By Jill Ralph. In March, Fortune magazine smiled on 10 home builders when it published its list of America's Most Admired Companies. To compile the list, 10,000 executives, directors, and securities analysts were asked to rate companies in their own industries according to eight criteria: social responsibility, innovation, long-term investment value, use of corporate assets, employee talent, financial soundness, quality of products and services, and quality of management.

"I think there are many in our industry that should be Fortune's most admired companies," says Stuart Miller, president and CEO of Lennar Corp. It's easy to be humble when you're ranked No. 1, as Lennar is this year.

The confluence of the industry's growth and financial strengthening, with a greater focus on customer care, make it possible to provide ever-increasing levels of quality in every area, says Miller. From land improvement to the title process, the way homes are built and the materials used all work to increase quality -- improving aesthetics and bringing down costs.

"Consistent performance at very high levels over these past years has not happened by accident, but by design. There are a lot of good executives working to improve the industry," says Miller.

Fortune's Most Admired Home Builders

2002 (2001)


Lennar Corp. (2) 7.67


Centex Corp. (1) 7.58


Pulte Homes (5) 6.92


Toll Brothers* 6.80


NVR* 6.51


Beazer Homes USA* 6.48


M.D.C. Holdings* 6.26


The Ryland Group* 6.21


KB Home (8) 5.74
10 D.R. Horton (9) 5.47
*Not ranked last year

Beazer Homes USA, which was not ranked last year, is No. 6 on Fortune's list this year. President and CEO Ian McCarthy: "Everyone at Beazer has to focus on the customer." Beazer is embracing technology, he says -- BUILDER magazine ranked it as its top technology company in 2002 -- and the company aims to innovatively tap technology and focus on first-time home buyers. Pulte Homes, which Fortune ranked third, feels differently about the survey. Says Valerie Dolenga, Pulte's communications manager: "While we are pleased to be recognized, these lists are not an accurate gauge for our success as a company nor something we aim to be on."