July 13th, 2010 10:48 PM by Wendy Thomas
It's always interesting to me to have a new buyer contact me, and one of their requirements is "no HOA!!!". Home owner's associations have, like everything else, good and bad points. It's a little extreme to decide on a property with extreme consideration being given to whether or not a home owner's association is present (unless, of course, you're looking for a place outside of the city limits, with land, etc.).
A community that has a home owners association may have a pool or other common areas, including a clubhouse, tennis courts, and natural areas that you, as the homeowner, can enjoy, but don't have to maintain. The HOA, if handled properly, also assists in maintaining value in a development, based on their consistency with ensuring that neighbors maintain their yards, etc. With the rise in the number of foreclosures in the past couple of years, an HOA may take part in helping to maintain a yard when abandoned, again, in hopes of helping maintain property values. Sidewalks, street lights, and other benefits are there as well. Don't overlook the stronger sense of community!
The HOA must be able to demonstrate that it is actually there for a reason! In the case of a development with a pool or other common areas, you should be able to see where your money is going. In the case of townhomes, where your monthly dues go towards ground maintenance, the property should look amazing. But when they are still collecting dues, and the neighborhood starts to look bad or the entrance isn't taken care of, there's a problem. Another huge problem that I see: an HOA must be CONSISTENT!!! If a strict HOA complains to a homeowner about a car parked in front of their house for 2 days, but never mentions the one a street away, where a car has been in front of a house for a week, it becomes impossible to enforce the rules, and the HOA loses the trust and support of the community.
The bottom line, in my opinion--HOA's are a good thing. They just have to be managed correctly. If you are truly concerned on how things are going in your neighborhood, consider volunteering for the Home Owners Association Board. Association fees can range from a $25 a year volunteer dues, to over $600 a year in some communities; just make sure that you're getting what you pay for! A home owners association should be in place to help you maintain the value of your home, and help make your development a nicer place to live.