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Contrary to popular opinion, most HOA residents are truly content

Americans who make their homes in homeowners associations and condominiums are overwhelmingly satisfied with their communities.
Americans who make their homes in homeowners associations and condominiums are overwhelmingly satisfied with their communities.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It has been said quite often that a vocal minority often outshines a quiet majority. In the case of homeowners associations, this analogy works very well. According to a recent survey by Public Opinion Strategies for the Foundation for Community Association Research, Americans who make their homes in homeowners associations and condominiums are overwhelmingly satisfied with their communities.

Almost two-thirds of the 65 million owners and renters in common-interest communities rate their overall association experience as positive, while only 10 percent express some level of dissatisfaction. Twenty-six percent are neutral on the question.

"I'd like to meet a local, state or national politician who wouldn't want such approval ratings," says Thomas Skiba, CAE, chief executive officer of the Foundation and Community Associations Institute (CAI). "All institutions have issues-our schools, businesses, government and the entertainment industry-but I think it's safe to say community associations fare very well in comparison."

The survey, which was conducted between March and April of this year, also revealed that 90 percent of residents say association board members serve the best interests of their communities. 83 percent say they get along well with the immediate neighbors, though it didn't say how many knew their neighbors names.

70 percent of residents say their association rules protect and enhance property values, which is arguably the primary reason for the existence of HOAs, while only 4 percent say the rules harm property values.

"This affirms four previous national surveys showing that the people who live in condominiums and homeowners associations are overwhelmingly pleased with their communities," says Skiba, whose nonprofit organization provides information, education and resources to help association leaders. "More than anything else, this survey affirms the dedication of homeowner leaders and community association managers who work to build and sustain successful communities."

The typical community association-whether a condominium, cooperative or homeowners association-is governed by homeowner volunteers who are elected by their fellow owners to set policy for the community. Smaller associations with limited budgets may rely on resident volunteers for various management responsibilities, such as accounting functions and assessment collection, while larger associations contract for the services of a professional community manager or association management company. 83 percent say their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations.

A rather high 92 percent stated that they are on friendly terms with their association board members (the homeowners who are elected by their neighbors to govern the community). More than two million Americans serve as volunteers on community association boards and committees.

"Not all associations operate as well as they should, and we're never happy when we see a community in the news for the wrong reasons," Skiba says, "but at least we know struggling communities are the exception to the rule.

CAI says discontent in associations can be caused by a number of factors, including unreasonable association boards, residents who disregard rules they have agreed to follow and difficult financial circumstances, which became especially critical for many homeowners and associations during the housing and economic downturn.

"Any number of dissatisfied people is too many, but that's an ongoing challenge for any organization, business or enterprise," says Skiba. "Disagreements and conflict are inevitable, but it's important to remember that issues in community associations cut both ways. Just as there are some poorly governed communities, many associations must contend with very difficult and intransigent residents, including some owners who refuse to follow established rules or pay their fair share for utilities, services and amenities provided by the association."

Skiba says the keys to successful associations are open communication between residents and association leaders, a commitment to transparency in governance, dedicated volunteers and adherence to best practices for association governance and management.

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