Homeowner associations, or HOAs, were originally designed to create desirable living spaces for residents. But have they become an outdated relic of neighborhoods past? One thing's for sure: Lots of people don't like them. As housing prices continue to increase, many people are reluctant to pay a monthly fee on top of their rent or mortgage, particularly to an organization they don't agree with. Additionally, people may have to pay even more to their HOAs for citations and fines.
We looked at conversations about HOAs online as well as at Redfin housing data to determine what makes an HOA unacceptable to its residents and the locations of the worst ones. Specifically, we looked at the reasons homeowners are being punished, how they feel about their boards, and how much they're paying for an HOA. Read more of our findings below.
Crime and punishment
To begin, we looked at all the different reasons HOAs issued citations to their members. We also determined the average amount homeowners had to pay for each infringement.
Turns out, it's a lot. Homeowners paid an average of just under $120 for each fine they received. On average, HOAs also charged homeowners an additional $60 for missed dues. There are several reasons people might miss dues, including not being able to afford them, the HOA raising fees or being new to a neighborhood and unaware of dues collection procedures.
The most common citations HOAs issued to homeowners were for parking violations, inadequate lawn care, unsatisfactory repairs and fence violations. "Unsatisfactory repairs" translates to repairs that aren't completed to HOA standards. For example, residents may have their roof replaced but fail to check HOA guidelines on acceptable materials, energy efficiency ratings or architectural integrity.
The fourth-most common citation, for fence violations, abounded almost twice as much as the next most common citation—unauthorized signs or decorations. Keep in mind that depending on where you live, you may be able to challenge some of these rules.
The most common citations were also among the most expensive. Parking violations carried an average fine of $209.17—a lot to pay for a single infringement. And while you might think that enforcing these rules at least made for a better living environment, most residents were not pleased with their HOA.
The truth revealed
Next, we focused on how homeowners felt about their HOA. We used data and online conversations to reveal their biggest problems and the state with the most complaints.
A sentiment analysis of all conversations about HOAs on Reddit from the last year found that only 7% were positive. And almost two-thirds of conversations were negative. There are several reasons why somebody might dislike their HOA, but the top three given in our study of HOA-related complaints were about inconsistent treatment or favoritism among neighbors, undeserved citations and trespassing board members.
Although expensive dues made the top five list of complaints, it wasn't the biggest problem for most homeowners. In fact, none of the five states with the most complaints—California, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Washington—coincided with those with the most expensive dues. So in most instances, homeowners' grievances with HOAs go beyond mere expense.
Enforcement discrepancies among neighbors, the No. 1 HOA-related complaint, varied widely. For example, some complained about neighbors not cooperating to solve a problem or ratting to the HOA. Others expressed frustration that their neighbors broke HOA rules but never got in trouble—perhaps while they themselves were having to spend large amounts of money placating the board.
Our study found the monthly dues for some HOAs were dramatically high. Most often, it's luxury properties charging these high HOA fees, especially those in large metropolitan areas or near popular resort towns.
For the most part, we found the highest HOA monthly dues in affluent neighborhoods inside or just outside major cities. Two New York City neighborhoods, including Forest Hills, Long Island City and New York City as a whole, appeared in the top 10 list. Rosslyn, VA, which came in at number four, lies just across the river from Washington, D.C., and is full of new construction. California also had a few areas with unusually high HOA fees: namely, West Hollywood, an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Newport Beach.
Snyderville, UT, recorded average HOA dues of $2,300 per month, probably due to its location near Park City, a popular ski destination. Deer Valley, UT, which saw an average of $1,517.50 per month, is also located in Park City. Many of these homes are likely to be vacation homes, meaning homeowners are paying extremely high fees on properties they don't even live in full time. Plus, belonging to an HOA might mean they have a hard time renting out their property to recoup costs when they're not in residence.
Dues around the country
Lastly, we looked at home listings from around the country to see which states were costing their residents the most in monthly HOA dues. Overall, the U.S. average was $286. That makes New York's average of $990.47 per month over $700 more expensive than the national norm—and nearly 28 times higher than the cheapest state, West Virginia, where residents can expect to pay just $37.04 per month, on average.
However, costs vary widely within each state, making it possible that one could find HOAs with much lower dues in certain parts of New York than in certain parts of West Virginia.
Of the top five most expensive states, four of them were in the Northeast: New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. A number of Great Plains states, meanwhile, accounted for those with low HOA fees. These trends mainly fall in line with the average cost of living in different areas of the country. Due to low HOA member populations and insufficient data, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota don't appear on this list.
The future of HOAs
With an overwhelmingly negative sentiment toward HOAs online, it's easy to see why many homebuyers avoid HOAs altogether and why young people are trying to change them. But if you're looking to buy into one of these communities and high HOA dues are your biggest concern, avoid the Northeast United States and neighborhoods around big cities. Less populated states and less crowded areas tend to have lower HOA fees.
However, our study found that the worst-behaved HOAs were in California, Florida and Texas, so keep that in mind when buying in these states. To avoid costly citations, make sure to park correctly and maintain your yard, since infringements of these two rules were the most likely to result in HOA action.
Whether you have an HOA or not, consider investing in a home protection plan from Cinch Home Services for added security. Cinch's plans can help you pay for large replacement and repair costs, help you find qualified service providers and aid you in dealing with the unexpected when it comes to your home. Get a quote to see how Cinch can help you.
This study scraped 56,000 listings from Redfin, including information about the state, city and monthly HOA dues for each property. Additionally, 2,758 posts from the subreddits r/HOA and r/fuckhoa were scraped. A sentiment analysis was performed on all of the posts to determine if each was positive, neutral or negative. Additionally, a semantic analysis was performed to look for recurring words to determine the most common citations and fine amounts.
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