Home Buyer Satisfaction Study: Cheers Amid the Downturn
As difficult as it can be to find qualified new-home buyers while competing with the glut of existing-home inventory, homebuilders have been focusing with considerable success on parts of the market equation they can control, most notably customer satisfaction, according to a recent study.
The J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study, released in September, shows overall customer satisfaction with builders improving for the third consecutive year and satisfaction with new-home quality up for the second consecutive year.
The study is based on responses from more than 16,400 buyers of newly built single-family homes who provided feedback between March and July 2010 after living in their home an average of four to 18 months.
Overall customer satisfaction averaged 826 on a 1,000-point scale – the highest average in that category since the study’s launch in 1997. Compared with study results for 2009, the overall-satisfaction score increased in 15 of 17 markets.
In tracking overall satisfaction, the study focuses on nine factors: workmanship/materials; the builder’s warranty/customer service staff; price/value; the sales staff; the construction manager; home readiness; recreational facilities provided by the builder; the builder’s design center; and the project location. Since last year, satisfaction in eight of the nine factors – all except recreational facilities provided by the builder – improved in 2010, with the importance of the builder’s sales staff and construction manager increasing while the importance of the price/value and warranty/customer service factors decreased during that period.
“The proportion of new-home buyers who perceive their salesperson acted in an honest manner has increased notably in 2010, compared with 2009,” Dale Haines, senior director of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power, said in a news release about the study. “In addition, customer perceptions of the professionalism of the construction manager have improved as well. It appears as though new-home builders recognize the importance of keeping buyers engaged throughout the selling and building processes, and providing as much reassurance and support as possible.”
Perception of quality, greenness climbs
Like overall satisfaction, the increase in satisfaction with new-home quality also reached a record high in 2010, at an average of 844. And like overall satisfaction, satisfaction with home quality improved over the past year in 15 of the 17 markets, with the most commonly reported negatives focused on landscaping issues; kitchen cabinet quality and finish; and heating and air conditioning systems, according to the study.
Builders also have been increasingly diligent about marketing whatever green features their homes offer. The study shows, for example, that about 61% of new-home owners in 2010 perceive that their home is environmentally friendly, compared with only 31% in 2009. Also, the proportion of new-home owners who indicate that their builder did not identify the home as green has declined to 48% in 2010 from 65% in 2009.
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