Part of searching for a new home is searching for the community you’ll be living in. Some of these communities have rules under their Homeowners Associations (HOA) that you’ll need to follow as a new member. If you are unfamiliar, an HOA is an organization that manages a community of houses, townhouses, or condominiums.
HOAs and homeowners tend to have a love/hate relationship. On the one hand you like the structure they give, and on the other you want them to leave you the heck alone. Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of living with an HOA.
Pro – Your community is given an “Acceptable Appearance”
Have you ever driven through your neighborhood and thought to yourself, “How does that person live there?” The grass is two feet high, there’s a rundown car in the driveway, and their Christmas lights are hanging proudly in the middle of June. These neighbors can really spoil your drive home every evening. Furthermore, for a lot of homeowners this can make or break their ability to sell a home down the road. Especially if this house is next door or across the street. This is why having some rules in place can really help increase the value of your home and your day-to-day life living there.
Some HOAs even cover your lawn maintenance for you. This makes for an easy way to have each yard up to snuff and takes away the burden from the homeowner.
Con – YOU have to follow your community’s “Acceptable Appearance”
While it’s nice to drive into your neighborhood and see a bunch of nicely kept houses, if your HOA doesn’t cover your yard maintenance, this means you have to be on your game. You’ll need to worry about parking cars in the street, trimming the hedges constantly, and removing your trash cans in a timely fashion. Some people just don’t want anyone telling them what to do with their house. And they also don’t want to be going to Home Depot every weekend to make sure their mulch is still in top shape.
Pro – There’s someone to deal with neighborly disputes
Noisy dog? Parties happening every weekend? Someone leaving their newspapers on the driveway so often there’s now a pile? You don’t have to make that awkward phone call or knock on a door because your HOA will take care of your neighborly issues. Most HOAs have rules about things like noise levels after hours that the association will be able to enforce them.
Con – The cost
As you can imagine, one of the biggest downfalls to an HOA is that it adds to your monthly mortgage. According to Realtor.com, a typical single-family home’s HOA fees can cost homeowners around $200 to $300 a month. Of course, this can be lower or much higher depending on the size of your unit and the amenities provided.
Keep in mind that if you can’t pay your HOA fees, you can actually face foreclosure. Laws can vary by state, but some place limits on when an HOA can move to foreclose. So if you’ve fallen behind on payments, you will want to consult a local attorney.
Pro – Your HOA covers common areas in your neighborhood
If you’re lucky enough to live in a community with common areas, such as a pool, park, gym, dog park, community center, or pond, your HOA will take care of that maintenance. Because a good chunk of your monthly or yearly dues will go to these community areas, you’ll want to make sure you’ll actually use them before moving into a community that has them. For instance, if you have a community gym in your area and will never step foot in it, why pay for it? As you can see, if you move to the wrong neighborhood this “pro” can quickly become a “con” so make sure you pay attention to what your fees are covering.
The ins and outs of your Homeowner’s Association and what is covered in your new community will be spelled out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions. It’s always a good idea to read your CC&Rs carefully before you even buy your new home, and refer to it frequently once you move in so you’ll always be prepared.