Finding your dream home in that great neighborhood is only part of the equation when looking to purchase a home. Buying a home involves much more than just finding the right house. You need to find out about your new neighborhood, including whether or not it’s part of a homeowners association.
First: Get a Copy of the CC&Rs
An active homeowners association can be a great thing, or it can make you wish you had taken up residence in another neighborhood.
Sometimes residents feel blindsided by the rules in the Association. While you should receive a copy of the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) from the seller before you move in, if they do not provide them, you should ask for them. Not adhering to these rules will get you in trouble whether you knew about them or not. The rules/laws you have to follow go along with the home you bought and you are bound by those regulations.
The Association's rules and regulations should be made available to you and it's up to you to know what they are.
What to Look For Before Moving into a Homeowners Association
It’s a good idea to check out the homeowners association as much as possible before you become a member. This is an important factor in your decision and should not be taken lightly. A few tips on what to look for:
- Check to see how active the Association is. A quick drive-through during different times of day might show you this.
- Some homeowners associations have stricter rules than others. If houses are painted pink you may be able to assume that the rules are kind of lax. Some rules might only allow a certain number of cars per house or whether a basketball structure can be placed in a driveway. Consider if the Association is a stickler for the rules or a little more open.
- Ask about the cost of HOA fees and any special assessments. Many people don’t realize that living in a homeowners association means you pay HOA fees to cover maintenance and use of the common areas like the swimming pool, tennis courts or fitness center.
- Do your homework on the legal aspects of the homeowners association you’re considering. For example, you could check the public court files to see if the Association has been involved in any lawsuits. You can check to see if the actions were legitimate or if they were frivolous.
- Talk to your potential neighbors. Find out if they have been cited by the homeowners association and for what. You can determine a lot just from talking to the people who live in the area. Plus you will get your opinions straight from the people who are living within the neighborhood.
- Obtain a copy of any rules and regulations pertaining to your new neighborhood. Read them carefully and note any sections that might apply to you. For example, if you have a landscaping business, is there going to be any issue with you parking your trailer in front of the house at night. Knowing the rules ahead of time can keep you from making a bad purchasing decision and can help you follow the rules after you move into your home.
- Try to meet the Board President of the homeowners association and as many members of the Board as you can. See what kind of personalities they have and if they mesh with yours. Friction can cause a lot of headaches even if a rule violation is small.
- A special consideration to take into account may be the Association’s view of "green" living. Solar panels, wind turbies, gardens and other environmental initiatives are gaining ground in today's world. You may be in on the green movement but your Association may not. There may be no rules regarding these types of issues or they may not be spelled out specifically since the technology is fairly new. Know what to expect here before you buy.
Homeowners associations can be a great place to live, but they aren’t always for everyone. Before buying a home in a neighborhood with an Association make sure you check it all out and don't get caught finding out things after the fact. Be diligent and be certain!