Read this Before Joining an HOA

When reviewing details for a property make sure to find out if there’s a Homeowners Association (HOA) associated with the neighborhood. The goals of an HOA are to help a neighborhood maintain common areas, extra amenities and enforce covenants. Dues can range from less than $100 per year up into the thousands; it all depends on the neighborhood and what’s offered. The important part is to take this expense into account when making an offer on a property with an HOA, and to find out when dues are due. The amount could have already been paid by the seller, or may be due as soon as a new owner moves into the property.

Get a Copy of Covenants

Before making an offer, its a good idea to request a copy of the HOA fees and neighborhood covenants. Many times this information can be found a neighborhood website or social media page, but if those aren’t available, the realtor should be able to obtain a copy. This information will outline if there are rules for outdoor furniture, fence heights and types, paint colors and much more.

What’s Covered

Some neighborhoods may have an HOA to maintain the landscaping around entrances, whereas others may need to pay for security, pool maintenance, clubhouse use, entertainment or other amenities. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s covered in the dues. For example, owners of a condo, may learn that the HOA fees cover garbage and recycling pick up, snow removal and landscaping. These are important factors to take into consideration as it could effect the monthly bills.

Neighborhood Rules and Violations

Whether a buyer has plans for an elaborate landscape, installing a pool or paining the front door, the covenants may have final say. Buyers need to read through all the rules and guidelines and feel comfortable they can fit their lifestyle within those parameters. Its not uncommon for neighborhoods to have rules on paint colors for the exterior of the property, types of fencing allowed, whether cars or other vehicles can be parked on the curb, or if certain plants may be planted. All these factors need to be considered before making an offer, plus, its beneficial to find out what happens if a rule is broken. Do homeowners get written notices or fines and how are these managed? Its not uncommon for an HOA to place a lien on a property for lack of dues or fine payments.

Find out Who’s in Charge

Some HOAs are managed by a third-party, usually a developer or real estate company, but sometimes everything is managed by elected individuals in the neighborhood. This is information the realtor can find out, as well as what the HOA’s reputation. Another way to collect more information about the HOA is to ask the neighbors. Their first-hand experiences could provide valuable insight into the HOA’s personality and demeanor.

An HOA shouldn’t be a make or break decision for whether or not to purchase a property, but it can come down to that if the buyer doesn’t think their lifestyle or plans can fit within the guidelines. Its better to find out what the neighborhood expectations and rules are prior to making an offer versus moving into a home and learning that paint colors and renovations can’t move forward.