Home shoppers have a lot of choices to make. You have to carefully weigh an endless laundry list of factors, from location and price to size and style, and hope that you end up with a beautiful house that meets all your needs.
For some, knowing that a house is part of a community with a homeowners association (HOA for short) could either sweeten the deal, or it could be a total deal-breaker. Let’s take a moment to go over HOAs – what they are, how they work, and their many advantages and disadvantages.
What HOAs Mean To You
A homeowners association is usually founded by a real estate developer to manage the houses in a given area. They are most common in master-planned communities. Essentially, buying a home that is part of an HOA means that you agree to live according to the association’s rules and pay a fee that goes toward the general maintenance and management of the community.
What those rules are and what you are paying for tends to vary quite a bit. Consequently, you might enjoy living in one particular homeowner’s association, but find another to be oppressive, costly and unnecessary. Some homeowners love HOAs, and even specifically seek out houses that are part of one. Others refuse to be part of one, ever.
Pros and Cons
Pro: HOAs maintain common areas, which might be a big selling point if you’re not into mowing lawns, trimming hedges and shoveling snow. The HOA will care for the pool, community gym, clubhouse and any other amenities that are shared by the whole community.
Con: You have to pay your dues. If you live in a community with an HOA, then membership is probably mandatory, and you’ll have to pay the monthly or annual fee. Falling behind with your HOA can mean foreclosure.
Pro: HOAs handle disputes between neighbors. That means you get to contact the HOA about a noisy neighbor, a barking dog or an unkempt yard, rather than confronting the neighbor about it in person. Likewise, if someone has a complaint about you, you’ll hear about it through the HOA.
Con: The HOA sets the standards for your home. Some HOAs are a lot more strict than others, but they all have some say over things like where you park your car, what color you paint your house, how often you clean your roof and mow the lawn, and how lavishly you decorate for the holidays.
Pro: They protect the value of your home. As we’ve said, buying a house in an HOA means you agree to live by their aesthetic and safety standards. Some find these oppressive, but they also serve to keep curb appeal high and maintain the value of your and your neighbors’ homes.
Con: Rules aren’t for everyone. In fact, there’s a good chance that you decided to buy a house instead of rent to get away from rules. So when your HOA tells you that you can’t build a new deck, have to be out of the pool by 10 pm, or can’t have parties on certain nights, you might not like being told what to do and how to live.