Are HOA & Condo Residents Really Happy?

Ward’s note:
A lot of CAI members furtively log onto this site just to see what we’re all talking about. I know, because I can track their IP addresses. With this in mind, today’s guest blogger, Deborah Goonan, has an astounding look at CAI’s recent and incredibly deceptive survey of homeowner happiness. Spread this one to every legislator!


guest blog by Deborah Goonan

According to Community Associations Institute, “The more than 65 million Americans who make their homes in condominiums and homeowners associations are overwhelmingly satisfied with their communities.”

The survey was done by Public Opinion Strategies for the Foundation for Community Association Research. The survey says almost two-thirds of community association residents rate their overall association experience as positive, while 26 percent are neutral on the question. Only 10 percent express some level of dissatisfaction.

Yes, we all know the spin on survey research funded by CAI, conducted by affiliates. What would be more interesting is if an impartial organization would conduct surveys of CIC residents, asking non-leading questions, and addressing more specific issues affecting residents in CICs.

This research does not even encompass basic demographic data on CIC residents such as age ranges, income ranges, geographic distribution, the number of years they have resided in a CIC, how mobile the residents are, education levels, etc. The survey asks mostly subjective questions, and allows more than one in four respondents to remain neutral on level of overall satisfaction! Less than 2 out of 3 respondents rated their CIC experience as positive. I would reject a hotel or restaurant rated at only 64% positive. And had I seen this survey before purchasing – not the news release but the survey summary – it would have steered me away from an HOA.

One can just as easily conclude from 2014 data that 36% of residents are either dissatisfied or neutral – neutral ratings can be construed as meaning that if a better option presents itself, the resident would move elsewhere. (A moot point in metro areas where very few non-CIC options exist). At least that is the way most market research is interpreted. Incidentally, comparing 2012 and 2014 data on supposed overall satisfaction, one notes that the positive rating dropped by nearly 9% (from 70%to 64%).

At the same time, respondents rating their overall CIC experience as negative increased by 25% ( from 8% to 10%). Neutrals increased by 15% (from 22% to 26%). If we combine neutrals with negatives, and compare to 2012, there has been a 20% increase (from 30% to 36%) in the number of residents who cannot rate their overall experience as positive.

By the way, if we are to conclude these percentages translate to the entire population of CIC residents, that means that 6.5 MILLION CIC residents are decidedly dissatisfied. (10% of 65 million). An additional 16.9 million CIC residents are sitting on the fence, or they have mixed feelings about their communities.

These are not small numbers. And the survey has not even touched on several important issues:

* How many residents own vs. rent?

* How many owners are underwater on a mortgage?

* How old is the community where they reside?

* How many residents live in the respondents community?

* What amenities do they have, and which of those do they use regularly?

* How many units does each respondent own? (Very relevant, and it would be interesting to correlate satisfaction with level of financial interest in a CIC)

* What factors led to the resident’s decision to buy or rent in their current community?

* If they could move elsewhere, would they?

* Did they purchase their home directly, or inherit it?

* Knowing what they now know, would they buy/rent in their same community, or would they choose a different community, perhaps not in a CIC?

*  How about measuring the level of knowledge CIC residents have?

An educational organization, which CAI claims to be, might want to know: how many CIC residents have read their governing documents? (Or are even aware of their existence?)

* How many are familiar with their relevant statutes?

* Have residents ever attended a meeting, and if so how often?

* Do they vote in elections, or is the developer still in control?

* Do the residents even know whether their Board is Developer-appointed or Owner-controlled?

* Do they know the rules? Do they know how votes are allocated and how they are cast?

* Do they know what to do if they are having trouble paying assessments?

* Are they aware that the CIC can lien or foreclose their home?

* Do they know their legal rights in the event they get a violation notice, or if the Association fails to maintain or repair common areas per the CCRs?

Lots of questions. Not many answers.

(link to CAI survey summary)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

6 thoughts on “Are HOA & Condo Residents Really Happy?

  1. Caroline

    What a fantastic blog posting and analysis on the findings of a survey done by Public Opinion Strategies, for the Foundation of Community Associations Research, by Deborah Goonan. This factual analysis of the survey provides a completely different view of their “reported” results.

    Other questions concerning CIC residents Deborah Goonan brings up in this post are warranted and valid. These are factors not being considered, or taken into account in the survey. I believe if most homeowners in these groups, and homeowners across America knew who CAI and their affiliates were and what they reportedly do, they would want nothing to do with them personally, nor would they want their CIC involved, or paying any of their monies to them. Look at the facts and experiences of far too many abused, and too many homeless, due to no fault of their own. Far too many of these cases appear criminal and it is not the homeowners who are the criminals.

    Look at their published reading materials and you will get an idea. Better yet, get to know an insider, or former insider, or former “credentialed professional.”

  2. Nila Ridings

    I agree. Deborah has a wealth of knowledge and experience and fortunately she is willing to share it.

    Those of us who have invested years of our lives in investigating, reading about, and discussing HOAs and COAs know all to well the CAI is spreading pure propaganda. I always think of Bernie Madoff, Enron, and people like Jerry Sandusky when I think of the CAI. They were all very successful at fooling a lot of people for a very long time but they finally got what was coming to them. I have no doubts that day is coming for the CAI, too. People are waking up and recognizing the truth, thanks to people like Deborah who will stand up in an effort to protect those who have no clue what lies ahead with the massive risks of owning in an HOA.

  3. hoasavers

    Wonderful valid questions! Most owners don’t know what is going on! I’m gonna guess 99% wouldn’t be happy if they knew their values are affected negatively, the boards and mgmt co’s are mismanaging the money, not following reserves studies, are handling some issues so poorly they are exposing their hoas to potential lawsuits…they are failing on so many levels and most homeowners have no clue! 99% is more accurate if you question the ones that know the truth.

  4. Dave Russell

    Great blog Deborah! This CAI Survey is nothing but a farce! I wonder…..was the CAI surveying the people…. or their pets?

  5. melody

    It is amazing and hoasavers summed it all up. IF all homeowners really knew what was going on they would be dissatisfied. The problem is how do you get really ignorant people to take the sunglasses off. I agree with both Nila and Deborah but wanted to share with you the latest attempt from my HOA. They sent me a shopper of home buying on my street and funny out of all the houses she picked to call me at random. Isn’t that a dead giveaway and a dead ringer for a CAI maneuver. She proceeds to ask me how our neighborhood was and she was thinking of buying. Did she really think I was stupid and was going to play into the YOU DEFAMED the sale of our homes. I told her I was not the one to ask and sent her to this site. I told her your best resource is education , this site and court records. You can find out a lot about a HOA just by the lawsuits filed. DESPITE at our last meeting where i was threatened and put in the hospital by the fear 2 board members and 2 of their buddies put in me that night, the board still admitted that a filed lawsuit really wasn’t a lawsuit. Do you realize a homeowner that was at that meeting still stated to me the day after there was no lawsuit to me and she argued about it . I guess the lawsuit still pending in the courts was a CAI smokescreen and was there for reading pleasure. The moral of all this is you can say the sky is blue to fool some people but they are in denial you will not convince there is any thing going on. These are the denial people waiting for the HOA to come crumbling down before they will wake up and do something about it. Maybe CAI told them ignore it it will go away

  6. BobFrank

    Bravo Deborah!! In the past couple of years you have grown to become a force to be reckoned with in the HOA and Condo world!

    Now, if only a parallel universe of homeowners and renters could be formed into a credible non-profit organization to challenge the CAI gladiators in battle in the state legislatures and local governments.

    Without such a parallel organization focused entirely on unit owner and other occupant needs, CAI will continue to control our lives and fortunes. But, we can reach the voters and conduct winning battles with CAI and friends if we will just get properly organized.

    I would lead such an organization myself if I was not too old and living on retirement income. What we need is a young (25 to 45) honorable, ethical entrepreneur with the talent and God-loving soul and passion to lead a national movement. Then, those of us who can help, will.

    No doubt investment funds could be found to launch such a homeowner coalition if the right leader with the right business plan was identified. With such a massive, global market potential, maybe the TV stars of SharkTank might be enticed to invest, or refer someone who would?

    It is even possible to envision a middle-ranking developer might find it worthwhile investing in such a parallel organization. The future of HOAs and Condos may favor those developers who see the handwriting on the walls and elect to hedge their business bets with new and different types of home construction strategies.

    Where are the young leaders with the talent and calling for such a worthy cause for our nation and themselves? With the proper business plan, such an entrepreneur could find it well worth their time and energy. And, as CAI has proven, there are all kinds of for-profit spinoff opportunities in the home markets for such a leader.


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