As you continue the search for your dream home, you might begin to notice that the general consensus can be incredibly polarizing. It takes less than five minutes on Google to see that people either love or hate their HOAs, and while there are plenty of beautiful reasons to join these communities, it is equally important to note that there are just as many cons as there are pros to keep in mind as you continue to browse through one property listing after another.
Consider Your Long Term Plans
This might feel like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised to learn just how many homeowners fail to understand the full gravity of their new investments. Buying a house can prove to be far more serious than marriage in a lot of ways, and if you are not careful, you could find yourself committing to a life that you never wanted in the first.
So as you continue to look through those properties, ogling every floorplan like a kid in a candy store, We would like to recommend that you keep a few questions in the back of your mind: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
What about ten years? What about twenty? While many of us obviously love the value that comes with being a part of an HOA, we like to remind all of our clients to be as realistic as possible when it comes to assessing the long term goals for your investment. An HOA’s purpose is to maintain the monetary value of your property. All of which can be achieved through the creation and conservation of a certain standard of living.
Pro #1: Beautiful Home, Awesome Amenities!
One of the first things you will notice about an HOA is the uniformity. Take a drive through any one of these neighborhoods and you will see it straightaway. From carefully manicured lawns, clean-swept gutters, to the striking lack of visible trash cans, these neighborhoods look polished, clean, stylishly modern, and more ready than ever for new families to call “home.”
In addition to community appearance, a good majority of HOAs offer a wide variety of amenities, which may be used by homeowners and their visiting guests. These amenities include the maintenance of community parks, lawn maintenance, snow removal, while some have expanded their list of perks to include exclusive access to club houses, pools, children’s play areas, fitness centers, and more.
Con #1: Costly Membership Fees
When considering an HOA, never forget that your property’s HOA dues are calculated and added to the overall cost of your home, and can often turn out to be hundreds of dollars per month in addition to your mortgage payment. The cost itself is generally manageable, and will be applied directly toward the cost to maintain the amenities as listed in the HOA’s CC&R… but it can come as an unnecessary shock to those who did not read their copy of the CC&R prior to joining the community.
Be honest about what you want. Will your HOA’s featured amenities be worth the cost of membership? While it is true that your maintenance costs will be shared by the community, nobody wants to sign up for a gym membership if they do not have the option to cancel.
Another important thing to remember: If an HOA is facing financial hardship, this could inevitably raise your HOA fees without warning. Look up the financial history of an HOA before buying to that community. It will still be your responsibility to pay those membership fees, regardless of what you originally agreed to, and you want to make sure you have no problems adding those estimated costs to your budget.
Pro #2: Reduced Responsibility!
As mentioned in Pro #1, one incredible perk of being a part of an HOA is the ever-popular reduced responsibility! While not every HOA will include property maintenance and general upkeep, many CC&Rs will actually include these services in their list of featured amenities. This can prove incredibly helpful for homeowners who happen to live where it snows, who have no interest in landscaping, etc. This can all prove incredibly helpful if you have no interest in shoveling the snow out of your driveway every week.
Con #2: Loss of Freedom
When you purchase a home in an HOA community, you have to follow the rules. Read your CC&R in full. Read all the rules. All of them. We simply cannot stress that enough.
While it is true that restrictive rules and community guidelines can be a bummer, they exist to protect the investments of the entire community. Please keep this in mind when you move forward with your purchase. If you want to make changes to your property down the road, you cannot simply pay to install a pool or repaint the front door or put up a sign without first acquiring written approval from the HOA’s board of directors. There are no excuses once you have completed your purchase and you could be heavily fined for failing to uphold any of the rules you agreed to by moving into the community.
Pro #3: More Community Focus!
Have you ever watched an old sitcom and wondered: “I wish I could get to know my neighbors like they do.” Well, when you invest in an HOA, that is precisely what you are signing up for! HOA neighborhoods tend to be close-knit communities of people who watch out for each other, participate in community meetings, and they might even be elected to serve on the HOA’s board of directors. All residents are encouraged to get to know one another, and this can often be encouraged by the hosting of monthly community gatherings, pool parties, or other activities exclusive to members of the HOA and their guests. Some larger communities might even require special participation during the holidays, like compulsory Christmas decorations, community donations, etc.
Please note that the biggest problems of living with an HOA occur when a majority of the homeowners stop attending HOA meetings. Just like with politics, when a smaller group of people are left to make decisions for the community, this inevitably leads to unfair representation within the governing board of the community and can lead to issues down the road if the majority votes to change rules in the CC&R down the road.
While it is not necessary to make new friends with everyone in your community, the most common cause of community issues is lack of participation. As an active member of the HOA, it is your duty to attend those meetings and participate whenever possible. And for those who want to get more involved in the care and maintenance of their community, joining an HOA could be precisely the move you were looking for.
Con #3: Ugh… More Community Focus
As much as some might love the chance to get to know their neighbors, participate in community votes, gatherings, and more, there are still many who have absolutely no interest in those activities.
If you have your eyes on a particular property, do not settle with merely checking out the property itself. Meet the neighbors. Ask them what they think of the HOA. Some communities happen to be super laid
back, each home offering its own flavor of style. Some communities will prove to be super friendly when you move in. Some will prove to be full of racists. You never know until you check it out for yourself.
If you feel at all unsure of the community you are buying into, go and visit it yourself. This is the best possible way to ensure that you get a good feel of the community before you sign that dotted line. If you happen to be the kind of resident who doesn’t care to obey the posted speed limit, you cannot be surprised when you get fined for speeding in your own neighborhood. Think of your community.
No matter how pretty one house might appear to be, when it comes to HOAs, you are not simply buying a house. You are not simply buying a property. You are buying into a community of like-minded people. By choosing to live in an HOA, you are choosing to be an active participant in that community.
Read all of the governing documents in your CC&R. Say hello to your neighbors once in a while, and don’t be afraid to get involved. You are not just paying for amenities in an HOA. You are consenting to work together. And that notion alone, can be a very comforting thing.