In the market for a new home? Have you seen listings for those with HOAs (Homeowners Associations) or COAs (Condominium Associations) and wondered what it’s like to live in an association like that? There are lots of reasons to choose an HOA or COA home, but there are also some drawbacks. Read on to see which choice fits you and your family!
What is an HOA?
HOAs and COAs are planned communities focused on the common interest of the people living there. According to the Huffington Post, 66 million Americans currently live in such a community. The inhabitants observe agreed-upon rules in order to maintain property values and quality of life.
In an HOA/COA you pay monthly or annual fees for maintenance and upkeep of common areas. For an HOA these could include a swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness room, fences surrounding the community, shared landscaping, and sidewalks. For a COA, common areas likely include elevators, parking garages, roofs and building exteriors.
Typical Rules for an HOA or COA
Members of HOAs and COAs agree to follow certain rules. These rules vary with each community because it depends on the type of people who want to live there and their shared vision. Some of the rules for these communities involve:
- What colors you can paint your front door/house
- Whether you can have a satellite dish
- What type of vehicle you’re allowed to park in front of your house (Many HOAs ban RVs.)
- Whether you can dry laundry outside
- The type and number of pets each resident is allowed
- The kind of fencing allowed and how high it can be
- What type of holiday decor is allowed, if any
The Cons of an HOA or COA
If you perform a quick Google search, you’ll discover plenty of horror stories about joining one of these communities. There are instances of residents losing their homes because they broke one of the HOA’s rules. But even apart from the worst possibilities, you may dislike other factors.
Before joining one of these communities, ask these questions:
- Can you afford to join? The monthly fees can be high and HOAs can often raise them at any time.
- Once you’ve joined you can’t drop out for any reason. The only way to get out of the HOA or COA is to move. So, are you certain you agree to every rule?
- Is the HOA properly insured? Common areas are everyone’s shared property. If someone gets hurt there and sues, you will be one of the liable parties. Make sure the HOA has full insurance.
- Has the association ever sued anyone? If so, why and what was the outcome?
- How green are they? If environmental concerns are important to you, you might be unpleasantly shocked to find out you have to spread fertilizer and pesticides regularly on your lawn.
- Is it a good fit for your personality? Do you hate being told what to do or constrained in your choices? If so, an HOA is probably not the best fit.
The Pros of an HOA or COA
On the other hand, plenty of stories of satisfied homeowners belong to one of these communities. Living in one might be right for you for the following reasons:
- Mediation. If you have a dispute with a neighbor, the HOA will sort it out. You don’t have to get embroiled in a confrontation
- Neighborhood Appearance. Since the community places a lot of value in maintaining an orderly, attractive appearance, there won’t be any eyesores in your community. It will present a fresh, pleasant face to the world.
- Shared Maintenance Costs. Maintenance jobs like snow and trash removal and common area lawn care are paid out of the HOA fees. In some communities this even extends to lawn care for all the residences!
- Fun in the Sun. Most HOAs and COAs offer swimming pools and clubhouses for their members. Others include recreational opportunities like hiking trails, tennis courts, fitness rooms and ball fields.
If you find your dream house and within an HOA, carefully consider whether the cost and lifestyle suit you. If so, enjoy!