What “House Hunters” Should Know About Homeowners’ Associations

If you’re shopping for a home, you’re bound to encounter what is often referred to as an “HOA”. This commonly-used acronym refers to a homeowners’ association, and you’ll hear mixed opinions about it. That’s because, just like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in a neighborhood or complex that operates under the control of a homeowners’ association.

Is a Homeowners’ Association the Right Choice for You?

Some buyers are attracted to the amenities and stable property values that often go along with a homeowners’ association. Others are put off by the control the association has over your home, such as exterior paint colors, landscaping, fence type, and more. Whether or not an HOA is right for you depends on a number of factors, and you’ll have to make that decision based on your family’s unique needs. Here are a few very important factors to consider:

Do you hope to rent your home out, now or in the future?

Many homeowners’ associations do not allow renters. So, if you’re hoping that your “starter home” will someday become an income property, make sure that you examine the HOA rules closely before you sign that offer to purchase.

Can you afford HOA fees, in addition to your mortgage and other expenses, and are they a fair price to pay for the amenities?

In some cases, HOA fees are minimal and really don’t create much of a burden for the homeowners. In other cases, however, HOA fees can be so high that they are like paying a second mortgage. It’s also important to understand that they may increase in the future. So, make sure you can afford the fees and that you’re happy with what you get in return for that expense.

Are you comfortable with the amount of control the HOA will have over your lifestyle?

Do you love privacy and hope to have a six-foot privacy fence around your home? Do you own pets? Do you own more vehicles than you have garage space for? These are all factors that a homeowners’ association may want to control. The rules vary from one association to the next, but here are just a few examples of factors they may have a right to control:

  • what kind of pet you’re allowed to have
  • whether or not you can park in the street in front of your home
  • how many guests you can have at a time
  • what days or hours you’re permitted to leave your trash out for pickup
  • what type of grass and shrubbery you’re permitted to plant

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so be sure to read the rules closely. You should also consider that neighborhoods and complexes that have an HOA often have an overall better look and feel. There is more time and money to invest in maintenance of common areas, as well as amenities, such as pools, tennis courts, gated entry, and more. 

If you’re exploring this option, it would greatly benefit you to work with a Realtor who is experienced with homeowners’ associations. A knowledgeable Realtor will be able to identify any red flags and tell you – objectively – whether or not an HOA is likely to be a good choice for your lifestyle.

If you’re looking for a new home in or around the Chicago area, contact me to begin your search today.

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