Today’s homebuying market is super-hot. Fewer homes are up for sale, and many buyers are looking to score their dream abodes. With so much competition, people are making offers on houses sight unseen—and studies show that almost 25% of these homes are in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association (HOA). Here, we’re breaking down the most frequently asked questions and providing some need-to-knows about these managed communities.
1. WHAT DO HOAS DO?
HOAs are non-profit organizations that keep a community looking nice and operating at its best by establishing and enforcing rules and guidelines that members must follow. HOAs often provide amenities and upkeep for shared spaces, and a maintenance and governance structure designed to increase home values. In general, HOAs help ensure owners properly care for their homes and that a consistent feel is maintained throughout a given neighborhood.
2. WHO RUNS THE HOA?
The group of people assigned to run an HOA and act on the community’s behalf is called the board of directors. A board is composed of volunteers from the community who are elected to their positions by other association members. Volunteers serving on the HOA board are known as board members, and every board has four central officer positions: president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary.
3. HOW DO I KNOW IF A HOUSE IS PART OF AN HOA?
Sellers must disclose to buyers that the home is part of an HOA. However, the best way to find out for yourself is to contact the county recorder’s office and look up the deed for the address.
4. DO I HAVE TO JOIN THE HOA?
In short, yes. After you buy a home that belongs to an HOA, you automatically enter into a mandatory membership and are legally obligated to uphold your end of the deal: paying dues and respecting the rules.
5. HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO PAY TO LIVE IN AN HOA?
Charged monthly, quarterly, or annually, HOA fees vary drastically depending on where you live and the amenities available. Typically, the more services offered, the higher the fees, but fees for a single-family home usually aren’t as high as condo or townhome fees. When determining the exact payment, a board will consider all operating, maintenance, and saving expenses, and things like utilities, vendors, and insurance.
6. WHAT EXACTLY DO THESE HOA FEES COVER?
Generally speaking, the fees for single-family homes go towards the maintenance and upkeep of common areas, like shared parks, pools, and other areas. For condos and townhomes, fees include insurance and maintenance for buildings with shared walls.
7. WILL HOA FEES AFFECT HOW MUCH I CAN BORROW?
When borrowing money to purchase your home, lenders will look at potential taxes, insurance, and HOA payments. These factors may change how much house you can afford and, ultimately, how much a bank will lend you. If you’re on a tight budget, be mindful of any HOA fees that may be required once you purchase the home.
8. WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR LIVING IN AN HOA?
You’ll probably see HOA rules regarding what color you can paint your house, how often you should mow your lawn, what type of holiday decorations you can put up, and where you can park your car. Specific rules will be outlined in the governing documents, which are the legal documents that detail the nitty-gritty of how the association operates.
9. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE BREAK THE RULES?
For the most part, it’s easy to live in an HOA without worrying about daily infractions, but owners can be warned or fined for not following agreed-upon rules and regulations. While every association runs a little differently, most violations, such as a late payment or parking violation, will be resolved with a friendly reminder given in person or by mail.
10. IS AN HOA A GOOD FIT FOR ME?
Buying a home is a big decision, whether it belongs to an HOA or not. The good news is that HOA living has its perks. Usually, HOAs provide consistent property values, fun activities, some amenities, and common-area maintenance. If you’re into those things, it might be the right fit for you, but understanding how the association functions is important to your investment and quality of life.