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lead-web2JD Power and Associates survey reveals importance of extra services increases as buyers and sellers seek value from real estate companies

RISMEDIA, July 31, 2009-Extra services provided by real estate companies-such as inspections, appraisals and legal and moving company recommendations-have become increasingly important to home buyers and sellers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Home Buyer/Seller Study.

The study, now in its second year, measures customer satisfaction of homebuyers and sellers with the largest national real estate companies. Overall satisfaction is determined by examining three factors for the home-buying experience: agent (47%); office (28%); and package of additional services (25%). Four factors are examined for the home-selling experience: agent (34%); marketing (34%); office (17%); and package of additional services (15%).

For both buyers and sellers, the agent is still the most important driver of overall satisfaction. However, the importance of agents has declined substantially from 2008, while the importance of additional services has increased considerably-by 12 percentage points among buyers and 8 percentage points among sellers. In addition, actual usage of many of these services has decreased from 2008, likely due to cutbacks made by real estate companies in response to a depressed market.

“In a tight market, every aspect of service offered will be scrutinized very closely,” said Jim Howland, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “For this reason, it is critical for real estate companies to promote the value that they bring to buyers and sellers, not only in any additional services they offer, but also in their agents and operations.”

In the home-buyer segment, Keller Williams ranks highest for a second consecutive year, with a score of 806 on a 1,000-point scale. Keller Williams also performs particularly well in the agent factor. Following in the rankings are Coldwell Banker (801) and RE/MAX (798). Coldwell Banker performs particularly well in the office factor.

Among home sellers, Coldwell Banker ranks highest with a score of 815 and performs particularly well in all four factors. Keller Williams follows Coldwell Banker in the segment ranking with a score of 801.

The study finds that the proportion of first-time home buyers has increased considerably-to 56% in 2009 from 44% in 2008. Many of these first-time buyers may be attracted by improved home affordability and the perception of a strong buyer’s market. This presents both challenges and opportunities for real estate companies.

“The presence of more first-time buyers is encouraging, as it indicates that the real estate market is returning to more normal activity, with fewer speculators,” said Howland. “However, real estate companies and agents must carefully manage first-time buyer expectations. Although these buyers may believe otherwise, they must still overcome the traditional barriers to purchasing a home, such as being able to fund down payments, closing costs and monthly payments. Solid advice and service from agents may assuage these first-time buyers’ concerns and build customer loyalty.”

Additional noteworthy study findings include:
-Home sellers report that, on average, 3.2 open houses were conducted for their property in 2009, compared with 4.5 in 2008.
-Approximately 64% of home sellers used a website listing to market their home in 2009, up from 61% in 2008.
-The 2009 Home Buyer/Seller Study includes more than 3,100 evaluations from 2,801 respondents who bought or sold a home between April 2007 and June 2008. The study was fielded between April and June 2009.

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