Published: April 12, 2018
Homeowners Associations are becoming more and more commonplace as planned neighborhoods have begun resembling small towns complete with their own shops, schools, and amenities. But in the midst of the stress and excitement of purchasing a home, we often forget to look into our new neighborhood HOA and what life with them might entail. Here is a small list of basic questions to ask before you sign that dotted line and agree to become a member of a HOA community. 1. What exactly is the HOA responsible for in the community? Every HOA is different and has a different set of responsibilities, usually decided upon when the community is first established. It’s important to ask what the HOA is actually responsible for. Do they maintain the area by the sidewalk in front of your home or are you responsible for the landscaping there? Are you responsible for attending meetings or voting on new motions? If you have a community clubhouse or pool, what is the HOA’s role in maintaining those? If you are going to be expected to pay a fee each year to your HOA, you should atleast have an idea of where the money is actually going. 2. What fees are you responsible for and can they change? If you’re moving into an established neighborhood, chances are you’ll get a letter when you purchase your home saying what fees are expected of you. But it’s also important to know when exactly the fees are due every year (most are due at the beginning of the year). It’s also important to ask if they can ever change. If your HOA decides to make improvements, can you vote on those or can they just raise your fees without you approving? While most HOAs have board meetings that allow residents to vote on new ventures and fee structures, it’s better to be safe and know the process before you move in. If your neighborhood wants to build a pool, can you opt out of being a member to avoid paying higher fees? These are all important questions to ask for the future. 3. What exactly are the rules of my new HOA? When falling in love with your home, did you think, “I would love to cut these trees down” or “we should put up a fence in the backyard?” If so, stop right there before you officially sign. Many HOAs have rules and regulations regarding what exactly you’re allowed to do to your property. You may not be able to plant large trees or remove them without permission. You also might need to get official permission to put up a fence around your property and adhere to strict regulations on that fence construction. Are you allowed to paint your house or your front door should you want to? If you’re going into the purchase already thinking about home improvement projects, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into with the HOA guidelines. 4. What if I really want to break those rules? How do I do that? While it may seem daunting having to gain permission to do something with your own property from the HOA, don’t let that make you hesitate from going forward with your purchase. Even the most strict HOAs have a process to gain permission to make changes and improvements to your property. You may have to pay a small fee to cut trees down, or just provide a written explanation as to why you want to. Chances are, if the HOA can determine that what you’re doing is increasing the look and feel of the community, you won’t have any trouble moving forward. The worst thing you can do, however, is move forward with a project without getting permission first. It’s best to go through the process and keep the HOA on your good side, since you may be living in the community for upwards of 30+ years. 5. Oops. I might have broken the rules or forgot to pay my fee entirely. Now what? If you’re reading this thinking, “Oh no, I really messed up,” this question is most definitely for you. Before you purchase your home, it’s important to read the fine print that tells you what happens should you not pay your annual dues. Sometimes, the HOA will just tack on a late fee. Other HOAs may actually take legal action and put a lien on your home. It’s important for you to know what kind of action can be taken against you should you go against your HOA or if you refuse to pay them. To be safe, always ask for permission before making any major decisions and (obviously) always pay your annual dues. If you do both of those things, you and your new HOA will have a beautiful long-lasting relationship. Do you feel like you’re ready to take the plunge with an HOA and buy a home? If so, we’ve got affordable (and HOA approved) moving solutions for you here.