Homebuilders aren’t nearly as busy as they were during the boom, but they’re getting the highest marks for customer satisfaction in the 14-year history of a J.D. Power and Associates survey.

The New Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study generates satisfaction rankings for builders in 17 markets, with nine factors driving the overall score: workmanship and materials; builder’s warranty and customer service staff; price and value; builder’s sales staff; construction manager; home readiness; recreational facilities; builder’s design center; and location.

The study found customer satisfaction improved from 2009 in eight of the nine factors, with recreational facilities provided by the builder the lone exception. The most notable improvements were in workmanship and materials, home readiness and builder’s design center.

Overall customer satisfaction improved for a third consecutive year, averaging 826 on a 1,000-point scale — the highest level since the study began in 1997. Overall satisfaction increased from last year in 15 of the 17 markets surveyed.

Housing starts have fallen from a peak of 2.07 million in 2005 to 554,000 last year. Economists with the UCLA Anderson Forecast said today they don’t expect housing starts to hit the 1 million mark again until 2012.

The downturn in the housing market and intensified competition for homebuyers "has reinforced the importance of customer focus for new-home builders," said Dale Haines, senior director of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in a press release.

Shea Homes and Standard Pacific Homes each ranked highest in customer satisfaction in three markets, while KB Home ranked highest in two markets.

Other builders with the highest rankings in their respective markets included Classic Homes (Colorado Springs, Colo.); Darling Homes (Frisco, Texas); David Weekley Homes (Houston, Texas); JMC (aka John Mourier, Roseville, Calif.); John Wieland Homes (Smyrna, Ga.); M/I Homes (Columbus, Ohio); NV Homes (Reston, Va.); Pardee Homes (Los Angeles, Calif.); and Trendmaker (Houston, Texas).

A separate J.D. Power survey measuring construction problems experienced by new-home buyers also showed home quality improving in 15 of 17 markets, with builders scoring an average of 844 on a 1,000 point scale — the highest in that survey’s four-year history.

The most commonly reported problems included issues with landscaping, kitchen cabinet quality and finish, and heating and air conditioning.

Centex Homes, KB Home, and M/I Homes each ranked highest in new-home quality in two markets. Other builders achieving the highest rankings in new-home quality in their respective markets include (in alphabetical order): Brookfield Homes (Fairfax, Va.); Classic Homes; D.R. Horton (Fort Worth, Texas); Fieldstone Communities (Irvine, Calif.); Highland Homes (Plano, Texas); JMC (Roseville, Calif.); LGI Homes (Conroe, Texas); Pardee Homes; Ryland Homes (Calabasas, Calif.); Standard Pacific Homes; and Toll Brothers (Horsham, Pa.).

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