Many communities have associations for homeowners, property owners, condo owners, or similar associations. The presence of a homeowners association, also known as “HOA”, introduces another layer of rules and regulations to consider when buying a home. Some people love these associations and some hate them.
Some associations have very simple rules such as no abandoned, non-working motor vehicles and no grass above ten inches tall are allowed. Others have architectural review boards that must approve your paint scheme before you can repaint your house. I’m serious.
I was once looking at a townhouse with a potential buyer, and a neighbor knocked on the door to hand deliver a notice that the door had been painted without permission (it was a deep, wine red). The notice went on to state that the door would have to be returned to its original dark green color or an exception applied for within ten days. Although she liked the townhouse, the potential buyer decided she did not want to live with this sort of micromanagement.
Some associations add a significant amount of cost to the home purchase via high monthly, quarterly or annual dues payments. An aggressive association may also attempt to issue levies on homeowners for improvement projects. My husband and I once looked at a penthouse condo on the outer banks of North Carolina. I was reviewing the annual budget for the condo association, and noticed a twelve thousand dollar per unit levy made during the prior year. I asked about it and was told that it “depends upon the ‘beach push’ situation.” Further questioning elicited the information that when hurricanes or severe storms eroded the beach, fresh sand had to be brought in. Not only did it have to be brought in, it had to be pushed up into dunes and the dunes planted with sea oats and grasses! I am all for preserving the environment, but the twelve thousand dollar levy certainly made me nervous.
If you are considering a property controlled by an association, watch out for the following:
1. Sometimes associations limit what pets owners may have
2. If the association allows pets, it may limit the hours they can be outside.
3. Parking places may be assigned coupled with an aggressive towing policy.
Some associations maintain pools, tennis courts, elevators, trash collection, snow removal, grounds maintenance, provide bus or limo service, concierge service, and in general make life pleasant and trouble-free. While these are nice benefits, make sure you are comfortable with the costs associated with them.
Look Before You Leap
So, as you can see, whether your concern is protecting the value of your investment (no junk cars), maintaining your freedom to choose (you want an eggplant door, a place to park the company truck, and/or to build an addition with a family room and a new kitchen), it’s very wise to check out those things which can limit your control and increase the cost of home ownership before you buy.