Among Home Buyers, Satisfaction with Real Estate Companies Increases, While Satisfaction among Home Sellers Decreases Considerably

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Reflective of the real estate buyers’ market conditions in many regions in the U.S., satisfaction with real estate companies among home buyers has improved from 2009, while satisfaction among home sellers has declined, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Home Buyer/Seller Study SM released today.

The study, now in its third year, measures customer satisfaction of home buyers and sellers with the largest national real estate companies. Overall satisfaction is determined by examining three factors for the home-buying experience: agent/salesperson; office; and variety of additional services. Four factors are examined for the home-selling experience: agent/salesperson; marketing; office; and variety of additional services.

Overall satisfaction among home buyers averages 803 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010—increasing by 12 points from 2009. This improvement is primarily driven by increased satisfaction with agents and salespersons. In contrast, overall satisfaction among home sellers has declined by 40 points from 2009 and averages 742 in 2010. Among home sellers, satisfaction has decreased in all four factors, with the largest declines observed in marketing of the home and the variety of additional services offered.

“Among both home buyers and home sellers, the importance of agents and salespersons has increased substantially in 2010, compared with 2009,” says Jim Howland, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Buyers are increasingly relying upon negotiating skills of agents and seem to be satisfied with the purchase prices they are obtaining. Despite the fact that selling agents appear to be doing a good job of negotiating and marketing on behalf of home sellers, the tough economic conditions are negatively impacting their overall satisfaction with real estate companies.”

In the home-buyer segment, Keller Williams ranks highest for a third consecutive year, with a score of 817 on a 1,000-point scale. Keller Williams performs particularly well in the agent and office factors. Following in the rankings are Prudential (811) and Coldwell Banker (805). Prudential performs well in the additional services category.

Among home sellers, Prudential ranks highest with a score of 760 and performs particularly well in the marketing and agent factors. Prudential is the only company to improve in home-seller satisfaction in 2010, compared with 2009. Following Prudential in the rankings are Keller Williams (751) and RE/MAX (744). Keller Williams performs particularly well in the office factor.

The study finds that fewer than one-half of home buyers and sellers indicate their agent asked them to provide a referral or recommendation to a friend or family member.

“Positive recommendations are a critically important driver of new business for agents, and there is ample opportunity for improvement in this area,” says Howland. “Particularly during tough times in the real estate market, asking for referrals and recommendations should be considered an essential part of doing business.”

J.D. Power and Associates offers the following tips to consumers who are buying or selling a home:

Finding the right agent to suit your specific needs is critical. J.D. Power research has consistently demonstrated that having the right agent is critical to a satisfying home-buying or -selling experience. Due to the unique nature of real estate transactions, clients often form bonds with their agents, as a single buying or selling transaction can take several months or more to complete. For customers who have previously bought or sold a home, the right agent might be someone they’ve worked with successfully in the past. For first-time buyers, seeking recommendations from friends, relatives, and colleagues is critical. Increasingly, agents and brokers are advertising their services on the Internet, so this can be a good starting point for research, particularly for someone moving far away from their current location.

In addition to a buying or selling agent, consider the additional services you may require. Buying and selling a home is a complex undertaking with many “moving parts” to consider. In addition to the real estate agent you work with, you may also need to work with a loan officer, a financial institution, title/escrow company, inspectors, appraisers, home warranty agents, movers, storage services, contractors, etc. One of the advantages of using a full-service real estate company is that they can assist with finding and coordinating some of these necessary additional services.

For sellers, marketing one’s home should be a primary focus. In addition to finding the right agent, home sellers should pay special attention to tools used to market the home. When selecting an agent, find out their approach to open houses and online marketing, in particular. J.D. Power research finds that home buyers often search for homes online long before they engage a buying agent, or even attend an open house. Ask about which websites will contain the home listing, the number of home photos that can be included and if any special features will accompany the listing, such as virtual tours or mortgage calculators. Tools that assist prospective home buyers may help attract attention to the listing.

For buyers, it’s important to understand the full cost of the home prior to making a purchase. It’s prudent for home buyers to establish a housing budget and to expect agents to show homes in the appropriate price range. Particularly for first-time buyers, it’s important to understand all the associated fees and expenses that go along with purchasing a particular home. These can include one-time expenses, such as “points’ that lower mortgage rates, title fees and appraisals, as well as ongoing expenses such as homeowners association fees, property taxes, or other specialized local taxes that can impact your monthly payments.

The 2010 Home Buyer/Seller Study includes more than 3,000 evaluations from 2,817 respondents who bought or sold a home between March 2009 and April 2010. The study was fielded between April and May 2010.

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