Homeowner’s associations, better known as HOAs are a necessity for many neighborhoods. In fact, HOAs can be quite beneficial to the homeowner who is invested in their property and increasing the quality of life in their neighborhood. Before purchasing a home in an HOA neighborhood, however, potential homebuyers should do their due diligence to ensure the best homeowner experience possible.
Many HOA agreements come with deed and property use restrictions that dictate what a homeowner can do to their property and when. For example, if you drive a take-home commercial vehicle for work, there may be restrictions about the presence of such vehicles in your neighborhood. There may also be restrictions on landscaping and house painting as well. Often times, this information can be obtained from the current homeowner. Staying within restrictions will help create a solid relationship with your HOA and help you avoid certain homeowner headaches.
Take a drive through the neighborhood, paying special attention to the quality of common areas, houses and yards. Does everything look neat and clean? Are the pool and playground areas upkept? Is the landscaping overgrown? Answering these questions will give you insight into the value your HOA puts on neighborhood appearance, which can greatly affect the value of your home.
Find out how much your HOA fee will be, if it is monthly, quarterly, etc., and what these payments cover. Most HOA fees should cover the filing of association tax returns, maintenance of common areas and access to recreational areas. You want to make sure that you are getting a good deal for your payment, and that your HOA will be managed well as a result.
One of the best ways to learn more about your neighborhood HOA is to talk to a resident who has lived there for a while. Find out if their HOA experience has been positive or negative, and why they feel that way. They can even give you advice on working with your HOA to improve your neighborhood and avoid any potential conflicts.
Do your due diligence when it comes to researching information on your potential neighborhood and HOA. When you search online, what kinds of news articles and other items are popping up? Are you seeing mostly positive news or negative news about the HOA? Remember that bad news is often easier to find than good, but take time to look into what people are saying and why. This may be indicative of the experience you will have in dealing with your neighborhood HOA.
Don’t go into an HOA neighborhood blindly. Do your research before you decide to purchase a home and figure out how much HOA dues are, what they cover, the work the HOA does in the community, and how you can get involved in the association. Due diligence pays off in avoiding conflicts with your HOA and neighbors, and helps you avoid violating restrictions that could result in unexpected fees and fines down the road.
HOAs are often only as good as the residents of a neighborhood want them to be. If you see areas for improvement in your HOA, don’t hesitate to get involved. Many HOAs rely on residents to staff their volunteer board of directors, or provide structure for committees that run neighborhood communication and special events. Think about running for a position on your HOA board or volunteering to provide content for your neighborhood newsletter. You will improve your HOA and even make some new friends as a result.
HOAs create and enforce rules and regulations for a reason, primarily protecting your neighborhood and increasing your property value. In order to stay on good terms with your HOA (and your neighbors as well), review restrictions carefully and contact your HOA before undertaking any work or doing anything that may be considered a violation. If you see a rule that you would like changed, work in construct with your HOA to do so instead of taking matters into your own hands.
The only way to maintain and improve upon a relationship with your HOA is to stay in communication with them. Don’t hesitate to contact your HOA with any questions or suggestions you may have, as these may benefit not only you, but also other neighborhood residents. Your HOA can also help guide decisions on how to landscape and care for the outside of your home in a way that suits everyone.
There are definitely right and wrong ways to handle problems with your HOAs. Before getting your HOA involved, or calling law enforcement about an issue, see if you can talk to your neighbors about the problem. Communication is key to understanding all sides of an issue, and HOA operators and boards often encourage neighbors to talk it out before going through a formal complaint and fining process.
Living in an HOA neighborhood comes with certain rules and restrictions, but if you understand them, life will be better and easier for you and your neighbors. Do find ways to work with and improve your HOA for the benefit of your entire neighborhood, and consider what you can do to get involved. Don’t stay silent on a problem, and always try to handle issues as best as possible. If you do so, you can make your HOA work for you.
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