Living with a Home Owners Association

The details of restrictive covenants, bylaws, rules and zoning ordinances are important, but you also should consider whether things you want and expect are consistent with the general nature of a particular house or condo complex.

A condominium could be more affordable than a house, but there are special considerations when purchasing a condo. Homeowner Association (HOA) fees usually pay for building hazard insurance, common-area maintenance, and some utilities. Some complexes have amenities such as a club house, pool, etc. that they also pay for.

Well-managed complexes will have a reserve fund for future repairs and maintenance such as roofs, roads, etc. If not, you may be stuck with a large special assessment bill in the future.

Financing Note: Lenders take the monthly HOA fee into consideration when applying for a loan. So, the amount you can qualify for to purchase a house or condo may be less than for a house that has no HOA.

Some things to consider when choosing whether to live with a Home Owners Association:

  1. Amenities. Some have none and some have just about everything. Large complexes often have swimming pools, gyms, clubhouses, etc. Prices tend to be higher for these complexes.
  2. Open Space. Do you need room for kids to play? Some complexes will have playgrounds or grassy areas. Others do not.
  3. Pets. Many complexes have become very restrictive about pets. There’s nothing worse than a barking dog on the other side of the wall. Even if pets are allowed, there might be a size or weight restriction.
  4. Storage Space. Some units may come with a storage shed by the parking area. Be sure to check out the closet space in a condo. Many do not have attics or basements, so lack of storage can become a serious issue.
  5. Management & Maintenance. Is the complex self-managed by the Board of Directors or do they hire a professional management company? Professional management companies can cost everyone more, but often provide better service. Who is hired to maintain the common areas? Look around. Are they doing a good job?
  6. Personal Safety & Security. Some complexes have 24-hour security guards or a monitoring service. This is more expensive, but may be worth the cost if you need that type of security. Of course, being close to neighbors can provide a sense of security as well.
  7. Common Living. Every home owners association will have restrictive covenants, bylaws, and rules. Be sure to read these documents carefully before purchasing a property with a home owners association. Some prohibit home businesses, pets, rentals, etc.
  8. No Yard Work. Some home owners choose to live where the Home Owners Association maintains at least the front yard and sometimes the backyard, relieving them of weekly yard care.

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Updated by Doretta Smith,