It’s a buyers’ market out there, right? I mean home prices are at record lows, inventory is plentiful and, if you have great credit, it’s a perfect time to buy. Then, why are buyers in a recent study less satisfied with real estate company services, compared with 2010? And, amazingly, how is home-seller satisfaction up? It’s all about the sales associate.

According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Home Buyer/Seller StudySM, overall satisfaction is determined by examining three factors of the home-buying experience: agent/salesperson; office; and variety of additional services.  Four factors are examined for the home-selling experience: agent/salesperson; marketing; office; and variety of additional services.

Home-Buyer Satisfaction
Overall satisfaction among home buyers averages 797 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011—a decrease of six points from 2010. The decrease is primarily due to lower satisfaction with the agent/salesperson, which is the most influential aspect of buyer satisfaction with the real estate company. Agent/salesperson satisfaction averages 814 in 2011, compared with 828 in 2010.

“Although the current real estate market—with the confluence of low home prices and historically low interest rates—creates the perception of a buyers’ market, there are still traditional barriers to purchase in place, which could be negatively affecting buyer satisfaction with their agent,” said Jim Howland, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Agents who properly manage client expectations around the home buying process and communicate with clients about potential challenges—such as higher requirements for down payments, tighter loan standards and additional costs on top of the monthly mortgage—may be better able to keep clients satisfied.”

Home-Seller Segment
Among home sellers, satisfaction with real estate companies has improved substantially to an average of 779 in 2011 from 742 in 2010. While satisfaction with each of the factors has improved from 2010, the greatest gain has occurred in the marketing factor, which has increased by 62 points in 2011.

In 2011, the variety of additional services and office factors have increased in importance to overall satisfaction, while the importance of the agent/salesperson and marketing factors have declined. According to Howland, many real estate companies have made cutbacks in additional services and offices during recent years, and the increasing importance of these areas reflects that sellers may be missing these amenities, which provides an opportunity for companies to improve satisfaction.

Other Findings/Key Trends

  • Recommendations and referrals play a key role for both buyers and sellers in choosing an agent and real estate company. In 2011, six in 10 buyers and sellers say their agent asked for a referral or recommendation—up from 47 percent in 2010.
  • The average number of homes that buyers were shown prior to making a purchase is 9.0 in 2011, down notably from 17.5 in 2010.
  • The average number of home showings in 2011 is 8.6, on average, prior to sale, down considerably from an average of 12.1 showings in 2010.
  • In 2011, just 58 percent of sellers indicate using a website listing to market their home, compared with 82 percent in 2010.

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