This house is the first one we’ve owned in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association (HOA). Honestly, I was too young and ignorant to have any idea of what we were getting into when we built this house. Being a REALTOR and serving on my own HOA’s Advisory Committee, my sincere hope is that this snippet of information will help anyone who is considering buying in a neighborhood with an HOA and maybe even people who are already living with one. Here goes …
The primary mandate of an HOA is to preserve and protect property values. The goal is that when you call me to sell your house you don’t have a neighbor who has painted their house flamingo pink (not that it’s a bad color, I’m just sayin’), has 2 cars on blocks in the front yard, and waist-high weeds all around completely ruining the drive up appeal of your perfect home and scaring off potential buyers. I know that sounds extreme, but it’s a slippery slope when it comes the maintenance and aesthetics of a home. So HOAs have regulations about things like what color you can paint your home, how tall your grass can get, and proper storage of vehicles along with many other things, and that’s a GOOD thing!
HOAs can also serve to build community within a neighborhood by having things like a social committee and paying for events where you get to meet and hang out with your neighbors and by building/installing/maintaining common areas like parks & pools. Getting involved in the HOA itself is a way to connect with your neighbors.
Every thing cuts both ways. Those same restrictions that keep your neighbor from having waist high weeds will nip at your heels when you’ve been on vacation for 2 weeks or had a family emergency and haven’t had a chance to get your yard mowed. Unfortunately, being a property manager for an HOA doesn’t give you magical insight to what’s happening INSIDE the house. They can only see what’s OUTSIDE the house. So you’re probably going to get a letter asking you to remedy whatever is at issue. When you read it, you’re going to read it as if the HOA has some personal vendetta against you and is trying to compound the crazy in your already hectic life. And that’s just not how it was intended. Almost any letter from some “institution” is going to read very cold because it’s a business. I know it’s hard, and you have to try not to take it personally.
And it does get U-G-L-Y. Neighbors against neighbors. Neighbors against the HOA. (Seemingly) The HOA against neighbors. Disagreements are inevitable. Some homeowners will think the restrictions put on them by the HOA are too … well, restrictive. Others will think they aren’t restrictive enough. When you have 100s & even 1000s of homes (most having 2 or more adults living there), there will never be consensus. In the end, it is each homeowners responsibility to know the rules and to abide by them. You effectively agree to that when you purchase the house. Here’s the kicker. If you DISAGREE and decide to NOT abide by the restrictions, the HOA has the right to foreclose on your house (in the state of Texas). You read right … they can FORECLOSE on your house. That’s pretty darn UGLY.
Have I scared you completely??? Probably and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think most home buyers are surprised by the power that an HOA has. They need to be at least aware of what they are getting into. There are a few things that you can do to make the situation actually enjoyable.
- Get educated! If you’re already in an HOA, get a copy of the bylaws and any other documents (like architectural bulletins, etc) and READ them. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.
- Get involved! Have your say in a productive way. Serve on a committee. Run for the board of directors (if your HOA is controlled by the homeowners. HOAs still controlled by the developer of the neighborhood is a whole other beast to deal with.)
- Communicate! Specifically, communicate directly with the HOA when you have issues (like unappreciated letters of violation). That will go a very long way to solving any issues you have. Complaining to other homeowners doesn’t really do a lot of good. It just gets your blood pressure up, right?
Have I covered the topic completely??? Absolutely not. I could go on and on and on and this post is already too long. So if you have any questions or would like to talk about anything about HOAs, please contact me. I’m happy to help in any way I can.