The debate on living in a housing development with a homeowner's association (HOA) has been going on for decades. Ever since the first master-planned communities started appearing in the 1960s, homebuyers have had to decide if the advantages outweighed some of the disadvantages. As with most aspects of home buying, the final answer is that it's a personal preference, but there are some important considerations that should be discussed before buying a property with an HOA. Prospective buyers will be provided a document of CC & Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) which outline the specifics and must be carefully reviewed.
There are many benefits to owning a home with an HOA. The same restrictions and rules that you might find limiting also limit your neighbors. Perhaps you can't tell the difference between one beige house color and the approved beige house color, but that same rule prevents your neighbor from painting their house purple.
Community Appearance and Standards
All aspects of the community will be monitored by the association. Not only house colors, but also landscaping, tree height, and other design elements must be approved by the association review board.
Often the community will include neighborhood parks and greenbelts which are maintained by the HOA as well as other amenities like swimming pools, sports courts, and exercise facilities. For example, Landen offers these amenities in some of its subdivisions and has an HOA. The cost may be higher, but includes access to the lake and park, which affects not only quality of life but also results in higher property values.
Lower Maintenance Costs
Depending on the HOA, the front yard landscaping and other maintenance tasks will be handled by the association. These can include services such as trash, street cleaning, water, and some even offer cable and internet.
HOA management control varies from one association to another, but all provide some authority over the community. Disputes between neighbors that might otherwise land in court are often revolved around a review board with the authority to make final decisions.
Higher Home Values
Home values are often higher in housing developments with an HOA than those without. The HOA will have policies in place to prevent property or an area to become neglected or unattractive. This keeps the neighborhood looking better than those without and attracts homebuyers.
First and foremost, the HOA will have restrictions on how the exterior of a home and the lot appear. The goal is to create a sense of unity and harmony in the neighborhood’s appearance.
HOA fees add cost to homeownership. Depending on the amenities offered and the financial health of the HOA, homeowners pay for the activities of the association through monthly fees.
This decision type also depends on your lifestyle and how you see yourself living on the property. Things most HOAs will frown on:
- Boat or RV parking on the property
- Chain link fences
- Above ground pools
- Chickens and other barn-yard-style pets
The presence of an HOA can make a big difference in your enjoyment of a property – both positive and negative. Before buying a home with an association, it's important to review the CC & Rs to ensure you are willing and able to abide by the rules. Make sure to investigate financial records and observe the effect on the neighborhood. Do your homework and know exactly what you're getting before you buy.
Written by Patricia Eubanks, Vice President