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What I Wish I Knew Before I Moved Into an HOA

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When you’re ready to buy a home, it’s an exciting time. But there’s also so much to learn about the features of each property. For example, some houses you’re looking at may have a community HOA that maintains the common grounds. If you’ve never experienced living with an HOA, you might not think it matters much compared to the number of bedrooms and baths a property has. But HOA membership is not optional. All homeowners in the community must pay the assigned HOA fees, are responsible for following HOA rules, and will be required to pay any HOA assessment. Therefore, before buying into an HOA community, it’s essential to understand both the pros and cons.


What is an HOA Community?

A Homeowners Association (HOA) is a private, self-governing organization comprised of members of a planned housing development. The residences may be condominiums, townhouses, or detached homes. The community HOA’s purpose is to protect and improve property values by providing consistent care of all common spaces like front lawns, landscaping trees, sprinkler systems, and community green belts. Further, the HOA arranges all maintenance and repairs of common amenities like a community pool, jacuzzi, gym, tennis courts, playgrounds, community fountains, and other features. The HOA raises money to pay for maintenance and repairs through monthly or quarterly dues paid by the homeowners in the community.


Pros and Cons of HOA Communities

There are several pros and cons to living in an HOA. Each benefit to an HOA community comes with negative trade-offs. But the negative aspects are well balanced by the positives. Whether buying a home in an HOA community is a good move largely depends on personal preferences.


HOA Rules and Regulations

Every community HOA draws up a list of rules and regulations by which every community resident must abide. Disregarding these rules can lead to warnings or fines, and the HOA may choose to take out a lien against your home to compel compliance. Any dispute that the HOA board cannot handle may be assigned to mediation or go to a civil court. HOA community rules typically govern home maintenance standards, noise complaint policies, preserving the aesthetics of the common areas, parking guidelines, and short-term rental policies.

Pros and Cons

Many people see the HOA community rules as a significant negative point. Some residents chafe at these restrictions and prefer the right to allow their homes to fall into disrepair. However, others appreciate that eyesores on the same street won’t drag down their own property values. Some people don’t want to abide by noise curfews or decoration restrictions. However, others appreciate having a way to handle noise complaints or offensive flags without confronting their neighbors directly. Instead, residents can report their concerns to the HOA board, which would approach the neighbor in question.


Community HOA Assessments

At any time, the community HOA may charge a one-time fee that homeowners must pay. This fee is an HOA assessment and is used to cover unexpected expenses. These expenses may be due to natural or manmade disasters. But they may also be related to significant repairs needed to the community infrastructure. For instance, while the homeowners’ monthly HOA dues cover groundskeeping and pool maintenance, an HOA assessment may be required to replace a rusted-out sprinkler system or structural cracks in the pool.

Pros and Cons

HOA community assessments may be steep, up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And they can come without warning. This is a significant negative for most people. However, the HOA board typically provides plenty of time for the assessment payment to be made. By constantly monitoring the condition of the community amenities, problems can be addressed before they grow far worse.


HOA Community Groundskeeping and Aesthetics

To maintain the property values for each residence, community HOAs typically require a great deal of uniformity. Landscaping is standardized, with no opportunity for homeowners to customize their front yards. House and trim colors are mandated. There are rules regarding installing and placing solar panels, decks, fencing, gates, and other additions.

Pros and Cons

Many residents are frustrated by the restrictions an HOA places on the upkeep of their homes. It can be galling to be required to paint your home or replace a gate when instructed yet have no say in the color or style. However, it also means you’ll never have a neighbor paint their home bright purple or make their home stand out from the community in any other way.


HOA Community Board Runs the Show

The board runs every community HOA. The board comprises community residents who run for offices like the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. They may also have elected or appointed heads of groundskeeping or other infrastructure. The board meets at least monthly if not more and makes all decisions regarding dues, landscaping, resident disputes, and more. All homeowners are eligible to run for office on the HOA board.

Pros and Cons

Community HOA boards can wield great power, and their word is final. Many residents are reluctant to run for the board, fearing the work burden. However, monthly meetings with the board are open to all residents who can make their concerns known. And, for those who serve on their HOA board, the experience looks good on a resume.

Living in an HOA can be a tremendous asset or a real pain. Often, the reasons for each judgment are the same. So, whether it’s the right choice for you depends entirely upon whether you value the services and convenience more than the HOA restrictions irritate you.

Buying a home in an HOA community comes with both benefits and drawbacks. While HOAs provide essential services and maintenance to common areas, they also require adherence to rules and regulations that may not suit everyone's preferences. Furthermore, unexpected assessments and restrictions on personal customization of homes can be frustrating for some homeowners. Ultimately, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision to move into an HOA community.



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