When you go house hunting, you might come across a property you love in a community governed by a homeowners association (HOA). Buying a house that belongs to an HOA could carry benefits, but it would also come with rules, restrictions and fees. The specifics could vary widely from one community to another. Before you buy a house in a homeowners association, make sure you fully understand what you would pay, what you would receive, and what you would and would not be allowed to do.
Benefits of a HOA
The primary job of an HOA is to handle maintenance in the community, which could include mowing grass, pruning trees, maintaining flower beds and clearing snow. Not having to deal with maintenance could be a huge benefit, especially if you work long hours, don’t enjoy yard work or are not physically able to handle those chores yourself.
A homeowners association can provide residents with access to amenities they might not otherwise have. A community may have a pool, tennis courts or other facilities that are professionally maintained for the exclusive use of members and their guests. Residents can enjoy the convenience of having facilities near their homes instead of driving, and they might save money by avoiding the need to pay for monthly memberships elsewhere.
Restrictions and Costs
A homeowners association sets rules regarding how residents can decorate and use their property and common spaces. Sometimes the rules are very broad, and sometimes they are extremely specific and onerous. Rules can govern the colors people may paint their homes, the way they may decorate for holidays, the types of lawn furniture they may have, the number of cars they may have parked in their driveways, and countless other issues. The purpose of the rules is to maintain the character and appeal of the neighborhood, but some people feel that the restrictions stifle their ability to express themselves and to enjoy life in their own homes. Violating rules could subject you to fines.
HOA fees are often charged monthly and can vary widely depending on the number of homes in the area, the value of the houses, the income of the residents and what the fees cover. If you buy a house governed by an HOA, fees will be mandatory. Failure to pay monthly fees could allow the HOA to put a lien on your property.
Is an HOA Right for You?
If you’re considering buying a house in an HOA, make sure you understand everything that would entail. Ask about the fees and what they cover, and request a written list of all rules. Go over the information carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Talk to current residents to get an honest assessment of life under the HOA. Think carefully about what you would gain from membership and decide whether that outweighs the financial costs and restrictions so that you can decide if the neighborhood is right for you and your family.