Zogby International conducted research from August 2005 to November 2007, interviewing condominium owners nationwide about their thoughts on association living.
In effect, what do Americans say about condo association and HOA living? Are they miserable wretches put upon by dictatorial boards and grossly incompetent managers living unkempt hovels built by sleazy, disreputable builders? Or, do they sing the praises of their association in A flat, with butterflies and bluebirds hovering around them as they admire their Oz-like existence?
Here is what owners have to say:
Close to 60 million out of 300 million Americans live in a development controlled by a condominium or homeowners association.
What you may find surprising is most people surveyed said their community association living experience was positive; they believe the board members try to serve the best interests of the community; they think the managers provide value and support for their community; and they are satisfied with the return they get on their assessments. (These pollsters should come spend a day answering my phone!)
Among some of the more scientific results:
About 76 percent gave positive feedback about their community being there to protect and promote property values (for purposes of this column I have averaged the 2005 and '07 results).
About 51 percent said their board "absolutely" strives to serve the best interests of the community while another 38 percent said "for the most part," a total positive response in excess of 89 percent. (The disgruntled ones usually run around 10 percent based on actual observations, so this number was not surprising.)
In my opinion, association board members could do a better job of tooting their own horns and communicating all the good things they do, in order to enhance their image with the owners.
Close to 90 percent said they are on friendly terms with the board. More than three-quarters of the owners surveyed agree that rules enhance the property values. I have heard several people argue recently that the rules should be abolished. Apparently, some owners would rather be subject once again to the arbitrary whims of a landlord and not rules created out of the democratic process.
Another three-quarters said they thought their manager provided value and support to its residents. One must keep in mind that it is usually the disgruntled ones who speak out, since no one would lead a public outcry at a meeting about how great the board and the manager are. Consider the complainers are only a very small minority in general, or else the board would be replaced.
In addition, more than 80 percent expressed opinions offering only positive experiences in dealing with the manager.
I find it interesting that only 70 percent indicated that the association should seek legal action when owners neglect to pay their assessments. I am not sure if this is sympathy being expressed over people with financial hardships, or people who are afraid of repercussions, but without aggressively pursuing delinquents some associations would have to file for bankruptcy.
Less than a third of those surveyed said that they were more likely to purchase their home because it did have an association.
A new, topical line of questioning was about environmental and "green" issues, and about two-thirds say the board should be empowered to pursue these concerns, such as installation of solar panels or hanging clothes out on a line.
Overall, some people might be surprised at the mostly positive results of this poll. However, if association living was not being positively received in most communities and sought out by many buyers, it would not have been as popular as it was, and it may have disappeared from the new housing market.
In viewing these comments on this lifestyle, one can consider that this is a good opportunity for a board to assess the values and opinions of its owner residents, on the association, their lifestyle and assessment of the board and the manager's performance. Boards of directors are often subject to criticism for being distant or operating in secret, but what better way to obtain information and circulate the results back to the owners than conducting its own survey. You may find that the majority of owners do not want to fill in the pool with concrete or leave poison out for all the dogs.
by Jordan Shifrin