If you know anything about condominiums, you know that they all have an HOA, or Homeowners’ Association. While you may know they exist, you may not know why, or understand their benefit. Living in a community with an HOA is not for everyone, so it’s important that you know exactly what an HOA does, and how that can affect your life in a condo.
First of all, it’s important to note that HOAs were created for the benefit of all the residents. There are many who aren’t thrilled by the idea of an HOA, or feel that they have too much power, but the fact is that HOAs were created to make community life more peaceful and harmonious.
So what do Homeowners’ Associations do?
First of all they collect dues. Depending on where you live, and the amenities of your condo, your fees could be higher or lower. For the most part, standard HOA fees range between $200 and $400 a month. Sticker shock? Believe it or not, that money actually goes to help you out.
HOA fees are more than just membership dues. They’re put towards things that you need maintenanced on a daily basis. Generally, the HOA collects fees, and puts them towards three things: community area maintenance, general maintenance, and the reserve fund.
- Community area maintenance: This part of the fee goes towards any community area that exists in your condominium community. Whether you have a community gym, a rec center, or a pool, the HOA fees are what pay for keeping those areas clean and safe for everyone.
- General maintenance: Remember how you were excited that you weren’t going to have to mow your lawn anymore? Well you can thank your HOA fees for that. Those fees also cover any other exterior maintenance that the association is in charge of, like siding and roof repairs.
- Reserve Fund: If your HOA doesn’t have a reserve fund, that’s a bad sign. But if it does, know that any leftover money from monthly fees goes to the reserve fund. The reserve fund pays for any big ticket expenses that come up. Say there was a fire, or serious inclement weather: the HOA reserve fund would cover the exterior damages. It’s important to note that if there isn’t enough money in the reserve fund, you’ll end up paying for repairs out of your own pocket.
Besides collecting fees, what does the HOA do?
The HOA is also responsible for creating rules and regulations that the community must abide by. These rules are generally known as covenants, conditions and restrictions. If you live in a common building, these rules may have to do with what color your door can be, what types of pets are permitted, and if you may dry your laundry outside. If you live in a residential condominium, the HOA may dictate what color the exterior of your home may be, what size and type of fence you are allowed, and what type of window covering you may have on front-facing windows. To some this may sound extreme or silly, but for the purposes of the HOA, the rules are made to ensure that community life is harmonious, and the neighborhood seems seamlessly uniform.
Before you buy a property associated with an HOA:
Know the rules and regs:
If you know what the HOA expects, it will be much easier to transition into the neighborhood. So before you move in, make sure you’ve read through everything thoroughly, and understand what’s expected of you. If you read through one condominiums’ HOA regulations, and you find them to be too restrictive, that’s probably not the condo for you. It’s important to remember that all HOAs are different, and you’re sure to find a community that suits you, so don’t settle for one that will only frustrate you in the long term.
Consider your personality:
If you’re someone who struggles with being told what to do, a restrictive HOA is probably not the best option for you, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other housing options, and you certainly don’t want to end up somewhere that upsets you on a daily basis. So accept that you’re making the better choice by not conforming to an HOA, and find somewhere else that you like better to live.
Find out about fees:
Fees are different no matter where you live. It’s important that you know exactly where your money is going, and how often. Make sure you ask how often fees increase, how the HOA determines fee increases, and how large the reserve funds are. These three questions will give you a better idea about how much you’ll be paying overall, especially in the case of a disaster.
It’s also a good idea to ask for records of previous dues, so you can look and see how much fees have gone up in the past, and for what reasons. You should also ask for a description of exactly what fees cover. You want to make sure that expenses like garbage pickup or cable are included if the fees seem exorbitant to you.
Think about environmental practices:
This is something that not everyone thinks about before they enter into a home with an HOA, but it is relevant to your lifestyle. If you make environmentally friendly practices a priority in your daily life, you should live in a community that functions similarly. Many HOAs require you to use fertilizers, pesticides, and sprinkler systems to keep your lawn up to standard with the rest of the neighborhood. Additionally, some things, like compost bins or solar panels, may not line up with the HOAs image for the community, which could put you in violation. If sustainable, environmentally friendly living is important to you, some condos might not be the best fit.
Watch for under-management:
Sometimes, people really want to live in a condo, but they don’t love the idea of an HOA. In some situations, they will choose a condo where the HOA is extremely relaxed. While this could be good in some aspects, it’s important to ensure that the HOA is actually just relaxed, and not undermanaged. If you run into a situation where you’re living under an HOA that really just isn’t managed well, you could end up with a lot of extra fees, and maintenance requests that are never seen to.
Factor HOA fees into your budget:
While condos are often much more affordable than homes, you’ll want to factor the cost of HOA fees into your short and long-term budget plan. Some people don’t think about these fees ahead of time, and after they buy their condo they run into trouble when the fees become too large to handle. As long as you’re factoring the HOA fees into your budget, you should be good to go.
If you think condo living is the right choice for you, check out the brand new Gleneagle Condominiums! For more information, give us a call at (616) 218-6538 or request floor plans online today!