Two of five condominium buyers (40 per cent) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) indicate they would have purchased from another builder if given a second chance, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Canadian New-Condominium Builder Customer Satisfaction Study.
Buyers who said they would opt for a different builder if given the choice cited a number of reasons, including poor communication from the builder; perceived misrepresentation; and delays in occupying the home. The overall satisfaction score among these buyers is 295 points lower on a 1,000-point scale than among buyers who were content with the builder they chose.
“Many condominium buyers are looking for their builders to deliver against their perceived commitments,” said Marc Thibault, real estate practice leader at the Canadian office of J.D. Power and Associates. “Either the buyer expected too much or the builder delivered too little — whichever the case, there is a disconnect, and communication lines need to be improved.”
The study finds that only one-third (32 per cent) of buyers felt that their builder set realistic expectations and prepared them for what to expect with their new-home purchase experience. Among the builders that successfully set homeowner expectations, 76 per cent of their buyers said that the new-home purchase experience exceeded their expectations.
“Buying a new condominium is the first form of ownership for many Torontonians, and they are both excited and stressed when making this commitment,” said Thibault. “Homebuilders that are able to alleviate some of this stress by educating their buyers on what to expect and keeping them informed typically have far more satisfied buyers. In the absence of information, buyers may set unrealistic expectations.”
An expectation that is frequently not met by condominium builders is the readiness of the home by the confirmed occupancy date. Nearly two-thirds of buyers (63 per cent) indicate having experienced a delay, with an average wait of approximately seven months to take possession.
The study measures customer satisfaction of condominium buyers throughout the new-home purchase and early ownership experience. Customer satisfaction is measured across eight factors (in order of importance): home/building readiness; service/warranty staff; building/shared features; home quality; price/value; sales staff; physical design; and design centre. This is the fourth year that the study has been conducted in the GTA.
Overall satisfaction has decreased to 612 in 2009, down 10 points from 622 in 2008. This overall decline is driven primarily by decreased buyer satisfaction in the price/value and service/warranty staff factors.
Tridel Corp. ranks highest in satisfying new-condominium buyers in the GTA market for a fourth consecutive year, with an overall satisfaction score of 730. Tridel performs particularly well in the two most important factors contributing to overall satisfaction: home/building readiness and service/warranty staff. Daniels Corp. (698) and MintoUrban Communities (691) follow Tridel in the rankings.
The study finds that only 45 percent of buyers say that their builder’s sales staff followed up with them after their initial visit to the sales centre. Salespeople who follow up with customers receive far more favourable ratings, as well as create an opportunity to establish a relationship and ensure that all outstanding questions are answered.
“A lack of follow-up by sales staff might be overlooked in a strong housing market; however, this is not the case in today’s market,” said Thibault. “Builders need to pursue every prospect to maintain a healthy pipeline of sales.”
The study also finds that one-third of buyers indicate that recommendations of builders from friends, relatives or colleagues triggered their initial awareness of
a builder. Recommendations are second only to signage (cited by 36 per cent of buyers) in raising initial awareness.
“A builder’s past or current homeowners are among the most powerful sources of marketing they have at their disposal,” said Thibault. “Builders that live up to homeowner expectations may be rewarded for many years to come with positive word of mouth advertising, which costs them nothing.”
The 2009 Canadian New-Condominium Builder Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 745 homeowners within the Greater Toronto Area who registered a newly built condominium in 2008. The study was fielded from March to May 2009. J.D. Power and Associates also measures customer satisfaction with new-condominium builders in Calgary and Edmonton. For more comprehensive information on builders in Canada, visit www.jdpower.com/ca