Guest blog post by Larry Chandler

Buying a home in a Planned Unit Development usually involves participating in a Home Owners’ Association (HOA).  The association has some perks and benefits offered to the owners in exchange for a fee.  Before buying a home that is governed by an HOA it is important to understand the association’s impact on you.

Get the Rules Up Front

Before buying a home that is subject to a HOA ask for a copy of the rules, CC&Rs, recent budget and minutes from the yearly meetings.

The Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) are legally binding limits, rules and obligations that homeowners must follow once the home is purchased.  Each HOA will have its specifics, but most of the rules will pertain to items such as property maintenance, allowable changes in architecture, pets, storage of vehicles and other similar items.  Most HOA will request that a super majority of all the homeowners agree to any rules therefore the rules are fairly set once in place.

Rules and Regulations usually cover items not specifically addressed in the CC&Rs.  It can also offer further explanations for broad items. Examples of items covered by the rules are guidelines for pets, rules for the pool, restrictions on parking and fines for people that do not comply.

Budgets and Minutes

It is important to review the budget to get a snapshot of the HOA’s financial well-being.  Certain items are expected to be paid via the HOA.  If the money is mismanaged then it could be a red flag to stay away from the community.

The minutes can provide you with a chance to see if there are any current conflicts going on between homeowners or the board and the residents.  Possible projects, or current projects, can be reviewed from the minutes to ascertain estimated finish dates.

Problem Areas

Here are some basic things you need to keep in mind when reading through the various rules and restrictions.

Your attitude – Do you normally like to follow along with the crowd and abide by the rules, or are you a rebel?  The opportunity to customize the features of a home is greatly restricted by most HOA’s.

Pets – If you have any pets you need to make sure to review the rules regarding animals.  Most lawsuits favor the HOA vs. the owner based on the restrictions placed in the CC&R’s.  Failing to understand this can result in trouble.

Parking – If you have multiple vehicles but your home has only a single car garage, where can you park the other items?  If you have friends or relatives that frequently visit, is there room for them to park?  Parking on the street may be allowed in some areas and it may be a direct violation in other places.

Costs – Find out exactly what the annual fees are.  In addition, ask about any annual increases and their limits.  Some HOA’s can increase the fees by as much as 20% without any vote from the homeowners.

 

The bottom line is that you should thoroughly do your homework prior to buying a home included in an HOA.  Go over the rules and make sure you can be happy abiding by a list of restrictions.

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Larry Chandler is a freelance writer for Ulster County Real Estate located in southern New York.