J.D. Power Consumer Center ratings do not include all
information used to determine J.D. Power and Associates awards,
and may be based on different criteria.
Sept. 27, 2003, 7:41PM
Three builders named best in area
By RALPH BIVINS
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Pulte Homes, David Weekley Homes and Morrison Homes ranked
atop a buyer satisfaction survey of the Houston-area market by
J.D. Power and Associates.
The survey ranked the builders on customer service, home
readiness, sales staff, home design, the quality of workmanship
and materials, and other characteristics.
Marketing firm J.D. Power received over 5,300 responses from
people who bought homes recently in Harris, Montgomery, Fort
Bend, Galveston and Brazoria counties. Only builders that sold
150 or more homes in 2002 were included in the survey.
A number of the large home-building companies that ranked
highly perform "proactive" warranty calls. Instead of
waiting for homeowners to phone in complaints, these builders
call at regular intervals to make sure everything is working
Pulte performs proactive warranty calls and provides training
to encourage employees to improve the quality of its homes,
Pulte spokesman Sean Patrick said.
Pulte insists that its workers be timely and keep
appointments when making warranty calls, and it requires workers
to wear clean booties over their shoes when entering customers'
home, Patrick said.
Pulte scored 134 points in the Houston-area customer
satisfaction survey. The average score in the Houston area was
107 points. The national average is 109 points. Weekley's and
Morrison's Houston divisions both scored 121.
At the other end of the spectrum, D.R. Horton and Parkside
Homes were at the bottom of the satisfaction survey, with 84
"It's a real shock to me," Parkside's president,
Mark Kaufman, said. "That's a complete surprise."
Parkside, which has an average home sales price of $108,000,
has received good marks in other surveys of its customers,
Parkside also received a Best in American Living award in
1999 from the National Association of Home Builders and
Professional Builder magazine, Kaufman said.
The operations of D.R. Horton in Houston have been
reorganized recently, said Brian Binash of Emerald Homes, the
Houston-based firm that is part of the D.R. Horton corporation.
The builder will make efforts to ensure that its Houston
customers are more satisfied, Binash said.
"We are going to do everything we can to make sure the
quality D.R. Horton is known for is exhibited in our future
homes," Binash said.
Although 84 was at the bottom for the Houston area, it could
have been much worse. In some of the 21 cities in the J.D. Power
survey, builders' scores were less than 70.
The J.D. Power survey is not just about the quality of homes.
It also measures how builders treat customers, such as how they
respond to complaints. Customer service and how thoroughly a
house is fine-tuned when the buyer moves in are both extremely
important in scoring well in the J.D. Power survey.
Some builders are weak in responding to complaints, even
though the houses they build may be of good quality, said
housing analyst Mike Inselmann of Metrostudy.
In general, maintaining quality on an open home-construction
site is much more difficult than creating products in a factory,
Rainy days throw off schedules, and damp conditions can
damage building materials, Inselmann said. In short, a
construction site is not a pristine laboratory.
In Houston, a common problem with new homes is drainage,
which is a challenge because of the city's flat terrain, said
Jay McManus, vice president of sales for Ryland Homes.
"If there is one thing every builder in town could
improve on, it's drainage of the yards," McManus said.
Ted Nelson of Terrabrook, a developer of master-planned
communities, said he has seen a lot of improvement in the
home-building business over the years. Universities offer
training in construction, and many builders are coming out of
school with a broad base of knowledge, Nelson said. Building
materials have improved in recent years, he said, and
inspections are more stringent.
"I've been in the business 30 years, and the level of
quality with homes today is significantly more than it was 30
years ago -- or even 20 or 10 years ago," Nelson said.
April 4, 2002, 3:06PM
By RALPH BIVINS
Year's housing trends transcend price and location
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
Finding the right home at the right price can be difficult.
Sometimes it is more art than science. Sometimes locating that
great house is more luck than the result of an in-depth,
And to make matters more complicated, the realty market is
always changing. New builders come to town. New subdivisions are
opened. Neighborhoods that were once considered dogs are
rediscovered and given new life by urban pioneers. Home prices
can rise sharply.
Houses are essentially about living, though, not about money.
So setting aside price-tag issues, here are some trends and
highlights in the Houston-area realty market that you might want
to consider when searching for your next home.
� The best up-and-coming neighborhood to watch -- Shady
Acres. Located just northwest of the Heights, the old Shady
Acres neighborhood is seeing a surge of home construction. Many
of the new homes are period-style architecture with front
porches, fenced front yards and Hardiplank siding. Perry Homes,
a prolific Inner Loop builder, has just started working in Shady
Acres. Perry could accelerate the evolution of the neighborhood.
� The most unusual new housing -- The Mews in Kingwood. It's
a new gated community of English cottages with a lot of
asymmetrical gable roofs set in a Cotswold-style. Oversized
chimneys and entry towers are situated at the front of the
homes, which have stucco and stone exteriors. The Mews has
several two-bedroom models because the developer expects to
attract empty-nester couples.
� The most interesting neighborhood transformation -- St.
George Place. Developer Robert Silvers purchased a significant
portion of the old rundown homes in Lamar Terrace in 1989. The
neighborhood, off Richmond Avenue just west of the Galleria, is
now covered with new homes worth more than $300,000 each. Given
Silvers' tenacity in pushing through this project, it seems
fitting that a short street there has been named Silvers Lane.
� The best new community monument -- Shadow Creek Ranch.
Drive south on Texas 288 and you cannot miss the entry monument
at this 3,000-acre project. It has water fountains and huge
lettering cemented into a long, red-brick structure atop a
grassy berm. To cap off the monument, the developer flies three
huge flags, the Texas flag, the city of Pearland flag and Old
� The next condo trend -- Conversion of Inner Loop apartment
projects into condominiums. The Gables City Plaza apartment
complex, on Old Spanish Trail just south of the Texas Medical
Center, will be converted to condos by an Atlanta developer.
Another apartment project on Shepherd Drive recently was
converted into the Renaissance at River Oaks. The converted
condos offer lower-cost Inner Loop residences.
� The recurring trend -- The destruction of old houses to
make way for new ones. This has been going on for years in
places like West University Place and Bellaire. The tear-down
trend also has spread to neighborhoods such as Briargrove, which
is west of Fountainview Drive. It seems odd to hear that the
tear-down trend has spread to outer suburbs, such as The
Woodlands. But a few tear-downs have occurred there and more
will be done as that suburban community continues to mature.
� The hottest Farm-to-Market Road -- FM 1464 in Fort Bend
County. Hundreds of new homes are sprouting on this two-lane
road, just north of Sugar Land and New Territory. The
construction is occurring in communities such as Orchard Lakes,
Chelsea Harbor, Stratford Park, Eaglewood and others. FM 1464
also has a significant assemblage of golf with the Shadow Hawk,
Old Orchard and Houstonian golf courses.
� The most diligent home builder -- David Powers. Since
forming his company in 1994, Powers has made it a habit to join
all of his customers at the title company while the home buyers
sign the final purchasing documents. He personally explains the
home warranty and tries to make sure the buyers are satisfied.
David Powers Homes sold more than 250 houses last year, keeping
the builder hopping. Not surprisingly, Powers gets about half of
his new customers from referrals from his previous buyers.
� Best home builders -- Houston's Stephen K. Hann. He was
recently named "America's Best Builder" in the
small-builder category by the National Association of Home
Builders and Builder Magazine. In a recent Houston home-buyer
satisfaction survey by J.D. Power & Associates, Newmark
Homes and Trendmaker Homes came out tied for first. Other home
builders with high rankings in the J.D. Power survey included
Pulte, Norwood, Perry, David Powers, Emerald, David Weekley and
� The most elevated new dwellings -- High-rise residential
towers. Several new high-rise rental towers are coming on the
market. The Museum Tower will be opening soon on Montrose
Boulevard. Also, Simmons Vedder & Co. is building a 33-story
apartment tower at 3333 Allen Parkway. And Hanover Co. is
developing another 33-story rental tower in the Uptown area. In
the Galleria area, the "three-M" condo projects are
under development: the Manhattan, the Montebello and the Mark.
These, along with several other condo towers under construction,
are solidifying Houston as a high-rise market.
�The newest places to live -- Several major master-planned
communities are going to be opening shortly in the Houston area.
The 2,800-acre Riverstone is getting started in Fort Bend
County, just south of First Colony. The 3,300-acre Shadow Creek
Ranch and the 1,000-acre Savannah will be players in Brazoria
County. Eagle Springs and Fall Creek are awakening the northeast
side. And Seven Meadows is opening this year on the west side of
town near the Grand Parkway.