Eight Things to Consider before Buying in a Home Owners Association

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

Are you looking at homes in a Homeowners Association (HOA)? It is entirely possible that you are since more than 62 million Americans live in communities governed by an HOA.  The purpose of an HOA is to maintain the standards of the community, including its appearance, condition and general livability. However, living in such a community also can limit what homeowners can do to their property, which can sometimes be a source of conflict.

The HOA’s board of directors might have a say, for example, in where you park, the number of pets you have or what color you paint your front door. They may also levy special assessments. If you are moving into an HOA community, knowing how to avoid or resolve issues can be valuable. Consumer advocates at HowStuffWorks.com provide a few basic tips:

Know the bylaws. Read through the deeds and covenants so that you clearly understand them.  If you have a passion for pink flamingos on your front lawn or you own an RV which you plan on keeping in your driveway, you may discover that the HOA has a rule about that.  Be sure you know before you buy that home.  The HOA rules are there to be enforced. 

Pay dues on time. If you fall behind, the association can foreclose on your home, auction it off and evict you.  At a minimum the penalties will compound and if they hire an attorney to collect the past due fees, it will be that much more expensive.  Stay current! 

Pay any fines. If you are fined for an infraction of the HOA bylaws, you can ask for a variance. If you don’t get it, however, you’ll have to pay the fine or go to court. Unpaid fines can also trigger foreclosure and if nothing else, become more expensive.

Attend board meetings. Scheduled association meetings are open to community residents. Attending them, and getting to know your board members and the way they handle routine business, as well as issues and complaints, can go a long way toward easing problems.  I recently saw a post of Facebook from a friend who lives in an HOA community.  The scheduled Board meeting to discuss the budget was open to all 396 homeowners in the community.  He was the only one who attended the meeting other than the Board members who had to be there.

Run for a seat. If there is a vacancy on the board of directors, offer to fill it. Knowing the kinds of issues that come up, and how the board typically handles them can be helpful. 

Seek approval for changes. Before you build that chicken coop in your townhouse back yard, seek board approval. If they object, listen to their reasoning and consider how your intended project might affect your neighbors.  The HOA probably has rules concerning paint colors, shutter styles, roof shingles, front doors and even exterior lighting. Before you make changes, find out what is allowed and ask for permission for a variance. Repainting your new front door back to the allowed color will be annoying.  Replacing your new roof with a conforming shingle will be annoying and VERY expensive. 

Talk with your neighbors. If you have an issue, some of your neighbors may have the same problem. Approaching the HOA calmly with a number of residents experiencing a common issue can be helpful in getting it resolved.

If you have an issue, put it in writing. If your HOA is unresponsive to written communication, contact the directors by phone. If they don’t address a legitimate concern, you may need to seek legal advice.

There are many positive reasons to choose to live in a home with a home owners association, particularly if you don't like plastic pink flamingos! If you like knowing that there are rules governing the appearance of your home and your neighbors and you like the amenities which frequently go along with a home owners association, such as a pool or common areas, you may choose to live in an HOA. In the DC metro area they are typically newer communities outside the Beltway.  If you dislike the concept of a book of rules which can control the color of your front door, or at least the procedure to change it, then you might want to look for a home that is not in an HOA. In the DC metro area these are typically in older communities inside the Beltway.  

Regardless of where you want to live, if you need help starting the search process, just give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at lise@lisehowe.com.  To start your search right now, just click here.


Re-Blogged 6 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Roy Kelley 12/27/2018 01:00 AM
  2. Debbie Reynolds 10/08/2018 05:00 AM
  3. Ron Barnes 10/07/2018 07:06 AM
  4. Joyce Marsh 10/10/2018 03:07 AM
  5. Gabe Sanders 10/21/2018 11:00 PM
  6. Fred Griffin presently on Leave of Absence 10/21/2018 02:08 PM
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Caroline Gerardo
CMG Financial - Newport Beach, CA
C. G. Barbeau the Loan Lady nmls 324982

Cautionary notes: HOA's aren't regulated as one might think. In some the Board can hire family members to do landscaping, repairs and other dutires which the average person might not see as inflated. HOA's in California were subject to what I call a scam where a couple big law firms targeted HOA's as posssible lotto winners for suing the builder for construction defects before 9 years expired. Many of these million dollar suits were settled, the law firm got 33% plus expenses ( another 40%) and the HOA got pennies on the dollar. Your tip of attending meetings is a great one, but ask questions and check the money

Oct 08, 2018 11:15 AM #35
Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

Great info!  HOA's can be a deal breaker for some and not being thorough intially may find a Buyer in a home and neighborhood they now dislike.


Oct 08, 2018 08:11 PM #36
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I'm on the fence with HOAs, I see the good they can be and harm they can cause people.  I currently don't have one and would research ever so carefully before I lived in one.

Oct 08, 2018 08:27 PM #37
Dale Taylor
Re/Max 10 New Lenox Illinois - Frankfort, IL
Realtor = Chicago Illinois Homes Townhomes Condos

13 years ago I was serving the executive committee with creating a newsletter for our 89 home subdivision. Abruptly, the President resigned. The Executive committee turned to me, asking me to serve as President. I responded ok as interim President? Well, 13 years later I am still serving as their President, an assignment evidently I must have for life. Every annual meeting I offer to groom someone for the position. No one steps up. The funny part is our treasure as served longer than me. She has threaten to quit a couple of times, but I charm her into hanging in there.

Oct 08, 2018 09:09 PM #38
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Excellent post and useful information. A very important task as a homeowner with an HOA is to attend all HOA community or Board meetings, usually held once a month. The primary task is to be informed about the financial reports and review the current and projected expenses to maintain the community. 

My HOA fees increased twice in less than two years, so, I'm vigilant now and attend all HOA meetings. The time to challenge issues and rising HOA fees are when the BOD's are considering or enacting a rise in fees, not after you read about it in your HOA newsletter.

Oct 08, 2018 10:06 PM #39
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

Kimo Jarrett - I have a condo and the same advice holds true for those as well - I need to attend the condo meetings to keep an eye on what is going on. 

Oct 09, 2018 04:32 AM #40
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

Ron Barnes - your activity on your HOA board certainly must bring you some business! 

Oct 09, 2018 04:33 AM #41
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

Dale Taylor - I hope that everyone in the association says Thank You For Your Service at least once a week!

Oct 09, 2018 04:34 AM #42
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

Tammy Lankford, - I have never lived in one either.  The rules are a double edged sword. 

Oct 09, 2018 04:34 AM #43
Janelle Ancillotti
Seneca Home Staging - Syracuse, NY
HSR Certified Home Stager, Syracuse, NY

I am sharing this post on FB. My neighborhood has been sadly divided by an issue that has put neighbor against neighbor and has had a hugely negative impact on many fine individuals as well as the neighborhood as a whole.

I believe that our local real estate agents, whether they represent the buyer or the seller, do not do enough to inform potential buyers that: #1 there is an HOA, and #2 what that means for homeowners.

Oct 09, 2018 05:00 AM #44
Ron Aguilar
Continental Mortgage - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

Lisa, thanks for the post. This is very good information even for a Mortgage Lender.

Oct 09, 2018 06:55 AM #45
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Love the moody baby pictures! Good tips here for anyone considering an HOA. Around my area, the questions to ask include if the HOA reserves are adequately funded!

Oct 09, 2018 08:19 AM #46
Diane Christner
Bright Realty - Sarasota, FL

Great article.  In my area of SW Florida we have a wide range of HOAs and deed restrictions, from older communities with just 1 or 2 pages of rules to new/newer communities with 50+ pages of rules.  


The bottom line is that buyers looking at homes in subdivisions with mandatory deed restrictions should always get and READ a copy of the deed restrictions & by-laws BEFORE writing an offer so they will know what will be expected of them in selecting that particular neighborhood for their next home.   I also recommend getting a copy of the most recent HOA budget and at least the past 3 months worth of minutes of the Board of Director meetings to see if the HOA is financially healthy (no pending special assessments) and to see what are the main topics of discussion at the Board meetings -- general items or complaints, issues, conflicts?  


The more information you can help your buyers obtain up front, the more educated their home purchase decision and more likely they are to be happy with both their new community and YOU as their agent.


Oct 09, 2018 02:55 PM #47
Anthony Kirlew
Keller Williams Legacy One Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices

And if you are looking at a home in a negihborhood without an HOA, look hard at your neighbors properties as they may be devlauing theirs with their boats and appliances in the front yard.  But seriously, HOA's get a bad rap, but I would never live in a community without one. I have all of my life and never had an issue. They are actually there to help.

Oct 09, 2018 08:35 PM #48
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

Hi Lise... I've always lived in an HOA building or community... it never occured to me to not do so, as I believe HOAs help maintain a community's value in the long run. But you do need to know what you're getting into. In Charlotte, the greatest percentage of homes built in the past 25-30 years are in HOA communities, so if people want a "newer" home, they don't have much choice.

Oct 10, 2018 01:18 AM #49
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

When buying a home with active HOA--very important to read the rules and regulations before buying!  Get the financials, talk to the board, due some homework!

Oct 10, 2018 07:55 PM #50
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

I would add that if you are an investor looking to buy in an HOA neighborhood, make sure there are no restrictions on the home becoming a rental.  Some HOA's mandate that you must live int he home for a period of time before you could make it a rental.  

Oct 19, 2018 11:57 AM #51
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Lise, not sure how I missed this great post, but thanks to our friend Gabe Sanders  re-blog I am here and you hit the nail on the head with this post, Endre

Oct 21, 2018 11:22 PM #52
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Lisa, my niche market is a remote lake community that does have an HOA. For those who've experienced one, their questions are far more specific than those who've never been in one. Our CC&Rs are quite different than, say a condo HOAS would be. 

Cutting down trees that aren't specifically for a safety issue are just one of the many that I answer all of the time from potential buyers. We aren't gated, oh-so-funny, as we're in the middle of NOWHERE, but some folks who've been in an HOA gated community assume that all are like that. 

I have many issues with the architectural committee, as they've become quite stringent in their guidelines. Being a part of this community, I can save my clients from unwanted problems by answering some of this before they even make an offer. That's huge for client relationships, to be sure! 

Oct 28, 2018 08:28 PM #53
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Buying a home with an HOA with the spirit of "I can change that" is like marrying someone you know you can change...not.

Dec 27, 2018 08:01 AM #54
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