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:
- 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.
- Open Space. Do you need room for kids to play? Some complexes will have playgrounds or grassy areas. Others do not.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.