If you’re thinking about buying or building a new home this year, you’re probably wondering how to avoid buying from a bad builder. A new survey on Chicago area builders might help.

JD Power and Associates, a company that ranks consumer satisfaction with a myriad of products from cell phones to insurance companies, has taken on the new home construction business. In its 2004 survey of new home buyers, JD Power ranks consumer satisfaction with more than 20 Chicago-area builders. That’s good information in and of itself. But I was able to speak with a JD Power spokesperson who helped me understand what kinds of questions the rankings are based on. I think this information will be helpful for anyone looking to buy or build a new home.

Last year, the number of home building permits rose 3 percent in the Chicago metro area, and the average new home purchase price is nearing $300,000. If you’re going to spend those kind of dollars, you’ll want to be as happy as possible with the new home you buy or build.

The JD Power survey took a look at 9 factors that are key to new construction satisfaction. Each factor is worth a different amount in the rankings. The most important factor, accounting for nearly a quarter of the rankings is the builder’s customer service. How was the interaction between the builder and customer? Did the builder listen to you? Was he or she responsive?

Next, was the home ready on time? That’s worth 18 percent of the ranking. Was the builder’s sales staff knowledgeable and helpful? That was 16 percent of the ranking.

The quality of the workmanship/materials accounted for 14 percent of the score. The next few items were each worth less than 10 percent of the score.

How did the price of the home compare with the value? Did you get a good deal? How did you like the physical design elements? Did the layout meet your expectations? Was the design center good? Did it offer electronic designs? Was the staff good? Does the subdivision offer good recreational facilities like a pool, workout center, park or pavilion?

And finally, are you happy with your location within the development and of the development itself?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be satisfied if you purchase from a smaller builder. If you do your homework ahead of time, you should be able to find a builder who can help. Visit current and already-built subdivisions. Knock on 5 to 10 doors. Ask the homeowner the JD Power survey questions and be sure to find out what they like and dislike about their home and the builder.

The JD Power survey found that customers who bought from Lakewood homes, Del Webb and Pulte were the most satisfied with their purchase.


J.D. Power and Associations 2004 New Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study Results

The survey looked at new construction builders who built and sold at least 150 new homes in 2003. Home builders who sold fewer homes were not included in the survey.

The survey, which is conducted in 25 of the largest home-building markets in the U.S., looked at nine factors that drive the overall satisfaction a consumer has with the home builder. The survey ranks builders based on customer satisfaction with the nine factors. The average builder scored 111.

According to John Tews, J.D. Power and Associates spokesperson, the fact that a builder scored below the average ranking doesn’t necessarily mean every home buyer had a bad experience.

“You might buy a home and be pleased with the results, but nine other home buyers might have been unhappy with what they bought,” Tews said.

Chicago Results:

Lakewood Homes 131
Del Webb 130
Pulte 129
Centex 118
Ryland 117
Cambridge Homes 116

Chicago Market Average 111

Wiseman-Hughes 110
Bigelow 109
Kirk 107
Kimball Hill 106
Realen 106
Concord/Lennar Homes 103
Summit/Lennar Homes 103
Kennedy 101
Remington 99
William Ryan 96
Neumann 94
Pasquinelli 93
Town & Country 89
Sho-Deen 87
Montalbano 84

For more information on the survey, or to view survey results from the other 24 metropolitan areas, log onto www.jdpower.com.

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