The home or condominium that you're thinking of buying may be governed by a homeowners association (HOA). These legal entities are common and growing in popularity across the country. According to the Community Associations Institute, more than 57 million residents in 23.1 million housing units were governed by HOAs in 2006; that's up from 45.2 million residents and 17.8 million housing units in 2000.
These associations provide many benefits, such as property maintenance and amenities that individual residents couldn't otherwise afford, and their rules often protect property values. But the dues HOA members must pay and the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCRs) they must follow rub some people the wrong way.
Look past the pool and golf course
Your perfect condo may have a great pool or your dream home might be sitting on the first tee, but remember that those things are only part of the HOA's scope. When you purchase a property governed by an HOA, you enter into a legal contract with the association. You agree to abide by the association's regulations and pay its dues. In exchange, you get a community guided by an HOA and the access to its facilities and perks.
Read before you buy
Make sure that any uses or freedoms you expect to come along with your property are allowed in the CCRs. Do you store your boat trailer in your driveway? I doubt your CCRs will allow that. Want to paint a bright color? Check the color palette allowed by the HOA.
You may have heard horror stories of home repossessions and other legal squabbles involving property owners and HOAs. A common theme among many of these cases is homeowners not understanding the regulations or ignoring them. Review the CCRs carefully before you purchase the property and you'll be less likely to run afoul of your HOA.
About those dues ...
HOAs run on dues - your annual fee for living in the community. These fees range from tens to thousands of dollars, depending on the neighborhood or building and what amenities it offers or what things are covered. Ask how much the dues are and if they've increased during the past few years.
Find out what the dues cover and what they don't. For example, your condo association may perform all exterior maintenance. That means when the roof leaks, your dues pay for its repair - even if you live on the ground floor of a three-story building.
Who's in charge?
When you review an HOA's documents, be sure to inquire about its finances. Is the HOA solvent? Does it have a reserve fund? Who controls the money? What kind of oversight is that person subject to?
Find out who manages the HOA and what role residents have in its governance. There may be a board or other group of property owners who manage the association. Take some time and talk to people who currently live in the community. How do they feel about the neighborhood or building? Find out their impressions of how the HOA is run.
Perform some due diligence before you sign a contract to purchase a property governed by a homeowners association. You will be able to make an informed decision about the HOA's pros and cons without jeopardizing your real estate transaction.
For expert advice about HOAs and all kinds of information about owning, buying, or selling a home, contact a Realtor.
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com//. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert! You can see my entire blog at http://www.pearlandrealtyblog.com
My column was also published in the 09Aug09 edition of the Galveston County Daily News