Understanding a Home Owners Association (HOA)



If you are thinking about moving into a neighborhood that has a HomeOwners Association (HOA), there are things that you will want to keep in mind.  If you plan to live in a condominium, or townhouse neighborhood, then you will most likely live under the CC&R (covenants, conditions & restrictions) of their HOA.  There are also many master planned communities and neighborhoods that operate under the umbrella of an HOA; the point of HOAs is to promote a consistent atmosphere throughout the complex or neighborhood.  There is an elected board that oversees that CC&Rs and helps maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

When buying a property that is part of an HOA make sure that you are able to live with the CC&Rs, get a copy of the HOA bylaws during your Attorney/Inspection Review period and review to make sure you understand what will be expected of you as a member of the community.  Many HOA’s CC&Rs require property owners to get approval before changing things like outside doors, light fixtures or adding structures to their property  in order to promote cohesiveness.  They may also levy fines if property owners do not maintain their landscaping or maintenance of their property.  It is important to note that if you are fined and do not pay the fines, the HOA can put a lien on your property for the unpaid fines and might even be able to foreclose on your property.   This is why it is important to review the CC&Rs before moving in. If you cannot live with such restrictions, an HOA community may not be the right choice for you.

HOA communities require monthly dues and vary depending on the size of common grounds and amenities. Dues are used for the maintenance of the common grounds and if the community has additional amenities these fees take care of the upkeep of things like parks, swimming pools and sports complexes.  Keep in mind when considering moving into an HOA community that your monthly dues are factored into mortgage approvals as part of your monthly bills/payments, this will ensure that you can meet all of our monthly commitments. 

The advantages to living in an HOA community is that your neighborhood will be well taken care of and you know that the common areas and amenities help maintain property value as everyone is held to standards.  In addition, the funds can be used for neighborhood improvements or be utilized for special assessments.  If your neighborhood has amenities like pools and gyms you will have access to them. In addition, an active HOA community will host events, like block parties where you can engage with your neighbors.

Although living in an HOA community may seem restrictive, you should be sure to weigh the benefits against the restrictions of living in such a community, remember that living in an HOA community will mean that it is well cared for, you will keep your property value up and you have a sense of community.

By: Carrie Ernst

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