If you’re looking to buy a home, you may have come across listings that are part of a homeowner’s association or HOA. You’ve probably also noticed that those properties come with an additional monthly HOA fee. What is an HOA and is it a good idea to buy into a property that is part of an HOA?
A homeowners association is an organization in charge of making and enforcing the rules for a specific subdivision or planned community of houses. They are usually run by elected members of the development and typically require monthly or yearly dues from all residents within the HOA.
They can serve several purposes. First, they take care of the cost and maintenance of any shared features like a neighborhood pool or clubhouse, parking structures, tennis courts or other community recreation areas, or landscaping for the common areas within the subdivision. Second, they function as a protection for property values, by requiring all residents to keep their exterior homes and yards up to a certain standard as well as keeping all the common features in good condition. Third, HOA rules help to determine the acceptable levels of noise and cleanliness for the neighborhood as well as act as a moderating and enforcing body if the rules are broken. This hopefully prevents neighbors from getting into disputes with each other over these issues.
There are several costs associated with HOAs. Of course, there is almost always an annual or monthly membership fee, but there can also be fines for violation of HOA rules. Depending on the restrictions, this could include things like not putting your garbage cans away within the prescribed time, taking out or putting in plants without the consent of the HOA board, consistently parking too many cars in your driveway, etc. Be sure you are aware of how much rule infractions might cost you before you sign the contract.
Every HOA is different, and some have stricter rules and enforcement than others. The rules are generally contained in what is called the C,C&Rs or Contracts, Covenants, and Restrictions. You can get a hold of these before you agree to purchase a home to make sure you are on board with all the requirements. Once you move into such a neighborhood if you fail to comply with the rules, you’ll probably receive letters from the board to comply. In extreme cases, you could be sued by the HOA for failure to abide by the C,C&Rs. You should also check to see how the bylaws are enforced before you buy.
An HOA can often be a source of connection with the residents of your housing development. HOAs can host community events like holiday parties, picnics, garage sales, and charity drives. Getting involved with these happenings can provide opportunities to meet and become friends with your neighbors and strengthen the sense of community.
So, if all of this sounds like heaven on earth, an HOA is just right for you. If, however, all the rules and fees sound restrictive and intrusive, you should probably look for properties without an HOA.