Make a condo, townhome or other community association property your second home and, chances are, you'll be pretty happy with your choice.

More than seven in 10 condo and townhome residents say they are satisfied with their purchase, according to a recent survey conducted by Zogby International for the Foundation for Community Association Research.

The foundation periodically conducts the survey to keep tabs on the perceptions of those who live in condos and townhomes and to identify recent trends in the condo world.

Satisfaction is a big trend in housing communities governed by homeowners associations due to a host of reasons.

Compared to single-family homes, condos are generally less expensive.

That's particularly true in areas where condo speculation once ran rampant, including Florida, Nevada, California and other areas which are now loaded with bargains not seen in years. Cheaper prices make condos cheaper to operate as a vacation home, because property taxes, homeowners insurance and utility bills cost less.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that in November, a 13-month supply of condos had swamped the market. That was the biggest backlog since NAR began keeping condo statistics in 1999. The National Association of Home Builders expects the oversupply to last through 2009.

Condos are also easy on your back.

Landscaping chores are managed not by you, but by the homeowners association. And, given the average condo has a smaller square footage footprint than the average single-family home, keeping the interior spic and span is easier too. Again, if your property is a vacation home, you'll spend much less time and money on upkeep than you would with the average sized single-family home.

What's more, the homeowners association, as the community's on-site governing body, is there to serve the best interests of the community. The association protects your home's value, provides security for the community and uses a professional management company to keep on top of operations.

With a single-family home, not only could you spend more, but you are also pretty much on your own keeping things in tip-top shape. That's tough when you've got vacation home guests coming and going.

It's key for buyers to understand that buying a second home in a community association is a lot like buying a share in a closely held, publicly traded, real estate holding company run by a board of directors -- typically volunteers with little experience.

"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.

But most buyers do get it and have no qualms about how a condo community operates. The Zogby survey said more than 90 percent of those who buy a condo either were not put off by the living style or were motivated to buy because of it.

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, according to Community Associations Institute.

The Zogby survey also found:

  • Eighty-eight percent of community association residents believe their association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community.
  • Seventy-three percent of residents say management companies provide value to their communities.
  • Seventy-four percent believe community association rules "protect and enhance" property values.
  • Homeowners in homeowner association governed communities pay assessments for services and amenities such as landscaping, trash pickup, street lighting, pools and tennis courts. Nearly 80 percent say they get a good return for their assessment.
  • Eighty-six percent said they knew they were moving into a homeowner association governed community when they decided to purchase; 61 percent had no qualms about the association's existence, 30 percent said the association made them more likely to buy or rent.
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