Like them or hate them, homeowners associations exist in many neighborhoods and towns. For some people, HOAs can seem like a burden, while others appreciate the amenities they provide.
Here’s everything you need to know about homeowners associations.
What’s an HOA?
By definition, a homeowners association (commonly called an HOA) is a self-governing organization in communities—funded by homeowners who pay fees. The HOA is typically run by a board of directors that oversee the HOA’s management, and there are a collective set of bylaws and rules for the homes in the HOA.
HOAs vary and can exist based on neighborhood or home types, such as condos or townhouses. The amount of fees varies between HOAS, as well as rule enforcement and amenities. Typically, fees go toward the maintenance of any common areas, such as parks, swimming pools, and sometimes personal lawns (especially in townhouse, apartment, and condominium communities).
In the grand scheme of things, HOAs act as a vessel to keeping the community clean and uniform, which can help to maintain property values.
Possible HOA rules
HOAs can have a range of rules for the community. Some are considered strict, while others might not play a very significant role. Some possible HOA rules and restrictions include:
- House paint color (including sheds, garages, etc.). They might restrict color choices or require color change approval.
- Vehicle storage. HOAs might not allow visible storage of extra vehicles, such as RVs, ATVs, or boats on the property.
- Lawn care. There could be rules about grass lengths, bush trimming, tree placement, and lawn décor.
- Animals. HOAs can decide what kind of animals qualify as acceptable pets or how many a household can have.
Possible HOA fees
Though every HOA is different, homeowners should expect to pay yearly fees. During the homebuying process, buyers are required to look over the bylaws and fees of the HOA prior to closing to make sure that the costs and bylaws are not a surprise; not complying can lead to consequences laid out in the bylaws, like fines and collections.
There’s a pretty vast range in fees, depending on how many amenities are offered by the HOA. Sometimes, it’s as little as a few dollars a month. On the higher end of the spectrum, it can be nearly $2.5k a year.
Some of the HOA costs and fees may cover:
- Lawn care and maintenance
- Garbage and recycling pickup
- Shared utilities
- Shared spaces, such as clubhouses, pools, parks, tennis or basketball courts
Typically, the fees reflect how involved the HOA is in the care and keeping of the neighborhood. For example, an HOA with lower fees (and fewer amenities) might be considered “less active.” This can mean a more casual approach to rule enforcement or broader acceptance.
Pros and Cons
There are positives and negatives to every kind of HOA, depending on your needs. Here are some pros and cons to HOAs in general to consider.
- Property values benefit from the rules, maintenance, and appearance decided by the HOA
- Access to shared spaces – pool, gym, clubhouse, meeting spaces, playground, security
- Property issues or disputes are moderated through the board, which can be helpful and offer mediation between neighbors
- Depending on services offered, things like lawn care are taken care of, which can otherwise be a timely, expensive, or demanding chore
- If you want to make changes within the HOA, there are opportunities to join the board or start a committee
- Fees can be extreme and increase your monthly expenses
- HOAs have power over numerous home decisions, from paint colors to exterior design
- In some cases, the restrictions can be extreme, and violation notices are given liberally
- For rule violations or not paying HOA dues, homeowners can be fined or put a lien on your house
- Homes can have uniform appearances, which can eliminate diversity
Truthfully, HOAs exist in most places and can be polarizing either way—some homeowners really love the services provided, while others would prefer more of a hands-off approach to their neighborhood. You might appreciate fewer responsibilities and less labor or want more of a say in your yard or car storage choices.
It’s up to you to decide whether or not an HOA’s rules, fees, and amenities are acceptable to you when buying a home.