HOA's Plus and Minus

Typically, a home owners association is put into place in order to protect the rights and interests of property owners within a particular community. These associations were originally used only in condo developments and part of the purpose was to collect fees in order to maintain the grounds and property. Many single family home developments later adopted the same rules and regulations and suddenly cities all over instituted homeowners associations in new developments. Are they always needed, however? Here are the major pros and cons of a homeowner's association.

One value of having a homeowners association is that they force your neighbors to keep up with property maintenance on their homes. They can't leave broken down cars out front, they can't have weeds growing all over, and they need to keep the house painted and maintained - to say the least.

This type of regulation helps to keep property values as high as possible, unlike unregulated neighborhoods where a few families might neglect their property, collect junk, never cut their grass, etc., thereby reducing everyone else's property value.

An association also uses some of the collected fees to maintain the common area such as pools, tennis courts, club house, grounds, and might even cut your front lawn and maintain flower beds, etc.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of being managed by an HOA. Homeowners complain they are nitpicked with letters and citations complaining about the tiniest infraction. People complain that they receive letters that are so vague they aren't even sure what they did wrong.

Some developments want you to conform to a certain style of fencing, or choosing paint colors from a pre-approved color chart. They also want to dictate where you can put lawn furniture out front and out back and what styles it can be. Some will fine you if you have "cheap" plastic furniture.

Many HOAs increase their fees without notice, and this is a major problem with many homeowners who don't see any value at all in paying more to receive the same or fewer services. This total lack of control over these monthly expenses can turn people away from even considering to purchase in one of these communities. HOAs have the right to increase fees anytime if they have a viable financial need.

Certain organizations have such stringent regulations that it's like living in a condo. Even things like window treatments that face the street must adhere to their regulations as far as colors and styles. Air conditioning units can't be visible. Commercial vehicles are not allowed - even high end cars with commercial plates! All vehicles must be put in garages overnight.

These stringent rules can drive many people away. And, most of these rules aren't even fully disclosed until you pass papers, at which point you are then presented with a huge manual in small print with all the rules you need to adhere to.

Before buying property anywhere that is managed with an HOA, go around and talk to neighbors. They'll be more than happy to tell you the truth.

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