Guest contribution by: Victoria Standridge
A homeowner’s association can provide a lot of support and a variety of benefits. But there will be certain things any prospective homeowner should look out for. If you are considering submitting an offer on a home that belongs to a homeowner’s association, you will want to do your due diligence to make sure the association provides the kind of amenities, services, security, and benefits you are looking for.
A little research beforehand can help you to make sure that the costs align with your intended monthly budget before you submit your bid. And of course, you will want to make absolutely sure you understand just what kind of things your homeowners’ association can provide for you- and what will be expected of you in return.
Let’s take a look at some key homeowners’ association considerations to understand before submitting a home offer today.
Useful FacilitiesThe whole point of belonging to a homeowners’ association is that you can benefit from shared facilities and amenities that should contribute positively to your lifestyle. So, make sure you look into exactly which amenities are on offer with the HOA you are considering.
What is the security operation like for your HOA neighborhood? Are there round the clock, 24/7 security guards helping to protect the community? Or state of the art security cameras? Security, privacy, and protection should all be addressed in the facilities that your HOA does or does not provide.
Then there is the shared life of the community, and entertainment. Does the community come with a swimming pool? Are there sports facilities, like tennis courts or a gym? Some HOA’s include private instruction in everything from aerobics to crafts, while others take a more hands off approach.
If you have a family, look into what kinds of amenities are available for your kids. Is there a kids’ clubhouse with a TV? Sports classes, after school tutoring, and other kid-friendly activities? Movie screenings among the community? Look for signs that there is a thriving and active social life in the community before you submit your home offer there.
Affordable Dues, Updated ServicesThe amount you will spend each month on membership contributions to the HOA will vary depending on the neighborhood. Before you sign any contracts, you may want to investigate whether the HOA you are looking into is worth the cost- and why they are charging what they are. Membership dues should be reasonably priced compared to the services on offer. So, if your dues are extremely high, but the building is old and falling apart, with clear signs of neglect, then you will know to be on alert. Something in that situation isn’t right.
Make sure that the shared utilities and facilities are in good condition. For a more upscale HOA, the shared costs should be put towards updating and maintaining security systems, local community Wi-fi speeds, and any other shared utilities or amenities that could do with an upgrade from time to time. Take a look at the budget and spending habits of the HOA as a group, to help you decide whether you are generally on board with the kinds of policies enacted there.
Equally, ask to look at the roster for membership dues. If a lot of members are consistently behind on their payments, it could indicate a deeper underlying problem in the community. It might be that there is some issue in communication with the various tenants involved. Since members of the community will be responsible for looking after the maintenance of shared spaces and shared utilities, you will want to join an HOA where communication is clear and thorough.
Investigate Member SatisfactionYou may not always get the clearest or truest picture of the character of any given HOA if you are being shown around by an agent or appointed representative. To try to ascertain whether or not current members are really satisfied with their association, request to view a copy of the recorded minutes from HOA meetings. Are there a lot of conflicts that arise? Does one person dominate every conversation, preventing anyone else from participating? How are conflicts between tenants, or tenants and landlords, settled during the meetings?
Reading through previous member interactions can provide a more in-depth picture of what it will be like to belong to this particular HOA. And it can help you root out any potential issues that may be hiding under the surface.
Keep in mind that membership in a HOA may determine certain factors about your own home, such as what color you can paint your home’s exterior, or how much active engagement with the community is expected of you. If members are registering complaints or engaging in debates over points spelled out in the initial contract, it may simply mean that they have either forgotten the specifications of what they signed originally, or that they did not bother to look. Talk to people in the area to try to get a more nuanced feel for what participation in the HOA is like.
Final ThoughtsThe bottom line is, before you submit an offer on a home connected to a homeowners’ association, do your research. Ask to see the HOA documents so you can investigate for yourself whether or not living there and becoming a member of that particular HOA will be right for your needs. Take a magnifying glass and comb through the fine print so you are informed and aware of just what you are signing up for. If it turns out that that HOA has some policies, rules, or fees that don’t work for you, move on. But it could just be that the one you are looking at is the right fit after all. In that case, you can submit your home offer with confidence.