A Buyer’s Guide to HOAs
Although HOAs are growing in popularity, many buyers are hesitant to join, fearful of the authoritarian reputation HOAs tend to have, and uneducated on what to expect when purchasing a home within an association. On the flip side, HOAs can be very appealing, as membership often comes with unique amenities, added security, and increased property values.
If you’re thinking about buying a home in an HOA, here are a few important things to know to help you make the best decision for you and your family:
Most buyers know that HOA membership comes at a cost, usually a monthly or annual fee. But what they may not realize is that properties are sold as-is and may be laden with unpaid fees, liens, or other lingering problems. Unfortunately, any unpaid assessments or penalties become the responsibility of the new owners. To avoid a surprising bill after closing, potential buyers should be sure to request an HOA estoppel, certificate, or written confirmation that there are no outstanding fees or violations associated with the property. For added protection, it’s also a good idea to negotiate a cap for any unsettled fees.
Rules & CC&Rs
An association’s governing documents will include these and other Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that homeowners commit to follow.
Pro Tip: Don’t just skim your potential HOA’s governing documents; read them thoroughly!
It’s always better for buyers to be well aware of, and prepared to adhere to, the rules before they make an offer. While specific rules will differ from association to association, common CC&Rs include regulations for types of fencing, landscaping, exterior paint colors, window treatments, vehicle storage, noise, and pets.
Potential buyers should always check their closing contract for HOA addendums. A state’s standard contract can impact negotiating abilities by shortening the window to review all documents received from the seller and the HOA. Addendums may also limit what is considered a valid reason for cancellation if a buyer decides they want to back out of the transaction after their offer is accepted. By reviewing all contract addendums, buyers can avoid costly limitations and ensure the smoothest transactions possible.
HOAs are run by volunteer community members, so the way they are governed can vary greatly. One association may be ruled with an iron fist while another is operated under a more laid-back, passive hand. Before committing to an HOA, it’s worth taking the time to speak with other homeowners about their experiences, walking around the grounds to observe if assessments are used wisely to maintain common areas and amenities, and to get a general feel of what life would look like living in that association.
Preparation is Key
HOA membership is a good fit for many buyers. Others may decide that the fees, rules, and regulations are not worth the extra cost. If you’re considering joining an HOA, knowing beforehand what to expect during the buying process can make all the difference in making an informed decision.