05 May Deciding to Move into an HOA Community
A homeowners association, or HOA, is a planned, sometimes gated, development of houses, condominiums or townhouses. A committee or board of directors operates the HOA and sets regulations. A paid management company or a group of volunteers may enforce these regulations.
HOAs come in many different shapes and sizes. They are a product of the people and communities they represent. Each one works only as well as those who manage it. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of HOAs and when to sign an agreement with one.
Advantages of an HOA
If you’re the kind of person who wants a very dependable, homogeneous experience, then an HOA may be your cup of tea. A reliable appearance of the homes, all sharing certain qualities, is the most visible outcome of HOA regulations.
If dependability is worth limiting your options for what you can do with your property, then the HOA will give you that assurance. The HOA helps ensure that the idiosyncrasies of a few less-typical neighbors do not spoil the overall look.
Another benefit is the appearance of common spaces. Manicured entrances and street medians are more than one person can maintain consistently. An HOA may purchase and maintain fancy street lamps and other decorative options to create a uniform look.
Perks like community pools, playgrounds, tennis courts and community buildings enhance the lives of all the families in the neighborhood. These features can be more grand than those owned by one household. Plus, you enjoy them for less when the whole community shares the cost.
If you like the idea of a community with a central source of planning, you can enjoy parties and activities all year long!
Often in HOAs, trash, snow and leaf disposal is organized for the entire community. So you don’t have to shop around for vendors. The HOA negotiates services and cost.
If there is a dispute or a problem like barking dogs, noisy parties or an encroaching tree limb, the HOA can be an neutral aid to maintain peaceful enforcement. In other words, they can help everyone get along.
Disadvantages of an HOA
All these services come at a cost. Fees vary from association to association. Some fees remain low, but occasionally include a special assessment for an unplanned expense. Some neighborhoods charge higher fees, but may better avoid these unforeseen expenses by saving for them along the way.
Control vs. Freedom
The idea of someone telling us what we can or cannot do on our property ruffles the feathers of many an individualist. If you want to keep a recreational vehicle visible from the road or paint your house hot pink, maybe an HOA community is not for you.
You may not enjoy the regular meetings, either. The meetings may turn into a frustrating public forum for open remarks about property and behavior.
The HOA takes in the fees and shoulders responsibility of maintaining good stewardship of those funds. Since people are imperfect and may make bad decisions, a resident may not be happy with the results. If you need help with an HOA that isn’t living up to its promises read this post.
Before You Sign
Read Governing Documents
Read all the papers carefully. The declaration, the bylaws and the rules will give you the operating documents currently in place. You can also request the HOA community’s budget so that you understand how it manages money. Seek legal advice, if you need it, to fully understand the paperwork.
Attend a Meeting
If you are able to attend a meeting, especially the large annual meeting of the association, it can be illuminating. You can observe how disputes are worked out and how the power is held. People on the boards do change. Each year, the situation could be very different.
Ask to See the Newsletter and Interview Neighbors
Ask your potential neighbors what they like and dislike about their HOA. Read the notes from meetings over the past year. Look for surprises. Also ask your HOA about any special assessments and reserves. For example, are they saving to prepare for large maintenance expenses like roofs or parking lots?
After You Join
If you decide to move in and join the HOA, you can take an active role by participating. You will get to know the current leadership and gain some influence as you build relationships. Sitting out and complaining is not a good solution.
Homeowners who become involved, or even hold offices on the board have a voice in decisions. Homeowners can also request a rule change or an individual waiver, but there’s no guarantee that such a request will be granted.
Many families dream of owning their homes. An HOA can have a powerful influence, so make sure the community has ideas that align with yours. If you move in unprepared, you may have a frustrating time for the years that you live there. It is worth it to do your homework!