Home Owners Associations (HOAs) – Do I want one?
HOAs – sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re nightmares. How do you know whether or not you’d like to live in a place that has an HOA and, first, what on Earth is an HOA?
What is an HOA?
An HOA stands for Home Owners Association. This is a group of owners, managers or selected members of the community who are in charge of creating and enforcing the rules surrounding a given community. These are most often found in condominium complexes, but can be found in a variety of other neighborhoods as well. They might have rules about paint colors, what you can and cannot do to your property, and what’s done to the communal areas of the properties (such as a pool or club house).
Do I want to live in an HOA community?
Personal choice! If you’re considering living in a condo, you’re 99% sure to have an HOA that you will be paying for each month. Your costs can vary a bit – one place might charge $100 a month, another could charge $1000 a month. It’s always a good idea to check in with your realtor or the complex manager him/herself to find out these fees because that may change your budget quite a bit.
HOA fees in a condo complex often cover grounds maintenance (snow plowing, leaf raking, lawn mowing) which is a great perk if you don’t prefer to do outside work yourself. They frequently include homeowners’ insurance costs and can sometimes include water and sewer bills in the fee. Some complexes will come with extra amenities such as a pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, a club house, etc. These can often increase your monthly dues. It’s always a good idea to check on the cost of the monthly fees as well as everything they cover.
Now, there are non-condo communities that also have HOAs (I live in one myself). There are positives and negatives to living in a house in an HOA community:
Positives: People tend to take pride in the way their neighborhood looks and you’ll often see clean homes and nice lawns. You can attend meetings (ours are once a year) to help vote on new rules they want to enforce. You may get additional amenities the community can share (we have a pool and tennis court). Public spaces are often taken care of by the HOA (like having plants, mowing public fields, etc).
Negatives: The obligation to feel like your house and lawn always have to look a certain way. There are some HOAs with an exhausting list of rules – houses can only be white, mailboxes must be 3 feet from the driveway, no sheds, you need to mow your lawn every week in the summer, etc.
So what should you do? It’s up to you whether you rules of an HOA are something enticing or scary. If you’d love a clean yard and a pool you don’t have to maintain, a condo with an HOA may be up your alley. If you’re someone who appreciates their independence, wants to maintain your property your own way, doesn’t want to worry about neighbors commenting or bothering you, then an HOA might not suit your needs.
From my personal experience, I was very nervous when we decided to move to a neighborhood with an HOA because I’d heard nightmares about HOA rules – owner had 3 pebbles on his driveway and got a notice to remove them ASAP, owner built an entire deck that was never allowed and had to tear it down, etc. Our HOA thankfully only has a handful of fairly easy-to-manage rules so I haven’t had an issue yet. A friend of mine lives in an HOA community with an 80-page book she had to buy and she gets notices about how often to power wash. All in all, you just need to consider what the rules mean to you and if you like them or would not be able to tolerate them.