Colorado Real Estate News

5 Tips for Dealing with Your HOA

Dealing with Your HOAHomeowner’s Associations often get a bad rap for being notoriously tough to deal with. However, they also provide neighborhood amenities such as parks, club houses, and pools. HOA’s are often a necessary reality to keep things running smoothly. If you are currently living under an HOA, or are considering purchasing a home in a neighborhood with an HOA, check out our tips on living under and HOA successfully.

Dealing with Your HOA

Learn the HOA’s Rules

This is possibly the most important tip we could give! Too few residents understand the rules before the choose to buy or rent under an association. But it’s important to be able to live with the policies on pets, parking, noise restrictions, and landscaping guidelines.

You may be able to find an HOA’s rules online, but make sure any online information is current. If you cannot find this information online, ask your real estate agent for a copy or contact your HOA directly to acquire these documents. Be sure to pay close attention to rules regarding fines resulting from violations.

Dealing with Your HOA

Get to Know Your Neighbors

Under an HOA, your neighbors are all paying the same dues and following the same restrictions as you, which automatically gives you something in common. If you suddenly start feeling targeted or pressured by you HOA, you may not be the only one. Make an effort to connect with your neighbors, they may be feeling the same way. In some circumstances, simply starting a conversation could help the entire community from being taken advantage of by the HOA.

Other times, it isn’t the association but an individual who calls attention to a violation. Be sure to always go to your neighbor first, before taking an issue up with the HOA. That will help build a level of trust between neighbors and hopefully they will give you the same courtesy in the future.

Dealing with Your HOA

Get Involved

Communicating with other members and with the board is the easiest way to sure that you stay informed on the latest changes and make your voice heard. An HOA functions best when its members care enough to voice their opinions. If you have an idea, want to make a complaint, or to give praise, board meetings are the place to do so. Attending board meetings will also ensure you are part of the voting and election processes.

Dealing with Your HOA

Follow Procedure

Your HOA should have clear procedures on everything from gaining permission to paint your house to installing a satellite dish. As a homeowner under an HOA, educate yourself on these procedures and be prepared to follow them. Gaining approval from your HOA before starting a project will guarantee don’t come after you for not following protocol. Although an item or behavior is not explicitly listed as against the rules, that doesn’t mean your HOA will consider it to be acceptable.

Dealing with Your HOA

The Bottom Line

Homeowners’ associations can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting their house neon pink. But can also be your worst enemy when they expect you to perform expensive maintenance on your home that you don’t find necessary. Before you purchase a property under an HOA, make sure you know exactly what you are getting into.

Dealing with Your HOA

Colorado Real Estate News

Tips on Successfully Living under an HOA

Father and son gardening

If you buy a condominium, townhome, or single-family home in a newer development, or even an older neighborhood where homeowners are concerned with property values and aesthetics, you will most likely be required to become a member of the community’s homeowners association (HOA).

About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by an HOA, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by HOAs has grown from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 333,000 today.

Community associations are established by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the homes in the development are sold. The volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collecting maintenance fees, and enforcing the rules. While there are laws governing the behavior of HOAs, these associations can still have a powerful impact on your rights as a homeowner. Following are some tips on how to successfully live under an HOA:

Learn the HOA’s Rules

You may be able to find an HOA’s rules online as well as information about what happens if you violate a rule. Make sure any online information is current. If you cannot find this information, ask your real estate agent for a copy or contact your HOA directly to acquire these documents. Pay particular attention to rules regarding fines resulting from violations. Also, learn about the process for changing or adding rules and whether HOA meetings are held at a time when you can attend if you wish to do so. If the rules are too restrictive, considering buying elsewhere.

Make sure the home you want to buy is not already out of compliance with HOA rules.

Buying into an existing problem can be a headache, so find out what the rules are and whether you would have to make changes to the home to comply.

Assess Environmental Practices

If environmentally friendly living is important to you, be aware that some HOAs may dictate that you use fertilizers, pesticides, sprinkler systems and whatever else it takes to keep your lawn picture-perfect. They may not allow xeriscaping and may limit the size of gardens, ban compost piles and prevent you from installing solar panels. If these things are important to you, make sure you check the fine print first.

Consider Your Temperament

Are you the type of person who hates being told what to do? If so, living in a community with an HOA may be a very frustrating experience for you. One of the major benefits of home ownership is the ability to customize and alter the property to suit your needs, but HOA rules can really interfere with this.

Find Out About Fees

Fees differ for each community. Because of this you should make sure to ask your HOA several key questions, including how are HOA fee increases set, how often do increases occur, and how much are they historically being raised. Find out how large the HOA’s reserve fund is and if you can get a printed history of HOA dues for the past 10 years. Ask for a record of special assessments that have been made and what assessments are planned for the future. Find out what the monthly dues cover.

Try to Get a Copy of minutes from the last meeting or sit in on an HOA meeting before you buy

The meeting minutes can be very telling about the policies of the HOA. Ask what are current and past conflicts, what is the process for resolving any conflicts, has the HOA sued anyone and how was it resolved? Also, talk to neighbors who have lived in the neighborhood for several years about their opinions of the HOA and experiences they have had.

Watch for under-management

Not all HOAs are over-managed. The opposite problem may be an HOA where no one really cares and where no one is interested in maintaining the neighborhood, making repairs, hearing resident grievances or being on the board. Residents may simply take turns serving as HOA president or randomly appoint someone, so be prepared to serve in this role whether you want to or not if that is the case with your community HOA.

Consider the impact of HOA fees in your short and long-term finances

A property with high HOA fees might end up costing you as much as the house you don’t think you can afford.

The Bottom Line

Homeowners’ associations can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting their house neon pink, but your worst enemy when they expect you to perform expensive maintenance on your home that you don’t think is necessary or impose rules that you find too restrictive. Before you purchase a property subject to HOA rules and fees, make sure you know exactly what you are getting into.