NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Builders may not be putting up as many houses as they did during the boom, but what they are building, they're building better.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 U.S. New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study, overall customer satisfaction increased for the second consecutive year, up 32 points to 811 on a 1,000 point scale.
Satisfaction with the quality of the home also grew, to 825 up from 799. The rate of customer-reported problems dropped to 9.55 problems per home down from 11.51 problems in 2008.
"Fierce competition among home builders has led to a market where only the strongest companies have survived," said Paula Sonkin, vice president of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "This is great news for new-home buyers -- particularly first-time buyers -- since builders are offering unprecedented high levels of quality, value and service at relatively low prices."
Various California markets, plus Phoenix and Tampa, Fla., recorded the greatest gains in overall satisfaction. Those are all markets hit hard by the real estate bust and they have lots of unsold inventories.
J.D. Powers rates satisfaction on nine criteria: workmanship/materials; builder's warranty/customer service staff; price/value; builder's sales staff; construction manager; home readiness; recreational facilities provided by the builder; builder's design center; and location.
The quality of workmanship and materials has become significantly more important to consumers, the study found, while the construction manager and readiness has become less of a concern.
"Fewer home buyers are spending large amounts of time working with construction managers or are concerned about home readiness, since many builders have large inventories of homes that are already complete at the point of purchase," said Sonkin. "For homeowners, this can make for a smoother, turnkey ownership experience, with fewer unanticipated delays."
Instead, she added, "Upgrades, like granite countertops, have become the norm."
Of the 23 markets covered by the report, Pulte brands, which include Del Webb, DeVosta Homes and Pulte Homes, led in satisfaction in 12 of them. Other market leaders include Ashton Woods, Brookfield Homes, Centex Homes, Darling Homes, David Weekley Homes, K. Hovnanian, Lennar, M/I Homes, Pardee Homes, Shea Homes, Standard Pacific Homes, and Village Builders.
The survey is based on responses from 26,231 buyers of newly built, single-family homes who have lived in their homes an average of four to 18 months.