HOA Restrictions: Look Before You Leap

Many communities have associations for homeowners, property owners, condo owners, or similar associations. The presence of a Home Owners Association, also known as “HOA”, introduces another layer of rules and regulations to consider when buying a home. Some people love these associations, while some hate them and would absolutely never live in a residence with HOA.

Some associations have very simple rules such as no abandoned, non-working motor vehicles and no grass above ten inches tall are allowed. Others have architectural review boards that must approve your paint scheme before you can repaint your house. I’m serious.

I read about this story once about this agent who was looking at a townhouse with a potential buyer, and a neighbor knocked on the door to hand deliver a notice that the door had been painted without permission. Iit was a deep, wine red paint. The notice went on to state that the door would have to be returned to its original dark green color or an exception applied for within ten days. Although her client liked the townhouse, the potential buyer decided she did not want to live with this sort of micromanagement.

Some associations add a significant amount of cost to the home purchase via high monthly, quarterly or annual dues payments. An aggressive association may also attempt to issue levies on homeowners for improvement projects.

If you are considering a property controlled by an association, watch out for the following:

1. Sometimes associations limit what pets owners may have

2. If the association allows pets, it may limit the hours they can be outside.

3. Parking places may be assigned coupled with an aggressive towing policy.

Some associations maintain pools, tennis courts, elevators, trash collection, snow removal, grounds maintenance, provide bus or limo service, concierge service, and in general, make life pleasant and trouble free. While these are nice benefits, make sure you are comfortable with the costs associated with them.

So, as you can see, whether your concern is protecting the value of your investment (no junk cars), maintaining your freedom to choose (you want an eggplant door, a place to park the company truck, and/or to build an addition with a family room and a new kitchen), it’s very wise to check out those things which can limit your control and increase the cost of home ownership before you buy.

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