The Pros and Cons of a Homeowners Association
For many buyers, condos are the way to go these days. They can be easier to find (because there may be more on the market) and more accessible than single families and provide appropriate amenities for urban living. They also often come with a Homeowners Association (HOA) that residents pay into every month for upkeep, security, maintenance, and other needs. Like much of home ownership, there are good and some not-so-goods that go into being part of an HOA.
Maintenance - HOAs handle common areas of the property (parking lots, green space, hallways, laundry rooms), which takes the burden off your plate. That’s right, no more shoveling the sidewalk just to get to your car. And since the HOA members all live in the building, these areas will be well cared for and presentable.
Included Amenities/Utilities – Sometimes HOA payments go towards covering the cost of some utilities like gas or water, so you’re killing two birds with one stone in that payment! This also frequently covers trash collection, one of those pesky costs that sneaks up on homeowners.
Disputes - Homeowners Associations often handle disputes between neighbors. Hopefully this won’t be a problem for you, but if an issue does arise with a neighbor being noisy or not caring for their property, there’s a built-in mediator. And unlike a landlord, the HOA has a vested interest in keeping the residents equitable and happy.
Building Rules – Even though you own the home, you’re still under the HOA’s jurisdiction. They decide and control whether you can rent your home or have pets. They can also restrict you from doing things like painting your home a certain color or putting a garden in the backyard. You’re also required to adhere to their standards of neatness and presentability.
Foreclosure – Technically if you get behind on your fees the HOA sometimes has the power to foreclose on your home. However, this is an absolute last resort. Things would have to get very bad for them to take these steps. As long as your HOA fee is within your budget this shouldn’t be an issue.
Added Assessments – If the HOA votes to move forward with an improvement project (dire or otherwise) and they don’t have the funds for it, they can impose a special assessment on your HOA fee. That means that your HOA fee (and everyone else’s) will increase every month for an extended period to cover the cost of the work, whether you wanted the improvement or not.
For these reasons, it’s very important to read the HOA documents carefully—and have your real estate attorney look them over, too—before buying a condo and decide whether it;s a good fit for you. If you’re not sure, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you navigate these waters.