Are U.S. residents satisfied with their HOAs, or simply stuck with them?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


You may have seen reports of “objective” surveys that reveal that the majority of Americans who reside in homeowners,’ condominium, and cooperative associations are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with their overall community experience.

But don’t put too much faith in HOA satisfaction surveys, especially those conducted by and for Community Associations Institute (CAI), the trade group whose members make their money “serving” association-governed, common interest communities.

Think about it. Would you believe the results of a survey paid for and conducted by ANY other industry measuring satisfaction for their own products and services?

No, of course not.

The association-governed, common interest community management sector of the real estate industry conveniently concludes that its captive consumers are loving the product and services they sell.

The survey data is intended to prop up the industry’s special interest political platform. At first glance, its self-funded research creates the illusion that CAI is the leading authority on how Americans and their private property should be governed.

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It’s a bit like those Hollywood award shows — the entertainment industry congratulating itself for a wonderful performance and bestowing awards upon its favorite darlings.

But industry-driven award shows and satisfaction surveys have nothing to do with what the public actually prefers. All of it is contrived marketing hype, merely a promotional stunt.

Savvy consumers must maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about any survey. The results can be – and often are – heavily skewed by several factors: the questions that are asked vs. unasked; the way the questions are worded (leading or loaded questions are common); and the people who actually take the survey. All of these variables can be manipulated, and the resulting data selectively reported to the public.

The fact is, survey and statistical data with regard to U.S. housing and community development is both incomplete and contradictory.

I have posted several articles on this website that indicate demand for HOA, condo, and co-op property is leveling off or dropping, when you look at Census data and market surveys done by the National Association of Home Builders. See the list below to read more, and check out the data that supports my conclusions.

In my observation, a minority of people actively seek out HOAs. Even CAI’s own data supports that conclusion, if you look deeper than the PR effort that cherry picks what to report to the public.

In a 2016 survey, CAI asked:

Did the fact that your current home is in a community association make you more or less interested about purchasing or renting the home, or did it have no impact?

The response was less than stellar. Only 32% said they were more interested in residing in an HOA, 8% said they were less interested, and more than half, 58%, said that the presence of an HOA had no impact upon their purchase or lease decision.

In other words, only 32%, at best, actively seek out association-governed, common interest communities.

The real reason most people buy or rent in one of these “communities” is because, in many of the fastest growing housing markets, they really cannot avoid doing so. Growing U.S. housing markets are supply-side driven, because, for the past three decades, virtually every new residential development approved by planning commissions and local governments has been HOA, Condo, or co-op.

Many local governments mandate (or de facto mandate) HOAs because they don’t want to take on the expense of developing new infrastructure, and elected officials don’t want to raise taxes to pay for ongoing public services.

As a result, a developer passes on construction costs to consumers, incorporating those costs into the sale price of new construction. This explains, in part, why housing, especially new construction, is unaffordable for most homebuyers.

And, after the sale, America’s housing consumers inevitably pay more, because they are, in effect, double taxed. Homeowners must pay HOA/condo/co-op assessments in addition to property taxes, with the association providing services that would have otherwise been provided by local governments.

Add to this the fact that, according to a 2014 CAI survey, nearly one in four homeowners reported a “significant” disagreement with their association, either related to restrictions or finances. Worse yet, only half of those disputes were satisfactorily resolved, 12% were unresolved, and 36% of homeowners reported dissatisfaction with the outcomes of their disputes.

So it’s not surprising that housing data reported by the U.S. Census and other market surveys directly contradict with CAI’s claim that Americans are “overwhelmingly satisfied in their communities.”

Further reading:

Condo and homeowner associations losing popularity with today’s buyers

Market share of new home sales in HOAs remains flat for 2016

Amidst negative public opinion, pace of new construction of HOAs, condos slowing down

Are condominiums becoming obsolete?

Research reveals home buyers seek non-HOA communities

Market research suggests HOA living, amenities are unpopular

Consumers don’t want HOAs according to market survey

Reality check: HOA managers face decline of their industry, like it or not

US Census fails to track residents of HOAs, condominiums

What do we know about Large Scale Associations?


No time to read? Listen to this podcast:

On The Commons Shu Bartholomew with Deborah Goonan. (1-hr. Radio PODCAST) Join us as we discuss just 3 of the most often repeated fallacies about HOAs. Myth #1, CAI represents homeowners – Myth #2 HOAs are the purest form of democracy and Myth #3 – Survey says…. homeowners are overwhelmingly happy with their HOAs.