Home owner associations (also called HOAs) can become a big part of the buying decision for home buyers – some love them, some despise them. If you live in an area where there are many neighborhoods that have HOAs, or if you are thinking of moving to one, you may wonder whether they are positive or negative.
– Expenses keep the neighborhood and any common areas (streets, landscape, lighting) looking their best, which keeps property values higher. Without a governing body things could get sticky if neighbor participation is needed to fix problems.
– They protect you from having to live with unattractive decisions made by your neighbors (putting a car engine back together in the driveway, painting a garage or front door an unsightly color, dead landscape, neglected painting, siding, trim, etc.). Noise abatement, fire setback landscape maintenance rules, and other rules help keep you sane and protected
– Pet restrictions may save your hearing if your neighbors have dogs that bark a lot or use your yard as a toilet
– HOAs mediate disputes amongst neighbors. If your neighbor’s dog barking wakes you up, or if they over-water landscape and it runs into your yard – or many other types of problems that may arise – the HOA is there to reach out to the neighbor and try to resolve the issue for you. This can save your sanity and prevent strained relations with your neighbors.
– They can be expensive
– They dictate what you can and cannot do on your property (e.g landscape plans, paint choices, structural changes)
– There may be pet policies that restrict types or numbers of pets one is allowed to have on the property
– HOAs can place a lien on your property, or even force a foreclosure in some cases, if you do not pay your dues on time, which can create problems if you decide to sell your home. It can also affect your credit.
– Dues can be increased at any time, especially if there is a big ticket item that needs to be repaired (e.g. if there is a community pool and it needs to be resurfaced, or a clubhouse that needs a new roof).
The bottom line is that HOAs have both good and bad points. You have to give up some freedom to live in an HOA community, but you also can rest assured that neighbors won’t do crazy things to their properties (or at least won’t be able to get away with it) that can affect the value of your home. Also, not all HOAs are equal – some may be very good at management while others may not.
Before you consider buying a home in an HOA community you should do the following:
- Ask the neighbors how they feel about the HOA, and call them with any questions you may have.
- Make sure to read through all the HOA material you will receive from escrow, so you understand the rules and regulations you will be subject to as a homeowner – this caused one escrow to be cancelled in my years working as a real estate agent.