6 Questions to Ask When Considering a Neighborhood with an HOA

community pool with inflatable innertubeLet’s say you have your heart set on buying a home in a community with a swimming pool, a clubhouse, and maybe even a playground or trails. Having access to these amenities often means living in a community with a homeowners association, or HOA.

Generally, an HOA is responsible for keeping the neighborhood looking beautiful — and as a result, keeping property values high. But since no two neighborhoods are the same, no two HOAs will be the same, either.

What You Should Know About the Homeowners Association

Doing your research on homes and communities means finding the answers to dozens of questions. As a savvy home buyer, you’ve probably already considered some of the most important topics early on in your home search, such as the local property taxes and whether the neighborhood is appreciating in value.

But if you’re considering a neighborhood with an HOA, there are a few additional things that you should know about the community and the association before you buy a home. Here are the essential questions you should ask.

1. What Does the Homeowners Association Do?

home with landscaped yardEach community varies, but in general, a homeowners association assists residents with property maintenance (by providing services like lawn care, trash removal, or Internet), regularly beautifies the neighborhood common areas, and upkeeps any shared amenities. In return for these services, residents pay an association fee, which we’ll talk about later.

Since the HOA is also concerned with keeping property values high, the homeowners association may also dictate what residents can and can’t do with their properties. These rules keep residents from worrying about a neighbor painting their house a funky color or letting their lawn go wild.

2. Are You Required to Join the HOA?

Before you decide to buy a home in an HOA neighborhood, first check to see whether the community has a voluntary or mandatory HOA. A voluntary HOA doesn’t require that you join the association or pay dues, but a mandatory HOA does.

3. How Much Are the HOA Fees?

As we mentioned before, HOA fees cover the services that the association provides. HOA fee costs (and the frequency with which they’re paid) can vary from community to community, so ask your real estate agent about how much the fees are before you buy a home in the neighborhood.

4. What Are the HOA’s Expectations for Residents?

bylaws for a community associationTypically, a homeowners association will have a list of rules and regulations that residents are expected to follow when they live in the community. (These are known as Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, or CC&Rs.)

These regulations can dictate everything from what colors you can use to paint your home to how many vehicles you can park in the driveway. Again, each homeowners association varies, so it’s best to read the Bylaws of communities you’re considering to learn what’s expected of residents.

5. When (And How Often) Does the HOA Meet?

If you’re interested in joining your neighborhood’s HOA to get involved in your community, you might also want to consider when the association meets. The HOA may meet annually, bimonthly, or monthly, depending on the association’s size, so check to see if the regular meetings will fit within your schedule.

6. Does the HOA Host Any Activities?

Finally, when considering a neighborhood with an HOA, you should learn whether the HOA provides other ways for you to get involved and meet your neighbors. Ask your real estate agent about whether the neighborhood association hosts annual block parties, pool parties, holiday celebrations, Yard of the Month competitions, or any other neighborhood activities.

We’re Here to Answer Your Home Buying Questions!

Have a question about a specific neighborhood or the home buying process in general? We’re more than happy to give you the information you need. Call us and let’s chat.

About Les Sulgrove

Les is an Iowa native born in Des Moines and raised in the southwest Iowa town of Bridgewater. He has been a resident of Des Moines since 1982 and has been married to his wife Linda for over 30 years. Together they have 3 grown children, 6 grandchildren and make their home on Des Moines south side. He has been a licensed REALTOR® since 1990 and is a Broker Associate with VIA Group, REALTORS®. Les is the 2011 Past President of the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS® (DMAAR) and received the award of Salesperson of the Year by DMAAR in 2007 for his involvement and service to the Association. Additionally, he is active at the Iowa Association of REALTORS® and serves as chairman of the State Legislative committee. He also owns and operates the national technology networking group CyberProfessionals. This group of real estate professionals meets twice annually across the United States to learn from each other and share new marketing ideas with heavy emphasis on current and future technologies and their use in the real estate business. Les’ hobbies include golf and photography. He and Linda spend many Saturday mornings from Spring to Fall at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. He enjoys spoiling his grandchildren at every opportunity.

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