HOME BUYERS RANKED 22 BUILDERS BELOW the industry average in Southern California, though 18 were ranked above it in J.D. Power's 2004 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study. More than half of the home builders in Southern California received a below-average rating from customers in the 2004 survey from Westlake Village, Calif.-based J.D. Power & Associates (see “Power Ratings,” page 84).

This is the first year that San Diego was broken away from the rest of Southern California and polled separately. It fared slightly better than the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area from Ventura thorough the Inland Empire. In San Diego, home buyers gave 25 out of 45 builders average or lower marks. To be eligible for evaluation, the companies had to have sold at least 150 homes in 2003.

But overall satisfaction in the region was up seven points from last year, higher than other regions in the country, which increased an average of three points. This is partially because the top finishers scored so highly: Irvine's California Pacific reached an overall customer satisfaction score of 140, followed by Pulte Homes at 133 and Del Webb at 132. John Laing Homes and Lennar Homes tied for third place with 130.

Even though some builders fell below average, they found something to crow about. Calabasas, Calif.-based Ryland Homes ranked below the industry average of 114 with a rating of 108, but spokeswoman Marya Jones told the Los Angeles Daily News that the company had improved its customer satisfaction rating six points in this survey and 10 points last year.But as overall scores have improved, those advances were not enough to beat the average this year.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.