Written by Mary Beth Tice
To recap Part 1 of “Homeowners Associations: Friend or Foe?” we discussed the history of the American Dream, the first planned community and how HOAs expanded this concept to what we know today. Let’s continue on and determine if an HOA community is for you.
And as a reminder: “HOA” refers to single family common-interest developments (CIDs). Condominiums are not managed by a true HOA but by other forms of community associations. However, for the purposes of this blog “HOA” will refer to all forms of CIDs.
The Good, the Bad & the (Really) Ugly Side of HOAs
OK, so we all know the perks of living in a common-interest development (CID), whether it’s a condo complex or single family homes. You have beautiful, freshly mowed entryways, no junk cars in yards, glistening swimming pools, etc., etc., etc. But at what cost? I myself used to rent in a local community with an HOA and because of my natural rebellious attitude, it was not for me. Personally, I like knowing I can hang my “Welcome” sign on my front door without approval or if I am forgetful one week, I won’t be fined for failing to hide my trash can after pickup (hey, it was next to the house, just not in the garage). But that’s me, you say “Do this” and I will do the opposite just because I can. My homeowner neighbors, however, loved that the neighborhood was perfectly maintained and that should us evil-renters become too crazy, they could report us to the Board and too many complaints equal new tenants! (Truth be told, the only complaint against me was the trash can and it was only once. The threat of a $15 fine scared the obedient child lying dormant deep inside me and overruled my inner rebel.) But I digress.
The fact is people living in an HOA-managed community understand these basic truths- pay your dues, don’t break the rules and if you break the rules, pay your fine. What happens should you fail to pay your fines and dues? That’s where things can get really ugly. Believe it or not, in North Carolina failure to pay dues and fines to your HOA can result in a lien on your property. Failure to pay the lien then equals foreclosure. Most communities in our area are not this strict but there are a few that in fact are, so if you are a rebel at heart, consider that before buying in a community with an HOA.
Is an HOA Managed Community for Me?
Well, by “me,” naturally, I mean “you.” Should you be in the market for a new home, condo, townhouse, patio home or any other dwelling, you might want to ask a few questions prior to purchasing your new home and ending up living somewhere where you can’t live the way you desire.
1. What are the HOA rules?
Snag a copy of the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). Read them over and see if you are comfortable living within them.
2. Ask the HOA if the home/unit you want is already suffering from non-compliance.
Do you really want to buy a home that you may have to replace the vinyl siding on or turn that spare room back into a garage on?
3. How “green” is the community and how “green” are you?
If the community doesn’t practice or allow for xeriscaping (environmentally friendly landscaping) but you refuse to allow pesticides in your yard, think twice before buying.
4. Are you a rebel?
I am. HOAs and I will never be friends because I don’t like people telling me how to live in my home. But you don’t mind the HOA’s rules, then rock on.
5. Feel out the fees.
Do the fees increase on a regular basis? How often are they increases and how is the increased based?
6. What do the dues include?
In some cases HOA dues only cover the basics such as maintenance of the entry way and are relatively low while others include tennis courts, pools or docks and they have the cost to match.
7. Can you sit in on a meeting?
This will help you get a feel for how the HOA operates and how it handles conflict.
8. Is the HOA managed well?
Over-, under- and well-managed HOAs all behave differently. Find out what kind you are getting into.
9. Buying a unit? What kind of insurance does the HOA have?
You need to know if a hurricane comes and blows the roof off your building if there is insurance to cover the damage or if you are hit with a special assessment.
10. How will the dues affect your finances?
Depending on the HOA, your fees may be $25 a month or $300. If you are only willing to pay out a grand total of $1,000/month on your home, the HOA dues can mean the difference in what you can ultimately purchase.
Living in an HOA managed community is a personal choice and ultimately it’s up to you, the buyer, to decide if it’s for you. Bottom line, like everything in property buying, you must research the HOA, the CC&Rs and the community before you sign on the dotted line.
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