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Ontario homeowners have made their selections for the best builders of the year, choosing Swank Construction Ltd., Land Ark Homes and Daniels Corp. as the best among a field of 140 competitors.

The Ontario New Home Warranty Program, a private corporation responsible for administering Ontario's New Home Warranties Plan Act, handed out its Earnest Assaly Ontario Builder of the Year Awards at the Ontario Home Builders' Association conference. The prizes are meant to recognize exceptional customer service and excellence in the home building industry and are based on a survey of homeowner satisfaction.

"We've definitely seen the need for better responsiveness from home builders," said Janice Mandel, vice president of corporate affairs for the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. "Customers expect more today. They want a quick response to their phone calls for after sales service."

All the winners and finalists are providing that service, and 59 per cent of surveyed homeowners said they were "extremely satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the quality of construction and repairs, she said.

Swank Construction, the Iroquois firm that builds homes in Dundas, Leeds and Grenville counties, won in the small volume category, which covers projects of between 10 and 74 occupied units.

Land Ark Homes of Ottawa, which builds two-storey and bungalow-style homes in Stittsville, Kanata and Ottawa, received top honours in the large volume category, which covers projects of 75 occupied units or more. This is the second year in a row it has won in this category. Current projects include Ridingview Estates in Stittsville and Vance Farm in Carp.

Daniels, the Toronto builder of condominiums and single family homes, won best builder in the high-rise category. Daniel's high-rise projects include the New York Towers at Bayview and Sheppard, 500 Queens Quay West, King's Point in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Villa Giardino in Woodbridge.

"It's not just the selling, it's how we build and service so the customer has a good experience," Mitchell Cohen, president of Daniels, said about the firm's strategy. "Four hundred suites means 400 people we have to get to know. We are building 1,000 homes right now, and we have to get to know one homeowner at a time."

Unlike most industry awards, the Earnest W. Assaly awards are determined by evaluating random homeowner surveys, conducted by Decima Research, and by site inspections carried out by the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. The company invited 363 of the nearly 5,000 new home builders in the province to participate and received the participation of 140.

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