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HOA neighborhoodWhen discussing HOA’s, most homeowners tend to cringe. No one likes extra rules restricting them in their own home. And yet, HOA’s can also be incredibly beneficial for homeowners… there’s a reason that they exist, after all. When you’re buying a new home, it’s important to determine whether you’ll be part of an HOA, and what that will mean for you in the future.

What Is an HOA?

A Homeowner’s Association, or HOA, is essentially a mini-government in your neighborhood. HOA’s are usually found in developments and condominiums, where developers eventually pass over ownership to homeowners. Because they’re born from cohesive projects, there’s usually uniformity to the neighborhood in design, function, and the type of people who move in. An HOA collects monthly fees from all homeowners in the area–there’s no opting in or out. If you live in the HOA’s borders, you’re a part of it. Those fees are used to maintain common areas and amenities, and also held in reserve to take care of large communal costs, like a new roof.

Pro: Well-Maintained Amenities

Many people like HOA communities because of all the additional amenities that they enjoy, which they wouldn’t likely be able to afford alone. These can include a clubhouse, a pool, a gym, landscaping, even walking trails.

Con: Fees

The biggest complaint regarding HOA’s is in reference to the cost. An extra monthly bill tacked onto your expenses can be galling. And if you don’t care about the extra amenities that those fees maintain, or you disagree with the way the funds are managed, it can become a sore spot.

Pro: Cooperative Community

Often, an HOA really does contribute to a community feeling in an area. Neighbors share common interests, and communal amenities encourage opportunities for socialization that you might not have in another area. This can be especially appealing for young families or seniors who are looking for more support and sociality from their community.

Con: Restrictions

Each HOA has a set of covenants, conditions and restrictions (referred to as CC&Rs) which they enforce. CC&R’s can dictate how many pets you have, quiet hours, what color you paint your home, and how long your lawn is, just to name a few things. CC&R’s vary from one HOA to another, so make sure you know what you’ve signed yourself up for before you move in.

Pro: Shared Costs Mean Cheaper and Easier Maintenance
An HOA maintaining a common area goes beyond special features like pools or a field of tulips. Oftentimes, HOA fees will also include the cost of trash services, pest control, snow removal, etc. When these considerations are taken care of together, it means that you can often get a better rate, and you also have a lot less to worry about as a homeowner, since you don’t need to coordinate and pay for these things yourself.

Con: Mismanagement of Funds Can Cost You

On the other hand, a homeowner’s association and the way it conducts itself isn’t always as cooperative as it seems, and you can find yourself subject to their whims without feeling as though you have a say in the matter. Some HOAs conduct occasional special assessments, wherein a repair or maintenance project wasn’t budgeted for ahead of time, and so all homeowners must contribute to an additional project. It’s important to know that your HOA is budgeting appropriately in order to be able to cover these incidental costs.

Ultimately, the major “pro” behind an HOA is that your property values are maintained better through the cooperative. The con is that you have to abide by certain codes of conduct and standards. However, each HOA is a law unto itself, so it’s important that you do your own research to determine whether or not you’ll benefit from living within an HOA.