Is living in an HOA right for you? That is a question that you will need to answer when you are shopping for your next home. If you aren’t well-versed on what an HOA is or how an HOA can affect you as a homeowner, you will need to get informed.
Each association has a unique set of rules, fees, and involvement within the community/building. It will be important for you to know how the HOA will affect how you live in your home and community. You will also want to consider the impact on you and your home’s value of living in a community that is not subject to a homeowner’s association. Without an association enforcing visual and behavioral standards in a neighborhood, your neighbors can keep their homes and yards in whatever condition they choose without repercussion.
Let’s take a look at what an HOA is and how it affects homeowners.
What is an HOA?
A homeowner’s association (HOA) is an organization that oversees neighborhood rules, maintenance, and management for a community or a multi-unit building. An HOA’s members are those who own homes within the HOA community or building. A member’s base responsibility to the HOA is to abide by the rules and regulations and to pay the HOA fees. The rules of a homeowner’s association will be clearly defined in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions document. This document is also known as the CC&R’s. The HOA fees that members pay are used to maintain common areas and to carry out rule enforcement.
Common rules governed by an HOA set standards for the following:
- noise levels
- home/lawn appearance
- parking for cars, trucks, RVs, boats, etc.
- common areas
- behavior of members
Cost of Living in a Homeowner’s Association
HOA fees vary greatly for different associations. An HOA’s fees are usually reflective of what amenities are offered and how much of the community/building is maintained. HOA fees are directly tied to the costs of utilities, vendor services, overhead costs, maintenance, insurance, etc.
Most associations assess their fees monthly. Some HOAs impose a monthly fee as well as annual dues. These monthly fees can be as low as $25 or as high as $575 (reported in New Your City). Annual fees are generally a small percentage of what is paid by the homeowner throughout the year.
Fines and Penalties
Associations impose fines when homeowners do not abide by rules set by the CC&Rs of the community. Warnings for violations are typically issued before fines are given. HOAs are notorious for piling on heavy penalties for unpaid fines and uncorrected violations. If you are not living within the rules of the HOA, you could be subject to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines.
Living by the Rules of an HOA
Homeowner’s associations exist primarily to protect property values by providing & maintaining amenities and setting a higher standard of homeownership. Not everyone will enjoy living with these rules, but some won’t live in a community that isn’t an association.
Home exterior standards
Many HOAs don’t allow homeowners to make exterior changes to their homes without getting approval first. An association may have restrictions and guidelines for exterior paint colors, landscaping, fencing design features and more. Having these guidelines keeps the community aesthetic cohesive and pleasing. If you make exterior changes to your home without approval, you could be subject to fines.
A homeowner’s association may have strict rules preventing owners from parking extra cars, boats, or RVs in the neighborhood. Before going out and buying an extra car, truck, or recreational vehicle, you will need to check to make sure you have a place to park it.
Lawn maintenance standards
Associations also set very specific standards for lawn maintenance. If your grass gets too tall, you will likely receive a warning and subsequent fine if you do not comply. These landscaping rules also apply to keep trees/shrubs trimmed. Having dead grass or unapproved landscaping can also be a violation.
Check with your association before you bring a new pet home. There may be restrictions on what type of animals or breed of dog you can have. Your city/county probably requires you to register your animal and HOAs are not different. You may need to fill out some documentation for your pet. You might even need to get it approved with the HOA board.
If you love entertaining and throwing parties, you may have a challenging living in an HOA (depending on their rules). The good news is that your neighbors will have to operate within the same guidelines. So before you book that DJ for your party or schedule the party to end at midnite, contact your HOA and make sure you aren’t breaking the rules.
Leasing your home
Some associations only allow a specific percentage of homes to be ‘non-owner’ occupied. You may want to move out of the community and rent out your home in the HOA. If the amount of homes with ‘non-owner occupants exceeds the allowed limit, you may be forced to sell. Some HOA boards require that the renter is screened and approved by them.
Click here to see an example of CC&Rs for an HOA. Jump to page 11 to see the ‘use guidelines’.
Pros and Cons of Living in an HOA
On the surface, living in an HOA may seem like a real bummer. After all, you have to pay a monthly fee and you are subject to a lot of rules. You also have to deal with overzealous neighbors getting all up in your business and complaining about how you live. The other side of the coin is your neighbors having no accountability or rules when it comes to how they maintain their homes and how they behave as neighbors. Imagine working hard to keep your lawn and home exterior impeccable while your next-door neighbor has a car on blocks in the front lawn and doesn’t mow their grass (or lets it die). Here is our list of the top pros and cons of living in an HOA.
Pros of living in an HOA
Higher property values
HOA rules and regulations help keep their communities remain aesthetically pleasing. The regulations also keep their communities quiet, clean, and neighborly. Generally speaking, this results in the neighborhood being more desirable to homebuyers, thus producing higher property values.
Most HOA communities offer amenities such as a community pool, clubhouse, parks, entry gates, etc.
Ease of handling disputes with neighbors
If you live in an association and you have a neighbor that is causing problems, you can simply contact the HOA board to help you resolve the issue. Your HOA board will step in and mediate the situation as it relates to the association rules.
Sense of community
Homeowners living an HOA often have a greater sense of community and are more social within their neighborhood. You will have more opportunities to meet and connect with neighbors at HOA meetings and when sharing amenities.
Cons of living in an HOA
You will be forking over a healthy HOA fee each month in addition to payments for your mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. There is definitely value to what you are paying for, but it is still another bill you are responsible for.
Rules that limit how you live
For some homeowners, this is a non-starter. If you don’t like being told how to live and maintain your home, an HOA is not going to work for you. HOAs can regulate everything from how you keep your landscaping to what cosmetic changes you make to your home. There will also be rules about how loud you can be, where you park your RV, how many cars are in the driveway, and so on.
HOA issues are passed on to members
HOAs are like mini governments. When they have issues with how they manage their budgets, the can assess any shortage of funds to its members in addition to the monthly dues. If someone sues the HOA, that lawsuit and any liens imposed against the HOA are also attached to your home’s title.
Fines for rule violations
HOA fines for violating the CC&Rs can be steep. If the violation is not corrected or if the fines are not paid in a timely manner, they will impose aggressive penalties on top of the fines. These HOA fines and penalties can rapidly get out of control.
Deciding if living in a homeowner’s association is right for you
Living in an HOA is not for everyone. As you can see, there are many pros and cons to buying a home in an HOA community. If you are considering buying a home in an association, carefully examine their CC&Rs before moving forward. It would also be a good idea to speak to other homeowners within the HOA to see what their experiences have been. Do your due diligence and consider the pros and cons before making your final decision.
If you would like more information about HOAs in general or about specific HOAs in the area, please reach out to us at 310-379-4444. Our agents are well-versed on homeowner’s associations.