When you’re in the market for a new property, make sure you know if you want to find a property supported by a homeowner association— it could have major implications on your living or investment situation for years to come.
A homeowner association, or HOA, can provide great benefits with shared costs, amenities, and security you need to feel comfortable with a purchase. Alternatively, certain drawbacks could prohibit you from building and living on your land to your heart’s content.
A HOA is an organization that manages a community of properties, houses, townhouses, or condominiums. The HOA can enforce covenants, conditions, and restrictions, as well as common areas of an establishment. Common elements may include roads in a subdivision or neighborhood, or a staircase, basement, and backyard areas in an apartment or multi-family unit.
In exchange for these services, property owners pay regular dues that pay for this management and maintenance.
Shared Maintenance Costs and Services: Because costs are shared throughout all the members of the association, you may save on month-to-month service, utility, and upkeep expenses. This is especially the case if you share the same building (as in a condo HOA).
HOA’s will often provide valuable, convenient services to the community, such as trash pick-up, snow removal, lawn care, and regular cleaning of common areas.
Recreational Amenities: If you’re lucky, you might just benefit from a HOA that has a swimming pool, fitness center, basketball, or tennis court, among other potential amenities. This offers obvious convenience in proximity and the peace of mind in knowing that it is open only to your community.
Higher Standards for Appearances: HOA’s may often have standards for lawn care or other exterior home/property elements. This will keep homeowners in line within communities, so that a pleasant appearance is always maintained.
Brian Davis, co-founder and lead real estate and personal finance blogger at Spark Rental, says a HOA may help owners avoid eyesores from neighbors.
“For example, the HOA might prohibit putting rusted out car shells on cinderblocks on the front lawn. While that might infuriate the one homeowner who felt that a rusted 1976 Camaro might make the perfect lawn ornament, their neighbors will breathe a sigh of relief when the HOA forces them to remove it.”
Management Power and Community: It’s often nice to know that you can raise or defer problems to your association to deal with; whether that’s an irritating tenant in the building or a neighborhood issue.
Sep Niakan, founder of Condo Black Book, says that you can rely on your HOA to look out for you. “One of the goals of the HOA is to maintain or increase property values. That means they will keep your neighbors inline in your absence.”
Increased Security: Many HOA’s will provide security, either through the form of gated entranceways in apartment buildings or gated communities in larger developments. Sep Niakan adds this goes a long in gaining peace of mind, especially when traveling.
Rules and Regulations: While the HOA rules and regulations may often be to your benefit, they may also include annoyances and restrictions. For example, you may not be allowed to display certain items on your lawn, park in certain areas, use your property as an AirBnB, build structures, or run a business. Be sure to read all the HOA covenants when buying a property.
Michael Kelczewski, realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties in Sotheby’s International Realty, says this is a key consideration when representing a client who is purchasing property in a HOA.
“Perhaps an individual seeks to create a vegetable garden or fence, yet the HOA restricts. When representing clients purchasing a property with HOA concerns, I request/provide the deed restrictions, by-laws and financials of the HOA.”
Monthly Fees: In exchange for the community management and amenities offered by the HOA, the association charges a regular fee (usually monthly). This fee can range from less than $50 to thousands of dollars, depending on the features in your HOA. This means that sometimes the fee is quite reasonable, while other times may be a deceptively costly expense.
Brian Davis warns that these costs can rise over time as well. “Condo fees can be raised, so condo owners might suddenly find themselves unable to afford living in their own home.”
Decision by Committee: Since the HOA is ruled by a board, decisions are made by committee. Sep Niakan asserts, “there is little barrier to entry for a homeowner to get on the board of an association, so there is always a chance you get a bad apple on the board that makes things more difficult than they need to be.”
At the end of the day, a HOA can be either a net positive or negative factor to a prospective or current property owner. When scouting properties, make your own decision on your opinion when it comes to a HOA.
Consider your own goals as a residential, commercial, or investment property owner, and make sure to do the research into your HOA to ensure they are legit and solvent.
The choice is yours! Share your thoughts on homeowner associations with us below.