On the one hand, Some people feel like you. (I pretty much do, for instance.) I lived in condos for over a decade, and disliked the pickiness and nastiness of the people running the condo association. And many HOAs are the same way. Enough folks have had bad experiences with HOAs that they (as buyers) view them as something to be avoided at all cost.
On the other hand, not all HOAs and condo associations are so heavy-handed. I live in a single-family home in the suburbs and while there's an HOA, its dues are $40 a year. It does virtually nothing except maintain some common areas and the entrance to the subdivision. And there are a couple of community events every year.
The argument in favor of HOAs is that they do maintain some uniformity. Not all houses need look the same, but you won't see one with big purple and orange polka dots. Or, perhaps more important, a well-run HOA won't permit owners to keep junk cars on blocks in parking spaces. Or it has some power if there's something illegal going on in one of the properties. So lots of buyers are willing to theoretically give up some of their freedoms, in return for which the properties and communities may be better maintained and governed.
The actual cost of an HOA shouldn't be all that much unless there are clear amenities that come along with it--a swimming pool, a club house, a gated community with a guard, park areas to maintain, etc. In that case, someone moving there has to weigh not only the house itself, but also the amenities. Are those amenities worth the price? In some cases, yes. In other cases, no.
So the argument for or against HOAs really is one of individual freedoms and liberties versus a more consistent and perhaps somewhat better maintained community.
While I wouldn't disagree with the Realtor who told you that the lack of an HOA hurts property values, it's also true that some folks--such as yourself--view an HOA as a near deal-killer. It largely depends on the individual's mindset and, to a lesser extent, on the history of the HOA and what it actually does.
Hope that helps.
While there are and will be many different opinions, I believe in this market that HOA's devalue a property monetarily.
Like many things in Real Estate, it depends.
I currently live in Old Village Landing in Mount Pleasant and we have an HOA. We have C&R's but they are not tightly enforced. Our neighbors keep up their properties and we don't worry about property values due to conditions of homes in the neighborhood. Our annual HOA dues are under $300 but we don't have any amenities.
On the other hand, if a neighborhood doesn't have an HOA and homeowners do not take care of their homes, it could negatively impact property values.
I think that the key is to stay active with the governance of the HOA if you have one so that you are happy with the rules and enforcement that are put into place and in either case to be willing to talk one on one with your neghbors when they are not maintaining their homes. Very often I have found that if someone is not taking care of things that there is something going on in their lives and they may need assistance.
I hope that this helps! Do not hesitate to contact me if I can help further.
Cheryll Woods-Flowers, Keller Williams