When searching for homes Buyers must consider all aspects of living in the new, chosen neighborhood. Far too often Buyers fall in love with building and place little thought into how their lifestyle meshes with the new location.
Far too often I see buyers complaining that they purchased a home with a strict HOA and now they are getting letters because they are parking their cars on the street or have planted trees that are not on the approved plant list.
On the other end of the spectrum I see home buyers purchase in neighborhoods with no HOA or CC&Rs complaining that their neighbor plays loud music at all hours of the night or is running a business out of their house that brings an excessive amount of traffic down their street.
One of the more recent objections are to owners that turning their homes into short term rentals. Sometimes in violation of CC&Rs or even local zoning ordinances.
Buyers are always encouraged to inspect a house thoroughly. They hire professionals to inspect the roof, check the electrical, test the plumbing, etc. But are often on their own to research the neighborhood.
Researching the area can sometimes be confusing. Some of the areas that I specialize in like Cave Creek, Desert Hills and parts of North Scottsdale contain sections that are unincorporated county islands. County islands are small sections of land that for one reason or another were never annexed into a city or town. Historically they were small ranches or farms with rural zoning. As the areas developed these county islands were split up and filled in with houses, but the developers seldom did anything to change the rural zoning or provide for services of any type. The property may have a postal address of the adjoining town, but may not receive services like police, fire or utilities. Consequently, the homeowners are allowed to live with sometimes very liberal regulation.
Of course, if you are someone whose lifestyle enjoys, cars, trucks, boats, campers or other “toys” you can likely keep them in full view without problems. If you are someone that enjoys having dogs, livestock or horses you may also find a county island to be paradise.
But you may also run afoul of some other problems that may impact your enjoyment. Liberal zoning laws may allow your neighbor to build an unsightly building next to your home. You may have to contend with issues like easements, road maintenance, noise, or unexpected land use.
Liberal zoning may also encourage some owners to operate a business out of their home, which might be fine if the business is one that doesn’t attract foot traffic but it could be a problem if they operate a church that brings in dozens of cars for daily or weekly worship. Today, one of the more common and controversial, situations is the recent explosion of short term rentals which could allow an owner to turn their house into a mini-hotel. Bringing a steady stream of new people in and out of a neighborhood that was once quiet and serene.
In Arizona selling a home in an unincorporated county island requires a separate disclosure aptly termed an Affidavit of Disclosure (A.F.D.). The Affidavit of Disclosure was mandated by the Arizona Revised Statute #33-422. The disclosure which applies to anyone selling five or fewer parcels in an unincorporated area goes beyond the normal seller disclosure documents. In addition, unlike most real estate disclosures, the Affidavit must be recorded with the County Recorder’s office and becomes public record.
I am often shocked to find buyers that tell me they have never received the Affidavit of Disclosure, despite the fact that the standard Arizona real estate contract clearly covers the subject.
While a Buyer can easily see that the neighbor next door parks his semi-trucks on his property for days at a time. Other activities cannot be so easily detected. What if a neighbor suddenly begins to use the house down the street to film pornographic videos? As long as they comply with local zoning laws. It may not be illegal, but it may certainly be a disclosure item.
So to summarize this post if you are someone that enjoys the security and structure of a property within an HOA, then living in a county island may not be for you. But if you prefer to “Let Freedom Ring”, then your new county island home may be just what you are looking for. Only you can decide. But decide before you buy or you may not experience the quiet enjoyment you seek.