If you’ve begun your search for a new home, chances are good you’ve heard three important letters: HOA. While they’re just three little letters that stand for “homeowner association,” they tend to cause strong reactions among home buyers and owners alike.
While it may take some time to form your own opinion, it’s important you understand what living in a community with an HOA will entail before you put in a contract as the rules and guidelines will influence your choices from day one of your move—and possibly your wallet even before then. Here are a few of the baseline things to consider before signing a contract.
Are there transfer fees?
When you live in an HOA community, there are some baseline things that happen to prepare for new owners. At the most basic level, the community manager will have some administrative costs associated with getting you the HOA covenants, access to any applicable websites or payment portals, and setting you up in their system.
Many times, the HOA will have a set “transfer fee” for these costs which you, as the new homeowner, will pay—and possibly have to again pay at a later date if you sell. This fee is often in the hundreds of dollars and likely part of your closing costs, but as it is another cost, you should understand what it is and when it will come due.
What’s the monthly cost and what does it cover?
When you live in an HOA, the community will take care of certain amenities and services. This could include things like a community pool, tennis courts, clubhouse, etc., as well as things like community landscaping and beautification, for example. In some communities, it might cover additional things like snow removal or mowing—but that’s not consistent, either. The exact amenities and inclusions will vary by community, but all will come with a cost. Make sure you include that cost—which could be due monthly, quarterly, and/or annually—in your budget and that you understand what it comprises.
Are there guidelines around animals?
The primary goal of an HOA is to maintain a community’s property values while also ensuring a certain quality of life for its residents. As a result, many HOAs will include restrictions around animals allowed on individual property. This could be anything from simply not allowing horses, goats, chicken, or other more agricultural animals to restricting the number of dogs allowed to live in a single home. If you have ambitions to have fresh eggs every morning—or simply like the company of multiple dogs—make sure before signing the dotted line that the community you’re considering will allow it.
What about parking?
Private parking is something you’ll likely purchase as part of your home contract, however many HOAs also have guidelines and restrictions that affect the number of vehicles allowed per household and/or parking on streets and in shared areas. This could particularly impact homes with teen drivers or multi-generational homes, so make sure your lifestyle will allow you to remain in good standing with the HOA of the home you’re considering.