Pulte Homes (PHM) topped JD Power and Associates 2009 US new home builder customer satisfaction study in half of the 24 markets surveyed. Overall customer satisfaction improved for the second consecutive year, the marketing information services company reported. The most satisfied new home customers were in Orange/San Diego, Sacramento, Phoenix, Inland Empire, Calif., and Tampa, JD Power said. The rate of customer-reported problems decreased in 2009 to an average 9.55 problems per home, down from 11.51 in 2008. The most commonly reported problems were issues with landscaping, heating and air conditioning problems and kitchen cabinet quality and finish. “Fierce competition among home builders has led to a market where only the strongest companies have survived,” said Paula Sonkin, vice president of the real estate and construction industries practice at JD Power. “This is great news for new-home buyers-particularly first-time buyers-since builders are offering unprecedented high levels of quality, value and service at relatively low prices.” The Pulte brands, which include Del Webb, DiVosta Homes and Pulte Homes, ranked highest in customer satisfaction among new-home builders in 12 markets. In addition, JD Power and Associates said, other builders with highest rankings in their respective markets are Ashton Woods (which ties with Village Builders in the Houston market and is headquartered in Roswell, Ga.), Brookfield Homes (BHS) (Fairfax, Va.), Centex Homes (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Darling Homes (DAR) (Frisco, Texas), David Weekley Homes (which ties with Pulte Homes in the Austin market and is headquartered in Houston, Texas), K. Hovnanian (HOV) (Red Bank, N.J.), Lennar (LEN) (Miami, Fla.), M/I Homes (MHO) (Columbus, Ohio), Pardee Homes (Los Angeles, Calif.), Shea Homes (Walnut, Calif.), Standard Pacific Homes (SPF) (Irvine, Calif.), and Village Builders (which ties with Ashton Woods in the Houston market and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.) There are nine factors that drive overall customer satisfaction with builders, JD Power said, including workmanship/materials, builder's warranty/customer service staff, price/value, builder's sales staff, construction manager, home readiness, recreational facilities provided by the builder, builder's design center, and location. Write to Austin Kilgore.