The results of the study, published annually since 1997, led Sonkin and coauthor Dale Haines, a senior manager at JDPA, to draft "Excellence in Home Builder Satisfaction: Common Characteristics of High-Ranking Builders," a white paper that provides the housing industry with benchmarks and a guide for delivering effective (and profitable) customer service.
One attribute not specifically listed, but implied throughout the white paper and among those builders that consistently top JDPA's annual rankings, is a top-down, organizational, and cultural commitment to customer satisfaction.
Although the JDPA white paper does not prioritize the common tactics used by high-ranking builders, effective management of a home buyer's expectations is arguably the platform for building a satisfied customer.
Despite ranking among the top four builders in the JDPA survey of the Twin Cities market in each of the last two years, Wensmann Homes was hardly satisfied.
Case in point: After years of conducting JDPA's annual survey, Sonkin and her research team have witnessed frequent disconnects between sales and construction.
While 90 percent of home buyers surveyed by JDPA in 2003 experienced at least one problem with their homes within 18 months after move-in, those purchasing from a high-ranking builder averaged 25 percent fewer problems than the market average.
Here's more proof (in case the correlation still isn't obvious): Among the top 20 builders nationwide in JDPA's 2003 survey, the average number of problems experienced per home buyer was about 10; the average among the rest was nearly 14.
Builders whose buyers reported no problems (and thus no visits) on the 2003 JDPA survey earned scores that were nearly 20 percent higher than those reporting just one visit, and 43 percent higher than builders called back to the house three or more times.
Wieland's four-step process for achieving 100 percent home readiness--which, according to JDPA research, accounts for more of a buyer's overall satisfaction than price and location combined--begins with a 400-point inspection by the home's builder (the company's term for a super) that is then verified by the neighborhood quality manager.
As part of the home readiness equation factored in JDPA's annual survey, hitting the closing date is simply one less thing for the buyer to worry (or complain) about.
"We simply focus on the fundamentals: delivering a great house the day we said we would deliver it and making sure it's ready to close," says Chetter Latcham, president of Shea Homes' Colorado division in Highlands Ranch, Colo., which topped the JDPA rankings in the Denver market.