If you’re a first-time buyer and are confused about what a Home Owners Association is (or does), you should definitely ask the right questions before you consider buying. Basically, an HOA is an organization which is designed to protect the quality of life and property values for owners within a neighborhood or shared building. How they do so, though, can vary widely. Typically when you purchase a residence subject to an HOA, you’ll be required to pay monthly dues which often contribute to major repairs or maintenance or the upkeep of common/shared resources.
But HOAs can also have a significant impact on what you can and can’t do with your own home. The HOA’s rules are detailed in what’s called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). To understand how strict an HOA is (or isn’t) you’ll want to understand the details of its CC&Rs before you consider buying. These might have reasonable restrictions, such as keeping junk cars out of the front lawn, or they might extend all the way to what color you can paint your garage door.
HOAs are typically of greater concern to condo buyers than single-family home buyers, but they cannot be overlooked when searching for your next residence. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and the HOA before you make an offer:
- How comfortable am I sharing decision making about my own home? Yes, you own your property, but if you agree to abide by the CC&Rs of an HOA, you’ll need to be willing to abide by its rules.
- How much are the HOA fees, and how much have they increased over time? Your budget can be seriously impacted not only by current HOA fees, but anticipated increases. Sometimes HOAs can even require residents to chip in for major repairs or upgrades beyond HOA fees.
- What are all of the CC&Rs? Get a copy of the CC&Rs and make sure you understand all of the rules. Furthermore, see if you can sit on on an HOA board meeting or obtain notes from past meetings. This will help you understand the temperament of the HOA as well as the type of past conflicts residents have had with the board.
- Is the home (or unit) you’re considering in compliance with the HOA’s CC&Rs? If you’re considering an offer on a problematic property, understand a real hassle may follow.
If you like the idea of a group of neighbors who set community or building standards, a residence with an HOA may be for you. But if not, don’t worry! There are lots of other homes out there. Get in touch with me and I can help!