A Homeowner Association (HOA) is a legal entity created to manage and maintain the common areas of a community. Generally these"common areas" consist of things like pools, clubhouses, landscaping, parks, streets and roads, but a HOA also governs the CC&Rs, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions, or set of rules that are typically set up by the developer and updated/changed by the Board of Directors. The CC&Rs are what determines if it is ok for you to leave your garbage can out for more than a day or if you are allowed to leave a car up on blocks in your front yard, or if your neighbors will have recourse if you choose to paint your shutters purple when theirs (and the rest of the neighborhood's) are black.
The HOA will enforce these CC&Rs in the way that is approved by the Board of Directors, often with the assistance of a property management company. These polices are developed to protect the neighborhood, the value of the homes and the quality of life for the residents. However, these policies can be changed if the majority of the voting neighbors would like them to be. So before you buy a home in an HOA, here are some things to consider:
1) You should thoroughly read and examine the CC&Rs that govern the community and make sure you can live with and abide by them. If the regulations state that you cannot have goats on your property, and you are a goat owner... this may be a sticky point! But if you think that 24 hours is plenty of time to leave out your recycling bin and you feel that is a fine policy and want your neighbors to abide by the same....an HOA may be perfect for you.
2) You are perfectly reasonable to ask for a copy of the financial statements of the HOA and have a person such as a lawyer or accountant examine them to make sure there is nothing irregular. Checking to see if the HOA runs its business in a responsible manner will help you determine if the neighborhood will have enough cash on hand to make upgrades and repairs to roads or other common areas such as the pool.
3) Find out what the monthly dues are and make sure you can afford them. Dues can be reasonable... or not depending on where you live, what the HOA does and your tolerance for the price-tag. But not paying them could put you in some serious hot water and potentially get you sued.
4) Find out if the HOA has a strategy for replacing of major items such as heating, cooling, roads, buildings and roofs and how the reserve requirements are funded. (i.e. has money been saved, or would the neighbors each be required to pay an additional amount should the basketball court need to be re-surfaced.)
5) Find out if there is any litigation pending against the HOA. This could be a red flag in a couple of different ways, and certainly something you should know before you sign your contract.
6) Ask about when the last time dues were raised, and how often this happens. For obvious reasons you want to know how much you may be expected to fork over!
An HOA community may be a great fit for you and your family and more an more Carolinians are making this choice. But be educated before entering into any contract, especially one concerning where you live and what you can do with your property.
Kuester Property Management