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Homeowners associations: Good or bad?

By | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 51 Comments

If you buy a condo or a home in a planned community, chances are it will be subject to the rules and regulations of a Homeowners' Association (HOA). HOAs can be a benefit and a foil for homeowners. Read this guide to figure out if you'd enjoy living with an HOA:

HOA pluses

  • The covenants, conditions and restrictions of an HOA are designed to protect the value of your home, maintain order in your community and your enjoyment of it. An HOA might prevent your neighbor from erecting an unsightly fountain in his front yard, parking his used vehicles on his lawn or having a pet.

  • Homes in HOA-governed communities are generally well maintained.

  • An HOA will see to the maintenance of the common areas of your community or development -- the front lobby and the pool, or the drive leading into your development.

  • Homeowners in HOA communities often have the shared use of pools and party facilities that are maintained by the association. Think "private pool" without the work.

  • If you have a dispute with a neighbor over the use or look of his or her property or his barking dog, you can take the matter to the homeowners' association for intervention.

  • HOA dues may pay for shared services like security, trash pickup lawn maintenance and snow removal. (Think of Saturdays by the pool instead of mowing the lawn.)

  • The HOA may sponsor community events and get-togethers.

HOA minuses

  • Membership is mandatory for all homeowners in an HOA community.

  • You must pay HOA membership dues. These dues may increase -- before moving into such a community, you should find out when payments are due, what they cover, what they don't cover and how likely they are to rise.

  • You may have less say in how you can change the appearance of your home. Your HOA may have a regulation against fencing your backyard, installing a pool or painting your front door red. It may even restrict when you can water and cut your lawn.

  • An HOA might not allow pets.

  • If the community is an age-restricted community, the homeowners' association might not allow people under a certain age to reside with you or to move into your home.

  • Homeowners looking to rent out their residence may not be able to do so under HOA rules.

  • If you don't meet an HOA's requirements -- say, if you do paint that door red or get a German shepherd -- the HOA can levy a fine.

  • If you don't pay your HOA dues or fines -- the HOA may even try to foreclose on your home.

  • At times, there have been charges of unscrupulous behavior against HOAs. Check to see if there is any litigation pending against the HOA and check its financials as well as its recent assessments (for community fixes or upgrades).


By .,  Wed Dec 9 2009, 20:23
Look out for county or city Special assessments, they can be costly.
By David Alex Wright Team Local-Experts,  Fri Feb 19 2010, 11:05
Being in an HOA for over 30 years and being on a board for more than 20 years I feel your pluses and minuses were well done. My advice to buyers is to have your agent get current budget information and a reserve analysys if possible. the key is that the HOA has to be funded to make the replacements of assets otherwise you could see some large assesments that were totally not planned for. Go over these items with a real estate professional and even the property management company if you really want to make a sound home purchase.
By Lea Ann Hernandez CRS, GRI,  Sun Mar 7 2010, 10:06
With respect to obtaining an analysis of the budget and reserves, be sure to rely on an entity or person who is actually licensed in the practice. In our market area there are unlicensed individuals purporting to have expertise in such analysis, but have no actual accreditation. Most homeowner's associations will have such information substantiated by a CPA.
By Cynthia Bell,  Thu Aug 5 2010, 17:49
I recently read an article at “Are HOA Foreclosures A Necessary Tool or An Extortion Racket?” by Keith Jurow. In 1962 there were fewer than 500 HOA’s nationwide. Today there are about 300,000. With the foreclosure problem and homeowners unable to make mortgage payments, HOA’s are suffering revenue shortfalls. Facing these shortfalls, the HOA are using whatever measures in their means to collect delinquent fees. The most severe measure, the HOA’s are filing a foreclosure for delinquent fees. The fact that HOAs are able to file the foreclosure as a threat and then collect several thousand dollars in late fees, interest, fines and attorney fees for a delinquency that may total only $300-$600 has led critics to describe the situation as nothing more than a "shakedown racket."

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/are-hoa-foreclosures-a-necessary-tool-or-an-extortion-racket-2010-7#comments#ixzz0vmZD0nqC
By Daniel Di Matteo,  Sat Aug 7 2010, 11:46
In addition to the HOA, many newer comunities, at least in the San Diego area now also have Mello Roos which are special assesments added on to your property taxes. I've seen these range from $100 - $350 per month. Something to be aware of.

By Fran Rokicki,  Fri Sep 10 2010, 16:18
The associations now, have to face the changes made by the FHA regulators. The reserves requirement is higher than, in the past. Some of the condo complexes are struggling with the bad economy. These budgets and reserves now, must be approved by the bank before the loan will close. I had a condo listing, that no bank would write on, even with 20% down, without verifying that these documents were updated and correct. Thankfully, after months of requesting the paperwork, the condo association came through and the complex received the new approval. They will have to raise their monthly fee and that's not something that they wanted to do, but, knew that no one would be able to sell their condo in that complex, without meeting the new requirements.
By Maggie,  Fri Oct 8 2010, 08:08
I am trying to find out . I bought a condo (NJ) in 50 units building, but b/o RE market right know, most units are rented out. Is any regulation how many units can be rented out in condo apartments building? I would appreciate for the answer.Thanks, maggie
By Timothy Garrity,  Mon Nov 15 2010, 06:55
This is a very well written post on HOAs and condo living. As a condo owner, and a member of the HOA Board, I firmly agree with your pros and cons.

Nice job!

By Donna Donovan,  Mon Nov 22 2010, 10:55
While I understand the pet situation in a community IE dogs not being cleaned up after or extremely barky (I am dealing with that right now where I live), I am having a hard time dealing with the NO PETS period rule. I have my older, strictly indoor cats and am searching to buy a condo. It is suppose to be MY HOME and my indoor cats should be MY BUSINESS.

Any suggestions in dealing with an HOA if I find a place I really want to buy? Is the no pets ever negotiable or would I be wasting my time and better off not living in a place that is that unbending?
By Patriciawhite22,  Tue Nov 30 2010, 01:36
Before, a house near mine is always having a party. That sounds irritating because of the loud sounds they have, that is thrice a week, then I got to talked to one of the HOA about my concern. They told me that they will handle it. After a week, the house near mine lessen the sounds and the party.

By Stinker09,  Wed Dec 1 2010, 03:33
if your not using a real estate agent to buy just buying on your own how do you get information on the property management company and the HOA for a property before buying so you know what you are dealing with before you commit to anything?
By Mario Avila,  Sat Dec 25 2010, 18:53
Most neighborhoods have community websites that outline their HOA dues and policies. I would research any neighborhood before buying a home. You can also ask a neighbor how it is run and what their opinion of the HOA is. Some are a lot more active than others.
By Judy Sharma,  Tue Dec 28 2010, 14:12
As a condo owner, I completely agree with the pluses and minuses of the HOA fees. Although, I do feel that at times, management companies do abuse their power.
By Karen Parsons Fiddler,  Tue May 3 2011, 09:02
So many buyers assume that all HOA rules are the same...and they aren't. We have to make sure we get them early in the process so we can review them carefully and make sure they are things the buyer can live with.
By Kathy Weber,  Sun Jun 12 2011, 08:01
With my buyer's, we try and provide the CCR's early on in the process.
Many are beyond "ridiculous" in length of rules and regulations, that many people are turned off to even read them...........until they get a violation for something they didn't know existed.
Selling properties in area's with or without HOA's I believe makes a significant difference. Human nature unmonitored tends to lean to the lazy side. HOA's, properly managed, can make an impact on keeping property values up & maintaining a more desirable environment to live in.
By Homeowner Tx,  Fri Jul 1 2011, 07:08
we won't live in a development without an HOA. They make sure dead cars and trash are not stored outside. We have lived in many HOA communities, and so far, they are very reasonable in their rules. Just wish we could sell our TX house in Robson Ranch so we can move to another 55+ closer to our kids.
By Eduardo Haute,  Fri Jul 1 2011, 07:11
Yeah, actually i had a big issue in the condo where i live because HOA don't allowed me to walk with my dog on the sidewalk... so i had to start walking outside the condo... where is not safety and noisy. I'm seriously thinking about moving out next year!
By Misoldier01,  Mon Jul 25 2011, 16:06
HOA's are more pain then they are worth. Put $300 a month into an account specifically for home improvements.....if having SIMPLE fixes that HOA's are supposed to take care of as the big seller for you. Other then not having to worry about your water heater....HOA's are a joke! Can't BBQ after 9......get the F out of my face!
By Devau42,  Tue Jul 26 2011, 12:34
Our HOA told us they shorted an assessment so we would have to pay it another 6 months to accommodate the cost of repairs. The owners have voted not to pay this since we have paid according to what they asked us the first time. This mistake was on the association. So they have frozen our anmeties (i.e pool, security etc). I've recently rented my place out, but it was hard to explain that there would be no pool, tennis or security. I will certainly research the HOA before I buy again!
By Devau42,  Tue Jul 26 2011, 12:34
Our HOA told us they shorted an assessment so we would have to pay it another 6 months to accommodate the cost of repairs. The owners have voted not to pay this since we have paid according to what they asked us the first time. This mistake was on the association. So they have frozen our anmeties (i.e pool, security etc). I've recently rented my place out, but it was hard to explain that there would be no pool, tennis or security. I will certainly research the HOA before I buy again!
By Katherine Bourne,  Wed Sep 7 2011, 11:24
do NOT get invoved in any Association. They do NOT work. Trying to get 3 people to agree about anything is impossible. My husband was the pres. of the board, and the headache was NOT worth it. DON'T buy in a association.
Your investment may be in the hands of idiots. Sorry but true ..We sold out low just to get out of there. Other owners were upset at our low price, but we just wanted to get out!!!! Beware and do your OWN research on foot talking to people actually living in the complex. Murpheys Law is well and rampant in Associations. BEWARE
By Christina Morabito,  Fri Oct 7 2011, 13:11
Great info here!!!!
By Amy Stier,  Thu Nov 3 2011, 18:26
My primary residence and my 2 investment properties (rentals) are all located in communities with HOA's. Of all 3 primary residences I've owned in my life, all were located in communities with an HOA. All proved to be positive experiences, enjoyed the amenities, safety, security of the community and found always that our values remained greater because of such. As a Realtor/Broker in FL for over 16 yrs...when I first got into the business I realized I would need to educate myself on the process and not as a whole, but really get to know the neighborhoods and their 'rules' on an individual basis. A great Realtor will qualify their clients well..and match them to the properties and communities that are the best FIT for them. NOT all buyers are a good match for HOA's...when we listen to our customers/clients, and educate them on the plus'/minus' we should end up with happy homeowners.
By Carmen Brodeur, JD,  Sat Dec 3 2011, 13:28
Hoa's help to protect your investment. When you really need them, you are glad to have one.
By Shawn Ryan Rosa,  Tue Dec 13 2011, 10:50
good article for all condo/townhome buyers
By Sgt. Joe Friaday,  Sun Dec 25 2011, 21:44
HOAs are evil PERIOD. It's one thing to mow the lawn and keep the front tidy, but to prohibit decorations and children's playsets, that's downright sinister. Also, HOAs are all about conformity. They're like little North Koreas. You can't even have a restored classic car in the neighborhood. So I would NEVER recommend an HOA.
By Adrian Provost,  Mon Feb 27 2012, 16:30
Great article*
By Stephanie Leon,  Sat Apr 28 2012, 10:15
Buyer really should read this article. Great info on Hoa pro and cons... Thanks for sharing.
By Najat Marden,  Wed May 16 2012, 07:50
HOA protects your largest investment: your home. Unfortunately, they are some that go a bit to the extreme but the majority of them are a positive influence. Thanks for sharing
By Matie,  Wed Jun 13 2012, 11:14
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By Adam Krzesniak,  Wed Jul 11 2012, 07:43
Now whoever whats to buy such thing can be fully aware of the decision they are making!
Good Job!
By Erin Taffin,  Fri Jan 4 2013, 18:02
There are HOA's that do not have a good reputation with the owners in a subdivision so it's a good practice to ask your realtor regarding feedback. Why would you want to invest in a property that has poorly managed grounds or even worse if there are liens against the HOA. These are some scary times and it is so much more beneficial to have an agent working for your best interests.
By Lake Bishop,  Mon Jan 7 2013, 13:14
I do not like HOA's I live in a community that has them and they are always increasing the fees and harassing homeowners over little things that I feel should be left alone. I like the idea of the HOA but in practice it seems to be more trouble than it is worth.
By Bonnie Cissell,  Sun Apr 21 2013, 14:34
Some HOA's can be good if you are in a gated community. Most of the HOA's that I have been associated with put to many restrictions property. They control parking cars on the street to the color of your home. I would get a list of the do's and don't bye the HOA before I would purchase where there is one.
By Bjorn Joseph,  Mon Jul 29 2013, 10:48
My first experience with a HOA was when I purchased my first townhouse. 198/month!. My parking behind my building always flooded as it had no drainage. (Frogs started reproducing). When they repainted the parking spots, instead of hiring a legitimate company the president brought in some kids and they were doing it. The meetings were held @ the common area by the mailboxes but they spoke so quietly you couldn't hear anything until they voted. My area was so run down it was pathetic. But all good things come to an end. The treasurer and the president were found to be embezzling and stealing money. I believe they're still serving years. But that's just my horror story. I'd much prefer to cut my own grass and maintain my area than have rules a mile long to abide by.
By Faustorivera33,  Wed Oct 23 2013, 17:50
I've worked for years for HOA and let me tell you that close to 30% of the money gets stolen among the board members and manager.
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Fri Jan 3 2014, 07:50
While HOAs are not right for every person, they do offer benefits and not every HOA is created equal. Read the CC&Rs carefully, talk to neighbors, and keep in mind that the HOA Boards are forever changing. Weigh the pros and cons of an HOA carefully and decide what is best for you.
By Diana Watson, ABR,ASP,MRP,  Tue Mar 11 2014, 19:26
Great article and feedback from all the agents and contributors.
By Wild Wings Homeowner,  Wed Jun 4 2014, 09:59
Not all HOA's are bad, but the bad ones have the potential to make life miserable for your buyers. Property values go down when owners sell just to get out from under a bad HOA.

Real Estate Agents can help their clients with a little due diligence about the HOA and its management company. A web search for HOA or management company complaints will give you an idea of how strict the HOA is and how professional and responsive the management company is. Do follow ups with your buyers who have bought into an HOA and get some real feedback on how the association is run. If possible get some of the HOA minutes to see what the current issues are.

Unfortunately most laws regarding HOA behavior have no teeth. The board members will use the HOA funds, management company and attorney to keep them out of a lawsuit which is what it takes to get on equal footing with an HOA. The CC&R's are all skewed toward the HOA and against the homeowner, so the homeowner will always be at a disadvantage playing by their rules.

When people won't buy a home with an HOA, the industry may finally be forced to clean up the bad apples giving HOA living a bad rap.

I live in a bad one and once you get an entrenched board they will sew roots so deep, that is nearly impossible to undo the damage to the communities reputation. Buy a box of blueberries with a few moldy ones.
The good blue berries don't make the moldy ones good. The moldy blueberries make the good ones moldy. The moldy blueberries have to be removed from office because they tend to have dominant personalities and will do things that reasonable people can't stomach. Reasonable people don't want to deal with them which allows them to establish a board of like minded domineering individuals that treat hoa members like subjects to be ruled over rather than neighbors.
By ben805,  Tue Jul 8 2014, 15:11
The one and only difference between HOA and gangsta thugs is that the HOA can terrorizes you legally, whenever they want, and for whatever reason they see fit.
By Kristin Sherman,  Thu Jul 10 2014, 09:45
Great information. I love how balanced the pros and cons are - there is definitely a case for both sides!
By Jbeth6,  Mon Sep 15 2014, 04:35
My husband and I currently own 6 homes, he's a former builder and loves to restore homes, in addition to running a waterproofing company. We've had up to 9 homes previously. The single HOA home we bought, to live in as our primary residence, was extremely unpleasant. Entrenched Board, assessments galore, fines and threats of fines for every imaginable 'offense', constant drama, no legitimate accountability of the expenditures....you name it. Sickening and just constantly exhausting. Thank God we had the resources to move out of the home that felt like maximum security at 'Angola' , but we have not been able to sell the POS for 6 YEARS. We have the 2nd of 2 tenants living there now, and are just thankful that the leasees keep up the yard, although we take a beating financially on it. Unfortunately we bought during the housing boom and while it's not underwater and we'd be willing to take a few hundred K hit on it, I think it's reputation must be keeping buyers away in droves. The place sucks. If we lost everything and had to consider moving back in I have told my husband that the kids and I would live under a bridge first...BEWARE.
By Myriam Hochman,  Tue Sep 30 2014, 17:27
HOA are good and bad. Depends on what is important to you it's what it makes worth to pay the price on living in a more expensive neighborhood and with many rules. If you want to go home and don't have to take care of your surroundings; when you go for a walk everything is going to look nice without the work, then HOA communities are for you. On the other hand, if it is important for you you to paint your house the color you want and have the pets that you want, then a community with a HOA is not for you.
By Bob,  Wed Nov 19 2014, 10:51
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By Mark Saunders,  Tue Feb 3 2015, 10:34
Do you homework / work with your agent most hoa are there to protect the value of the community
By Dawn Mastromarino,  Sun Feb 22 2015, 10:50
HOA's have good and bad..it all depends on the community. Your realtor can assist you and read the documents so you are familiar with the rules and regulations prior to moving/selecting the area. I believe they are good, but they are not for everyone, that is why there are areas that are not run by HOA's.
By Vic,  Tue Mar 10 2015, 15:12
you can candy coat HOAs as being beneficial if you want, maybe 10% of them are. But its only a matter of time before they increase their dues as well., due to the change of the weather, or for whatever. What started out as an association to assist homeowners in keeping the value up on their homes has now evolved into racketeering and exploitation of the worst kind. From $25 dues and legitimate fines. HOA's and their crews have evolved into money grabbing gangsters who have now not only figured out how to coordinate their mumbo jumbo systematically using threats, levy of fines, trash can left out, a blade of grass crossed over unto the sidewalk, anything! Your home can be held hostage unless the transfer fee is paid, which can be up to thousands of dollars. You mean that an HOA can stop the sell of your home, because of an infraction they consider to be harmful to the neighborhood. Yes they can just about do whatever they want and they are getting stronger by the minute and more aggressive in their acts of terror on the homeowner every day! I would never buy into another HOA home, NOT worth the headache! Never again.
By Goggogo,  Tue May 19 2015, 07:35
HOA horror stories: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hoa+horror+stories

HOA communities are nothing more then George Orwell 1984 movie in real life.

Take away the monies and the HOA's will disappear or change their ways.

Save your freedom and your monies DO NOT BUY IN AN HOA
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By Skymausie2002,  Mon Sep 28 2015, 15:06
WHAT if you bought a House and Months later you get a Visit of the Zoneing Office telling you that your not allowed to have Horse on your 7 Acre land and that there is a HOA.
We took it to Court and fought to have our Horses and told them we were never told that there is an HOA because that was a HUGE NOOOO on our House searching list.
Now were stuck and they are activating the HOA and now want to start collecting Fees.
Some folks say they are not joining and don't want to hear about it.
Can you obt out of the HOA?
I wish I could sue the Realtor for saleing us a House in a HOA neighnoure hood.
By Bob,  Mon Jan 4 2016, 13:41
So far my experience with HOA has not been very good. My husband and I moved into a beautiful community that has an HOA. My husband I both work from 9-6 and get home around 6:30. One day we received a notice from our HOA explaining that we left our trashcans a half hour over when we were supposed to and sent us a picture of the trashcans during that time within the notice as well. The HOA has made our living community a beautiful place however that incident really bothered me.


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