the sales contract has increased to 39 percent in 2008 from 32 percent in 2007.

The study also found that 92 percent of home buyers reported receiving sales incentives. Among home buyers who report receiving incentives when purchasing their home, the average sales incentive totaled more than $16,500.

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