Understanding Single-Family Home HOAs

Before you buy a home in an HOA-governed community, make sure you review the rules thoroughly.

Understanding Single-Family Home HOAs

Most people think of homeowners associations (HOAs), legally known as Common Interest Developments, as related to attached housing structures like condominiums or town homes. But this is not always the case.

Around the 1980s, developers started building communities of single-family homes that were actually Common Interest Developments. These communities came with their own sets of rules, regulations and HOA fees.

The reason builders starting developing communities in the HOAs structure was to maintain order and the aesthetics of a community. Their rules keep home paint colors and front yards in harmony, restrict building additions that don’t fit into the neighborhood, and stop owners from parking broken-down vehicles in their driveways or front yards. Such regulations assure new and existing owners that a neighbor’s behavior and choices will not diminish property values.

But they also mean that you must follow the rules yourself, and typically contribute monthly fees to manage and run the HOA for the benefit of all owners. When residents violate these rules — which can cause stress for other owners and hurt property values– the HOA will typically step in and enforce them with violation notices, fines and possibly litigation, if the issue gets that far.

The root of the issue

Often, the problem is not the rules, it’s that people don’t read the rules and regulations before they buy into a community, and then they violate the rules. But ignorance is no excuse — those rules are recorded on the property title, and likely given to every buyer to review before they purchase a home in a standard transaction. Owners are still bound by those rules whether they received and read them or not.

If you are buying into an HOA-governed community, be sure to read the rules and regulations before you buy. Once you’ve read them, if you don’t like them, then you should avoid buying a property in that community.

What if you already own in an HOA, and don’t like the rules or how the elected HOA board of directors interprets and enforces them? Luckily, an HOA is a democracy and the owners can vote out the board of directors and change the rules!

Any member-owner can try to get elected to the board and change the regulations. They just have to get enough other community members to support their opinion and vision for the community.

Unfortunately, most community members never go to a board meeting and never get involved. They just complain about the board — who are all volunteers, by the way — and complain about HOA fees, rules, and special assessments, etc.

If you are one of those owners who doesn’t like the rules, then get involved and take the time to campaign in your community, get on the board, and change the regulations.

This article was published by Leonard Baron of professorbaron.com on Zillow Blog.

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Pros and Cons of Living Within a Homeowners Association

Ask two different homeowners what they think about living in a community with a homeowners association and you may see one of them scowl and another one smile.

Pros and Cons of Living Within a Homeowners Association

The difference of opinion on homeowners associations, or HOAs, depends on several factors, including individual personalities and preferences and the quality of the particular HOA. Rules and dues vary but, in general, homeowners who live in an HOA must abide by its regulations and pay a monthly, quarterly or annual fee that pays for management and maintenance of the community.

HOA Benefits

Many homeowners prefer to live in an HOA for several reasons, including:

  • Community appearance: Homes within an HOA must meet the standards set by the association or face a fine, so you’re less likely to see unkempt lawns, peeling paint or a garishly painted house. Some HOAs have a design review board with the power to approve any changes to your home’s exterior, and which establishes a color palette for exterior paint and trim. Many HOA’s have rules about how many cars or even what type of vehicles can be parked on your property. For example, they may ban commercial vans or RVs.
  • Low maintenance: Depending on the HOA, services such as trash and snow removal and lawn care are handled by the association, leaving less work for the homeowner. Typically, common areas are maintained by the association.
  • Recreational amenities: While not all HOAs have swimming pools and tennis courts, many offer a range of amenities such as a community center, walking trails, sports courts and playing fields reserved for residents.
  • Association management: If you have a problem with your neighbor’s dog barking, loud parties or a dispute over a tree, you can ask the management to handle the issue rather than getting directly into a spat with the homeowner next door.

Living Within an HOA

For some buyers, the idea that a management association can tell you when you can put out a decorative flag or that you can’t park your truck in front of your property is a deal-breaker. If you have a concern that something that’s important to you, such as your ability to run a business from your home, could be banned by HOA rules, then be particularly careful to read all the regulations before you buy a home in a community with a homeowners association. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy at all within an HOA, but you’ll have to find one with regulations that meet your requirements.

HOA regulations are usually set by a committee or board of directors and then enforced by a paid management company or a group of volunteers. You can become involved with the HOA in order to have a voice in the decisions being made. Homeowners can request a rule change or an individual waiver, but there’s no guarantee that your request will be granted.

HOA Fees

HOA fees vary as much as HOA regulations and depend on multiple factors such as the amenities in the community and which services are covered by the fees. When you’re buying a home, you need to compare HOA fees from one community to another based on what they cover. You may find that the HOA fee includes a gym membership so you can spend less on a private gym. You should also decide if you’ll use the amenities you’re paying for, such as tennis courts or a swimming pool. Keep in mind, however, that the presence of these amenities can add to your home’s value, even if you don’t directly take advantage of them.

Many homeowners appreciate that HOAs often maintain higher standards for a neighborhood’s appearance, but there’s no question that you need to understand the regulations and costs in every community where you’re considering buying a home.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. See the original article here.