Homeowners’ associations tend to polarize buyers. Some people love the idea of a homeowners’ association, while others feel constrained by the rules and regulations. If you’ve been thinking about buying in a homeowners’ association, think about the pros and cons of this type of community before you form an opinion. And make sure you consult the community bylaws before you make a decision, because not all homeowners’ associations are alike!
What is a Homeowners’ Association?
A homeowners’ association is an organization that governs a specific housing development, typically formed when the development is formed. In most cases, if you buy a home within a development that has a homeowners’ association, you’re required to join the association. This entails paying a homeowners’ association fee, which may be payable yearly, quarterly or monthly. In return, you get maintenance for common areas, some neighborhood amenities, and a set of rules intended to keep the neighborhood nice and property values high.
Pros of Homeowners’ Associations
When many people consider living in a homeowners’ association, the first thing that comes to mind is the negative considerations of buying within this type of community. But homeowners’ associations actually offer a lot of benefits, which people frequently overlook. If you’ve been thinking about buying within a neighborhood governed by a homeowners’ association, here’s what you need to know about the upsides of this type of community:
Property Values are Retained
One of the biggest upsides of a homeowners’ association is that it helps retain your property values, by eliminating negative elements and ensuring the properties are well-maintained. This is a huge boon if you think you might want to sell your home in a few years; you’re more likely to be able to sell at or above what you pay if you’re part of a homeowners’ association.
You May Have Neighborhood Amenities
If you live in a homeowners’ association, you may have access to community amenities, like a playground, a pool, a community center or other common areas you can enjoy. These amenities are typically only for association members and their guests, which means they’re often less crowded and may be better maintained than public amenities. And as a member of the association, you also have a say in the amenities; you can suggest or vote for new amenities, or upgrades to existing amenities.
Homeowners’ Associations Prevent Eyesores
One of the biggest upsides of homeowners’ associations is that they require people to maintain the property, which means no knee-high grass. The rules about what color you can paint your house, how high your fence can be and other common homeowners’ rules can help enforce a uniform appearance and prevent eyesores.
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Enjoy a Developed Sense of Community
Homeowners’ associations often host social events that can help foster a sense of community within your neighborhood. These events may range from movie nights to community garage sales – it all depends on the neighborhood. But this can be a great boon if you’re moving from a different part of the country and don’t already have friends in the area.
Cons of Homeowners’ Associations
The negatives of buying in a homeowners’ association are not insignificant, and are enough to turn some people off to the idea of buying in this type of community. However, for other people, the negatives don’t constrain their personal lifestyles, and the pros are enough compromise to render the cons negligible. To make a truly informed decision about buying within a homeowners’ association, consider how these cons will affect your life:
You Are Constrained by Rules Governing Your Property’s Exterior
Homeowners’ associations typically include a lot of rules about what you can do with the exterior of your property. This may be anything from the type and position of trees you can plant to the color or type of siding you use on your home. You may be restricted in the type of fence you can put up, how high it can be, whether you can have a shed, whether you can install a satellite dish, and a wide variety of other factors when it comes to your property’s exterior.
You May be Limited in Pet Ownership
A homeowners’ association may limit the type and number of pets you can own. It’s not uncommon for a homeowners’ association to limit the number of dogs or cats in a household, for example. Some associations even make rules banning specific dog breeds, or dogs over a certain weight. Make sure you can live with the rules of pet ownership.
You May Face Rules About Vehicles
Some homeowners’ associations enact rules governing the type of vehicles you can park in your driveway, or how many vehicles you can have parked in your driveway at one time. Many associations restrict the parking of RVs in a driveway, and you may also be limited about parking trucks or even repairing vehicles in your driveway. Make sure you know your association’s rules.
The cost of a homeowners’ association is typically not too bad – ranging anywhere from $50 to $250 per year in most parts of the country – but it is an added cost, and you can face penalties if you don’t pay on time. In extreme cases, homeowners’ associations can actually levy fines against your property, which could ultimately result in losing your home. So make sure you’re prepared to pay the costs when you buy in an association.
Consult the Bylaws if You’re Thinking of Buying Within an Association
When buying in a development governed by an association, you also agree to obey the association rules and bylaws. If you buy in a development governed by an association, and you refuse to obey the rules or pay the dues, you can face legal action including fines and even losing your home.
The most important thing if you’re considering buying within a homeowners association is to thoroughly read the bylaws. Make sure the rules are acceptable to you. Homeowners’ associations incorporate a wide variety of rules, which can govern anything from the type and placement of a fence in your yard, what color you can paint your house, exterior landscaping, and even what you can park in your driveway. Some homeowners’ associations limit the number and type of pets, even restricting certain dog breeds or limiting the size of dogs. Make sure you can live with the rules before you buy in an association.
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