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5 Things to Know Before Buying a Home in an HOA

June 22, 2023

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What To Know If You Buy A Home In An HOA

If you’re thinking about purchasing a home in an HOA, it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. 

HOAs follow their own set of rules, which can make them more complicated than other dwellings independent from HOAs. 

And just because you know what an HOA is, that doesn’t mean the specific HOA you’re looking at is identical to other HOAs. 

Each HOA has its own bylaws and rules. 

Thus, you want to know what you’re getting into before you sign anything. 

In this article, we’re going to cover five things you should know before buying a home in an HOA. 

#1: HOAs may require you to cover unpaid Fees from Previous Owners  

If you’re about to purchase an HOA foreclosed property at an auction for a bargain, understand the full spectrum of what you’re purchasing. Many of these properties come with damages, liens from the HOA, municipal debts, and other issues. In many states, all of this will become your responsibility once you buy the home. 

Stories about buyers quickly purchasing foreclosed properties and then learning they must pay overdue fees and municipal debts aren’t uncommon and are great examples of how important thorough research is in the home buying process. The best way to prevent a bad situation is reading on title insurance, conducting municipal searches, finding association information, and any other pertinent information that will help you get a full picture of your potential purchase. 

And it doesn’t matter if it’s a foreclosed property or not. As a buyer, you should request written information from the HOA to ensure there aren’t any violations, outstanding fees, or code violations related to the property. The best way to ensure that you won’t be responsible for unpaid fees or past violations is to request an Association Estoppel or HOA resale package that contains all pertinent information.  

#2: HOA’s governing documents are critical 

Once you buy a home in an HOA, you’re a member of the HOA. The agreement is a contractual bond and legally enforceable. Thus, it’s crucial to learn as much as you can about an HOA before you buy a property in one. 

Every HOA isn’t the same. You need to research if the HOA you’re considering is a good fit for you. The basic rules outlined in the governing documents or Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions are a great place to start. 

Request copies of these documents and read them. Pay close attention to regulations on remodeling, exterior alterations, landscaping, and anything else that is particularly relevant to you. 

HOA covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) often cover all kinds of violations and community standards. The more you know about these ahead of time, the better. For instance, if you have a dog and the CC&Rs prohibit that breed of dog, then that community probably won’t be a good fit for you. And don’t assume HOAs will make exceptions for you. 

#3: HOA membership comes with fees and financial responsibilities 

 Prior to joining an HOA, it’s crucial to understand the financial obligations that come with it. HOA fees are the regular payments made by homeowners to cover various expenses like maintenance, repairs, and the upkeep of community amenities. It’s important to know the exact amount of these fees, how often you must pay them (monthly, quarterly, etc.), and what exactly they cover. These fees contribute to the collective fund that supports the overall well-being of the community. 

To gain a clear understanding of the HOA’s financial health, you should review their financial statements. These documents provide insights into the association’s income, expenses, and reserves. It’s essential to ensure that the HOA has enough funds in reserve to handle unexpected repairs or emergencies. A well-maintained reserve fund is an indicator of a financially stable HOA. 

Keep an eye out for any planned special assessments, which are additional fees imposed on homeowners for specific projects or unexpected expenses. These assessments can affect your budget and should be considered when evaluating the financial obligations associated with the property. 

By being aware of the HOA fees, understanding their purpose, and assessing the financial stability of the association, you can make informed decisions about your budget and determine if the HOA fees align with your financial capabilities and expectations. 

#4: HOA boards aren’t all the same 

Along with HOA governing documents, you need to understand the structure of governance and the decision-making processes that mold the community. Within this realm lies the heartbeat of the association, where the collective voice of homeowners resounds. 

Dive into the depths of understanding how the HOA is governed. Typically, an HOA has a board of directors or a similar governing body, elected by the homeowners themselves. These dedicated individuals, akin to captains at the helm, steer the course of the community, making decisions that affect the collective well-being. 

Take a glimpse into the frequency and accessibility of board meetings, for it is within these gatherings that important decisions are forged. Ascertain whether homeowners are encouraged to attend these meetings and if they can voice their concerns or opinions. Transparency and inclusivity are the pillars upon which a strong community is built, fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility. 

Explore the decision-making processes employed by the HOA. Does the board make decisions collectively or through individual decision-makers? Understanding this dynamic allows you to gauge the level of influence and input homeowners have in shaping the community’s policies and rules. Assess whether there are avenues for homeowners to propose changes, present ideas, or join committees that contribute to the decision-making process. In a vibrant community, the chorus of voices harmonizes to create an environment that reflects the desires and aspirations of its residents. 

#5: HOA amenities and services are important 

When considering a home within an HOA, it’s essential to explore the range of amenities and services that the community offers. These are the delightful extras that can enhance your daily life and contribute to a vibrant sense of community. 

Get an understanding of what amenities are offered and how they could affect your membership. Is there a community pool for hot summer days? If you have kids, are there playgrounds? Do you play basketball? Is there a community court? Ask yourself questions like these to assess what extra benefits you could get from living in this community. 

However, it’s not just the presence of amenities that matters; their quality and maintenance are crucial factors to consider. Assess whether the HOA takes pride in keeping these spaces clean and pristine. Well-maintained amenities provide an inviting environment for residents and foster a sense of pride in the community. After all, amenities are meant to be enjoyed, and it’s important that they are accessible, safe, and in good condition. 

In addition to amenities, explore the services provided by the HOA. These could include tasks like landscape maintenance, snow removal, trash collection, or even security measures. The level and quality of these services can significantly impact your day-to-day life, so you want to make sure the HOA takes them seriously. 

As you evaluate amenities and services, consider how they align with your lifestyle, interests, and needs. Think about the activities you enjoy and the convenience and value these amenities would bring to your life. 

Conclusion 

It’s important to conduct research before you buy a property in an HOA. Every HOA comes with its own rules, amenities, and services, so it’s vital to understand what you’re getting into to make sure it’s a good fit. 

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