HOA living is becoming the norm in many communities. But, is moving to an HOA community all that it’s made out to be? What is an HOA neighborhood association and are HOA fees worth it to move into one?
In this article:
HOA Living: Breaking Down the HOA Meaning
Before learning the pros and cons of HOA living, you must first know what HOAs are, what purpose they serve, and how they can affect you as a homeowner.
What is an HOA? Many wonder about the HOA definition. HOA simply stands for homeowners association. A homeowners association is a non-profit organization dedicated to managing a common-interest development. Why do HOAs exist? Homeowners associations exist to manage residential communities, maintain curb appeal, and keep property values high.
The beginning of the association starts with the developer of the homes. With the help of legal guidance, the developer creates governing documents for their new association. These documents include bylaws, rules and regulations, articles of incorporation, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).
What is HOA living? Simply put, it’s when you reside in a home that is a part of a homeowners association. The HOA life isn’t for everyone, though it does offer plenty of benefits. For instance, living in an HOA community provides you access to amenities that non-HOA homeowners don’t necessarily have.
How Does an HOA Work?
Once you move into the HOA, you become an automatic member of the homeowners association. As a member, you automatically become subject to the HOA’s governing documents. These documents tell you what you can and can’t do as a homeowner. Such rules exist to keep the community in order and keep property values high.
From here, members can be part of the Board of Directors. They take the best interest of the community, enforce rules, and determine the amount for dues necessary to keep the HOA up and running.
Before moving into a homeowners association, it is best to review the HOA’s governing documents first. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the covenants and rules you need to follow in case you move in. It’s also a wise idea to try and determine the health of the association before deciding to buy or rent a house within the community.
Do You Have to Join an HOA?
Can I refuse to join an HOA? It depends on whether the HOA is voluntary or mandatory. Voluntary HOAs allow you to opt-out of joining the association. But, that means you won’t have access to the benefits the HOA brings. Mandatory HOAs, on the other hand, don’t give you that same option. If you buy a house in a community with a mandatory HOA, you must join it no matter what.
Benefits of Living in An HOA Neighborhood
What do you, as a tenant or homeowner, get in return for the HOA fees you now have to pay regularly? A well-run HOA should be able to provide you and your family with many HOA benefits, such as:
1. Keep Property Values High
One of the most obvious benefits of HOA living is the protection of property values. As someone who invested a great deal of money into a home, you naturally want to make sure it retains (and even increases) its value. While you can control how your own house looks, you can’t do the same for the rest of the neighborhood. This is where HOAs come in.
Because homeowners usually need to seek permission to make any structural changes to their property, the HOA has control over the aesthetic consistency and appeal of the neighborhood. Associations also typically have rules concerning landscaping, trash placement, decorations, and vehicle parking. These rules all have one ultimate goal — to make the community look nice and, therefore, keep property values high.
2. Access to Community Amenities
Not all homeowners associations have the same amenities, but many boast a wide range that members can use. This includes clubhouses, community pools, tennis courts, gyms or fitness centers, playgrounds, and even recreational parks.
Having such amenities within your reach saves you both the time and effort of going to a public pool or park. Plus, compared to their public counterparts, HOA amenities are also usually safer, less crowded, and better maintained.
3. Fees Are Inclusive of Some Utilities
Living in an HOA community also means fewer headaches when it comes to managing your utility bills.
There are many associations that include utilities — such as water, gas, trash, sewer, and recycling — as part of your monthly dues. This makes it easier and less time-consuming for homeowners.
Again, not all associations are created equal, so make sure to check with your own HOA to seek which utilities are included in the monthly fees (if any).
4. No Need to Work on Landscaping
How many hours will you spend painstakingly laboring over your yard? If you live in an HOA, the answer is none. Your monthly association dues usually already include landscaping costs. That means the HOA will find a professional landscaper to take care of the community’s landscaping needs. Instead of spending every other Saturday trimming your trees and mowing your lawn, join an HOA and have them do it for you.
5. No More Dealing With Bad Neighbors
Living in an HOA neighborhood also means that there are certain regulations you must observe. These regulations exist with the comfort of everyone in mind. This means that if a neighbor is hosting loud parties, in violation of an HOA covenant, then you have the means to deal with them.
Plus, you don’t even have to confront your neighbors yourself. The HOA has various means to enforce the HOA rules and regulations, so you can peacefully let them handle it for you.
6. Lots of Opportunities to Socialize
HOAs also like to uplift the culture and standard of living in the area they manage. Often, it means having a variety of social activities for HOA members, so you and your family can have plenty of opportunities to get to know the neighbors.
Not only do you get to talk to your fellow homeowners during HOA meetings, but you can also chat them up as well during parties and social gatherings. And your kids can often make friends as they share the common amenities like the community pool, walking trail, or tennis courts.
The Downsides of HOA Living
Although there are a lot of advantages to HOA life, there are also some things about HOA living that many might consider as drawbacks. Here are the cons of living in an HOA:
- Association Fees. Monthly dues can be expensive, depending on the location of your HOA as well as the extent and nature of its amenities. And many HOAs can also levy special assessments. But, these fees cover the maintenance and upkeep of the entire neighborhood, so they are definitely being put to good use.
- Restrictive Covenants and Rules. More often than not, HOAs have covenants that restrict how you can paint or decorate your house, where you can park your cars, and even whether or not you can rent out your home. It’s important to note, though, that these rules serve the purpose of keeping the community in order. It all boils down to maintaining curb appeal and keeping property values high.
- Poor Management. Some HOAs can suffer from poor management and cause the community to decline. The best way to prevent this is to elect capable board members who have the association’s best interests in mind. Many HOAs also hire a management company to ensure duties and responsibilities are carried out properly.
- Liens and Foreclosures. With HOA living, there’s always a threat of liens and foreclosures. Some HOAs do have the power to attach a lien to your property and subsequently foreclose on it. This only happens, though, when you fail to pay your dues.
Are HOAs really that bad? Living in an HOA may have its disadvantages, but it’s clear that its pros outweigh the cons. By keeping up-to-date with all your payments and following the community rules religiously, you get a wealth of benefits in exchange.
Are HOA Fees Worth It?
Is HOA a waste of money? As someone who is paying out their hard-earned money every time the HOA fees are due, you surely want to know where your money goes.
The best way to understand where your HOA fees go is by asking for a copy of your HOA budget. This budget should provide you with a breakdown of the various expenses that your HOA incurs.
By knowing which services your HOA pays for, you also become familiar with the services you should be getting. Aside from services, you are now also entitled to various amenities that your HOA offers. Try to take full advantage of what your community has in the way of common amenities.
These usually include things like amenity centers, community pools, and fitness facilities. Get your own amenity keys or access cards, so you and your family can enjoy these amenities when you want.
Getting Familiar With Your HOA Board
Living in an HOA does not just allow you and your family to live in a safe, clean neighborhood with plenty of amenities. The HOA community also presents an opportunity for resident involvement.
The best way to get involved with your HOA management is by attending the HOA annual meetings. This way, you and your fellow residents have a better idea of the projects and challenges that your community may be faced with. Plus, you get to address those issues together, as a community.
Some people have a common misconception about homeowners associations and management companies. In truth, though, they keep the property values of a community high and the investments of homeowners as safe as possible.
When evaluating whether HOA living is right for you, it’s important to look at its pros and cons. Living in an HOA community means paying monthly fees and complying with its many rules. But, it also means preserving your property values, having access to well-maintained amenities, and benefitting from a sundry of inclusive services (such as landscaping). If you can bear with the minor inconveniences HOAs bring, you will reap more rewards in the long run.
Just as homeowners can benefit from HOAs, HOAs can benefit from professional management companies and vendor services.