In the interest of fairness, I must let you know that I no longer live in a Homeowners Association (HOA) community.
An HOA is an organization in a subdivision, planned community, or condominium building that makes and enforces rules for the properties and residents. Those who purchase property within an HOA’s jurisdiction automatically become members and are required to pay dues, which are known as HOA fees. Some associations can be very restrictive about what members can do with their properties while others may give residents more freedom. (Investopedia)
Here are my 5 Things You Need To Know When Buying A Home With An HOA
1. You will get a massive book with all the rules and it will be daunting
You must read this book. Do not look at it as a drudeous chore. That book is going to rule your homeowner experience.
There are important points about your property both in terms of what you can do to your property and your financial obligations.
Avoid this step at your own peril and if you do, I guarantee you sooner or later you are going to regret glossing over the book.
2. Before you buy the property, reach out to the HOA board to confirm the financial state of the community
Owning a property in an HOA community is like a business partnership – you’re all in it together. 99.9% of buyers sign the paperwork to buy the house then are shocked at the costs and/or dire situation that the community is in after they move in. You MUST be smarter than that and speak to the board before you buy.
Asking simple questions such as, “How much has the HOA monthly charge increased in the last five years?” or, “Have you had any special assessments in the last five years?” will give you incredible insight into whether you still want to buy the property.
From my experience, board members are decent people trying to do their best for the community and are glad to provide you with insight into their community. At the end of the day, they are volunteers and usually deal with complaints so a respectful prospective buyer such as yourself will be a pleasure for them to speak to.
3. Attend every single community meeting
Yes it’s time consuming and yes it’s a chore every quarter but this is your home and you must protect it. The HOA board meetings are where the decisions are made and you can affect the outcome since very few people attend the meetings.
If you do not have an interest in attending the meetings then I suggest you buy a home without an HOA. When you don’t attend the meetings the mail you receive with special assessments is a shock and the decisions made by the board will catch you by surprise. Both situations are completely avoidable if you act as a prudent homeowner and recognize that you must stay on top of your most important investment.
4. Join the Board of Directors
Now you must really think I’m being crazy. First, Terry CPA wants me to attend those boring board meetings and now he wants me to be a board member?! Yes, you heard me correctly.
HOAs get messy and everyone joins the board with good intentions but the spending always seems to get out of hand. The only way you can change this is by being a board member yourself which will allow you to not only vote (like a regular homeowner) but set the agenda and actually make decisions.
Being on the board is going to be a time consuming and thankless job since people will call you at all hours of the day to complain but you should do it to protect your investment.
5. Don’t complain about the increases and special assessments!
If you didn’t know about HOAs before, you certainly do after reading my article. So PLEASE do not complain when the monthly dues increase every year and you get the occasional “Special Assessment” in the mail.
An HOA community is a partnership and as a partner you have obligations to keep the community in tip top shape. The monthly (or quarterly) HOA fee increases every year because the cost of things goes up. Whether it’s landscaping, swimming pool maintenance or snow removal, the world gets more expensive every year and you have to pay for it.
The best way to stop special assessments is to be on the board. The standard special assessment replenishes community funds after a large amount was spent for an emergency but on some boards they seemingly do them for the heck of it.
For example, when I owned an HOA property, a board member proposed having a 16 hour per day Covid licensed supervisor to monitor social distancing to allow everyone to safely swim at the pool. I do not use this example to re hash Covid 19, rather to say that at $20 per hour this would have cost our community an extra $116,800 per year!
The cost of HOA living never decreases so all I advise is to go into the purchase with a clear understanding of what you are signing up for.
I’ve been involved with co-op & condos for decades, both as an advisor and an owner. Here at Kabinet, we want to help you throughout your homeownership journey.
Send any questions you have about a property you are considering buying or already own in an HOA community by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org put “Terry CPA’ in the subject line.