You’ve found your dream home. It’s the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect school district. Then you see it. On the seller’s disclosure, there’s a line indicating HOA fees. What’s that?
A Homeowner’s Association (HOA) is a resident-run organization that sets and enforces rules for a defined group of properties. Whenever you see a neighborhood where the houses are one of three or four styles, several streets are U-shaped or cul-de-sacs, and there isn’t much variance in trim, door, and shutter colors, you are most likely in a development with an HOA.
Living in a community governed by HOA comes with benefits and risks. It’s vital to learn more about the HOA before you put an offer on the house. There may be dealbreakers that you won’t want to learn about later. Your realtor can help you review the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) in the seller’s resale package before you make a commitment.
Common HOA Rules and Regulations
While the CC&Rs will vary from one association to another, there are a few regulations that are common among HOAs:
- Style and color of shutters, roofs, siding, and doors
- Fence, patio, and deck sizes, placement, and restrictions
- Outdoor landscaping, lighting, and permanent fixtures such as fountains or basketball nets
- Replacement requirements for roofs, siding, shutters, driveway, and sidewalk
- Timing requirements for trash can placement and snow clearing
- Interior restrictions regarding flooring and room remodeling
If you thought you were done living under someone’s rules when you stopped living with your parents, think again. When you purchase a home that is covered by an HOA, you will automatically become a member and be required to pay dues. The good news is that as a member, you’ll have an opportunity to join the board of directors and have a say in future rules and regulations.
What is the HOA in a Neighborhood Really Like?
How an HOA actually functions will vary from one neighborhood to the next. This is where it’s important to see if you can find any neighbors who are willing to give you the scoop. First, find out if they are currently on the board or ever have been. This detail will certainly color their perspective.
People who have been living in the neighborhood will be able to tell you if the rules are enforced strictly, or if it’s more of an honor code where enforcement is reserved for egregious issues. They can also share if the benefits of the HOA are worthwhile. Benefits might include snow removal, lawn care, pooled-pricing trash service or utilities, private swimming pool, playground, security, and recreational activities.
Living in an HOA community is fairly common here in the western suburbs of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Depending on your school district desires and budget, an HOA might be hard to escape. It’s best to accept this possibility and determine your dealbreakers before you start seriously researching neighborhoods. If you enjoy working on your landscaping, want a backyard garden, get bored of paint colors often, or want the possibility of a basketball hoop for your growing family, you’ll need to look in neighborhoods with the least restrictive HOA governance. Conversely, if you want a maintenance-fee and quiet lifestyle, and you enjoy the clean look of uniformity on a well-kept street, a strict HOA might be exactly what you’re looking for. The most important thing is that you communicate your needs to your real estate agent so they can guide you to the properties that will be the best fit.
1SlickHome.com and The Geoff Slick Team represents both buyers and sellers with exceptional, personalized service. We are focused on understanding your individual real estate goals and helping you achieve them. We’d love to work with you in the Philadelphia suburbs including Doylestown, Lansdale, Chalfont, Perkasie, North Wales, Collegeville, Souderton, Gilbertsville, and more. Searching by school district? We can help you find the perfect home in North Penn, Souderton, Pennridge, Methacton, Central Bucks, Springford, Wissahickon, Upper Perkiomen, and many other excellent area school districts.