Although conditions in the real estate market point to the continued existence of a buyers' market, homebuyers indicate they are less satisfied with real estate company services, compared with 2010, while home-seller satisfaction has improved during the same time period, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Home Buyer/Seller Study. The study, now in its fourth year, measures customer satisfaction of homebuyers and sellers with the largest national real estate companies. The 2011 Home Buyer/Seller Study includes more than 4,200 evaluations from more than 3,680 respondents who bought or sold a home between March 2010 and April 2011. The study was fielded between March and May 2011. Overall satisfaction is determined by examining three factors of the homebuying experience: ►Agent/salesperson; ►Office; and ►A variety of additional services. Four factors were examined for the home-selling experience: ►Agent/salesperson; ►Marketing; ►Office; and ►A variety of additional services. Overall satisfaction among homebuyers 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 homebuying 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." In the homebuyer segment, RE/MAX ranks highest with a score of 805. Following RE/MAX in the rankings are Coldwell Banker (802) and Better Homes & Gardens (801). Coldwell Banker performs particularly well in the agent/salesperson factor while Better Homes & Gardens performs well in the variety of additional services factor. 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. Among home sellers, RE/MAX ranks highest with a score of 791 and performs particularly well in the agent/salesperson and office factors. Following RE/MAX in the rankings are Prudential Real Estate (786) and Century 21 (785). Century 21 performed particularly well in the variety of additional services factor. The study findings include the following 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 nine 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 Web site listing to market their home, compared with 82 percent in 2010.