Thursday, January 10, 2019

Is a neighborhood with a homeowner's association right for you?

Homeowner's associations (HOAs) - some people love them, some people hate them, and most people fall somewhere in between.  But first, let's define some terms to make sure all of the potential elements of an HOA are clear.

HOA - an organization of the homeowners in a particular subdivision, generally for the purpose of enforcing the CCRs (see next definition) and/or managing the common areas of the development. 
Example: All homeowners in the Happy Acres subdivision are members of the Happy Acres Homeowner's Association. The association maintains the neighborhood pool, common areas, playground and sidewalks. The Happy Acres Homeowner's Association (HOA) assesses each owner a $450 annual fee to pay for those expenses. 

CCR - most commonly, the thing that people love/hate about the HOA. 🤣 No seriously, CCR stands for Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions. These are rules written into the deeds or bylaws that define how property may be used. They prevent property owners from making changes to or allowing their individual properties to adversely affect other owners. 
Example: The Happy Acres subdivision CCRs ban houses over 3 stories, ban fences over 5 feet and require all resident's trash cans to be kept out of sight except for garbage collection day. 

Just to be clear, all HOAs do not have CCRs. In some older neighborhoods you may see a fairly low HOA annual fee ($125/year or less) listed on a property, but no real mention of restrictions. In that neighborhood you are probably just paying for the landscaping in the common areas with your annual fee, and otherwise you can pretty much do your own thing. 

Now you may say, "none of this sounds that bad". There are positives and negatives to living in a neighborhood with an HOA/CCRs. 

Positives:

  • Neighborhoods where the HOA fees pay for the front yard maintenance/landscaping. Cool! No mowing the front yard!! 
  • CCRs that state no cars up on blocks in the driveway. (for some people that would be a negative)
  • CCRs stating that your garbage cans must be out of view except for garbage day.
  • CCRs stating that you can't put a sign in your front yard advertising a business. 
Negatives:
  • CCRs that state no cars up on blocks in the driveway. (see what I did there?)
  • CCRs that state your grass cannot measure more than 3 inches in height. 
  • CCRs that state you must decorate the exterior of your home for the holidays.
As you can see, it's all in the eye of the beholder. What makes most people cringe is when they get that letter from the HOA notifying them of an infraction. For instance, maybe you were on a long vacation during the summer and your lawn reached 4.5 inches in length. The horror! Or if you always enter your house through the garage and missed the fact that one of your flower bushes in the front yard had died, until you got THAT LETTER. But on the other side, you aren't going to have your next-door neighbor's Cousin Eddie living in his broken down RV in front of their house to look at either. 

Before buying, read through the CCRs to make sure that you can live with them, and make sure that you can afford the HOA dues. These are a legally binding part of the purchase of your house and you want to make sure that you can live with them.

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