Residential rules: How Americans view HOAs and their influence

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
December 04, 2023, 9:58 PM GMT+0

Many American homeowners don't like being told what to do, and most would prefer not to be governed by an HOA, or homeowners’ association. More people who do live under an HOA would rather not than prefer it. A recent YouGov survey finds that despite the public's qualms regarding HOAs, one in five Americans currently live in an HOA-governed community, and one in three have lived in one at some point.

HOAs are private organizations made up of homeowners and paid for by their fees that govern the shared aspects of a neighborhood. Our survey estimates that 18% of Americans — including 27% of homeowners — currently reside in a community governed by an HOA.

HOA membership is significantly more common among Americans living in the South (24%) and West (23%) than in the Midwest (10%) or Northeast (9%). People with college degrees (28%) or family incomes of $100,000 or more (33%) are also disproportionately likely to reside in an HOA neighborhood.

Among homeowners who live under an HOA, the vast majority (88%) say they pay some fees to their HOA. About half of those who pay fees say they pay $1,000 or less annually, while the other half pays more than $1,000.

Most Americans — 61% — say they would prefer to live in a neighborhood without an HOA; 14% would prefer to live with one, and 24% have no preference or aren't sure. Just 35% of people who currently live in an HOA-governed neighborhood say they prefer to live in one, while 49% say they would prefer not to.

More Americans believe HOAs have a very or somewhat negative effect on the communities they govern (45%) than a very or somewhat positive effect (21%); 21% say the effect is neutral. People who live in HOA-governed communities have a more optimistic outlook: 47% say HOAs' effect is positive, 27% say it is negative, and 21% say it is neutral.

While many people living in HOA neighborhoods say they would prefer not to, more strongly or somewhat approve (58%) than disapprove (32%) of how the HOA in their neighborhood is governed. And more say they love or like living in a neighborhood with an HOA (54%) than say they hate or dislike it (34%).

HOA dissatisfaction is tied to concerns about overregulation: 72% of people living under an HOA they disapprove of say the rules and regulations set by their HOA are too restrictive. A total of 38% of HOA residents think their HOA is too restrictive; roughly half (46%) say the rules are about right and just 8% say they are not restrictive enough.

What do Americans think HOAs should and should not regulate? A plurality of Americans support HOAs setting rules for noise levels (64%), trash and recycling bins (50%), and parking (46%). More oppose than support HOA rules for yard signs, fences, landscaping, pet ownership, exterior paint colors, home renovations, and holiday decorations.

People who live in HOA-governed neighborhoods are far more likely than those who don't to support the 10 types of HOA regulation asked about. The biggest gaps are on rules governing exterior paint colors and landscaping. However, even majorities of people living in HOA communities are opposed to rules regarding pet ownership, home renovations, and holiday decorations.

How do neighborhoods with HOAs differ from those without HOAs? Americans who live in HOA-governed neighborhoods are more likely than those who don't to say houses in their neighborhood are built close together (74% vs. 54%), are similar to one another (70% vs. 39%), and are occupied by people from the same social class (43% vs. 31%). HOA residents are about as likely as those who aren't to say they live in a neighborhood with people who are mostly from the same racial or ethnic background, rather than a mix (31% vs. 29%).

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article


See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on September 1 - 4, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Unsplash (Michael Tuszynski)