If you live in the Katy/ West Houston Area, you do!
We have the dubious distinction of living in an area with basically no zoning restrictions. This means that you could potentially buy a nice tract of land, build a beautiful home and end of living next to a strip mall or trash dump, and literally watch the value of your property plummet with no recourse.
One of the ways that developers battle this lack of zoning is to create their own ordinances for their particular developments and have them governed by Home Owner Associations (HOA). Many of my out of town buyers come from areas that do not have this type of governance, because their former town/city takes care of zoning regulations so there tends to be confusion as to the purpose of the HOA.
The rules are put in place to make sure that not only do you act in accordance with the rules and regulations set out by the developer but that your neighbor does as well. While some feel that the rules can be a bit restrictive, the majority of homeowners in our area are appreciative of the outcome. Just drive through an area without such controls and you may even appreciate the little "nasty grams" we all receive when our home needs power washing or our trash cans are put out two days too early.
I have buyers requesting that I find them a home without HOA I am happy to help them with this, but want them to understand the ramifications of living in an area where every homeowner and tenant may do as they wish without consequence.
Of course, not all HOA's are created equal. Some do a terrific job of maintaining the common areas, keeping the pools clean, trimming the trees, and keeping the occasional errant neighbor in line. Take a drive through Cinco Ranch, Grand Lakes, Seven Meadows, Kelliwood, etc to see the impact of a strong HOA. Of course, the fees for these areas are higher but they offer more amenities to the residents and cost more money to maintain: pools, tennis courts, lake systems, walking trails, fountains, lush landscaping, etc. Usually, the fewer the amenities, the lower the HOA fees.
HOA fees in the South Katy Area run the gamut from $ 2400 a year for an exclusive, gated community of million dollar plus homes to $ 500 per year for smaller, independent communities. The average for master-planned communities in our area runs from $ 750 to $ 1200 per year.
A strong HOA can have a very positive impact on property value so this should be kept in mind when buying a property in our area. You should also request a copy of the deed restrictions and covenants when you make an offer so that you fully understand what will be expected of you as a homeowner. It is always painful to discover that you are prohibited from a particular activity after you close on the home, such as: parking your RV on you lot, cutting down the existing trees, or having numerous pets, etc. . These things are easily discoverable during the purchase process and can actually allow you to be released from the contract, if worded properly on the purchase agreement. A local Realtor, knowledgeable about the neighborhood and the area can help with that provision and guide you through the HOA issue.
So, who needs an HOA? You just might...
Go to http://www.christiborden.com/ to learn more about the Katy/West Houston Area and to request a Special Report or moving guide.