If you ask 100 buyers whether a community with an HOA is right for them you are sure to get a variety of answers ranging from "Absolutely!" to "Are you crazy!" and even "What is an HOA?". Opinions vary on their purpose and follow-through, and while they are rampant in some parts of the country, other areas have very few HOA communities.
The vast majority of homeowners want neighborhood integrity, community harmony, and an investment in a home that continues to grow equity. Some find that Utopian existence in a non-HOA community while others embrace HOA subdivisions with the peace of mind knowing there are rules that you expect to be enforced. Only YOU can decide if an HOA is right for you and your family.
An HOA is typically a non-profit organization established by the real estate developer and handed over to the community upon development completion or after a percentage of homes are built. The HOA provides rules regulating maintenance of common areas and enforcement of deed restrictions (filed with the property records) and has the goal of maintaining property values and enhancing the neighborhood's appearance. A copy of the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R) is normally provided to buyers at closing.
Once the HOA is handed over to the community an HOA Board is established (by vote of the subdivision members) to handle disputes and enforce the CC&R rules. They also collect dues for common area upkeep (i.e. pools, play areas, entrances, etc.) and can impose special fees to pay for emergency repairs when the association lacks sufficient funds to fix the issue(s).
The majority of HOA problems stem from a handful of issues. Some of the more common "problems" are:
Drive through a Warner Robins subdivision or a condo community in Long Island where the landscaping is well maintained, litter is non-existent, and visible eyesores are nary to be found and you can bet homebuyers are going to be impressed. Conversely, travel through a community that looks messy and unattended and the opposite response is typically noted. While those conditions alone are not always an indication that an HOA exists (and is enforced), the inference is often made.
Here are several resources homebuyers can use to determine if a subdivision has an HOA:
They can be very restrictive with the HOA Board ruling with an iron fist, lax and easy going, or someplace in-between the extremes. While there is no standard list of rules homeowners must adhere to, here are some common features that many HOAs have rules for (or against):
That depends on how strictly enforced the CC&R rules are and how stringent/lenient the state laws governing HOA bylaw enforcement are in the state you live. In general, HOAs have the ability to generate fees, fines, establish liens, solve minor disputes, or take homeowners to court for serious (and often repetitive) infractions.
For the vast majority of homeowners living in an HOA subdivision or community, the experience is nearly transparent. Follow the rules if you live in an HOA subdivision and issues should not arise.
Potential buyers need to weigh their options on HOA living and determine if the guidelines and enforcement of those HOA rules are a good fit for their values and lifestyle. Remember, owning a home is an investment and doing your part to keep the subdivision looking nice will help keep property values UP.