Before You Buy
Before you move into a community that has a HOA, make sure you can understand and agree to abide by the rules and regulation unique to each community. Some common guidelines may give the HOA the authority to have oversight of:
- the color of your front door/siding or house trim
- the height and type of fence on your lot
- landscaping changes
- additions to your home like pools, decks, etc.
- the type and number of pets allowed
- the parking of trailers, campers and commercial vehicles
- the exterior maintenance of your lawn and house
Most homeowner and condo associations require that owners submit applications when owners are planning to make exterior changes to their lots and homes. This ensures that the changes are in accordance with the association’s governing documents and avoids the potential for having monetary charges assessed for unapproved changes.
While You Live There
HOAs exist to provide for representational government of a community and to ensure that the expenses of the association are met in a financially sound manner. That means that dues need to be collected from each owner to pay for items like landscape maintenance, insurance and the cost of maintaining amenities such as walking trails, pools and playgrounds. Paying your dues in a timely manner is important to keep the community up and running smoothly and the Boards of HOAs are required to make sure that all funds owed to the association are collected. Failure to pay may cause the delinquent account to be turned over to the community’s attorney for collection. This is not an avenue most Boards like to pursue, so your home purchase budget should include the cost of the annual assessment (Dues). While HOAs suffer from a lot of bad press, they are not intended to lessen the enjoyment of owning a home governed by an HOA. The volunteer Boards of these associations are required to enforce the rules and regulations as written to maintain property values and ensure the smooth running of the community’s business. Sales of homes in HOAs remain strong partly because potential purchasers know that someone will be looking out for their interests by keeping the neighborhood neat and attractive.
When You Move Out
When the time comes that you decide to move out of your HOA governed community, there are a few loose ends to tighten before leaving. Make sure any and all improvements/alterations to the exterior of your house and lot were approved by the HOA. If not, you’ll need to apply even though the changes were already made. Having approved applications on file avoids potential violations that may cause a purchaser to think twice before buying your home.
Once this is taken care of, make sure your Dues account is current. If not, all past due assessments and late fees will need to be paid by you at the time of closing. Finally, make sure you or your Realtor orders a Disclosure or Resale Packet to be given to the purchaser, so they too will know all the ins and outs of your community before they determine if your HOA is right for them.