Homeowners associations (HOAs) get a bad rap, but they serve a crucial purpose in a community. Community areas are often neglected when there is no HOA on the scene. If you do not have experience with an HOA, living in a community with one could seem daunting. However, with careful research of the neighborhood and the HOA, you can know what to expect before you move in.
Learn the HOA's Style
Not all HOAs are operated the same. Some have relatively lax rules, while others might have more regulations for homeowners to follow. Before you make a bid on a home, you need to know the style of the HOA so you can determine if you are capable of following the rules in place.
A good place to start in your assessment of the HOA is its Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R). The document will outline every rule that the HOA has and what the penalties could be for failing to follow the rules. It should also include information on the fees that you could face and the situations in which you would expect an increase.
You also need to find out how often the HOA's board meets. Ideally, the board should meet regularly throughout the year. The regular meetings will give you a chance to voice concerns to board members. If the meetings are only held on a yearly basis, all of your concerns might not be addressed in a timely manner.
Attend a Board Meeting
Once you become a homeowner in the community, you should want to attend a board meeting. The meeting is a chance to connect with your neighbors, voice concerns about the community, and learn what plans the home owners association has for the future. However, you should not wait until you are a homeowner to attend a meeting.
Attending a meeting before you buy a home in the community gives you a chance to observe just how responsive the board is to the needs of the members. You also get a chance to assess your potential neighbors before you have made a commitment to buying the home. All of this information can be used to decide if you want to continue forward with the process of buying the home.
Talk to your real estate agent about any concerns you have about living in a HOA community. He or she can help find homes that are in communities that have HOAs with rules that are more in line with how you live.