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National Survey Affirms Resident Satisfaction

1/17/2008  -  Alexandria, VA
New research by a respected international polling firm affirms that an overwhelming majority of Americans who live in community associations are satisfied with their communities, a finding that refutes those who use isolated anecdotal evidence to paint a negative image of common-interest communities.

More than seven in 10 community association residents say they are satisfied with their community association experience, according to the survey conducted by Zogby International in November 2007. Only 9 percent express dissatisfaction, with 19 percent neutral on the question.

The survey was sponsored by the Foundation for Community Association Research, a nonprofit organization created in 1975 to facilitate greater understanding of community associations.

The 2007 findings are consistent with national surveys conducted by Zogby in August 2005 and the Gallup Organization in 1999. The 2007 survey confirms and reinforces what community association residents told Zogby in 2005, including:

  • They believe their association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community.
  • They think their community managers provide value and support to the association.
  • They believe association rules protect and enhance property values.
  • They are satisfied with the return they get on their association assessments.
  • They do not welcome additional government intrusion in their communities.

"Community association living isn't perfect, and for some it's just not a good fit, but it's reassuring to know that most residents believe their associations are functioning effectively," said Foundation President Robert Browning, PCAM, RS. "As positive as they are, these findings do not lessen our determination to help board members do an even better job and to develop and deliver education and training to increase professionalism among managers and others who serve associations."

Eighty-eight percent of community association residents believe their association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community. Almost 50 percent say this is "absolutely" true, while about 40 percent say it's true "for the most part." Ten percent say it's not true, which is consistent with the 9 percent of residents who express differing levels of dissatisfaction with their associations.

Many associations use professional management services, and 73 percent of residents say their managers provide value to their communities. Among those residents who have interacted with their professional managers, 79 percent say their experiences were positive, down from 88 percent in 2005.

"With just a few exceptions, the 2007 findings track very closely with the 2005 Zogby data," said CAI Chief Executive Officer Thomas M. Skiba, CAE. "This affirms not only the positive perceptions of people who live in community associations, but also the validity of the Zogby research as an effective measure of the community association industry.

"Still, some associations do not meet minimum standards of competence," Skiba adds. "That's unfortunate, but isolated incidents should not blemish the excellent work being done by hundreds of thousands of committed board members and management professionals across the country."

Rules and Property Values

Developed and enforced to maintain community aesthetics and protect property values, community association rules are often the source of friction between associations and individual residents. Although some residents would prefer to see fewer restrictions, 74 percent believe community association rules "protect and enhance" property values. Only 3 percent say rules harm property values, while about 22 percent see no difference. Rules can involve architectural elements, pets, landscaping, parking and fences.

For instance, when asked to name the "worst thing" about living in a common-interest community, 15 percent of residents mentioned restrictions on exterior home improvements. Thirty-six percent cited nothing negative about their associations, an increase of 11 percentage points over 2005.

Return on Assessments

Homeowners in planned communities pay assessments for services and amenities such as landscaping, trash pickup, street lighting, pools and tennis courts. Almost eight in 10 say they get a good return for their assessments, while 20 percent expressed some level of dissatisfaction. Monthly assessments can range from less than $25 to more than $500. Fifty-four percent pay less than $100 a month, while 31 percent pay between $100 and $300.

Regulation/Environmental Issues

The survey revealed that community association residents do not want more government involvement in the business of their associations, with 80 percent opposing greater government intervention. Zogby delved even deeper on environmental issues, asking residents whether associations should be forced by government to allow clotheslines that are visible to neighbors. Seventy-four percent said no and 18 percent said yes.

The preference for association autonomy was less apparent—although still a solid majority—on the issue of solar panels, with 59 percent saying associations should have the right to control the scope and placement of the devices.

Pre-purchase Awareness

Eighty-six percent of respondents said they knew they were moving into an association when they decided to purchase or rent. For 61 percent, the existence of an association had no impact on their decision, but 30 percent said the association made them more likely to buy or rent. Nine percent said they were hesitant to join an association community.

Based on more than 700 telephone interviews conducted in November 2007, the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points. Seventy-nine percent of respondents live in single-family homes or townhouses, 16 percent in condominiums and 6 percent in cooperatives and other forms of common-interest housing.

Zogby International has been tracking public opinion since 1984 in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

A summary of the results is available.

More than 60 million Americans live in an estimated 300,000 homeowner associations, condominium communities, cooperatives and other planned developments, up from 45 million residents in 223,000 communities in 2000.

CAI is a national membership organization dedicated to fostering vibrant, competent, harmonious common-interest communities. Founded in 1973, CAI and its 58 chapters provide education, tools and resources to the volunteers who govern communities and the professionals who support them. CAI's 28,500+ members include community association volunteer leaders (homeowners), professional association managers and management firms and other professionals who provide products and services to community associations.

Phone: 703-970-9235