Homeowners Association: a “group of homeowners in a defined area” which could range from a two-unit townhome, a development of condos, or an entire master-planned neighborhood of single family homes. This is not a new concept, HOA’s first began in the late 1940’s.
Not all HOA’s have a fee, but many do. The HOA fee is expensed to all property owners that have a recorded association tied to their deed.The fee covers all expenses that are shared among the homeowners.
Many new community developments are being built with neighborhood amenities that residents will be expensed for, such as a neighborhood park, green space or landscaping at the development entrance. Resort communities fees may include water areas. These amenities are used and shared with those who are homeowners in the association.
Residents who live in a townhouse or condominium community may pay a HOA fee for shared amenities but also shared walls, often snow removal and lawn care and some include exterior maintenance and repairs.
HOA fees and coverage will vary in each association. For some homeowners the thought of paying an HOA is undesirable. Don’t we just want to pay for what we own? However, consider that private ownership has a price too. What is the cost of a lawnmower? How much is your time worth? What is your hourly charge if you paid yourself?
Think of the added convenience to those whose coverage includes snow removal and lawn care. You may feel a bit guilty the first time you see the lawnmower in your yard, but your extra free time you gain rather than running the weed eater could wipe away any pangs you experienced. Will you really miss clearing the sidewalk?
Home buyers are looking for a lifestyle. A community pool or private hiking trail adds value as well as a welcoming neighborhood entrance adds curb appeal. In most associations there are restrictive covenants that also control home design styles and the “do’s and don’ts” for all to maintain a cohesive relationship. Restrictive Covenants and ByLaws are separate governing documents.
It is important if you are purchasing into a HOA to ask questions.
- How much is the HOA fee and how often is it charged?
- What does the fee cover?
- Ask to review the yearly budget and current P/L.
- Are there Reserve funds for emergency repairs?
- When was the last assessment charged that was outside of the HOA fee?
- Is there a thirteenth month assessment? This an extra HOA fee charged equal to the one month fee, to fund the Reserve account or a designated repair.
- How often does the board meet?
A HOA means shared expenses but also shared responsibility. The HOA board is you, a homeowner, and your neighbors. It is not a “they should do something about that” kind of relationship. An active HOA means all participate as if the common areas are personally owned, which they are . If you are in a twelve unit condominium development, you own 1/12 of the common area property. Those areas are yours and require the same pride of ownership as if the space were privately owned.
One of the goals of an HOA is to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood. This means regulating your property and all the neighborhood. Consider the detriment to your property if your neighbor does not maintain their home.
Before purchasing a property with a HOA consider both the pros and the cons. If you do choose an HOA, embrace it; understand the rules and be involved. It’s not your neighbors HOA, it is your HOA.