When looking for a new home, a homebuyer has an overwhelmingly interminable number of decisions to make. What size yard? One story or two? Country or city? Schools? Bedroom:Bathroom ratios?
Then one glorious morning, the homebuyers and the buyer’s agent find the perfect property, meeting and exceeding all of the homebuyer’s expectations! The home is in a lovely subdivision; And it is part of a Homeowners Association, or HOA. What does this mean for the homebuyer?
If you ask two different folks, both members of the same HOA, you are likely to get two very different reactions. There are numerous factors leading to such a differences of opinion in regards to HOAs. HOAs can have many perks, but it is all dependent on the individual personalities, preferences, qualities, and leadership.
What at is an HOA exactly? It is a nonprofit entity of a community, usually comprised of a board of homeowners, who enforce rules and collect a monthly, quarterly or annual membership fee. This fee covers services and maintenance that a homeowner would otherwise have to cover out-of pocket. HOAs strive to maintain consistency, conformity, conveniences, and improvements. Some of the perks can include:
~Recreation – The most rewarding benefits of an HOA can include pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, community center, or walking trails.
~Low Maintenance – In some HOAs, trash and snow removal or lawn services are covered. Common areas, such as sidewalks or parks, are likely to be maintained by the association. This can leave less work or stress for the homeowner.
~Appealing Appearances – HOAs typically frown upon unkempt yards, peeling paint, or even large or unnecessary vehicles (commercial van or RV). They can manage how many cars you can park at your house, paint colors, and outside decor. Some associations have committees that can vote to approve many issues that arise in the community. This is drives down neglected or tacky looking properties. Well taken care of properties also helps maintain property values for the neighborhood as a whole.
~Who’s the Boss? – If an issue arises with your neighbor, such as loud parties, a tree with ominous limbs, or a pesky pet, most homeowners associations are willing to help mediate the quarrel, rather than ending up in a personal battle with your neighbor.
Now some folks need the ability to run a business from home, park a large truck or vehicle in their yard, or even add a shed or an addition without pre-approval. For some people, a benefit of home ownership is being able to “do whatever you please.” HOAs can also come with a few cons:
~Fees – fees vary greatly between HOAs, and also cover different things. It’s important to check and see what is covered by a specific HOA’s dues. It’s also a good idea to remember that dues can be raised at any time and they are not tax-deductible.
~You can be fined for non-compliance – if your HOA decides you have too many flowers, and you choose not to remove them in a timely manner, they can slap you with a fine
~An HOA can evict or foreclose – if a homeowner falls behind on their HOA dues, they can have liens placed on their property, be evicted, or in some situations even face foreclosure.
~Regulations – HOAs can regulate landscaping, paint colors, swing sets or basketball hoops, trash cans, sheds or garages and numerous other things on your property.
So, Homeowners Associations can be seen as extremely valuable or they can be seen as burdensome. It is all in the eye of the beholder. If $500 a year for a pool and gym is worthwhile to you, then go for it. If freedom to paint and build on your property as you please is worthwhile to you, then go for it. Just be mindful before entering into a home purchase agreement to investigate and understand all implications of the property’s HOA, or lack thereof.