Pulte Homes, Standard Pacific Homes and DiVosta Homes won the highest acclaim from Tampa Bay customers in the 2009 J.D. Power and Associates home builder survey.
Adams Homes, D.R. Horton and Beazer Homes ranked last on questionnaires that rate a builder's sales staff, construction management, design center and workmanship.
Pulte, which also owns the more upscale DiVosta brand, is a perennial top finisher in the survey.
J.D. Power vice president Paula Sonkin said workmanship loomed larger in this year's survey. That's because many buyers bought surplus inventory homes that were nearly completed, limiting customer contact with salespeople and construction managers.
But good customer service, particular in handling new home warranties, earned builders brownie points.
"Even if they suffered on workmanship, they can recoup satisfaction if they solve problems efficiently," Sonkin said.
The housing drought is thinning the herd of builders in the Tampa Bay area. Several mainstays of previous surveys, including David Weekley Homes, Kimball Hill and Mercedes Homes, dropped off the list this year. Some didn't sell enough homes to qualify. Others have left the market.
J.D. Power also did a separate new home quality survey. Beazer and Adams, two bottom finishers on the satisfaction survey, vaulted to the higher ranks in quality in the Tampa Bay area.
Sonkin suggested customers viewed those builders as cost effective, even if their experiences with company employees were less than positive.
Best, worst on J.D. Power list
Home builder customer satisfaction in the Tampa Bay region (out of 1,000):
Standard Pacific: 891
Taylor Morrison: 805
D.R. Horton: 781
Source: J.D. Power and Associates