October 14, 2020
By Saeed Ghaffari
It seems as if the homeowner associations are a trend across the country. According to the U.S. census bureau, 59% of the newly constructed homes in 2014 were built with an association in place and the number is growing. Homeowner Associations offer many benefits to the owners and their communities, but they come with drawbacks too, like everything else in life.
Below are the top 3 pros and cons of living in planned unit developments with homeowner associations.
- The first and foremost benefit HOAs offer is the upkeep of the community and the property values. All residents within the association have to abide by the CC&Rs (Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions) of the community, a set of rules and regulations enforced by the board of directors elected by and among the member residents of the community. These rules and restrictions are written to serve the best interest of the community as a whole as opposed to one’s individual preferences.
- Properties with associations offer amenities to the residents. Such amenities vary based on whether the property is a single family residence or a condo in a subdivision and may include pool, spa, gym, park, playground, greenbelt, office and work station, etc. Access to such amenities within minutes walking distance from your home is definitely a plus and in demand in most urban communities.
- The intangible benefit homeowner associations offer to their residents is safety and security of the neighborhood. Association often release monthly newsletters keeping everyone in the community abreast of events of interest to the members. In addition, members cross paths in common areas such as gym, pool or the playground, getting to know each other, bonding with one another and forming a closer community than people living in communities without such privilege.
- The obvious disadvantage of having a homeowner association is the cost that comes with it. As we all know there is no free lunch. While the board members in the associations are all volunteers, the property management company that manages the community affairs, such as the upkeep and maintenance of the common areas, monitoring the neighborhood for CC&R compliance, and hiring and managing the vendors such as landscapers, pool services, and all other contractors come with a cost. The aforementioned vendors don’t work for free either. All these expenses plus an annual reserve budget is spread and passed on to the members of the association, making the cost of living higher in such neighborhood compared to ones without them.
- The R in the CC&Rs stand for “restrictions” and that is no joke. Living within a community with HOA comes with certain restrictions and at time these could be very restrictive to a point that one may feel his or her freedom is taken away. When you buy a property with an association, you are buying into those CC&Rs with no right or say to make changes to them, at least not easily. Violating them can become costly and may come with civil penalties too.
- As associations came with an intangible benefit, they also come with an intangible disadvantage. Obtaining financing on such properties is a bit more complicated than financing a property without a homeowner association. Most lender have strict guidelines on the HOA budget, legal status, and other factors within the CC&Rs. Providing such information to lenders also comes with cost imposed by the property management company. While the expense related to it may not be much of a factor compared to other costs associate with a home loan, nonetheless it’s not free and the main expense is the premium lenders assess and add to their rates and fees on properties with unacceptable budgets, CC&Rs and legal liabilities.
I can write on both sides of this topic for ever, but I hope that I have provided sufficient information and shed light on the pros and cons of properties with HOA. As I wrote at the start of the article, it appears that most people in the urban communities seem to like the advantages and rather to have them over the cons.
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