Real Estate Tips October 3, 2023

Are Homeowners’ Associations a Good Thing?

Are Homeowners’ Associations a Good Thing?  I would say that answer depends on what is important to you.

Let’s first talk about what a Homeowners’ Association is.  A HOA, or Homeowners’ Association, is a private organization typically established within a residential community or neighborhood to manage and enforce certain rules, regulations, and standards for the properties within that community.  Membership is usually mandatory but can be voluntary.

Some of the benefits of a neighborhood HOA may include:

Amenities: Many HOAs provide amenities such as pools, gyms, parks, club houses and common areas.

Security:  Some HOA fees cover the cost of a security system.  This could be as simple as a gate at the neighborhood entrance or could include security guards as well.

Maintenance Assistance: Many HOAs are responsible for maintaining and managing common areas within the community, such as parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, and landscaping. The cost of maintaining these areas is typically covered by the fees paid by homeowners.

Sense of Community: HOAs can foster a sense of community by organizing neighborhood potlucks, block parties, and other events. They may also mediate conflicts to ensure everyone in the neighborhood’s needs are met. Some offer neighborhood watch programs as well. This can be helpful for anyone who wants to have a close relationship with neighbors.

Protected Home Values: HOAs often have an architectural review committee that reviews and approves or denies proposed changes or additions to individual properties, ensuring that they conform to community standards. This can ensure cohesion and boost the overall aesthetic. HOA’s rules can also ensure everyone in the neighborhood maintains homes and curb appeal, protecting property values throughout the neighborhood.

Disadvantages of an HOA may include the following:

Fees, Fines, or Assessments: HOAs charge monthly or annual fees to cover things like maintenance and management costs. HOAs are also allowed to charge fines or special assessments for a breach of regulations or to cover unexpected costs like repairs or improvements. Fees can vary significantly from one HOA to another, and some will be more aggressive in applying fines than others.  Some HOA charge a first-time buyer’s fee.  They may even go so far as to require the board’s approval before you can purchase in the neighborhood.

Exterior Restrictions: HOAs can have strict rules about building renovations, exterior modifications, paint colors, landscaping, and even lawn decor or parking on the street.   Some rules may include no parking your boat or RV in your driveway.  This can feel restricting to some homeowners.

Lack of Property Versatility: Some HOAs will have rules restricting long-term renting, short-term renting (like an Airbnb), long-term guests, and even dog breeds, among other things. This can make your property less usable than a home outside of an HOA’s purview.

Rule Interpretation: HOA rules can be complex and, at times, subject to interpretation. This can lead to confusion and frustration if not addressed correctly. Changes in leadership can further complicate matters if rules are enforced differently than in the past.

It’s important for home buyers to carefully review the rules and regulations of an HOA before purchasing a property within a community governed by one, as membership in an HOA comes with both benefits and obligations, and the rules can vary significantly from one association to another. Some people appreciate the structure and amenities that an HOA provides, while others may find it restrictive.

So, are homeowners’ associations a good thing?  That depends on the buyer’s priorities.

When working with a realtor be sure to let them know your priorities and how you feel about HOAs.