A Home Owners Association community is attractive to home buyers of all ages. HOA communities can provide a maintenance-free lifestyle and amenities that might not be affordable in a single-family home. An HOA is a planned community, usually started by a developer who creates a legal set of rules and regulations that residents agree to follow. In return, residents are able to live in a community with amenities and maintenance upkeep that is paid for through association dues. Depending on the HOA, dues could be required monthly, annually, or both. Most HOAs have mandatory membership, meaning that you must become a member and follow HOA rules to purchase property within the community.

When a development is completed, the association nominates board members who are usually residents of the community. The board is responsible for the ongoing management of the community, including collection of dues, creating rules, and managing the upkeep of common areas such as pools, clubhouses, and landscaping.

Advantages of Living in an HOA Community

∙ Affordability for amenities such as a club house, swimming pool, walking trails, maintained common areas, and attractive landscaping.
∙ More aesthetically pleasing homes. Because HOAs typically require the upkeep of a pleasant appearance, the entire community is well-maintained.
∙ Exterior maintenance, often including landscaping, mowing, care of amenities, and repairs to exterior residential structures. These services are paid for by the annual or monthly collective fees paid by residents.
∙ A say in the management of your community. Since you are an owner within the association, it’s possible to personally exert influence on changes or improvements in the way property is managed.

Concerns about Living in an HOA

Living in an HOA is not for everyone because there are rules and regulations that must be followed, even if you do not agree with them. This is why reading over “articles of incorporation, bylaws, and Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)” is so important before you purchase in an HOA. These documents are usually gathered in a community handbook. Never skip the process of looking them over! You might find a rule or regulation that would prevent you from living there. Some examples of restrictions might include:

∙ No yard decorations
∙ Noise-level restrictions
∙ Owning pets
∙ Limited size and weight of pet
∙ Hanging laundry outside
∙ Parked cars or motorcycles in the driveway
∙ Installing a satellite dish
∙ Type of fence you can install

Living in an HOA community comes with responsibilities. If you repeatedly break rules as a resident, the HOA likely has the right to impose you with a fine, force you to comply with the rules, or file a lawsuit against you. It can be very hard to win against an HOA board. And the people you are arguing with are your neighbors.

Know What Your HOA Dues Cover vs. Don’t Cover

If you live in a condominium community, your HOA dues should cover basic things such as snow removal of the roads, landscaping, lawn mowing, and exterior repair on things like roofing and siding. However, some HOAs don’t include trash removal, water costs, or the replacement of broken windows under your monthly fee. Read carefully what added expenses you might incur regularly and if something goes wrong. Most HOAs will require you to carry a specific kind of property insurance.

Research How Well the HOA is Managed and the History of Fee Increases

Ensure the HOA of your potential community follows through on its maintenance responsibilities and the enforcement of its own rules. Look around the whole community. Is the landscaping maintained? Does the roofing of all the condos look solid or in need of replacement? Is the paint and siding of all the units in good order? Do people keep their garbage cans tucked away or are they in plain sight? Sometimes you can get information from a few neighbors on whether the HOA does a good job.

Finally, have your agent get information through the HOA’s management company or current owner on how often the HOA fee has risen in the last few years and by how much. There could be a number of reasons for rising fees, such as an increase in maintenance costs or a proactive move to increase reserves for new roofing that will be needed in the next five years. Whatever the case, you want to know the likelihood of increasing fees and factor that into what you are willing to pay for the long term.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs): Limits and rules placed on a group of homes by a builder, developer, neighborhood association or Home Owners Association. When living in a building subject to CC&Rs, a buyer gives up certain freedoms to be part of a shared community.

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