If you are a first-time home buyer just starting out with a land or home search or are moving to our area from elsewhere, one of the questions you may ask is, "What are Covenants?"
The simplest answer is, covenants are regulations that come with a particular parcel of land. The official document that contains the regulations is called CC&Rs, or Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions. In the Kalispell area, some properties have covenants and some don't. This blog post will provide an overview of both types of properties.
Often, covenants are put in place when property is being subdivided for future new homes. The purpose is typically to make sure the development has a specific look and feel, and new home owners know what rules must be followed when living there. Sometimes covenants are put in place prior to selling a specific parcel of land or home, to make sure it's used as the original owner wished it to be used. Covenants could be extremely restrictive or just provide guidance for a few items.
All buyers, whether purchasing land or an existing home, must read their CCRs in detail to make sure they can live with the rules.
So what kinds of things do covenants or regulations cover?
Following are some of the areas that might be covered by covenants.
Size of home: Often, specific guidance is made regarding the minimum size of a home. For example, the covenants may state "minimum requirement for living space is 1,800 square feet for a one story or 1,300 for main floor and 500 square foot for a two story." There are multiple variations to this type of requirement which could also address basements, various building styles, height of building, minimum requirements for garages and more.
Type of home: Typically, along with the requirements about size will be rules regarding what types of homes are NOT allowed. Usually this section indicates manufactured homes (mobile homes) are not permitted. Often they are not even allowed on a temporary basis while building a home.
Fencing: Do you have dreams of a white picket fence or wooden ranch fence surrounding your property? If yes, double check the rules! Fencing may not be allowed at all, or may need to be only a specific type and only in a specific area.
Architectural Review Board: Most documents with defined requirements about house size and style will require that you submit plans prior to starting any work. It's important to know if this is true because it could add additional building time to your schedule.
Vehicles: Covenants could also address what kinds of vehicles are prohibited from the property. For example, they could ban you from parking an RV anywhere on the property, or might only allow parking of an RV inside a garage/enclosed barn. Commercial vehicles such as tow trucks could also be prohibited. Or perhaps you won't be permitted to park boats or trailers on your property.
Animals: Many covenants address pets and livestock. If you have a desire to own a horse, for example, or sheeps, goats, pigs, or other animals, it's very important to check your CCRs. Some allow mostly everything, and some are very restrictive. For example, they may only allow one or two cats or dogs, for example. They also are usually very definitive about whether you can let the pets out in your yard or not.
Wells/City Water, Septic/Sewer: Covenants will also usually address whether wells and septic are allowed and/or required, or whether you will be using community or city water. If you desire your own utilities so you are in control of them, a community that won't allow them is one you may wish to stay away from.
Other: CCRs can add regulations to cover almost any aspect of life. For example, what kind of trees (and how many) must you plant? What kind of exterior lighting is permitted? How big do your house numbers need to be? Can you build a home with a metal roof? Are satellite dishes allowed? Can you park on the street? What about renting your home out as an AirBNB? What about target shooting in your backyard? This list is not all-inclusive. Covenants can address anything the person who developed the covenants was concerned about. They are intended to ensure all home owners know what quality of life they will have.
What are the pros or cons of purchasing property with no covenants?
There are also properties that do not have any covenants at all. At the time of the writing of this post, half of residential land listings have no covenants, and 35% of home listings have no covenants. So what make this type of land and/or home one a buyer might be interested in? There are both good and not so good aspects.
First, to start with the pros.
You can build whatever you want, however you want, as long as it meets county requirements. For example, if you want to build a tiny 450 square foot home with a two story 40'x40' workshop and separate shed, you can. If you have enough room and would like to build four homes for your family members, go for it! Want to live in a manufactured home? Nothing is stopping you!
You can own whatever pets and/or livestock you want, again, as long as it meets county requirements. For example, Flathead County indicates you can have two horses per acre, five sheep per acre and 25 chickens per acre. As long as you follow those guidelines, you are free to own horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, goats, llamas, chickens, geese, fowl and more!
You can plant whatever you want. Do you want an acre for your vegetable garden? Or do you want to grow fruit trees? Do you want to remove some trees to enhance your view? It's your decision how to maintain your landscaping.
You can park whatever you want. Two RVs? A work truck and horse trailer? Your boat? ATV? Side-by-side? They are all welcome.
So the benefit of purchasing land or a home with no covenants is that you can use your property however you like, as long as you are within the county regulations (which are not too onerous).
And that is also the disadvantage of land or a home with no covenants. Because if you own land with no covenants, it's quite likely your neighbors have none either. Which means they can do whatever they want as well. And what they might want to do is to park 50 junk cars on their property, or build a bunch of structures right next to each other, or dump used tires all over their front lawn. And that's perfectly acceptable as well.
So the answer to "What are Covenants?" is they are the requirements placed on a property which provide structure for a specific community. They could be bad or good, depending on your own needs. If you are interested in purchasing any property, though, the key is to make sure you read the entire CCR document carefully. I would suggest you do that before you even make an offer.
If you need help with purchasing land or a home, and would like someone who will encourage you to make sure that property is right for you, call me! 406-270-3667. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at thehousekat.com.