Intro to HOA Life: 6 Things to Know About Buying into a Homeowners Association

Have you ever lived in an HOA community before? For those unfamiliar with HOA life, the entire premise may seem a little mysterious. And even for those who have lived in an HOA, it’s important to remember that not all Associations are created equal; your previous experience may or may not be the norm.

With this post, we’re launching a new series called Intro to HOA Life. Our designs are pretty simple: We just want to provide homebuyers with some general information that can help guide their decision about whether or not to buy into an HOA community.

For today’s post, we’re just going to review some fundamentals.

6 Things to Know About HOA Life

  1. The HOA has a purpose. The first thing to know about the homeowner’s association is that it isn’t arbitrary, random, or capricious. While some of the rules and regulations may baffle you, it’s important to remember the method behind the madness: The HOA exists to help its members preserve their property values. In other words, buying into an HOA is one way to protect your real estate investment.
  2. To fulfill its mission, the HOA will have some rules in place. When you agree to buy into an Association, you also settle to adhere to a set of rules and regulations. These rules are clearly laid out in governing documents, and you should always ask to review those documents thoroughly before buying. Most of them are going to be common sense, and may include things like not painting your front door pink, not allowing your grass to become overgrown, etc. Again, they’re all about making sure property values can be maintained.
  3. You may also have to pay dues. In a mandatory HOA, you’ll have to pay dues on either a monthly or annual basis. The specific amount will be laid out in your governing documents. The money collected is used by the HOA to maintain common areas; for example, your dues may be used to repair sidewalks and roads, to keep up with pool maintenance, etc.
  4. Some Associations are voluntary. It’s worth noting that some communities say they have an HOA, but it’s strictly voluntary. That is, you don’t have to pay dues, and the rules can’t really be enforced. These HOAs will be less restrictive, but they will probably also be less effective. As you consider membership in an HOA, the question of mandatory vs. voluntary is definitely one to consider.
  5. There are penalties for violating HOA rules. Again, most HOAs have rules and regulations that are simple and straightforward, and most residents don’t find them terribly onerous. However, if you ever do run afoul of an HOA rule, know that there can be strict penalties… including fines, liens, or even lawsuits. The HOA has a lot of legal wiggle-room to ensure that members are compliant with the stated rules and regulations, though if worse comes to worst, you can hire a lawyer of your own to represent you before the HOA.
  6. There are opportunities to serve, too. Most HOAs have a Board-based governance structure, as well as a number of volunteer committees. If you’d like to become more involved in your neighborhood, to help plan HOA social events, or to have more of a say in the evolution of Association rules, you can volunteer to serve! Note that you technically need to be elected to serve on the Board, but in many HOAs, there is a shortage of willing volunteers; getting elected may not be much of a hurdle!

These are just a few things we’d recommend you keep in mind as you pursue HOA membership. When we return with part 2 of the series, we’re going to list some of the most common HOA rules violations, along with some tips of staying on the right side of them.

In the meantime, do you have your report? It’s a FREE document that we make available to homesellers, including personalized recommendations on selling your home. As you think about getting your place sold, we hope you’ll grab your free report.

See you next time for Intro to HOA Life: 6 Common HOA Rules Violations!