A Beginner’s Guide to Condo and Homeowner Associations

A Beginner’s Guide to Condo and Homeowner AssociationsMany planned communities, certain neighborhoods, and condominium complexes are governed by homeowner associations (HOA) or condo owner associations (COA). HOA and COA governance is designed to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood, but depending on your desires and temperament, they aren’t for everyone.

If you’re considering purchasing a home in such a community, there are a number of factors to consider before you make your purchase.

WHAT IS AN HOA?

Every HOA is different because every neighborhood is different. In short, a homeowner’s association is an organization in a planned community, subdivision, or condominium complex that makes and enforces rules for the properties in its jurisdiction. The organization is generally made up of neighborhood homeowners, while the property is managed by an outside company. HOAs govern the upkeep and regulations of common areas, like clubhouses, and in the case of COAs for condos and townhomes, the building exteriors.

WHY CHOOSE AN HOA- OR COA-GOVERNED NEIGHBORHOOD?

Condos and townhomes with owner associations are perfect for busy professionals or retirees who are looking for maintenance-free living, often with additional amenities. COAs take care of outside maintenance and landscaping, while often also offering community centers, like clubhouses or swimming pools within walking distance.

HOA communities also offer the security of mind that comes from knowing your neighbors have similar interests and access to the same amenities as do you. Homes in HOA communities also retain their value better than others because their maintenance is monitored by the HOA board.

WHAT ACTIONS ARE GOVERNED BY AN HOA?

HOA neighborhoods are varied because often the homes and range of amenities are, as well. The HOA’s responsibilities to you, and your responsibilities to them, can vary greatly. However, many HOAs are built upon “good neighbor rules,” which are designed to make everyone feel safe and comfortable.

When you’re considering an HOA or COA neighborhood, check to see if they have additional rules determining:

  • What color you can paint your home’s exterior.
  • Where and when you can park your car.
  • The size and number of pets you are allowed.
  • Whether you can home-based business or park commercial vehicles.
  • Placement or regulations against satellite dishes.
  • The age of residents.
  • How long you must wait before and how long you can rent your home.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN HOA AND COA FEES?

Again, the range of services and amenities of each neighborhood can vary greatly. That variance is reflected in the fees charged by your HOA. Many HOA fees include:

  • Community facilities: fitness centers, clubhouses, tennis courts, and swimming pools
  • Neighborhood parks and walking trails
  • Gated security

Depending on your neighborhood additional services may include:

  • City services: water, sewer, trash removal, and cable
  • Pest control and inspections

COA fees often include more building-based services, such as:

  • Maintenance of common building areas: roofs, building exteriors, driveways, garages and storage units, etc.
  • Insurance for the outside and surrounding of the building
  • Lawn care, landscaping, and snow removal
  • Wages of condominium staff

In the event of a major upgrade or repair, such as for a new elevator or extensive roof repairs, extra assessments may be charged if not enough funds are available in reserves.

HOW ARE COA AND HOA FEES PAID?

Depending on where you buy and what amenities are included, your association fees could be several hundred dollars, or even nearly as much as your mortgage. However, they are not included in your mortgage payments since they are not part of your loan from your lender. HOA and COA fees are paid monthly, quarterly, or annually to your association’s management company. Keep in mind that fees could increase as services or property values increase.

It should be noted that HOA and COA fees are still included in your debt-to-income ratio, which is taken into account during the mortgage loan qualification process.

IN CONCLUSION

If you raise Great Danes or if you have strong feelings for or against red front doors, an HOA may not be for you. For others, these rules may only be viewed as minor when weighed against the benefits of living with like-minded neighbors and having access to the neighborhood’s amenities. Whatever your opinion, it is important to understand the unique HOA or COA rules that govern a property before you decide to purchase.

All real estate is local. In order to make confident real estate decisions, we believe it important for you to have timely and neighborhood-specific information. If you would like more information about HOA and COA rules for certain neighborhoods, our experts at Beverly-Hanks are here to help. Contact us today to speak with a Beverly-Hanks real estate agent about buying homes and land in association-governed communities.

 

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