You are Obligated to Join the HOA
Did you know you are obligated to join the HOA? The community homeowner’s association (HOA) and pay monthly or annual HOA fees for the upkeep of common areas. That’s right. When you purchase a Springfield condominium, townhouse or another type of property in a planned development you are obligated to join the HOA. Investopedia’s Amy Fontinelle lists 9 Things to Know about HOAs.
You Are Obligated to Join the HOA
- Learn the HOA’s rules.
- Make sure the home you want to buy is not already out of compliance with HOA rules. Buying into an existing problem can be a headache. Find out what the rules are and whether you would have to make changes to the home to comply.
- Assess environmental practices. If environmentally friendly living is important to you, be aware that some HOAs may dictate that you use fertilizers, pesticides, sprinkler systems and whatever else it takes to keep your lawn picture-perfect. Check if you can use clotheslines for example.
- Do you mind being told what to do? Living in a community with an HOA may be a very frustrating experience for you. One of the major benefits of homeownership is the ability to customize and alter the property to suit your needs, but HOA rules can interfere with this. Read the horrifying novel of an HOA gone bad: “The Association” by Bentley Little. It will keep you up at night so you can finish packing.
- Find out about fees. You have an obligation to join the HOA and pay fees. Fees will differ for each community so you should make sure to ask your HOA the following questions:
- How does the board set HOA fee increases?
- How often do increases occur, and by how much?
- Can you get a printed history of HOA dues for the last ten years?
- How large is the HOA’s reserve fund?
- Also, ask for a record of special assessments made in the past and ask if any special assessments are planned for the near future. Note that economies of scale can mean that special assessments are higher in smaller HOAs.
- Find out what the monthly dues cover. Will you still have to pay extra for garbage pickup? Do the dues include cable?
More You Have an Obligation to Join the HOA
- Try to get a copy of minutes from the last meeting or sit in on an HOA meeting before you buy. The meeting minutes can be very telling about the policies of the HOA. Be alert for potential drama. Power trips and petty politics can be an issue in some HOAs. Talk to some of the building’s current owners, if possible – preferably ones who are not on the HOA board and who have lived in the building for several years, Some questions to ask are:
- What are current and past conflicts?
- What is the process for resolving any conflicts?
- Has the HOA sued anyone? How was that resolved?
- Watch for under-management. Over-management happens most of the time. However, the opposite problem can happen with an HOA where no one cares and where no interest in maintaining the building, making repairs, hearing resident grievances or being on the board.
- Find out what kind of catastrophe insurance the HOA has on the building. This is particularly important if you’re considering a condo or townhouse purchase and you live in an area that is prone to floods, earthquakes, blizzards, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or any other type of potential natural disaster – and that is virtually anywhere.
- Consider the impact of HOA fees on your short- and long-term finances. A condo with high HOA fees might end up costing you as much as the house you don’t think you can afford.
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